Categories 1–29: Unpublished Manuscripts

CATEGORY 1 – PERSONAL BLOG (NONFICTION)

Personal reflections, comments, opinions, or even journalistic pieces posted to your own personal/author website only. However, all active links must be removed.

Limit 1100 words.

CATEGORY 2 – 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 new 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 3 – MEMOIR/NOSTALGIA

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.

Note “Memoir” or “Nostalgia” on your submission. (See Rules & Formatting.)

CATEGORY 4 – 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 5 – SCRIPT: FILM, PLAY, OR TV

One, two, or three acts. As in all categories, entries must be unaccepted and never optioned or produced by the time of submission. Formatting must follow accepted industry standards. Submit complete synopsis and opening scene(s).

Complete submission limit 30 pages (or less).

Note "Film," "Play," or "TV" on your submission. (See Rules & Formatting.)

CATEGORY 6 – ARTICLE: INSPIRATIONAL

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. While this piece can be religious in nature, it is not mandatory. 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 7 – ARTICLE: NONFICTION FEATURE (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 – ARTICLE: TECHNICAL AND/OR HOW-TO (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 edutainment—1500 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.

Limit 3000 words.

Note "Technical" or "How-To" on your submission. (See Rules & Formatting.)

CATEGORY 9 – POETRY: RHYMED 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. Any rhyming form may be used for this category.

Sixteen (16) lines or less. (Epigraphs and spaces are not part of the line count.)

CATEGORY 10 – POETRY: RHYMED LONG

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. Any rhyming form may be used for this category.

Seventeen (17) lines or more. (Epigraphs and spaces are not part of the line count.)

CATEGORY 11 – 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. (Epigraphs and spaces are not part of the line count.)

CATEGORY 12 – POETRY: UNRHYMED LONG

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.

Seventeen (17) lines or more. (Epigraphs and spaces are not part of the line count.)

CATEGORY 13 – SHORT STORY: 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 14 – SHORT STORY: SHORT-SHORT (JUVENILE)

A juvenile short story (subject matter aimed at readers 7 - 12) 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. It often revolves 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 target audience's age range on your submission. (See Rules & Formatting.)

CATEGORY 15 – SHORT STORY: SHORT-SHORT (YOUNG ADULT)

A young adult (YA) short story (subject matter aimed at readers 13–18) is a brief piece of fiction pointed and more economically detailed as to character, situation, and plot than a novel. It often revolves 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 16 – SHORT STORY: SHORT-SHORT (ADULT)

A short-short story is a brief piece of fiction pointed and more economically detailed as to character, situation, and plot than a novel. It often revolves 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 17 – SHORT STORY: ADULT

A short story is a brief piece of fiction pointed and more economically detailed as to character, situation, and plot than a novel. It often revolves 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 18 – SHORT STORY: HORROR

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. It often revolves 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 19 – SHORT STORY: SCI-FI/FANTASY

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. It often revolves 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.

Note "Sci-Fi" or "Fantasy" on your submission. (See Rules & Formatting.)

CATEGORY 20 – BOOK: PICTURE – 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 – BOOK: MIDDLE GRADE - FICTION OR NONFICTION (FOR AGES 8–12)

Same as Category 20, yet written for children ages 8–12. For fiction, think Hank the Cowdog. 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 – BOOK: NONFICTION (NARRATIVE OR GENERAL)

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).

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).

Note "Narrative" or "General" on your submission. (See Rules & Formatting.)

CATEGORY 23 – NOVEL: HISTORICAL 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 24 – NOVEL: HORROR

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 25 – NOVEL: MAINSTREAM

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 26 – NOVEL: MYSTERY OR SUSPENSE/THRILLER

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. Submit the first consecutive chapters and prologue, if any, with a complete synopsis.

Complete submission limit 25 pages (or less).

Note "Mystery" or "Suspense/Thriller" on your submission. (See Rules & Formatting.)

CATEGORY 27 – NOVEL: ROMANCE

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 28 – NOVEL: SCI-FI/FANTASY

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).

Note “Sci-Fi” or “Fantasy” on your submission. (See Rules & Formatting.)

CATEGORY 29 – NOVEL: YOUNG ADULT (FOR AGES 13–18)

This category has the same rules as all books. Write compelling stories with beginnings, middles, and ends. 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. Review the various novel categories for further descriptions. Submit the first consecutive chapters and prologue, if any, with a complete synopsis.

Limit to 20 pages (or less).

Categories 30–34: Published Books (Trophy Awards)

All entries in the following categories must have a first edition copyright year of 2019. E-books, self-published books, and traditionally published books of any length are eligible.

CATEGORY 30 – BEST BOOK – POETRY

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

CATEGORY 31 – BEST BOOK – NONFICTION

Published nonfiction book.

CATEGORY 32 – BEST BOOK – JUVENILE

Published book of fiction or nonfiction for readers ages 1–12.

CATEGORY 33 – BEST BOOK – YOUNG ADULT

Published book of fiction or nonfiction for readers ages 13–18.

CATEGORY 34 – BEST BOOK – 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 29 unpublished categories. The winner receives a trophy and an additional cash award.