Categories 1–30: Unpublished Manuscripts

Category 1 – Poetry, Unrhymed-Short

Any theme, any form. A poem is characterized by intense, compressed language. Every word is carefully chosen. A poem can tell a story, create an image, or evoke an emotion. In all cases, it is an artform and should go beyond plain prose to evoke something deeper. Sixteen (16) lines or less.

NOTE: Epigraphs and spaces are not part of the line count.

 

Category 2 – Poetry, Unrhymed-Long

Same description as Category 1 at left, but longer. Seventeen (17) lines or more.

NOTE: Epigraphs and spaces are not part of the line count.

 

Category 3 – Poetry, Rhymed-Short

Same description as Category 1 above, but written in rhyme. Any rhyming form may be used. Sixteen (16) lines or less.

NOTE: Epigraphs and spaces are not part of the line count.

 

Category 4 – Poetry, Rhymed-Long

Same description as Category 1 above, but longer and written in rhyme. Any rhyming form may be used. Seventeen (17) lines or more.

NOTE: Epigraphs and spaces are not part of the line count.

Category 5 – Essay (Any subject of contemporary interest)

Essays are personal opinion pieces using narrative form to convince the reader of a certain point of view or, at least, to better understand the author's point of view. There are formal, fact-driven essays (George Will) and informal, lighter essays (Erma Bombeck). Bear in mind the quality and logic of the argument and how well the author uses facts, reasoning, and literary tools such as analogy to convince. Sometimes an opinion can be presented, a point of view expressed, or an argument driven home in a novel or unusual way by telling a story, seeming to take the opposite point of view, or constructing a fable with a clear moral at the end. Limit 2000 words.

Category 6 – Technical and/or How-To Article (Any subject)

This category is made up of two different genres that both aim to educate readers in different ways. Each style presents a problem, describes why it matters, then provides the solution—and sometimes offers a call to action. Technical Articles are generally longer and cover a narrow but serious subject in great depth; they rely on more than one expert (often including the author) to provide information that educates and informs a specific target audience. While the article may be scientific, it should also be readable and easy to understand and absorb. The reader should come away with useful information. How-To Articles are often shorter edutainment1500 words may be too long!—lighter fare that may rely on the expertise of the author alone. These articles not only educate and inform, they also provide specific and detailed steps for the reader to accomplish the stated goal (e.g., how to bake cookies, make a craft, prepare a devotional, or write a novel). A central theme follows through to the end. Help the judge by noting "Technical Article" or "How-To Article" on your manuscripts. Limit 3000 words.

Category 7 – Feature Article: Nonfiction (Any subject)

These are the articles listed prominently in a publication (e.g., magazine, newspaper, online, etc.) covering a subject of great interest to that medium's target audience. The article must clearly have a reason to exist and not simply serve as a vehicle for advertising. Nor should it be a vehicle for presenting the author's opinion about a particular topic. (For opinion pieces, see the "How-To," "Inspirational," or "Essay" category descriptions.) More than just the facts, a feature article uses a great hook, expert quotes, and a bang-up conclusion to convey its topic. The author's voice and style give the piece life. Limit 2500 words.

Category 8 – Blog: Nonfiction

Personal reflections, comments, opinions, or even journalistic pieces posted to a website. Entries can be published or unpublished; however, all active links must be removed. Limit 1100 words.

NOTE: All entries in this category will be treated as unpublished.

Category 9 – Inspirational Article

Entries to this category should concern a personal experience or struggle that provides inspiration or hope to others. A profile or personal story should touch the reader in some way, impart a valuable message, and/or educate the reader in some way. Not necessarily religious in nature, the piece should strive to inspire and motivate the reader. It may be a vehicle for presenting the author's opinion about a topic that has personally affected him or her and may also include a call to action. The author's voice and style give the piece life. Limit 3000 words.

Category 10 – Memoir/Nostalgia: Short Story

Memoir is first-person, narrative nonfiction that focuses on one specific aspect of the writer's life or experience. Nostalgia focuses on down-home occurrences reflecting the past; these pieces evoke a fond remembrance of a time gone by, or memories of childhood. Limit 4000 words.

Category 11 – Flash Fiction

An extremely short but complete work of fiction. As with longer stories, a flash fiction story must contain the four elements of fiction: setting (which is usually implied rather than fully described), one or more characters, a conflict, and a resolution. Because of length limitations, these stories often make use of suggestion and innuendo. This is fiction in its barest, most essential form; every word must move the story forward. Stories submitted in this category should be targeted to an adult audience. Limit 500 words.

Category 12 – Short-Short Story (Adult): Fiction

A short short story is a brief piece of fiction pointed and more economically detailed as to character, situation, and plot than a novel. They often revolve around a single theme or one climactic event, developing a single character in depth. Narrower than a novel, a short story contains these basic elements: characters, setting, plot, conflict, resolution, climax, dialogue, protagonist, and antagonist. All short stories should present the major character with an important problem that the character must struggle to solve and engage the reader in caring about whether the character achieves that goal by the story's end. Limit 2000 words.

Category 13 – Juvenile Short Story: Fiction

A juvenile short story is a brief piece of fiction pointed and more economically detailed as to character, situation, and plot than a novel and with a subject matter aimed at children. They often revolve around a single theme or one climactic event, developing a single character in depth. Narrower than a novel, a short story contains these basic elements: characters, setting, plot, conflict, resolution, climax, dialogue, protagonist, and antagonist. All short stories should present the major character with an important problem that the character must struggle to solve and engage the reader in caring about whether the character achieves that goal by the story's end. For readers ages 7–9. limit 600 words. For readers 8–12, limit 1000 words.

NOTE: Entries must have the target audience's age range below the word count on the first page of the manuscript.

Category 14 – Young Adult Short Story: Fiction

A young adult (YA) short story (subject matter aimed at readers 12–18) is a brief piece of fiction pointed and more economically detailed as to character, situation, and plot than a novel. They often revolve around a single theme or one climactic event, developing a single character in depth. Narrower than a novel, a short story contains these basic elements: characters, setting, plot, conflict, resolution, climax, dialogue, protagonist, and antagonist. All short stories should present the major character with an important problem that the character must struggle to solve and engage the reader in caring about whether the character achieves that goal by the story's end. Limit 2000 words.

Category 15 – Short Story (Adult): Fiction

A short story is a brief piece of fiction pointed and more economically detailed as to character, situation, and plot than a novel. They often revolve around a single theme or one climactic event, developing a single character in depth. Narrower than a novel, a short story contains these basic elements: characters, setting, plot, conflict, resolution, climax, dialogue, protagonist, and antagonist. All short stories should present the major character with an important problem that the character must struggle to solve and engage the reader in caring about whether the character achieves that goal by the story's end. 2000 to 4000 words.

Category 16 – Sci-Fi/Fantasy Short Story: Fiction

Science fiction includes stories in which futuristic technology or otherwise altered scientific principles contribute in a significant way to the adventure. Often the novel assumes a set of rules, principles, or facts and traces their logical consequences. Fantasy includes stories in which magical, otherworldly, or supernatural elements are a central part of the plot or setting. Many fantasies take place on imaginary worlds. Characters may be something other than human or may possess magical powers. A sci-fi/fantasy short story (genres limited to sci-fi and fantasy) is a brief piece of fiction pointed and more economically detailed as to character, situation, and plot than a novel. They often revolve around a single theme or one climactic event, developing a single character in depth. Narrower than a novel, a short story contains these basic elements: characters, setting, plot, conflict, resolution, climax, dialogue, protagonist, and antagonist. All short stories should present the major character with an important problem that the character must struggle to solve and engage the reader in caring about whether the character achieves that goal by the story's end. Help the judge by noting "Sci-Fi" or "Fantasy" on your manuscripts. Limit 5000 words.

Category 17 – Horror Short Story: Fiction

 A horror short story (subject matter aimed at scaring the reader) is a brief piece of fiction pointed and more economically detailed as to character, situation, and plot than a novel. They often revolve around a single theme or one climactic event, developing a single character in depth. Narrower than a novel, a short story contains these basic elements: characters, setting, plot, conflict, resolution, climax, dialogue, protagonist, and antagonist. All short stories should present the major character with an important problem that the character must struggle to solve and engage the reader in caring about whether the character achieves that goal by the story's end. Limit 5000 words.

Category 18 – Prose Humor: Fiction or Nonfiction

Prose humor is exactly that—a piece of writing meant to evoke humor. Everyday experiences can resonate with the reader, and common interest stories, when written in a clever and entertaining voice, bring forth a smile. The humor piece should also meet the criteria of its form: column, short story, article/feature, or essay. Manuscripts submitted in this category should be targeted toward an adult audience. Limit 2000 words.

Category 19 – Play, Film, or TV Script

One, two, or three acts. As in all categories, entries must be unaccepted and never optioned or produced by the time of submission. Help the judge by noting "Play," "Film," or "TV script" on your manuscripts. Formatting must follow accepted industry standards. Submit complete synopsis and opening scene(s). Complete submission limit 30 pages (or less).

Category 20 – Picture Book: Fiction or nonfiction (for ages 1–8)

Picture books are large, art-filled books for children, which are primarily targeted to ages 1–8, but are also appealing to older kids and even adults. They are designed to bring information and/or entertainment to life for young eyes, and the text must be minimal. These books have a beginning, middle, and end. Picture books do not necessarily feature a character, but when they do, the protagonist must solve his or her own problem, and the problem should be something significant. Often a picture book portrays a concept such as numbers, letters, the weather, colors, etc. Picture books may also evoke a mood, such as a bedtime story. These books should be engaging and present the topic in a fresh, childlike way. (Show, don't tell!) Limit 750 words.

Category 21 – Middle Grade Book: Fiction or nonfiction (for ages 8-12)

Same as Category 20, yet written for children ages 8–12. For fiction, think Hank the Cow Dog. Submit the first consecutive chapters; a complete synopsis or outline; prologue, if any; and/or a nonfiction proposal (per industry standard). Limit 20 pages (or less).

Category 22 – Young Adult Novel: Fiction or nonfiction (for ages 12 and older)

This category has the same rules as all books. For novels, write compelling stories with beginnings, middles, and ends. For nonfiction, provide accessible and interesting content that informs, inspires, and/or educates. For novels, think Harry Potter; the main character should have an important problem he/she struggles to solve. The story should engage the reader in caring about whether the character achieves that goal by the story's end. These often deal with the tribulations of growing up. Nonfiction should focus on providing information that educates and informs the reader. Review the various novel and nonfiction book categories for further descriptions. Help the judge by noting "Novel" or "Nonfiction" on your manuscripts. Submit the first consecutive chapters and prologue, if any, with a complete synopsis or outline, and/or nonfiction proposal (per industry standard). Limit to 20 pages (or less).

Category 23 – New Adult Novel: Fiction or Nonfiction

New adult (NA) fiction bridges the gap between YA and traditional fiction. Protagonists are generally between the ages of 18–25, and they face struggles unique to their age group. Leaving parents, going to college, financial independence, first jobs, and serious relationships are popular themes in NA works. Much of the popular NA work is in contemporary romance, but it can be found in all genres, including speculative and historical fictions. Submit the first consecutive chapters and prologue, if any, with a complete synopsis. Complete submission limit 25 pages (or less).

Category 24 – Mainstream Novel: Fiction

A successful mainstream novel tackles subjects of universal appeal, driven by characters and plots that find acceptance in the "mainstream" of readers. This category is large and diverse. Think Jodi Picoult, John Grisham, Harlan Coben, etc. Genre novels such as science fiction, mystery/suspense, romance, and historical fiction should be entered in their appropriate categories. Submit the first consecutive chapters and prologue, if any, with a complete synopsis. Complete submission limit 25 pages (or less).

Category 25 – Romance Novel: Fiction

The romance novel follows strong, vivid characters on their journey of discovery and emotional conflict to a shared and satisfying conclusion. No plot point, setting, or event takes precedence over the one central theme: the relationship between the two main characters. The end must leave the reader believing the protagonists' love will endure for the remainder of their lives. This category includes all forms of romance, including historical romance. Submit the first consecutive chapters and prologue, if any, with a complete synopsis. Complete submission limit 25 pages (or less).

Category 26 – Historical Novel: Fiction

Historical fiction encompasses novels set anytime in the recent or distant past, such as ancient Greece, the Middle Ages, or World War II. These novels are time capsules of an era and/or culture—the setting serves as a character in itself. Submit the first consecutive chapters and prologue, if any, with a complete synopsis. Complete submission limit 25 pages (or less).

Category 27 – Mystery/Suspense Novel: Fiction

This category is made up of two broad categories. Mystery novels are all about "whodunit." These books have a strong hook/murder and a cast of suspicious and compelling characters, and readers compete to solve the puzzle before the author reveals the answer. Whether told in first person or third, mystery novels showcase the main character as he/she follows a maze of clues and incidents leading to the Big Reveal. Detective and police procedural, espionage/spies, amateur sleuth, series or stand-alones, a winning mystery novel is a tightly-woven question from beginning to end. Suspense novels and related thrillers also require a strong hook that often includes a murder/death involving a strong main character and a compelling cast. But unlike mysteries, suspense/thrillers more often focus on "how-dunit." The antagonist may be an individual, organization (government), or thing (virus) known to readers from the beginning but often hidden from the protagonist. Suspense novels and thrillers may be first person but are more often third person, and often employ more than one viewpoint character. The main character may be the good guy or the bad guy. Whether a medical, psychological, techno, legal, or other sub-genre, the winning suspense novel is action-driven from beginning to end. Help the judge by noting "Mystery" or "Suspense/Thriller" on your manuscripts. Submit the first consecutive chapters and prologue, if any, with a complete synopsis. Complete submission limit 25 pages (or less).

Category 28 – Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novel: Fiction

This category is made up of two totally different genres. A science fiction novel is one in which futuristic technology or otherwise altered scientific principles contribute in a significant way to the adventure. Often the novel assumes a set of rules, principles, or facts and then traces their logical consequences; A fantasy novel is one in which magical, otherworldly, or supernatural elements are a central part of the plot or setting. Many fantasies take place on imaginary worlds. Characters may be something other than human or may possess magical powers. Submit the first consecutive chapters and prologue, if any, with a complete synopsis. Complete submission limit 25 pages (or less).

Category 29 – Horror Novel: Fiction

Fiction intended to scare, unsettle, or horrify the reader. Historically, the cause of the "horror" experience has been the intrusion of an evil or, occasionally, a misunderstood, supernatural element into everyday human experience. Any fiction with a morbid, gruesome, surreal, or exceptionally suspenseful or frightening theme has come to be called "horror." Submit the first consecutive chapters and prologue, if any, with a complete synopsis. Complete submission limit 25 pages (or less).

Category 30 – Nonfiction Book (Any nonfiction book)

This category is made up of an enormous range of divergent topics, all of which seek to educate, inform, entertain, and sometimes inspire. Narrative nonfiction follows the form and style of various fiction genres (think The Perfect Storm and First, Do No Harm). Depending on style, biographies and autobiographies or family histories may fall under the narrative nonfiction umbrella, which basically consists of any "true" subject told in a narrative form. The author often has a personal stake or shared experience in the story. This form requires a strong viewpoint character(s), story problems, and satisfying resolutions. The length of the complete work parallels similar works of fiction. Memoir is first-person, narrative nonfiction that focuses on one specific aspect of the writer's life or experience. Nostalgia focuses on down-home occurrences reflecting the past; these pieces evoke a fond remembrance of a time gone by or memories of childhood. General nonfiction more commonly presents technical, self-help, or how-to information; inspirational works; or otherwise fact-based material derived from an author's own expertise and research and outside expert sources. Style varies widely, but in all cases content must be presented in a pleasing and accessible format. Chapters are typically broken up with sidebars, bulleted lists, photos/illustrations, tables, and other value-added materials and may include direct quotes, footnotes, etc. The length of a finished work varies widely, from short, illustrated gift books (under 20,000 words) to encyclopedia-length reference books (over 150,000 words). Help the judge by noting "Narrative" or "General" on your manuscripts. For narrative nonfiction submit the first consecutive chapters and prologue, if any, with a complete synopsis. For general nonfiction submit any representative chapters and include a chapter outline or book proposal per the industry standard (i.e., overview, market analysis/competition, table of contents, etc.). Limit to 30 pages (or less).

Categories 31–34: Published Books (Trophy Awards)

All entries in the following categories must have a copyright year of 2015. Ebooks, self-published books, and traditionally published books of any length are eligible.

Category 31 – Best Juvenile Book Award

Published book of fiction or nonfiction for readers ages 1–18.

Category 32 – Best Nonfiction Book Award

Published nonfiction book.

Category 33 – Best Book of Poetry Award

Published book of poetry (chapbook or full-length collection).

Category 34 – Best Book of Fiction Award

Published book of fiction (novel or short story collection).

Crème-de-la-Crème Award

A "Best of Contest" award will be chosen from among the first place manuscripts in all 30 unpublished categories. The winner receives a trophy and an additional cash award.

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