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2018 Dedicated to Helping Writers Improve Their Craft

WriteOn focuses on helping independent and freelance writers, and it provides information and advice to help writers of all levels. The wide range of topics the site addresses is truly impressive; topics range from writing advice to legal resources and every subject matter in between (including topics such as self-publishing resources, writing for social change, and spotting scam literary agents).

If you sign up for their newsletter, you can get Winning Writers' list of The Best Free Literary Contests delivered directly to your inbox. Editor Jendi Reiter sends messages with information, updates, deadline changes, rule changes, and insights about more than 200 free poetry and prose contests on the 15th of every month along with four quarterly special announcements. Any writer interested in pursuing contests (and potentially earning prize money) should sign up for this newsletter, because Jendi digests the pertinent information about each contest's rules and summarizes them in easy-to-understand language. She also gives her perspective about what kind of piece will likely win the contest, which is valuable advice that can save you time and help you to custom tailor your submissions and increase your chances in the contest. The contests I've discovered on there are for credible publications with really exciting themes. The other members of my monthly Writing Group were thrilled when I shared this information with them, because many of them spend vast amounts of time researching contests in addition to writing their entries, and they were simultaneously excited and relieved to discover that Jendi Reiter has done most of the legwork for them! This resource saves you from having to scroll through online search results searching for contests; the editors at Winning Writers have done all the research and investigating for you, so you can easily glance at the contests and see which ones spark your interest and match your writing style. If you are hesitant about giving out your email address (although they promise they will not share your email address or information with outside companies), you can access past issues of the newsletter on the site, but you risk missing opportunities for contests with shorter lead times.

Under What's New, the site features an extensive and continually updated list of Writing and Poetry contests, and they include prize and deadline information along with external links to each contest website for more detailed information. Based on the high standards and ethics exhibited throughout the rest of the site, interested writers and poets can confidently submit to the contest and publications featured here.

One of the aspects of Winning Writers that I found most impressive and informative is their list of contests and publications that writers should avoid because they are not reputable, are "vanity publishers," or are money-making schemes that will charge you to publish your work and will not improve your resume or portfolio (and may even possibly tarnish your resume). Most writers are passionate about their work, and that passion sometimes translates into a desperate need to see our work in print, which can lead to bad decisions such as paying to publish something you've spent weeks crafting. In addition to the list of organizations/contests to avoid, the site provides details on why they recommend avoiding certain organizations or contests. That additional information is quite useful for understanding the darker sides of the writing industry and learning how to spot some of the companies that try to exploit writers. The list and the explanations are valid and genuine. The fact that Winning Writers dedicated the time and resources to compile this list made me feel that they care about writers and the integrity of the writing industry. Red flags that the site warns about include anthologies that require poets or writers to purchase a copy of the anthology to get published, contests or publications that require you to relinquish too many of your intellectual property rights (which may prevent you from shopping the piece around or publishing it somewhere legitimate), and contests that include high non-refundable entry fees along with a fine print clause reserving the right to cancel the contest if they do not receive enough entries. In addition to this list and informative explanation, there is an extensive list of additional topics and external resources that can help prevent writers from being exploited when trying to get published.

The Resources section of Winning Writers is elaborate, with at least forty-eight subheadings to choose from within this section. For writers interested in learning more about reputable publishing houses that publish books, journals, and magazines, the Publishers section provides two pages of quality options. The recommended publishers are listed in alphabetical order, and each listing is followed by a brief synopsis that summarizes the publisher's specialty and/or niche and what kind of writers might be interested in submitting for publication with them, along with a hyperlink that will take you to the publisher's website if you want to find out more. Out of the seventy-two publishing houses listed, I was only familiar with three, so once again, Winning Writers has done most of the legwork for you in vetting these smaller entities.

In the Resources section under the "Books" heading and "Essential Tools" subheading, I came across Bruce Holland Rogers' article Ten Tips for Psychological Survival in Writing, which should be required reading for all writers, aspiring writers, poets, and aspiring poets. While many of the items within the Resources section provide summaries and links to outside sites if you want to read the entire essay or piece, this piece is printed in full on the site, which suggests that perhaps the people at Winning Writers also believe that Rogers' Ten Tips for Psychological Survival in Writing contains essential information for any and all writers. I urge you to head to the site and read it, or you can pick up a copy of Bruce Holland Rogers' book Word Work: Surviving and Thriving As a Writer, which this essay is excerpted from.

The Winning Writers website doesn't just provide resources and information about where to submit your writing for prizes and publication; they also host four contests (with substantial prizes) of their own:

  1. The Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest, which accepts all styles and themes of poetry
  2. The Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest, which accepts all styles and themes of both fiction and non-fiction
  3. The North Street Book Prize, which accepts submissions of self-published books
  4. Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest (no fee), which accepts submissions of humorous poems.

The site includes detailed descriptions of previous prize winners, including excerpts of the winning work. This is beneficial both for the winning writers, because it gives them exposure and publicity in addition to their prizes, and for future submitters, because it provides ample information about what sort of entries the judges consider prize worthy.

If you don't have time to dig through previous contest winners to glean tips about how to write a winning essay, Arthur Powers, one of the judges of the Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest, wrote an article that reveals what he looks for in an award-winning essay. He is mindful that writing is subjective and everyone has a unique style, so in his advice he mentions multiple times that he doesn't want to influence anyone's essay. However, he provides solid, useful tips about how to craft an essay that speaks to a contest judge.

If you are interested in learning more about the judging process for poetry submissions, Ellaraine Lockie, one of the judges of the Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest, provides an in-depth interview with Jendi Reiter, in which she describes what aspects she considers when judging entries for the poetry contest.

If you are the author of a self-published book, you should absolutely consult Jendi Reiter and Ellen LaFleche's article explaining what they look for when judging submissions for the North Street Book Prize. Reiter and LaFleche go into exquisite detail about how they select their favorites for this contest. They even include recommendations of their favorite books in every genre, so writers interested in submitting can conceptualize what sort of stories resonate with them. This kind of information is invaluable when entering contests — especially when first prize is $3,000!

Another benefit of the Winning Writers' newsletter is Critique Corner, where an editor (usually Jendi Reiter, who is also the vice president, or Tracy Koretsky) critiques a poem submission and provides advice about how to improve the poem, along with ideas regarding possible submission outlets. Reiter provides insightful comments about the poems and frequently compares them to popular or well-known poems of similar genres. She is a beautiful and skilled writer, and even when providing suggestions for how to improve the poems, she does so with grace and compassion, and you can tell that her suggestions for change are because she truly wants to help the poet make the poem the best that it can possibly be. Winning Writers is no longer adding new critiques to its Critique Corner, but the existing critiques will remain online indefinitely.

In addition to having their own staff of editors and contest judges, Winning Writers combs through the Internet and finds valuable articles with pertinent information to share with their readers. The links to outside resources are rich with advice for writers. Creative nonfiction writer Megan Galbraith tackles a frequent source of writer's block for many creative nonfiction writers in her article "That's Not How I Remember It": Creative Nonfiction and the Art of Dealing with Doubters.

The website should be a bookmarked tab in any aspiring or established writer's web browser. The site is dedicated to helping writers improve their craft, and the articles, tips, and resources on the site will guide all writers and poets aspiring to improve their crafts, and it may help you to get published or win a contest along the way.

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