Confessions of a Writing Contest Junkie

Confessions of a Writing Contest Junkie

I’ve been entering writing contests for decades. Once, I even placed third runner-up in a Novel First Chapter contest—the highest level that had no prize attached to it.

I really want to win a contest.

You know those short pieces you write, the poems, short stories, and essays? It’s so hard to get them published in a top forum, or even a respected one. And really, only the very top markets pay well.

But contests! There are contests where the prize for a single poem is $2000 or more. Now, that’s a nice payday!

But most of the contests require an entrance fee of anywhere from $5 to $30. You can’t just go entering contests willy-nilly; you’d go broke, unless you’re truly amazing.

Also, most contests don’t want pieces that have been published elsewhere, even on your own personal blog. I post a lot of my poems on my blog.

elements of fiction
Photo by Startup Stock Photos on

One neat thing about literary magazine contests is, some of them will give you a year’s subscription if you enter. That’s a great deal, because they often cost $20-30, and you get a much better feel from the hard copy magazine than you do when you look at prize-wining pieces or issues online. I’ve been able to eliminate some journals from my contest list because they’re filled with stories and essays that don’t appeal to me; I’ve also been able to narrow my list to publications that feel like home.

I currently have 3 groups of poems, a picture book, a short story, and a poetry chapbook entered in different contests. Every time my work is not selected, I look it over, do a little rewriting, and send it out again. I’m on many organizations’ email lists, so I’m always learning about new contests, but my favorite source is Poets & Writers magazine. Actually, their contest database is on their website, but I like how in the physical magazine there’s a section in the back with upcoming contest deadlines. I check the requirements and the prizes and strategize what I can send to the best contests.

I still haven’t won a contest, but I feel like I’m getting closer. When I read a winning piece and it has a similar feel to mine, I’m hopeful that maybe the next one. . .

Now it’s your turn. Do you ever enter writing contests? Have you ever won one? What are the pros and cons of contests? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

About Andrea R Huelsenbeck

Andrea R Huelsenbeck is a wife, a mother of five and a former elementary general music teacher. A freelance writer in the 1990s, her nonfiction articles and book reviews appeared in Raising Arizona Kids, Christian Library Journal, and other publications. She is currently working on a young adult mystical fantasy novel and a mystery.

3 responses »

    • Look at it as a learning opportunity. I always check out the winner. Sometimes it is so different from what I write that I realize the judge would never like my stuff. Other times it is so much better than mine that I analyze it and see something I can do differently. . .


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