The 2017 Writing Contest will be open
from January 1 to February 1 at 11:59 p.m.

Click here for a list of categories for both published and unpublished entries.
Click here for a PDF version of this page.


General Contest Information

The annual OWFI contest is only open to paid OWFI members and full-time students. For information on joining OWFI, click on #WeAreOWFI and Become a Member in the navigation menu above.

The contest offers cash prizes in thirty unpublished manuscript categories, and trophies in four published book categories.  Unpublished manuscript prizes are $50 for first place, $35 for second place, and $20 for third place in each of the third categories.  All entries are judged by published authors, agents, editors, or other publishing professionals. Judges are asked to provide feedback on each entry.

Contestants must pay careful attention to formatting and word length. To facilitate fair judging, entrants’ names MAY NOT appear ANYWHERE on the manuscript. Failing to erase identifying information from your manuscript is the only way to have your entry disqualified this year.

Entry fee, official entry form, and individual entries must be either completed or uploaded on or before February 1, 2017 at 11:59 p.m.

Category Chairs' email addresses will be available on this website only to paid entrants.

Changes for This Year's Contest

No more disqualifications (except for having your name in the manuscript). Since the errors we were once disqualifying entries over are largely addressed in the scoring, we decided to eliminate the disqualification part of the process and let the scores reflect the mistakes. This eases the chairing process and most importantly allows contestants to still receive feedback for their work.  

We've decided to also eliminate the proofing service chairs have been providing.  The rules will be posted, and the entrants will need to check for adherence before submission. This better represents the level of professionalism demanded of our writers when submitting to publishers, and the change will ease both the work load and level of culpability that has been placed on our category chairs.

Entrants will still receive confirmation for their entries and any other correspondence, but it will be an automated receipt generated by Gmail.


Eligibility Requirements (Published and Unpublished Works)

  1. Entrants must be paid members of OWFI or full-time students. Students must provide verification of student status by taking a picture or otherwise obtaining an image file of the student's school-provided ID card and uploading with their main contest entry form. Membership dues are $20 per year for Affiliate Club Members and $25 per year for Members at Large.
  2. No manuscript that has won a cash prize (first, second, or third places) in a previous OWFI contest may be entered again. EVER.
  3. Contestants who win first place in an OWFI Contest Category may not enter that same category the following year.
  4. Unpublished entries for Categories 1 through 7 and Categories 9 through 30 must have been unaccepted for publication at the time of submission. (If accepted by a publisher after entry, the submission will be considered valid.) Works that have been posted on a blog, website, or other online venue (except for critique purposes) are considered published and are not eligible for entry in this contest.
    • Submissions to Category 8 – Blog that have been posted on a blog or website are eligible, however; the entry will be treated as if it were unpublished.
  5. Books entered in Published Book Categories 31–34 must have a copyright year of 2016. Print books can be sent by snail mail and e-books may be submitted electronically in the following formats: PDF, .mobi, and .epub. All snail mail entries should be sent to the appropriate Category Chair along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE). Entries submitted without the SASE, and not picked up at the conference, will not be returned. More instructions will be in the confirmation email that you will receive when you submit your Published Book cover page online.
  6. Judges may not enter the category that they are judging.
  7. Category Chairs may not enter the category that they chair.
  8. If entries are co-authored, all members of the writing team must be OWFI members. The team will be considered a single entrant and must pay a separate entry fee for their co-authored entries.
    • This entry fee is separate from any fees that the members of the writing team must pay in order to enter as individual authors.
    • Published anthologies and compilations of works by multiple authors entered in the Trophy Award categories are considered co-authored entries.
  9. Contestants, whether entering as a team or as an individual, may enter a category only once.
  10. No manuscript may be entered in more than one category.

Entry Procedures

  1. Entrants must pay a $30 NONREFUNDABLE entry fee, which covers administrative costs and awards. This entitles participants to enter once per category (e.g., you can enter one piece into each of the 34 categories, but you cannot enter more than one piece into any one category).
  2. Manuscripts must be submitted electronically to the appropriate Category Chair by using the online form.
  3. Entries must be postmarked by February 1, 2017. OWFI is not responsible for lost entries. All participants will receive an automated message acknowledging receipt of entry. If a work is submitted and an acknowledgement is not received 24 hours, please contact the webmaster. Contestants are urged to upload entries at least two weeks prior to the deadline to assure that entries are received on time.
  4. Published books should be mailed in an envelope the correct size for the book.

Manuscript Preparation and Formatting

  1. Electronic entries for Categories 1–30 must be in .doc, .docx, or .pdf  format.
  2. E-books for Categories 31–34 must be .pdf, .mobi, or .epub formats.
  3. ALL electronic entries should be filenamed in the following format: cat[category number][manuscript title without spaces or accents].[filetype extension]. See below under "Filename Requirements" for further explanation and examples.
  4. All unpublished manuscripts must be editor-ready. This includes the following:
    • Double-spaced.
      • Exceptions: Poetry and book synopses may be single spaced.
      • Spacing for book outlines, overviews, and tables-of-contents should follow industry standard.
    • Place a header at the top of all pages, except for the first page, listing the title and page number.
    • Use an easy-to-read 12-point font such as Times New Roman or Courier New that results in approximately 250 words or 25 lines per page. Fancy fonts other than italics are not allowed.
    • Play, film, or TV scripts must follow industry-standard formats.
    • For more information on manuscript formatting, consult a recent edition of Writer’s Market (available at most libraries), or search the words "Manuscript Format" online.
  5. ALL ENTRIES in Unpublished Manuscript Categories 1–30 (books, short works, and poetry) must have the category number in the upper right hand corner of the first page. Beneath the category number (on the upper right hand corner of the first page), type one of the following:
    • For poetry entries, the number of lines.
    • For book-length prose entries, the number of pages entered.
    • For short works of prose (e.g., picture books, short stories, articles, etc.), the word count. You can calculate the word count either by using a word processor or by multiplying your number of pages by 10 words per line by 25 lines per page.
    • For multi-genre category entries (see Category Descriptions), it is highly recommended that participants note the genre of their entry in the upper right-hand corner of the first page, below the word, line, or page count.
  6. No author's name, pen name, or other identifying information may appear on any page of a manuscript entry. Doing so will result in disqualification and no refund of entry fee.
  7. A completed copy of the 2017 Official Cover Sheet must be attached with each submission. This is done automatically for you when you submit your form. If you are snail mailing entries for Categories 31–34, you must attach a copy of the confirmation email that you receive to the manuscript.
  8. For all published books in hard copy, the envelope should be appropriately sized to fit the book. If you plan to pick up your entries at conference, you may omit postage, but the SASE is required. Use your own name and address for both addressee and return address on these envelopes. Paperclip the return envelope to the entry. Entries without return postage which are not picked up at the conference will be forfeited.

Filename Requirements

If you are uploading your manuscript, follow the following guidelines to naming the manuscript file that you intend to upload. Several examples follow.

cat[category number][manuscript title without spaces or accents].[filetype extension]

Suppose that you are entering a piece entitled "The Rats of Penzance." This is a short, humorous piece, and you are entering it in "Category 18 – Prose Humor." Your file is in .docx format. You would therefore name your file:


Suppose that you are entering a poem entitled "Morning's Dew." This is a long, rhymed poem that has formatting you want to keep just right, so of course you used .pdf format. Your category is "Category 3 – Poetry, Rhymed (Long)." You would therefore name your file:


Say you have a .mobi of your published thriller, Le Murder Café, and you want to send it to us. Your category is "Category 34 – Published Fiction Book." You would therefore name your file:

If you have any trouble with this, please contact the general contest chair.


Good luck and happy writing!