Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C is for Contest

Photo by Rena J. Traxel
C is for Contest. Today, writer and poet Lissa Clouser will share with you how to find a respectable poetry contest. Thanks Lissa! 

As creative writers we hear about writing contests all the time. Some are local and probably hosted through your school, newspaper, or library. Others get more press, like the Writer’s Digest Annual Competition and Writers of the Future. But no matter what kind of competition you choose for your work, I believe writing contests are there to be used as a tool.

There are several places to find writing contests of all kinds, but the options for poetry are especially prominent. Magazines like Writer’s Digest and Poets & Writers frequently use their ad space to display some of the options out there. I also like to use the Winning Writers website database when searching for contests, and I subscribe to their monthly newsletter to keep up on news as well.

One of the benefits of using Winning Writers is that they try to prescreen the contests on their list for the signs of scams or vanity press. There’s always the chance you could fall prey to an unscrupulous contest, but there are a few things to look for to lessen those odds:
  • First, what are your entry fees? I’ve never entered a contest that cost me more than $20 and the ones that cost me that much guaranteed me a one-year subscription to the journal regardless of my outcome in the contest. If you’re entering a contest for full poetry chapbooks or anthologies you can expect to pay higher fees, but those fees should always be appropriate when considering the prize. Don’t enter something that costs you $10 if the top prize is only $50.
  • Second, what are your prizes? A vanity press will be publishing a large number of entrants and will probably not be selling that publication to the public. They might even require that you purchase an anthology to enter! As tempting as it is to enter a contest with 50 possible prizes, your respectable contests often offer a much shorter prize list. One of the largest I’ve seen is 15.
  • And finally (though perhaps the most important), check your copyrights! I can’t stress this enough. A good contest will always allow you to retain copyrights, although they may require first-print rights if you place high enough for publication. If the contest rules don’t address copyrights, contact the contest sponsor for clarification or walk away. The last thing you want is to accidentally give up your work.

So after all of that, why enter contests? They give you the opportunity to find your work published in a respectable journal and can potentially short-list you with a poetry book publisher if you have a chapbook or anthology you may want published later. But perhaps the most important reason to enter poetry contests is that they keep you producing new work. Look at them as motivation, mini-deadlines if you will, that will keep you editing and writing instead of falling under the spell of distraction. After all, to be a writer we have to write, don’t we? Best of luck!

Lissa Clouser is a poet and short story writer from Oklahoma. In 2011, she won the children’s poetry category at the Ozark Creative Writers Conference and she has placed in the Writer’s Digest Annual Competition under rhyming poetry for both 2010 and 2011. She is currently working on two poetry anthologies. To learn more about Lissa head over to blog by clicking here

Cento or patchwork poem according to Poets.org is "a poetic form made up of lines from poems by other poets. Though poets often borrow lines from other writers and mix them in with their own, a true cento is composed entirely of lines from other sources." What better way to get your poetry contest ready then to study other poets! 

Using the photo of the patchwork castle as a prompt: 
--create a patchwork poem, or 
--write a poem about a castle, or
--choose one line from a favourite poem and use it to write a poem, or 
--use the castle picture to inspire your poem in someway.
Feel free to share your poem in the comments below, on your blog (leave a link in the comments), or on the poetry Facebook page.

Poetry Contest
As you may or may not now. I am hosting a poetry contest at the conclusion of this poetry challenge. This contest is only open to the participants of the A to Z Poetry Challenge. There will be two winners. One winner will be chosen by a panel of judges while the other winner will be chosen by the readers.  You must enter ONE of the twenty-six poems you wrote during the challenge. I'm trusting that you will be honest and only enter a poem written during the challenge. 

The winners will get to pick one prize from the following prizes:
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein 
  • On My Walk by Kari-Lynn Winters
  • Baaaad Animals by Tiffany Stone 
  • Treasuries - Mother Goose 
  • No Bones About It by Bill Kirk 
  • Your Favorite Seuss: A baker's dozen by the one and only Dr. Seuss 
  • One year subscription to Writer's Digest 
  • One year subscription to Poets and Writers Or
  • 25 dollar Amazon gift card 
Here is a list of participants 
1. Rita Fox
2. Irene Kristler
3. Jennifer Young
4. Pam Courtney
5. Renee LaTulippe 
6. Lori Degman 
7.Natalie Fischer
8. Catherine Johnson 
9. Penny Klostermann
10. Laura Sassi
11. Hannah Wilde
12. Laurie Mekelburg

If I missed you or you want to join the challenge please let me know in the comments below. You have until midnight tonight  (mountain time) to sign up for the challenge. To learn more about the challenge click here

If you liked this post please let others know. Tomorrow there will be a guest post by Sandi Hershenson, "Oh the Poet We Know." I hope you come back for that. 


  1. Thank you so much for letting me be a guest on your blog, Rena! I enjoyed getting to share!

    1. Thanks again for writing a guest post!

  2. Thank you for the contest advice Lissa. Congratulations on all your awards!

    1. So have you decided to become a poet yet?

    2. Holy moly, I give all you poets a lot of credit. It's been fun learning so far but it's really hard for me to get things right. (or close to "right" that is)

    3. Thank you, Jennifer! I'm finding the more I work with poetry that getting things 'right' just means getting your work on the page in the way that rings most true to your own heart! Best of luck!

  3. Great advice, Lissa! The whole world of contests AND how one goes about getting a poem in an anthology are really foggy to me -- so you've cleared up half the fog!

    Rena, I love today's patchwork challenge! (P.S. My last name is LaTulippe, not Tulippe.) :)

    1. Sorry Renee. I had your name spelt right on my sheet of contestants but for some reason the 'l' and 'a' disappeared when I typed the post up.

    2. So glad to have helped! There are definitely some respectable anthologies and journals out there, so it's worth sniffing out the good ones and giving them a try!

  4. Thanks for all of the tips Lissa. I have always wondered about contests myself, so your info was very helpful. :)

    1. Me too. I just might submit a poem to the upcoming Writer's Digest contest.

    2. I'm glad the info was useful to you, Natalie!

      And Rena, you should totally enter Writer's Digest. They have some of the higher submission fees of the contests I enter, but with a record like they have I'm okay with it. Some people will argue that placing the top 100 in each category makes it a vanity press. However they only award official prizes to the top 10 in each category and the top prizes are really worth it. I kind of like the top 100 rankings. Just because even if I don't win something, if I'm in the ranking it helps give me an idea of where my work is falling in the crowd. I pretend it's almost like a mini-graded crit. =)

  5. Lissa, thanks for contributing to the A to Z Poetry Challenge. It's so nice to have the advice from someone with experience.

    1. I'm pleased Lissa was able to do this post. I could have talked about contests, but wouldn't have been able to speak from experience.

    2. Glad to help, Penny! I've been trying to keep up with the contest circuit on a somewhat serious level for about a year now, so I'm very happy to share what I've learned to help people who are just starting!

  6. Great advice, Lissa. I've heard of the vanity press contests, and have been leery of all contests as a result. This is a good guideline!

    And thanks, Rena, for the insights into different forms of poetry that you're giving us.

    1. In grade school more than once I was forced to submit to those contests that want you to buy an anthology. I never gave the publisher permission to publish my poem. I would submit to a Writer's Digest contest though.

    2. Hi Beth! Vanity press can be scary, but most of them have enough red flags that if you dig into the posted rules you'll find something fishy sounding. The key is just to read everything before sending off your work and to ask questions if something isn't spelled out.

      And Rena, I know exactly what you're talking about. Some of those anthologies cost upwards of $60 or $70 and might only list your name! Such a scam!

  7. Great tips, Lisa thanks. There's so many contests for adult poetry and not so much for children's and beginners. I am going to go and check out Winning Writer too, I think I've been there before. Thanks!

    1. Here's my poem: http://catherinemjohnson.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/patchwork-poem/

    2. Definitely check out Winning Writers, Catherine. You might also do a google search for poetry contests for younger age groups if you're interested. They are out there, they're just a little more difficult to find sometimes. There are lots of good contests that don't do any major advertising, just read all the rules and ask for clarification before you submit, and if something doesn't feel right, trust your gut!

  8. Thanks for introducing me to Cento poems! Here's my post. http://loridegman.blogspot.com/2012/04/poetry-month-mashup-day-three.html

  9. Wow, who knew there was a name for the "mash-up" in poem form? I'll have to keep this one in mind when I'm feeling uninspired. ;)

  10. Ah boo, I wish I had seen this when I signed up for the original A to Z challenge as I am doing poems for all 26 days of the challenge. Such a great idea to add a poetry contest to the original one. Good luck to everyone.

    1. This my first year doing this and I will probably do it again next year.

  11. Here's my patchwork poem! But instead of going to the anthologies...I went to Twitter! What a wealth of inspiration there is in a simple tweet. When I post this on my blog, I will include the sources (original tweeters).


    Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door.
    Fancy a stroll along the Central Line this Sunday afternoon?
    Where children still bob like seals in the cool sea
    and every child artist thinks the sun exists in the corner of a page
    and you still have a manly fear of mediocrity.

    The only things stopping me from being a superhero are physics and laziness.
    Reality stole my superpowers....
    Let everything happen to you, beauty and terror, no feeling is final.
    When they discover the center of the universe, look for me waving.
    The dark place where talent leads.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Neat. i'm going to be doing a post later this month on twitter poetry. I love that you made a patchwork poem from tweets!

  12. Any extension of the deadline for entry? I am doing the A to Z Challenge with a poem a day and just noticed your challenge. I could try to go back and do the earlier poem assignments, or just start wherever.
    If it's not possible, then I'll do it next year, if I remember! In any case, I'll be back to read more! Thanks.

    1. Sorry Donna. I'm going to have o say no. I will probably hold another poetry contest down the road. I plan to run challenge again next year. I'll make sure to drop by your blog and read your wonderful poems.

  13. That's fine...just checking! Thanks!

    1. You can still do the challenges and share your poems on the Facebook poetry group. You just won't be able to submit to the contest at the end of the month.

  14. Okay Rena, you asked for it. I never heard of a cento/patchwork poem before your post. What a classroom A to Z is!

    A Foot Bridge

    Left foot . Left foot. Right foot, right.
    This bridge will only take you halfway there
    Feet in the morning. Feet at night.

    So come and walk awhile with me and share
    Left foot. Left foot. Left foot, right.
    To those mysterious lands you long to see.
    Wet foot, dry foot. High foot, low foot.
    And moonlit woods where unicorns run free

    But this bridge will only take you halfway there.
    Up in the air feet! Over a chair feet!
    In the house or on the street, how many many feet you meet!

    The last few steps you’ll have to take alone

    1. Ooh. I like this. What is this from?

    2. Thanks, Rena! Shel Silverstein's, This Bridge and Dr. Suess'. The Foot Book. Can you tell I work with preschool children (ha ha)?


Thanks for your comments. Remember to keep them kid friendly.