By Natasha Yim
Suffering from in-between project blues? The soggy middle doldrums? Plain old writer’s block? Enter a writing contest! Contests can be a great way to rev up your muse. Think of them as the jumper cables to your stalled creative engine. And they’re fun!
Nowadays, finding a contest that matches your interest is easy. No more buying countless magazines to peruse the back for possible contests or shelling out more money than you make for a hefty tome of publication markets and contests. A quick Google search will yield a variety of contests in all different genres.
They can run the gamut from free to ones that require an entry fee, fun just-to-get-your-creative-juices-flowing ones to those that offer prizes and/or publication for winners. Here are a few sources to get you started:
The Redwood Writers’ Club, http://redwoodwriters.org/contests/, a non-profit organization for writers of all genres, runs three themed contests a year. Upcoming contests are Memoir (launching on May 20 with submission deadline of June 24) and Young Adult and Middle Grade (launching Sept. 9, with submission deadline of Oct. 21). Quite a few reputable sources cull contests from around the nation and internationally:
Poets and Writers: https://www.pw.org/grants
Writer’s Digest: http://www.writersdigest.com/writers-digest-competitions
The Write Life: https://thewritelife.com/writing-contests/
For theatre and dramatic works, the Burry Man Writer’s Center is a great resource for places around the world to send your plays: http://www.burryman.com/submissions.html
Short+Sweet Ten-Minute Play Festival, billed as the largest ten-minute play festival in the world, has 12 international festival venues from Australia, New Zealand, India, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, to the US. Submitting to one festival will enter you in consideration for all of them: https://shortandsweet.org/festivals/theatre.
Many writing contests charge an entry fee. These fees generally pay a stipend for judges to read the submissions and go towards the prizes. But are they legit? As with anything having to do with the internet, make sure you do your research and check your sources. There are plenty of legitimate contests which charge a fee (Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition has now gone up to the hefty sum of $35 per entry). But there are also scams that offer a writer the chance of publication—until you find out you have to pay $75 to buy the book (usually anthologies) before you’re guaranteed you’ll see your name in print. Whether you want to shell out money to enter a contest is purely personal, but here are some things to consider:
- Your odds of winning. Are you competing with 25 writers or 250?
- The ratio of entry fee to prizes—are you paying $20 for the chance of winning $50?
- Do you get feedback? Access to editors and agents?
- Are previous winners listed on the website? (You can write to them and get some feedback on their experience)
- Have the judges published in or worked with the contest genre?
If you do submit to a contest, remember to follow submission guidelines. If the limit is 10 pages, don’t send 11. If the desired font is 12-point Times New Roman, don’t use 14-point Helvetica. As the General Contest Chair for Redwood Writers, I’m always amazed that with every contest, there are one or two submissions that have not complied with the guidelines. What happens to these submissions? They don’t get read. So, as with any submissions, be it to a contest or a publisher, give your story the best chance of getting past the first reader.
If you have any questions on contests, particular the Redwood Writer contests, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, but attended elementary school in Singapore, and high school in Hong Kong, where we moved to be closer to my Mom’s family. In 1979, I came to the U.S. for college and graduated from Dominican University in San Rafael, California with a B.A. in English Literature with a Writing Emphasis, and a M.S. in Counseling Psychology. I worked with kids in residential treatment centers, group homes, and finally, with Mendocino County Child Protective Services. I left to become a stay-at-home mom for 12 years to my 3 kids, but am now back working part-time at the Mendocino County Office of Education in Northern California. I enjoy writing in different genres and, in addition to children’s books, have written magazine articles (both for kids and adults), short plays, play and book reviews, and am currently working on a young adult and a middle grade novel.