Essay Writing Competitions Online Usa

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Colorado Review

Nelligan Prize

Cash Prize: $2,000

Entry Fee: $15

Application Deadline: 3/14/18

Genre: Fiction

A prize of $2,000 and publication in Colorado Review is given annually for a short story. Margot Livesey will judge. Submit a story of any length with a $15 entry fee...

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Prairie Schooner

Book Prizes

Cash Prize: $3,000

Entry Fee: $25

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction

Two prizes of $3,000 each and publication by University of Nebraska Press are given annually for a poetry collection and a short story collection. An editorial board will...

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James Jones Literary Society

First Novel Fellowship

Cash Prize: $10,000

Entry Fee: $30

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Fiction

A prize of $10,000 is given annually for a novel-in-progress by a U.S. writer who has not published a novel. A selection from the winning work will be published in ...

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Sonora Review

Annual Contests

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $15

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction

Three prizes of $1,000 each and publication in Sonora Review are given annually for a poem or group of poems, a short story, and an essay. The 2018 contest theme is "...

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The Pinch

Literary Awards

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $20

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction

Three prizes of $1,000 each and publication in the Pinch are given annually for a poem, a short story, and an essay. Maggie Smith will judge in poetry, Carmen Maria...

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Bellingham Review

Literary Awards

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $20

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction

Three prizes of $1,000 each and publication in Bellingham Review are given annually for works of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. The 49th Parallel Award for...

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The Word Works

Washington Prize

Cash Prize: $1,500

Entry Fee: $25

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry

A prize of $1,500 and publication by the Word Works is given annually to a U.S. or Canadian poet for a poetry collection. Submit a manuscript of 48 to 80 pages with a $25 entry...

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Southampton Review

Frank McCourt Memoir Prize

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $15

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Creative Nonfiction

A prize of $1,000 and publication in Southampton Review is given annually for a personal essay. Using the online submission system, submit an essay of up to 4,500...

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Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation

Poetry Prize

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $10

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry

A prize of $1,000 is given annually for an unpublished poem. Richard Blanco will judge. Submit up to three poems of no more than three pages each with a $10 entry fee by March...

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The Writer's Center

McLaughlin-Esstman-Stearns First Novel Prize

Cash Prize: $500

Entry Fee: $0

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Fiction

A prize of $500 is given annually for a first novel by a U.S. author published during the previous year. Authors, publishers, and agents may submit three copies of a novel...

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Kundiman/Tupelo Press

Kundiman Poetry Prize

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $28

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry

A prize of $1,000 and publication by Tupelo Press is given annually for a poetry collection by an Asian American poet. The board members of Kundiman and Tupelo Press will judge...

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Sarabande Books

Morton and McCarthy Prizes

Cash Prize: $2,000

Entry Fee: $29

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction

Two prizes of $2,000 each and publication by Sarabande Books are given annually for collections of poetry and fiction. For the Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry, submit a...

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Hunger Mountain

Literary Prizes

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $20

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction

Three prizes of $1,000 each and publication in Ephemeral Artery, Hunger Mountain's online publication, are given annually for a poem, a short story, and an...

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Slope Editions

Book Prize

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $22

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry

A prize of $1,000 and publication by Slope Editions is given annually for a poetry collection. Ocean Vuong will judge. Submit a manuscript of 40 to 90 pages with a $22 entry...

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Hidden River Arts

Eludia Award

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $30

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Fiction

A prize of $1,000 and publication by Sowilo Press is given annually for a novel or story collection by a woman writer over the age of 40. Using the online submission system,...

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Cave Canem Foundation

Poetry Prize

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $20

Application Deadline: 3/16/18

Genre: Poetry

A prize of $1,000 and publication by Graywolf Press is given annually for a first book of poetry by a black poet of African descent. Chris Abani will judge. Using the online...

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Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation

Literary Awards

Cash Prize: $10,000

Entry Fee: $100

Application Deadline: 3/16/18

Genre: Fiction, Creative Nonfiction

Two prizes of $10,000 each are given annually for a book of fiction and a book of nonfiction (including creative nonfiction) published in the previous year that "foster peace,...

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Fourth Genre

Steinberg Essay Prize

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $20

Application Deadline: 3/20/18

Genre: Creative Nonfiction

A prize of $1,000 and publication in Fourth Genre is given annually for an essay. Using the online submission system, submit an essay of up to 6,000 words with a $20...

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New South

Writing Contest

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $15

Application Deadline: 3/21/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction

Two prizes of $1,000 each and publication in New South are given annually for a poem and a story or essay. Safiya Sinclair will judge in poetry, and Alissa Nutting...

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Enizagam

Literary Awards

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $20

Application Deadline: 3/23/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction

Two prizes of $1,000 each and publication in Enizagam are given annually for a group of poems and a short story. Jesse Nathan will judge in poetry, and Rachel Khong...

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Trustees of the Robert Frost Farm

Frost Farm Prize

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $6

Application Deadline: 3/30/18

Genre: Poetry

A prize of $1,000 is given annually for a poem written in metrical verse. The winner also receives a scholarship and honorarium to give a reading at the Frost Farm Poetry...

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Florida Review

Editors’ Awards

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $20

Application Deadline: 3/31/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction

Three prizes of $1,000 each and publication in Florida Review are given annually for a group of poems, a short story, and an essay. The editors will judge. Submit...

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Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing

Poetry and Prose Prizes

Cash Prize: $1,600

Entry Fee: $25

Application Deadline: 3/31/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction

Two prizes valued at $1,600 each will be given annually to a poet and fiction writer to attend a weeklong seminar at the Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing Summer...

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Pages

Are you interested in entering a writing contest, but don’t know how to win? After reading these seven tips, you’ll become a surefire contender for winning the top prize.

1. Captivate from your first sentence


“The first sentence sets the tone for the entire piece.” You may have heard similar advice many times before, but it really does hold true of trying to produce a memorable piece of writing. Would you be inclined to continue reading a submission if the first line is dull, cliche, or doesn’t convey its intention effectively?

The harsh truth is that due to time constraints and the large volume of entries received, many writing contest judges simply flick through the submissions they receive. The golden handful that are read properly are the submissions that capture the reader from the very beginning. Of course, your writing should be captivating from the first word to the last, but especially in the case of a writing contest, it should be one of your top priorities to ensure that the judges give your piece the consideration it deserves.

2. Think outside the box


Think about this: Hundreds or thousands of other people are likely to apply for the same competition as you. This means your goal should be to make your submission stand out. How? Give the judges something to “chew on”. Whether it be a different perspective, an innovative idea or perhaps a controversial topic, your submission should be memorable.

Try to consider the given topic from a number of angles. Sure, it’s “safer” to take the usual angle to a topic if you’re confident you can do it well. But once you think about all the other people who took a similar one, it doesn’t seem like such a safe bet after all. Push yourself to take a different perspective. Another important tip is to stay away from cliched phrases or anything that sounds overused and stale. Remember, as long as you can back up what you say and convey your ideas effectively, adopting a unique approach is easy way to make your submission stand out.

3. Be consistent


Consistency is a fundamental tenet of solid writing. Without consistency, your piece will be challenging for the judges to read. In order to ensure your submission demonstrates consistency, consider the following areas:

Structure
Organize your ideas so that there is a clear flow and structure. This rule applies to any type of piece- from a nonfiction essay to a short story or poem. Structure is king.

Your argument
If you’re writing an essay or analysis, assert your standpoint or message from the beginning and ensure it is evident right through to the end. If you are arguing in favor of something, for example, don’t backtrack on your words later on in the piece. This is a common error of inexperienced writers, who have a tendency to flip flop on their views throughout. Be sure to highlight your standpoint with supporting evidence at all times.

Your plot and characters
If you’re writing a story, you will need to develop the plot and characters skillfully. It is important that you do not have any plot holes, as this will throw out the whole balance of your story. Your characters should consistently reflect the personality and behavioral characteristics you attached to them in all their actions and dialogue.

Editing
Your submission should have a uniform style, from punctuation to stylistic features like the font and headings. See Tip 5 and 6 for more information.

4. Emotionally engage


One of the hard and fast rules about writing well is to write in a way that emotionally engages the reader. Whatever topic you write about, try to hone in on an aspect which has the potential to tap into the reader’s experiences or bring about meaningful reaction in them. A judge is far more likely to remember your piece of writing if it prompted them to feel, think, or even reflect or question their own views.   

Unless the competition calls for it, try not to make your writing too specific to yourself. Try to write in a way which will allow anyone who reads your submission to find something they can identify with, or at least relate to. For instance, instead of writing about the impact a certain policy has on you, write about how it has affected your town, city, or the country as a whole. Everyone likes being able to see themselves in a piece of writing- make sure your piece speaks to everyone.

5. Edit, edit, edit


Any writer will tell you that writing is only half the battle- editing is where the real beast lies. A simple way to impress the judges of a writing contest is to make sure you have read and reread your article for errors. And no, a quick once-over won’t cut it. You’ll need to be vigilant in your search for typos, punctuation errors, structural weaknesses, cliches, overused words and any other problems. Once you learn how to edit effectively, and become more confident doing it, editing your piece won’t seem nearly as confronting.

Even when it’s not explicitly stated in the competition guidelines that editing will be considered, you can be certain that any judge will look more favorably on a well-edited piece than a poorly edited one. You never know, if your piece is running head-to-head with another contestant’s for the top prize, a “simple” mistake could cost you the whole contest. Ignore proofreading at your own peril.

6. Get a fresh set of eyes


It may be daunting to show your submission to someone you’re close to, but having another set of eyes to look over your writing is invaluable. As any writer who has spent hours mulling over their piece will know, it’s difficult to detect your own errors or weaknesses.

When you ask someone to edit your work, it’s best to provide them with the competition guidelines so they know exactly what to be on the lookout for. If there is a particular area you are worried about, such as your punctuation or structure, let them know so they can better advise you. Receiving constructive criticism about your writing, and acting on it, is one of the best ways to improve your writing and have a good chance at winning a competition.

7. Mind your manners 


Many contests require you to submit your entry by email, and this is where a lot of contestants fail to make a good impression. A surprising amount of participants simply attach the document without anything written in the body of the message. If a contest is by email submission, you need to follow proper etiquette. The following is a simple guide to writing an email to submit your piece to a writing competition:

  • Subject line: First, title your email clearly. Something simple as “[Name of competition] Submission” and your own name is usually fine. Some competitions will request you title your email something specific- so read the guidelines carefully!
  • Salutation: Open the body of your email with a salutation such as, “Dear [competition organization/person in charge]”.
  • Self intro: Next, provide a very brief self-introduction which states who you are and what you do (e.g. student, freelance writer).
  • Reason for emailing: Concisely explain that you are sending the email to enter their competition. Make sure to you specify the competition to which you submitting, as some organizations have a number of competitions running concurrently.
  • Final thanks:Thank the organization/person for the opportunity to enter this competition. If you want you can express that you’re looking forward to hearing from them further.
  • Sign off: End with a formal sign-off like “Yours sincerely/Kindest regards [your name]”

Here is a sample email:

[Email Subject: The Power of Science Competition Submission]

To whom it may concern at Sunflower Writing,

My name is James West, and I am completing my Bachelor of Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

I am writing to submit my entry to your writing competition, “The Power of Science”. My submission answers the question, “Which Scientific Development has had the Greatest Impact on the 21st Century?”

Please find my entry attached to this email.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to enter this competition.

Kindest,

James West.

Final words


So writers, read over these tips (a few times if you need to!), be confident, and get to it! Writing competitions are a fantastic opportunity to polish your writing skills and get some feedback on your writing. The chance to win some prize money is just the *icing on the cake.

*Yep, that’s a cliche there. Good spotting! For those who missed it, it’s back to Tip Number 2 for you!

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