Wrangling Writing Contests

Writing contestsFor me, May signals a time to focus on the business side of writing. With my semester winding down here in America, I have the time to research markets, create spread sheets—in other words, abandon the fluidity and near haphazardness that so often characterizes my creative writing.

Looking for opportunities, I checked out the May/June issue of Poets & Writers Magazine. For some, writing contests have a bad reputation, but times they are a changin’. Hundreds of legitimate, transparent contests are out there. So where do you start?

The Poets & Writers website offers a searchable database of over 400 contests and writing competitions. A great resource, but terribly overwhelming. How can you narrow your research?

I start close to home, metaphorically speaking. Which magazines and presses do you follow on Twitter and other social media outlets? Do they offer contests? Chances are they do, and you have the advantage of already knowing how they operate as an organization.

Talk to people you know. Do you know any writers who have entered a contest? Anybody who works with small presses? Ask them for recommendations.

Once you have a list of possibilities, do a little research to see who is judging. Have you read any of their work? Can you get a feel for their aesthetic? Don’t forget to read sample copies of the journal as well.

Finally, the issue of contest fees. Look at the ratio of fee to prize—does it seem reasonable? I tend to gravitate towards ones that include a subscription to the magazine. What if you are currently looking up at broke? Find an “investor”! My sister has offered to pay contest fees for me with my guarantee that, if I win, I will give her double her investment. She feels good because she is supporting my writing, and I feel good because I can still pay rent.

Do you have any experience with writing competitions or contests? Leave a comment about your experiences so we can all get the inside scoop. Thanks for reading, everyone.

Today’s guest blogger: Tiffany A. Turbin Santos

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