The 2019 Writing Contest is closed!


General Contest Information

The 2019 OWFI writing contest will open for submissions on December 1, 2018. Entry fees, online entry forms, and individual manuscripts must be either sent or uploaded on or before February 1, 2019, at 11:59 p.m.

The annual OWFI contest is only open to paid OWFI members and full-time students. For information on joining OWFI, visit our Become a Member page.

The contest offers cash prizes in twenty-nine (29) unpublished manuscript categories and trophies in five (5) published book categories. Unpublished manuscript prizes are $50 for first place, $35 for second place, and $20 for third place in each of the twenty-nine (29) categories. All entries are judged by published authors, agents, editors, or other publishing professionals. Judges are asked to provide feedback on each entry.

Eligibility Requirements (Published and Unpublished Works)

  1. Entrants must be paid members of OWFI or full-time students.

    • Students may enter the contest by joining OWFI at no cost. Once a student membership has been approved, the student may enter the contest normally.

    • OWFI membership dues are $25 per year for Affiliate Club Members and $30 per year for Members at Large and can be applied for here.

    • If entries are co-authored, all members of the writing team must be eligible by OWFI membership or student status. 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.

  2. No manuscript that has won a cash prize (first, second, or third place) 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 Unpublished entries for Categories 1 through 7 and Categories 9 through 29 must have been unaccepted for publication at the time of submission.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 30–34 must have a copyright year of 2018.

  6. Judges may not enter the category that they are judging.

  7. Category Chairs may not enter the category that they chair.

  8. Contestants may enter a category only once. Teams and individuals are considered separate entities.

  9. 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. ALL submissions must be entered via the online entry form. An automated confirmation email will be sent as a receipt of your entry.

    • Electronic manuscripts should be attached to the online entry form and will be sent to the indicated Category Chair.

    • For printed books submitted to Categories 30-34, this online form will alert the indicated Category Chair that an entry is on the way via snail mail and will provide the contestant with the appropriate mailing address.

  3. Print or e-books can be entered in Published Book Categories 30-34. Print books entered in Categories 30-34 should be snail-mailed in an envelope the correct size for the book to the address provided in the confirmation email along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE).

    • Entries submitted without the SASE, and not picked up at the conference, will not be returned.

      • Contestants who plan to pick up their printed books at conference may omit postage, but still need to include a self-addressed envelope.

      • The addressee and return address on the return envelope should both contain the contestant’s mailing address.

      • Paperclip the return envelope to the entry, along with a printed copy of the confirmation email.

  4. All entries, electronic and printed, must be postmarked by February 1, 2019. OWFI is not responsible for lost entries. If an entry is submitted via the online form and an acknowledgement is not received within 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.

Manuscript Preparation and Formatting

  1. 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. (This does not include Published Book Categories 30–34.)

  2. Electronic entries for Categories 1–29 must be in .doc, .docx, or .pdf format.

  3. E-books for Categories 30–34 must be .pdf, .mobi, or .epub formats.

  4. All unpublished manuscripts must be editor-ready. This includes the following:

    • Manuscripts should be double-spaced.

      • Exceptions: Poetry and book synopses may be single spaced.

    • Spacing for book outlines, overviews, and tables-of-contents should follow industry standards.

      • On the first page, every manuscript must have the category number in the upper right-hand corner. Directly beneath the category number should be 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 using a word processor or by multiplying your number of pages by 10 words per line by 25 lines per page.

        • For entries in multi-genre categories (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.

      • On all other pages, place a header 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 word “Format” online.

  5. For expanded formatting rules and guidelines, click here. If you have additional questions, ask the general contest chair or chat with us on Slack.

Filename Requirements

Before uploading your manuscript, follow these guidelines for naming the manuscript file that you intend to upload. Several examples follow.

cat[category number][manuscript title without spaces or accents]

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 save your file as cat18theratsofpenzance, and your file extension will automatically attach, naming 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 save your file as cat3morningsdew, which will 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 save your file as cat34lemurdercafe, which will name your manuscript file:

If you have any trouble with this, or have any questions, please contact the general contest chair or chat with us on Slack.


Good luck and happy writing!