Last week, I received an email from the Missouri Review about their 5th Annual Audio Competition, which welcomes audio submissions in poetry, fiction and audio documentary. It was a welcome reminder that literature exists not just on the page, but also somewhere else—in sound, and in memory. Then, this morning, I got a notification from Geist, the fabulous Canadian quarterly, about this year’s Annual Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest. For this year, their eighth, Geist editors are requesting that each entrant hand-make a postcard, then write a story inspired by it, finally submitting both elements together.
Missouri Review and Geist’s original, multimedia approaches to the literary contest got me thinking about how contest call-outs can serve as encouragement for writers to work outside their comfort zone. Would you ever hand-make your own postcard prompt, if no one suggested it? Would you think of recording a short story, weaving it together with music? We writers are solitary beasts. Contests—especially themed ones—offer us lonely folks both an opportunity to expand our repertoire and a way to connect with wider communities.
In fact, there are contests out there specifically for writers who identify with particular groups. The Saints and Sinners Literary Festival Short Fiction Contest is open for work with LGBT content about—what else?—saints and sinners. If you’re a lady writer, you’re in luck: WOW! Women On Writing is sponsoring a Flash Fiction Contest this fall; there’s another flash fiction contest, Feminist Flash 2011, is open to any genre of work, 200 words or less, with a feminist theme; and the organization A Woman’s Write is holding two contests, one for previously unpublished novel manuscripts and one in creative nonfiction.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds more writing contests out there, each with a slightly different slant. If you have a favorite themed contest, feel free to share it with us!