Greetings and Salutations!
I trust everyone had a sparkling weekend wherever your current habitat happens to be. Out here it was a beautiful, breezy, sunny and all around fantastic weekend. The beauty of living in New England. Can't you smell what the Supreme Being sniff, sniff, is cooking?
Anyways, back to the topic at hand: writing.
As I was putting the final touches on my novel, I got to reading the Novel & Short Story Writer's Market reference book (published by Writer's Digest). Among the useful tips that they had ,was that one of the best ways to get your material published, was to enter writing contests. Didn't really matter what kind of contest, so long as you entered some.
Writing contests are one way to get your foot in the publishing door. Since most agents are conservative by nature, they won't really take a chance on someone unless they've been published in some particular way (and self-publishing doesn't count). Because someone else took the time to judge and critique the work, it saves them the trouble of actually using their brains in a constructive manner.
Anyways, I had at the time about three or four short stories done, that I felt were ready for submission (ha!). So reading the guide listings, I found quite a few out there that I entered my stories in. Even though I only got something in the way of positive feedback from one of them, I would like to share with you the ones that I entered that I would heartily recommend to you the reader. Most of these deal with fiction and poetry, but some touch on non-fiction as well. Check out the links for more details.
1) Boulevard Short Fiction contest for emerging writers: This is held once a year in December, with the winner's selection to featured in one of the next year's four issues.
2) The Briar Cliff Poetry, Fiction and creative Non-Fiction competition: This is also held once a year between August 1st and November 1st. Winning entries published in the Spring.
3) The Alexander Patterson Cappon Fiction Award: Held once a year during the summer. Winning selections published in an upcoming issue, as well as selected non-winners.
4) The Crazyhorse Fiction Prize: Held once a year in December, winning selections publihsed April/May.
5) Glimmer Train: This is considered the grandaddy of writing contests as they sponsor about 7-10 writing contests per year in all genres and formats. Deadlines are mixed so check website for details.
All of those I've mentioned offer a one year subscription to their respective literary journals with your entry. If you enjoy short fiction, non-fiction and poetry, by all means check out these fine journals: Boulevard, New Letters, Briar Cliff Review, Crazy Horse and Glimmer Train. In addition to those, I would also recommend A Public Space, Black Warrior Review and Quarterly West.
In addition, if you want to enter your novel in a contest, try ones sponsored by Southwest Writers, Writer's League of Texas, and AWP Award Series in the Novel, Creative Non-Fiction and Short fiction.
Finally, if you want more sites that have contests, check out New Pages. A very nice website that has links to contests, independent publishers, independent bookstores, independent record labels, just to name a few.
Happy hunting! And good luck!