Home Fundraising Newsletters Membership    Contact    


Writing Contest 2024
Join to get free conferences!
2023 Youth Writing Contest Winners
2024 Photography Contest Winners
2023 Adult Writing Contest Winners

2024 OWL Adult Writing Contest
Rules and Categories

Over $2,000 in prize money!


Join us for another exciting year of award-winning writing. OWL members may enter as many of the adult categories for a flat fee of only $15! NON-members may pay $45 to include membership and contest entry.

Not a member yet? You are most welcome to join and submit your entry fee at the same time by check for $45 or via the PayPal button.

Gratitude and Appreciation

First things first: We sincerely thank all our contest sponsors. Every category you see is here because a generous person or group donated the prize money. There would be no writing contests without YOU! Sponsors are listed with their categories.


Best Book of 2023 (fiction and nonfiction) – Deadline is August 1, 2024
Everything else – August 31, 2024

What You Get for Your $15 Contest Entry Fee:

1. A chance at a cash prize!

2. You may enter as many categories as you like, making it much more affordable than others that charge you per category or include an expensive three-figure conference!

3. You get motivation to WRITE.

4. The categories and themes give you some guidance, so you're not staring clueless at a blank screen.

5. You can use your entries in other contests or submit for publication afterwards.

6. Since we are a regional group and not a national one, your odds of winning something are higher!

7. Winning any prize, even an honorable mention, empowers you to use the brag-worthy accolade of "award-winning author" and a credit to add to your portfolio.

How to pay the contest entry fee:

You may pay online or via check.

Online: Use our handy PayPal buttons. Please note: There is a $1 charge to cover the PayPal processing fees for the contest fee and another $1 charge for fees for the membership.

Membership + Contest Fee ($47.00)

Contest Fee only: ($16.00)

Student Membership +Contest Fee ($32.00)

Snail Mail Send $15 if you're a member, or $45 to include annual membership and contest fee ($30 for student membership plus entry) to:

OWL Treasurer
c/o Duke Pennell
12 W. Dickson St. #4455
Fayetteville, AR 72702

Please note: This address is ONLY for the contest/annual membership fee. Contest entries sent to this address will be discarded.

Writing Contest RULES

General Guidelines

• No gratuitous or graphic violence or sex. Let's keep it clean.

• Only one entry per category is allowed.

• You may only enter a manuscript in ONE category.

• EVERY piece needs a title, except haiku. If your haiku has no title, use the first line as the title for identification purposes.

• All entries must abide by the rules, including manuscript and submission expectations. Any deviation, such as a wrong font or font size, lack of a title, or missing author information, will result in disqualification of that piece.

• Physical entries (Best Book) must be mailed to the contest coordinator. Contest entries mailed to the treasurer or anyone else in OWL will be disqualified.

• All entries, with the obvious exception of Best Published Book, must be UNPUBLISHED at the time of submission, and be the original work of the writer. (If your entry has appeared in any written form, such as in a blog, website [like Wattpad], or other electronic outlet, it is considered published and ineligible for entry in any OWL contest.)

• Best Fiction and Best Nonfiction Book of 2023 are just that. Any book with a publication date other than 2023 is disqualified.

• Both Best Book categories require an ISBN or they will be disqualified.

• Submit all entries except PRINT versions of Best Fiction Book or Best Nonfiction Book entry categories via email to "adult DOT writing AT OzarksWritersLeague DOT com". Note the dot after the word "adult." See Special Exceptions for print categories.

• Payment of contest entry fee will be verified by the Contest Facilitator. No entry fee, no entry.

• Once published at the opening of the contest period, these rules are fixed and final.

Manuscript Formatting Guidelines

Improperly formatted manuscripts will be disqualified. You should know your word processor's settings. If you do not understand how to set your margins, change your font to the standard, add a header, or set the line spacing to double, look it up (on a YouTube tutorial, for instance) and get it right before submission.

• TITLE: Be sure to give your piece a title! First line can serve as the title for haikus.

• WORD COUNT: Word limit means just what you'd expect: the number of words in your piece. The title does not count toward your word count.

• FILE TYPE: All files EXCEPT for Best Published Book (fiction or nonfiction) must be in some normal file type (like .rtf, doc, docx, or. docs).

• STANDARD FORMATTING: Use standard submission format and rules: Times New Roman, 12-point, double-spaced (except for poetry), and 1" margins.

• FIRST LINE: Put the contest ID and word count flush left on the first line. Example: N2 Memoir, 1200 words. Categories with no word count designation, such as haiku, poetry, and first page of a WIP, do not need a word count.

• HEADER: If your entry is more than 1 page long, you should have page numbers on the right.

• EBOOKS: Ebook entry for Best Published Fiction Book and/or Best Published Nonfiction Book must be attached to an email as either .PDF, .doc, .docx, .mobi or .epub formats. Full author information must be in the body of the email.

• FILE ATTACHMENTS: The attached submission file(s) must have NO author identification details, but each MUST have the contest identifier (like B1, S31) and a TITLE.

Submitting ELECTRONIC Entries

1. The BODY of your email must have FULL AUTHOR CONTACT Information and SUBMISSION INFORMATION. That means:
     • Name
     • Pseudonym, if applicable
     • Mailing Address
     • Phone
     • Email
     • Submission ID, title and word count where applicable

     • B1 – My Amazing First Page
     • N1 – Remembering Momma

YOUR FILES MUST INCLUDE THE TITLE IN THE FILENAME. Please label each file as follows: Contest Designation (like N1) – Title
     EXAMPLE filename: B1 – Best Book Ever Written

2. Suggestion for your sanity's sake: Put all your contest files into a folder on your computer and write the file names as follows: Contest ID, title. Example: "P1 – MountainPoem."

3. Email digital entries to "adult DOT writing AT OzarksWritersLeague DOT com".

Special Exceptions: Best Book Categories

• MAIL your Best Book Award entries to the contest coordinator. We must have books by August 1.

Mail to:
     Linda Runnebaum
     823 6th Street
     Boonville, MO 65233

Best Book (both): August 1, 2024
Everything Else: August 31, 2024

The Rest of the Fine Print:

• You must be an OWL member to enter the contest. You may pay the $30 membership dues plus $15 contest entry fee for a total of $45 in order to participate. Your membership includes information-packed conferences plus other benefits.

• Neither OWL nor the Contest Coordinator is responsible for misdirected or lost entries. You will receive an email to confirm receipt.

• DISQUALIFICATION: Late entries or those breaking any rule are disqualified.

• No manuscripts will be returned, and all will be deleted /destroyed after judging is final. Those entering Best Fiction and/or Best Nonfiction Book Award may have the book returned if a mailer AND sufficient postage is sent with the entry. Otherwise, they will be donated.

• Qualified judges will conduct blind judging.

• Judges and sponsors, if OWL members, may not enter the category they judge or sponsor, but may enter other categories.

• Even if we receive three or fewer entries in a category, those will still be judged and awarded prizes.

• First Place winners may not enter that manuscript in any future OWL writing contest.

2024 Adult Writing Contest Categories

NOTE: Unless otherwise indicated, prizes are a certificate of achievement plus 1st $50, 2nd $30, 3rd $20. Honorable Mentions, if granted, receive a certificate.

First, read carefully. Everything you need is in here. Part of entering contests is reading and following the guidelines carefully.


S1 – Humorous Short Story
Go ahead, make me laugh but do it fast!
Limit: 3,000 words
Sponsor: Russell Gayer

S2 – Flash Fiction Story — Exactly 100 Words
Tell a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end inspired by the photo prompt in precisely 100 words.
Limit: Exactly 100 words.

Sponsors: Rochelle Wisoff-Fields and Jan Fields

Click on photo for larger image.

S3 – Inspirational Romance Story.
Write an inspirational romance, set in any time period. Story must have the essentials of a romance, including a Happily Ever After ending.
Limit: 2,000 words
Sponsor: Diane Yates

S4 – "I didn't see that coming!" O. Henry Style Story
Write a story that concludes with a "Wow, I didn't see that coming" ending.
Check out O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi" for inspiration.
Limit: 2,500 words.
Sponsor: eMerge Magazine

S5 – Western Short Story
Write a Western short story with a beginning, middle, and end. Must be set in America, on the frontier, before 1900.
Limit: 3,000 words
Sponsor: Duke Pennell

S6 – Historical Fiction
Write a historical tale set before 1970 with an ordinary person (your fictionalized character) reacting to a historical event or encountering a well-known person from that time period. For example: A boy and his dog watch tea thrown into Boston Harbor or a little girl encounters Sitting Bull at a Wild West show.
Limit 2,000 words.
Sponsor: Anonymous

S7 – The Family Reunion
Write a humorous invitation to your family reunion using the following words: Opossum, Fedora, Grist mill, Stilettos, Minced meat pie, Lug wrench, & Woody Guthrie.
Limit: 500 words
Sponsors: Richard and Bonnie Tesh
Prizes: 1st $25, 2nd $15, 3rd $10

S8 – Ghostly Surprise (Paranormal Short Story):
Tell a fictional ghost story with a twist! Your tale can be funny, romantic, touching, chilling — or some combination of any of these. Make sure there's something that surprises the judges.
Limit: 3000 words.
Sponsor: Ronda Del Boccio

S9 – Romantic Adventure Short Story
Write a story about finding unexpected romance on a planned adventure, whether it's fishing on a local pond or skiing in the Swiss Alps. There's a whole world out there. Have fun.
Limit: 2000 words
Sponsor: Anonymous

S10 – Juvenile Short Story – Fiction
A fictional story targeted toward young readers ages 9–12. The subject matter may be informative but should also be entertaining and feature themes of interest to youth.
Limit: 2,500 words
Sponsor: eMerge Magazine

S11 – Animal Doin's
In 200 words or less, a personal event with an animal, bird or fish (funny, scary, friendly, etc).
Limit: 200 words
Sponsor: Michael Don Fess

S12 – Humorous Memoir
Write a short story of a humorous memoir.
Limit: 3,000 words
Sponsor: Rose Heaser
Prizes: 1st $25, 2nd $15, 3rd $10, and Honorable Mention $5

N1 – Memoir & Creative Nonfiction
An interesting true story or essay of something you have experienced or witnessed.
Limit: 3,000 words.
Sponsor: Brenda Black

N2 – Travel Article
Take me somewhere I've never been or make me want to go back. Can be about any destination, locale, or worldwide.
Limit: 1,200 words.
Sponsor: Joplin Writers Guild
Prizes: 1st $25, 2nd $15, 3rd $10

N3 – Humorous Anecdote Prize
"This Really Happened to Me" humorous anecdote: Write an amusing story about something that actually happened to you.
Anecdote (definition): a short account of a particular incident or event, especially of an interesting or amusing nature.
Limit: 300 words
Sponsor: John "Doc" Crawford and Ronda Del Boccio
Prizes: 1st $40, 2nd $25, 3rd $10, 3 HMs $5 ea.

N4 – Hometown Newspaper Column
Write a nostalgic article about the Ozarks that is suitable for a newspaper column. The article should have a headline (title) and give your column a name.
Range: 500–1,000 words.
Sponsor: Lonnie Whitaker
Prizes: 1st $25, 2nd $15, 3rd $10

N5 – Creative Nonfiction: My Favorite Hobby
Through your prose, make me want to take up your hobby, whether it's golf, gardening, cooking, sewing, or tinkering on car engines. Make me see it, feel it, taste it, smell it, or hear it, whatever is appropriate to your hobby.
Limit: 1,000 words
Sponsor: Linda Apple
Prizes: 1st $25, 2nd $15, 3rd $10

N6 – Ozarks Article
Write an article about some aspect of the Ozarks. It can be historical, travel related, or a profile of an interesting person, as long as it pertains to the Ozarks.
Limit: 1,200 words
Sponsor: Larry Wood

N7 – Growing Up Rural
Write a personal experience essay about growing up in a rural area.
Limit: 1,200 words
Sponsor: Carolyn Hall
Prizes: 1st $25, 2nd $15, 3rd $10

N8 – Creative Nonfiction: "What I Left Behind"
Write a personal experience of leaving home for college or a new job. Tell about your fear or anxiety and excitement. Talk about the family and friends you missed, the food from home you couldn't get and the different climate. Tell who you wrote and called. Were you able to take a pet? Make me wonder if you stayed.
Limit: 1,500 words
Sponsor: Julie James

P1 – Crawford Poetry Prize
The theme is Nature's Wonders. Form is free verse (unrhymed poetry with no set meter).
Limit: 30 lines.
Sponsor: John "Doc" Crawford
Prizes: 1st $100, 2nd $50, 3rd $25, 1st HM $15, 2nd HM $10, 3rd HM $5

P2 – Haiku
Set a vivid scene while making me feel something. Five-seven-five format.
Limit: 17 syllables
Sponsor: Jan Morrill Vanek
Prizes: 1st $25, 2nd $15, 3rd $10

P3 – Magical Ozarks Moments
Bring a magical Ozarks moment to life in 300 words or less of poetry or prose.
Limit: 300 words
Sponsor: Ozarks Writers League

B1 – Best First Page of a Fiction Book in Progress
Share the first page of your WIP (work in progress) and be sure to pull us into the story. You can start near the top of the page. Be sure to give the book a title.
Limit: 1 page
Sponsors: Margarite Stever and Bonnie Tesh
Prizes: 1st $25, 2nd $15, 3rd $10

B2 – Best Published Fiction Book of 2023
Best fictional book in hardcover, paperback or e-book published during the calendar year of 2023 (book must show a copyright date of 2023 and have an ISBN).
Sponsor: Billie Holladay Skelley
1 prize of $100

B3 – Best Published Nonfiction Book of 2023
Best nonfiction book in hardcover, paperback or ebook published during the calendar year of 2023 (book must show a copyright date of 2023 and have an ISBN).
Sponsor: Veda Boyd Jones
1 prize of $100