I love a good contest. Even more than a good contest, I love a good contest without a reading fee. Back when I was in college, one of my teachers advised us to stay away from fee-based contests.
“You’re writers,” he pointed out. (He also pointed out that we were college students, which was painfully obvious by our ratty sweatshirts and the way that we pooled our money to split lunch at the taco truck.) “Money is a precious commodity. Five dollars here and ten dollars there really start to add up.” It’s the reverse Latte Factor. Why nickle and dime and Paypal ourself into the poor house?
Since his advice, I have never entered a fee-based contest. That doesn’t mean that I won’t ever enter one, but right now I don’t feel that’s in my best interest. Besides, there are a few wonderful contests that I really enjoy. Free contests, might I add. And free contests with prizes! Even better!
Here are a few that I personally enjoy:
The Whidbey Island Student Choice Award. This is a monthly contest with rotating judges. It’s for flash fic, they tend to lean toward the literary, and the winner receives a beautiful letter and $50. Follow the rules carefully because they’re a bit unusual.
The Binnacle’s Annual Ultra Short Competition. The University of Maine at Machias sponsers a very cool contest for prose pieces under 150 words or poetry under 16 lines. While there are some cash prizes, I was thrilled to find that the winners and honorary mentions had their pieces made into high quality, tiny cards stored in a beautiful box. That was certainly surprise, and just awesome. Unfortunately, we just missed the deadline on this one, but it opens again in December.
The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. We all know the infamous phrase “It was a dark and stormy night.” Did you realize there is more to that sentence? A lot more? The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is just a hoot. Send in your most convoluted phrase and see if you win. The deadline for this contest is always April 15, which just makes Tax Day even better.
The Glass Woman Prize. The Glass Woman Prize is an annual contest run by Beate Sigriddaughter. The subject is open but must be of interest to women. There’s a rolling deadline, and Ms. Sigriddaughter funds the prize money by donating ten percent of her personal income. Read what this contest is all about. It’s a beautiful thing.
The Shock Totem Flash Fiction Contest. If I don’t mention this one, Ken will never forgive me. Shock Totem hosts a flash fiction contest every other month. You have to sign into the forum to join, but then you have access to a protected area so you don’t lose any publishing rights. You’re given a prompt, have a week to write it, and then the participants vote on each other’s stories. The winning story gets a prize, and ultimately the winning stories of the year will be judged by a guest judge. The winner of the final round will be published in Shock Totem and receive 5 cents a word.
Here are a quick handful of fivewriting contests that are a lot of fun and are also absolutely free to enter. Do you have any other suggestions? I’d be thrilled to hear them! Enjoy! 😀