Today I (Annie) am excited to welcome guest blogger Nate Worrell, who’s here to discuss the exciting topic of writing contests!

A sea of challenge awaits you, dear writer.  It will put to test your talent and your fortitude. I have ventured into this world.  I have seen nightmarish beasts and ethereal beauty.  I invite you to take the risk to enter a writing contest and see what sort of magic you might encounter.  Before you embark on your journey, I want to share some basic tenants to prepare you for the trek ahead.

There are as Many Contests as There are Mythical Monsters

Just as Medusa is different from Cyclops, each writing contest has is its own quirks. Knowing what type of contest you want to enter is a crucial first step. 

There are four ways to identify a contest:

1.      By Format (Fiction/Nonfiction/Poetry/Essay) then Genre (Sci-Fi/Romance/Children’s/Etc.).  Many contests span the spectrum and can potentially offer several ways to participate.  (For Example: The Bridport Prize) Sticking with your comfort zone isn’t a bad strategy. However, sometimes stepping out of your comfort zone can strengthen your writing.  (See my interview with Michael Grabell)
2.      By Contest Sponsor.  Each type of sponsor provides a different feel.
a.      Most literary magazines offer some sort of contest (Mississippi Review, Paper Darts, etc.).
b.      Writing websites (Writer’s Type, Writer’sWeekly)
c.      Magazines (Writer’s Digest, by the way my first win came from a magazine)
d.      Clubs/organizations/libraries (NYC Midnight)
e.      Contest websites (Fanstory).
ALERT: Dark creatures and vandals are looming.  Be sure to research the validity of any contest sponsor. 
·        Pay attention to how long they have been around
·        Do they post past winners?
·        Do they explain what they do with your writing once you submit it?
Retreat quickly if you note anything suspicious.
3.      “Open” vs. “Themed”.  Open contests will take writing on any subject and with any style.  Most contests allow you to write anything you want (Gemini Fictions contest). Many will have a few restrictions like no erotica or children’s fiction. ALWAYS READ CONTESTS GUIDELINES.
Themed contest provide some sort of prompt and participants all have to relate their writing to that prompt. (Fanstory [], On The Premises []). While both contest types require high quality writing and great stories, the themed contests add the extra criteria of how well you can incorporate the prompt.
4.      By eligible participants.  Contests can discriminate as much as they want.  At the most open end of the spectrum, you have international contests, open to anybody.  As an example of a more restrictive example, you might find a contest that is only open to women living in a small town in Maine, above a certain age.  The more restrictive end of the spectrum is the hidden gem of the writing contest world.  The writing contests that get the most attention will be the ones that get the most participants.  By virtue of math, the more people you have in a competition the odds that you win go down.  However, if you can find a niche competition, you might only be competing against a few dozen or so, and it can be a relatively easy way to get some resume boosters.

Your Writing Contest Oracles:

With all the assortment of writing contest, where do you begin to look?  Thankfully, there are several great sites out there, and I detail each one in my blog. 
·        Winning Writers provides many niche contests. 
·       Poets and Writers is a treasure trove of literary journals.
·        Just a Contest will send you email updates. 
·        Finally, Funds for Writers features helpful advice and warm editorials by C. Hope Clark.
·        Add to this list your local library, and you will have a wealth of resources to guide you.

Expect to be Torched by Dragons and Wowed by Wizards

There are hazards in the writing competition world. Your work might be torn to shreds.  It might not win, or worse, not even make the short list.  You might get critiques that make you want to reconsider writing altogether.  Do not fear.  Do not lose heart.  Use these opportunities as a metallurgist uses his furnace to forge a mighty weapon.  Allow the heat to sharpen your edges. After all, these hairy beasties do not lurk only in writing contests; they prowl throughout the entire writing land.
Then scrutinize the victors. What ingredients did they put in their potion that made them so effective?  Sometimes fate interferes (for example- if both the writer and judge enjoy chocolate covered bacon, and that’s the subject of the writer’s poem).  More often, it is a risk that the writer took, or a voice, or a twist in the narrative that separates winners from the pack.  Writing warriors are everywhere, and you can either let them push you aside, or push you forward.

Paying the Ferryman

If you are like me, you treasure your gold coins.  Paying a fee seems like a good way to waste $25. I want to comfort you, and put your payment in some context. 
·        First, if you ever see a contest that offers feedback on your writing, that can make a fee worth it.  Most editors start at $25 an hour.
·        Second, paying a fee is something you feel, so it adds that much more incentive to write better. 
·        Third, if you wanted to attend a class at a university to learn to write, you would have to pay a lot more.
·        Finally, prize money has to come from somewhere.  Consider it good karma to make your contribution to the writing contest world.

Final Words

If you want to know more about contests, judging, meet some winners, or anything else contest related, please contact me [[email protected]]. I wish you all the best in your quest. May you reign supreme.
Nate Worrell is the creator of The Competitive Writer,  a blog about writing contests.  He’s been published in The Binnacle, Marco Polo Literary Journal and From the Depths.  If he were a character from the Lord of the Rings, he would be an Ent.

Image Credit: By Boxiness (Painting using tablet PC.) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Today I’m featuring a guest post by author K.A. DaVur, author and founder of the publishing house Three Fates Press.  Here she is to talk about her journey to publishing and what led her to start her own company.


     I once heard a saying, “The best day of a boatowner’s life is the day he buys a boat.  The second best is the day he sells it.”  That always struck me as having more than a grain of truth.  How many times do we dream about an item or an event, only to discover that the reality does not live up to the expectations?  Sometimes, the “boat” is simply more work than we were expecting, or perhaps we aren’t able to use it as often as we thought.  Sometimes, we discover that we don’t like “boats” as much as we’d anticipated.  Other times, we discover to our dismay that we’d bought a broken boat.

          The latter was the case with me.  I have wanted to be an author for as long as I could put pen to paper.  A little over a year ago I sat in a small room in a convention center, armed with a manuscript, a carefully prepared pitch, and a great deal of hopes and ambition.  I was blessed that day, one of those magical moments when you know you’ve done it right, and I walked out of the room with numerous publishers who were willing to offer me contracts.  In other words, I found myself in a showroom of gorgeous boats that I could afford.  I had spent the day listening to the publishers talk about themselves and their company, and felt that I had a good grasp of the pros and cons of each.  After a great deal of thought and deliberation I made my choice.  It was, simply, one of the greatest days of my life.  My publisher pushed my book thorough at warpspeed, for which I was, and remain, incredibly grateful.  We launched with great success a few months later.  About that same time, things in the publishing house started to fall apart.  The publisher started returning rights to authors, not answering emails, and not following through on his obligations.  Granted, he had a lot of family and personal issues, and so much of that was unavoidable, but what impressed me the most was the way the “family” rallied around him.  I read, over and over again, messages from the authors that said things like, “Whatever I can do to help,” and “You take care of you, we will be fine.”  Our careers were in this man’s hands, and yet our first thought was for his well-being, that was a great example of the spirits of the people with whom I was working, but also what made what happened next so abhorrent. 
            You see, at about this same time, my publisher bought a gaming business, which began to flourish.  At that point, he began to utterly neglect his publishing house.  Emails and phone messages went unanswered for months, books went unordered, publicity and book selling events were not followed through upon, and more authors were dropped.  Worst of all, he became mean.  This same man who had received so much support from the authors whom he had signed, the man with whom I had signed because he seemed to have such a heart for his authors, became abrasive, snarky, and rude. At that point, I realized that staying with that company was no longer an option.  So, I became examining my other possibilities.  Signing with another house was an option, but I was hesitant because there was the chance of this happening again, and because none of my other options were passionate about me or about children’s/young adult fiction.  I wanted someone who was passionate about my books.  A large publishing house would have likely been an option, due to the success of my book, but I had been in control of my publicity and arranging my events, and I wanted that to continue.  Besides, where would that leave the other amazing people who had been walking this path with me? 
            So, I decided to start my own publishing company.  I was offered, and accepted, help and partnership from two women with decades of experience in the publishing world.  We put our heads together and came up with a plan for success for the house as a whole, and for the authors as individuals.  For the house, we planned on a very measured rate of development so as not to overextend, built a support team including us three, a project manager, mentors, and a CFO, so if there is ever anything in our lives that would slow us down, there is a slew of backup to keep the momentum going.  Also, we have implemented a three prong marketing plan that includes science fiction and fantasy conventions, local bookselling events, and also library and wholesale sales.  We are going to flood the market from every avenue. We have worked very hard to see that the authors whose work we accepted and who already had books on the market can transition with no lapse of saleability.   We support our authors by providing merchandise, finding and arranging venues, and of course through social networking.  Most of all, though, we are dedicated to ensuring that everyone with whom we work is being treated incredibly well.  We approached the editors whom our former author didn’t pay, and have offered to pay them out of our profits from the books on which they worked.  We promote each other.  We follow the contracts that we have created.  We listen to and anticipate the needs of one another.  I have never been prouder. 
            I am proud to not only be the owner of a publishing house, but to see how a group of artists, who can sometimes by nature be prone to moodiness and an understandable desire to move our work forward at any cost have instead chosen to come together to work for the good of the individual and the whole.  I’m proud of the laughs that we have.  I’m proud of the caliber of work that we are producing.  I sold my boat, bought a fleet, and don’t regret it for a second. 

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      To find our more about us, you can visit our publishing house pages at and and read about my book at  We are on Facebook as well!   Also, we could really use some help getting this house off of the ground.  The expenses are astronomical and there wasn’t a lot of time to save for them, as we didn’t want the authors to suffer by having their books removed from the market.  Also, we are still trying to promote our individual works while we transition.  So, to help with this process, we have set up a groupfunding account through Indiegogo.  The link is and I ask that you please visit, contribute if you can, and share.  Also, we are open to submission, especially for children’s books.  Those may be submitted to [email protected].  Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story!