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Writing Contest 2023
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2022 Adult Writing Contest Winners

2022 OWL Adult Writing Contest

Rules and Categories

Join us for another exciting year of award-winning writing. OWL members may enter as many of the adult categories as they wish for a flat fee of only $15! 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 2021 (fiction and nonfiction) - Deadline is August 1, 2022
Everything else - August 31, 2022

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)

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

OWL Contests
Veda Boyd Jones
505 W. 34th
Joplin, MO 64804

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

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, including haiku.

— 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/Crawford) 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 2021 is just that. Any book with a publication date other than 2021 is disqualified.

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

— Submit all entries except Best Fiction Book, Best Nonfiction Book, and/or Crawford Poetry Prize categories via email to adult.writing@ozarkswritersleague.com (adult "dot" writing "at" ozarks writers league "dot" com.) See Special Exceptions for those categories that differ.

— 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 and get it right before submission.

— TITLE: For the love of all things writerly, GIVE YOUR PIECE A TITLE!

— WORD COUNT: Word Limit is just that. The title does not count toward your word count.

— FILE TYPE: All files EXCEPT for Best Book (fiction or nonfiction) must be in MS Word (.doc or. docs) format.

— TITLE LOCATIONS: The title must appear in 3 places: the filename, the header, AND on the first page of your submission. (Exception: Published Books)

— 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 but still need the proper category designation.

— HEADER: Your page should have a header that includes Category ID & story title on the left and page number on the right. Exceptions: Haiku, Crawford Poetry, and Best first Page. DO NOT include your name.

— EBOOKS: Ebook entry for Best Fiction Book and/or Best 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.

— ATTACHED FILES: The attached submission file(s) must have NO author identification details, but each MUST have the contest identifier (Like B1) and a TITLE. This means that in the submissions (file or files you attach), nothing identifying the author may appear. The only exceptions are Best Nonfiction and Best Fiction Book, which obviously have the author's name printed in it.

Submitting ELECTRONIC Entries:

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


— B1-Best First Page of a Fiction WIP - Title
— N1-Magazine Article - Title, word count

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.writing@ozarkswritersleague.com (adult "dot" writing "at" ozarks writers league "dot" com)

Special Exceptions: Crawford Poetry Prize and the two Best Book Categories

— For Crawford Prize, send TWO (2) copies of your titled poem and ONE (1) cover page with the title and full author contact information to the contest coordinator.

— For hard copies of your Best Fiction Book and/or Best Nonfiction Book entries: Submit ONE (1) copy of your print book published in calendar year 2021 along with a cover page containing all author information AND THE BOOK TITLE as detailed below. Do not suggest on your submission sheet that "the book has all the information you need," because no, it does not. Entry sheets that do not list the book title along with full author information are disqualified.

— DO NOT mail contest entry fee checks to the contest coordinator.

— MAIL your Crawford Poetry Prize &/or Best Book Award Entries to the contest coordinator. We need books by August 1, because the mail has been slow lately. Besides, your book was already published, so you aren't pushing at the last minute to produce a book that was published last year.

Mail to:
Bonnie Tesh
3511 S. Moffet Ave
Joplin, MO 64804


Best Book (both): August 1, 2022
Everything else: August 31, 2022

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 end/or Best Nonfiction Book Award may have it 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 subsequent OWL writing contest.

2022 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.

S1 Humorous Short Piece
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.

Click on photo for larger image.

Sponsors: Rochelle Wisoff-Fields and Jan Fields

S3 Inspirational Romance Short Story.
Write an inspirational romance, set in any time period, that inspires the reader to be a moral fiber in a weather-worn fabric. Story must have the essentials of a romance, including a HEA (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: 1,500 words.
Sponsor: Bud Hanks

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 "Write the Old Stuff" 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. Need an example? A little girl encounters Sitting Bull at Wild Bill Hickock's Wild West Show or a boy and his dog watch tea thrown into Boston Harbor. Maybe watching TV with your grandfather and seeing Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. Tell us how your character reacts. Give us a sense of the time period, the event, and your character. Let your imagination run free.
Limit 2,000 words.
Sponsor: Nancy Hartney

S7 A Western Wedding. In memory of Jeanie Horn
Write an RSVP letter explaining why the recipient can't attend an upcoming Western wedding. It can be serious, sad, humorous, or downright pitiful, but it must include these four words: huckleberry, swallow, current, and fire.
Limit: 1,000 words.
Sponsors: Richard and Bonnie Tesh
Prizes: 1st $25, 2nd $15, 3rd $10

S8 Humorous Paranormal Short Story
Tell a funny tale about a paranormal investigation. It might be spooky or chilling as well, but it had better make me laugh out loud.
Limit: 2500 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 Western Faction Short Story
Write a tale about the Old West that is 50% fact and 50% fiction. It can be about a person, place, thing, or incident. Tell the story of, or as, an actual Old West character, a minor character, or see an incident through the eyes of your fictitious protagonist.
Limit: 1,500 words
Sponsor: Bud Hanks

S11 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: 1500 words
Sponsor: Anonymous

N1 Memoir & Creative Nonfiction
In memory of Black & Kiddo. 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. What is unique and appealing about this place or spot?
Limit: 1,200 words. No photographs, please.
Sponsor: Larry Wood.
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.
Limit: 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 History Article
Write an article about an interesting person, place, or event in the history of the Ozarks region.
No photographs, please.
Limit: 1,200 words
Sponsor: Larry Wood
Prizes: 1st $25, 2nd $15, 3rd $10

P1 Crawford Poetry Prize
The theme is Everyday Miracles. Things we take for granted. This will be lyric (rhymed) form.
Limit: 24 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. In five-seven-five.
Limit: 17 syllables
Sponsor: Jan Morrill-Vanek
Prizes: 1st $25, 2nd $15, 3rd $10

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 your story. You can start near the top of the page. Be sure to give the book a title.
Limit: 1 page
Sponsors: Prose Squad Critique Group (Margarite Stever, April Brock, Bonnie Tesh, Darrell Lacy)
Prizes: 1st $25, 2nd $15, 3rd $10

B2 Best Published Fiction Book of 2021
Best fictional book in hardcover, paperback or e-book published during the calendar year of 2021 (book must show a copyright date of 2021 and have an ISBN).
Sponsor: Billie Holladay Skelley
1 prize of $100

B3 Best Published Nonfiction Book of 2021
Best nonfiction book in hardcover, paperback or ebook published during the calendar year of 2021 (book must show a copyright date of 2021 and have an ISBN).
Sponsor: Veda Boyd-Jones
1 prize of $100

First, read carefully. Everything you need is in here. If you can't find it, email adult.writing AT ozarkswritersleague.com.