Find a good writing contest and enter it.



headshotEVEN THOUGH MY SON AND DAUGHTER-IN-LAW live near Dallas, they still like to enter photographs in the East Texas State Fair. This year Sandra won a second place ribbon for a black and white photograph of water tumbling over rocks, which she took in Dallas. It wasn’t just a few rocks; they were piled high and the water wasn’t trickling—it looked like it was gushing. In fact, the photo on the computer monitor looked like the rocks were covered with snow. That was her first “Fair” award this year. Next came the Texas State Fair in Dallas.

After being up all day yesterday since three o’clock in the morning, coming to Tyler to celebrate her birthday, and returning home late, she made cookies and brownies to enter in the State Fair today. She was thrilled, and probably a little shocked, to find she won an honorable mention for the cookies. The competition was a little stiffer there, so I’m sure she felt it was well worth the effort.

All of this leads up to the subject of this blog—writers and contests.

There are so many contests for writers to enter, it’s almost hard to choose the ones you think you might have a chance for a prize, or at least some name recognition. The first important thing to remember about any contest is to follow the rules exactly—to the letter—no ad libbing.

Many contests offer first prizes of $1,000, with lesser amounts for second and third place winners. Of course, $1,000 is an eye-catcher and everyone who enters hopes for that check to arrive in their mailbox.

Some contests require an entry fee—in fact, most of them do. It can be as little as Five Dollars or as much as Thirty Dollars—sometimes even more. That’s okay, because probably the bulk of the entrance fees go toward the prize money. But there are a few contests that don’t ask for any entrance fee and still offer cash awards. Maybe not as much, but something. And we all know “something is better than nothing.” So the story goes.

Finally there are those contests that offer publication in a particular magazine as well as a couple of free copies of the magazine. I’ve seen this posted mostly for colleges who publish an issue every quarter. Again, having recognition and your manuscript in print does put your name before others. It may even catch the eye of an interested party who can help you move along on the road to publication.

A few contests have only certain months that they will accept entries. There again, you have to pay attention to their guidelines, and be sure your entry is submitted at the proper time.

Finally, you may enter a contest, not win a thing, but get a detailed critique of your work from a professional editor/author. This happened to a friend of mine. She entered a contest sponsored by Writer’s Digest. We all know to place at all in anything this big can be a status symbol you can brag about for a long time.

My friend didn’t win anything monetarily or in the honorable mention category, but she did get a detailed critique of her work with strong words of encouragement to keep on writing—that she had a gift. She was so thrilled about that piece of paper, you would have thought she garnered the blue ribbon. Indeed she walked away with a different kind of award—one that boosted her self-esteem, gave her a feeling that she does have talent, and advice she might not have ever gotten anywhere else. Like a certain commercial says—priceless!

Seek out contests and enter them. It’s not only good practice for paying attention to submission requirements, you have an opportunity to share your talent with others, profit from their experiences, and maybe even win some money.

Patricia La Vigne is the author of Wind-Free.


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