SouthWest Writers is proud to announce a Call for Submissions
2023 Annual Writing Contest
The 2023 SouthWest Writers Writing Contest opens on Saturday, April 8. This year’s contest includes 20 writing categories and two art categories with cash prizes in all and the opportunity to be included in the anthology Woven Pathways.
The SouthWest Writers members’ love of all things writing weaves us together into an inclusive, supportive community regardless of our culture or background. We would like entries and participants that reflect our inclusiveness.
While the contest includes categories for artwork, poetry, nonfiction and opening pages of a published work, the majority of the categories focus on unpublished writing in a number of specific genres of certain lengths with the hope of encouraging aspiring authors to participate. Contestants do not have to be a member of SouthWest Writers to enter.
NOTE: At least 5 entries are required for top three prizes to be awarded. Two prizes will be allowed if there are only 4 entries and only one prize will be given if there are 3 entries.
Timeline, Fees, & Awards
The contest will accept submissions from April 8 through May 20, 2023.
Early Bird Entry
April 8–21: $20 per entry
April 22–May 5: $25 per entry
May 6–20: $45 per entry
The awards in each category and/or subcategory are as follows:
- $50 First Place
- $25 Second Place
- $15 Third Place
The overarching requirements of submissions are as follows, though individual categories may state exceptions or additional guidelines:
- The submission must be formatted as a Microsoft Word .doc or .docx with the exception that art/photos should be formatted in .jpg or .pdf with a minimum 300 dpi.
- Double line spacing for all prose and nonfiction with no extra line spacing between paragraphs.
- Poetry categories may be single or double line spaced.
- First lines of paragraphs should be indented except for Poetry.
- Body of text — 12pt Times New Roman.
- Titles — 14pt Times New Roman.
- No entry may contain more than 3,000 words except the following: the Flash Fiction category entries must not exceed 1,000 words, the Poetry Free Verse must not exceed 1,500 words, and Limericks must be five lines total.
- A submission may be entered in only one category.
- All submissions must be in English although words in other languages may be included to enhance the story.
- The author’s name must not appear anywhere in the entry (this includes the file name, title, header, and footer).
- Entries must be unpublished (see definition below*), except for the Fiction category Opening Pages of a Previously Published Book.
- Entries in the Fiction category Opening Pages of a Previously Published Book may have been published between 2020 and 2023.
- Entries cannot have won or placed in any SouthWest Writers contest.
- All entries must be submitted online through the SouthWest Writers website. No paper entries will be accepted.
- No endnotes, graphs, or artwork should be included with the prose/poetry entries.
- NOTE: Entries received which do not conform to these stated requirements will be disqualified from judging. Submitter will not receive notice of the disqualification and no refund will be given.
This year’s contest offers five main categories divided into a total of twenty-two subcategories:
Section A: Art/Photography
SouthWest Writers embraces all genres and types of literature and writing including poetry, fiction and nonfiction. Our love of all things writing weaves us together into an inclusive, supportive community regardless of our culture or background. We would like to see art that reflects our inclusiveness.
Please note that the artist/photographer must acknowledge at the time of entering the contest that if their entry is selected, SouthWest Writers has the right to publish it in its 2023 anthology.
• A1: Interior Pages Artwork.
Must be black-and-white photographs or a black-and-white photo of the author’s line drawings or artwork. Submit a .jpg or .pdf image with at least a 300 dpi density. Chosen submissions will be used throughout the SouthWest Writers anthology of winning entries and must contain subject matter related to one or more contest categories. Art and photos must be in vertical format to fit the 6”x9” page dimensions.
All artwork and photos used in the interior pages of the anthology will be printed in black-and-white. All submissions selected for the anthology will be awarded a cash prize of $25. They will not receive a standard 1st/2nd/3rd place rating. (This category will be voted on by the SWW membership.)
• A2: Cover Artwork.
The submission winning this category will be used on the front cover of the book. It must be in color and related to the theme of “Woven Pathways,” the title of the anthology. It must have a vertical format suitable for a 6”x9” book size. Artwork must be submitted as a .jpg or .pdf with at least a 300 dpi density. This category will have only one winner who will receive $50.
Section B: Fiction
All of the fiction categories are for unpublished works except for B1 Opening Pages of a Previously Published Book. This allows aspiring writers to practice their skills. Note the word count limits!
• B1: Opening Pages of a Previously Published Book.
The book must have been published between 2020 and 2023. The entry can include up to 3,000 words. The entry should show the chapter title on the submission.
• B2: Opening Pages of an Unpublished Book.
There are five subcategories in this grouping. Each subcategory will be awarded prizes within the subcategory. Each subcategory has a 3,000 word limit.
- General Fiction
• B3: Flash Fiction.
Flash Fiction entries should be 1,000 words or less, any genre.
• B4: Short Story.
The Short Story category is similar to the Opening Pages of an Unpublished Book in that it has six subcategories, each with its own prizes. Each subcategory has a 3,000 word limit.
- General Fiction
Section C: NonFiction Memoir
This year, Memoirs will consist of three subcategories, each with its own prizes. Memoirs should reflect on a personal experience. However, in order to maintain anonymity with the judges, use a name other than your own in the context of the memoir. Each subcategory has a 3,000 word limit.
• C1: General.
• C2: Pets.
• C3: Travel.
For the Travel subcategory, write in magazine style about one of the following:
- a specific type of travel
- a place you have traveled to
- advice for travelers
Section D: Poetry Free Verse
This year, the Poetry Free Verse category will consist of three subcategories, each with its own prizes. The focus is on the creative and/or clever use of words. The limit is 1,500 words.
• D1: Nature.
• D2: Spiritual.
• D3: Relationships.
Section E: Limericks
One stanza. A limerick is a five-line poem that consists of a single stanza, an AABBA rhyme scheme, and whose subject is a short, pithy tale or description. It can be suggestive but not pornographic. (This category will be voted on by the SouthWest Writers membership.)
All entries will be reviewed first by a gatekeeper who will ensure the submission satisfies the Contest and Category Rules as stated above. The author’s name must not appear on any page of the submitted entry. If the entry does not meet those rules, it will not be sent on for subsequent judging. If the same piece is entered in more than one category, it will be disqualified from winning in any category. Entries that do not meet the requirements will be disqualified. Entry fees will not be refunded.
Judges will be looking for writing that emphasizes creative and intelligent use of the English language to create mood and craft an effective story.
There can be more than three finalists in each category, but only up to three cash prize winners in each category (First, Second, and Third places plus Honorable Mentions). All finalists will have the option of having their work included in the 2023 SouthWest Writers anthology. The number of winners in each category is determined by the Writing Contest Committee according to established criteria.
Writers may enter more than one piece in individual categories, but no single piece may be entered in more than one category. Each submission piece has an entry fee.
Each category must have a minimum of three entries. Winners will be announced and prizes awarded at the SouthWest Writers Annual Meeting on October 14, 2023.
Judges may or may not provide written critiques. Any comments made by the judges will be passed to contestants upon request after the awards have been announced.
By entering the contest, you agree that matters relating to the contest which are not specifically covered by these rules will be decided solely at the discretion of contest officials. You will accept as final and be bound by all judges’ decisions. You understand and agree that your manuscript will be evaluated subjectively and that SouthWest Writers cannot accept liability for consequences arising from any opinion expressed. You agree to hold harmless and indemnify SouthWest Writers, its agents, employees, and volunteers for any and all losses, costs, or expenses incurred from any dispute arising from your participation in the contest.
SouthWest Writers Member Reviews
Two categories — Section A: A1 Interior Art and Section E: Limericks — will be voted on by the SouthWest Writers membership rather than by a judge.
Eligible entries will be posted in the Members Only section of the SouthWest Writers website along with a link to a voting form. SouthWest Writers members are encouraged to review these entries, then vote for their top five in each category. The top five will go to the contest committee to determine placement. Members will only be allowed to vote once per category.
SouthWest Writers gives its winning entries/authors visibility by publishing an anthology after each contest. Authors are encouraged but not required to allow SouthWest Writers to publish their work in the anthology. This question will be asked on the entry form. Giving or denying permission for publication will not affect the entry’s score.
If a winning author sells first rights to another entity prior to publication, it is their responsibility to inform SouthWest Writers before June 14, 2023. SouthWest Writers will not be able to remove the entry from the anthology after that time.
All authors are encouraged, but not required, to add a headshot (if they have it) and a 50-word biography for inclusion in the Woven Pathways anthology should they win or place in a category.
Read the following before completing the entry form:
- There is no limit on the number of submissions per person, but only five entries are allowed per form. Submit the form as often as necessary to accommodate the number of entries. The same piece CANNOT be entered in more than one category.
- Please include the title of your entry as part of the file name. Example: For prose, if the title of your entry is Red Dawn, the uploaded file should be RedDawn.doc or RedDawn.docx. For artwork, the uploaded file should be RedDawn.jpg or RedDawn.pdf. For entries in the first pages of a book categories, use the title of the Book as the file name and include it above the title of the chapter in the document being entered.
- Make sure your name does not appear anywhere in your submission (this includes file name, title, header, and footer). The entry will be assigned a number to ensure unbiased judging.
- You will be asked, “If your submission is a winner, do you give SouthWest Writers permission to use it in an upcoming anthology without compensation?”
- You also will be asked, “If your submission is a winner and it is previously published, do you give SouthWest Writers permission to re-publish it in an upcoming anthology?”
- All authors are encouraged, but not required, to add a headshot (if they have it) and a 50-word biography for inclusion in the Woven Pathways anthology should they win or place in a category.
- Before hitting Submit, make sure the entry follows the guidelines for its specific category, otherwise it will be disqualified and no fees refunded.
For the Contest Submission Form, click HERE beginning April 8.
- In all categories, SouthWest Writers does not allow pornography, politically charged commentary, or excessive violence. Acceptance of any entry is at the discretion of the SouthWest Writers Writing Contest Committee.
- This contest is not directed at entries for children’s picture books or middle grade chapter books.
- *Published vs. Unpublished: “Published” is defined as offering for distribution or actually distributing copies of a work to the public whether or not it was offered for sale. SouthWest Writers has determined this includes, but is not limited to, the following venues: newsletters, eBooks, blogs/websites, magazines, traditionally published (HarperCollins, etc.), or self-published books which have been released for sale to the general public. Material is considered unpublished if it was not intended for public distribution or if only a few copies were created and distribution was limited.
For questions, please send an email to email@example.com.
We look forward to reading your work, and wish you the best of luck!