TW Contests

The Talking Writing Prize is an annual contest that celebrates the diversity online of original, personally driven writing.


"Double Prayer" © Jill Slaymaker; used by permission

TW 2017 Contest

How do you tackle life's Big Questions? This year's Talking Writing Prize spotlights essays on Writing and Faith, a popular annual theme at TW. Writers are welcome to explore a wide range of issues—mortality, belief, culture of origin, atheism—as part of a personal meditation about soul searching through words:

  • Talking Writing Prize for Personal Essay
    Topic: Writing and Faith
    Length: up to 2,000 words
    Judges: Ausma Zehanat Khan and TW Editors

Submissions are now closed.

Guest Judge: Ausma Zehanat Khan

Ausma Zehanat Khan

"I’m interested in work that highlights both the practical and transcendent aspects of faith in daily life," says Ausma Zehanat Khan, our guest judge for this year's personal essay contest.

Ausma Zehanat Khan earned her doctorate in international human rights law with a specialization in military intervention and war crimes in the Balkans. She also formerly served as Editor in Chief of Muslim Girl magazine, helping to reshape the conversation about Muslim women in North America.

A British-born Canadian and former adjunct law professor, Ausma now lives in Colorado with her husband. She writes the award-winning Esa Khattak/Rachel Getty mystery series and the Khorasan Archives fantasy series. Among the Ruins (St. Martin's Press, 2017) is her latest novel.

As guest judge of TW's 2017 contest, here's what she's looking for:

I’m interested in work that highlights both the practical and transcendent aspects of faith in daily life—from ordinary moments to extraordinary awakenings, from the painful and inconvenient to the humbling and sublime. As the editor of Muslim Girl magazine, these were the aspects of the lived reality of faith that I found most compelling in storytelling. With my mystery series featuring a Muslim detective as a lead character, I explore the intersection of faith, culture, and politics—and the impact of these issues on the lives of vulnerable communities. Essays that explore these themes will be of great interest to me.

General Contest Guidelines

Since its debut in 2010, Talking Writing has showcased personal essays and other endangered forms of literary and journalistic writing.

TW editors believe strongly in building a community that promotes literary culture all over the Web—and the world. TW features have been reprinted in Salon, Ebony, and the Huffington Post, among other online media sites. TW issues have featured interviews with Jennifer Egan, Robert Olen Butler, Terry Tempest Williams, Connie Willis, Andrew Lam, Caitlin Moran, and many others. TW also publishes poetry, fiction, and the work of visual artists and photographers.

All contest submissions are reviewed by top TW editors and considered for publication in the magazine.

Submit all entries at The $15 fee for each entry offsets administrative costs and supports ongoing publication of TW.

Enter as many pieces as you like, although each entry requires a separate submission and contest fee. Simultaneous submissions are fine, too, as long as you notify us immediately if your piece is accepted elsewhere. We'll consider unpublished works only, and all entries must be in English.

Include only the title of your piece and page numbers on the first page and in the header. Author names, bios, and cover letters will not be seen by contest readers or judges until the winners have been selected.

Prizewinners receive a cash award and publication in Talking Writing


TW Contest Winners for 2016

Talking Writing Prize for Flash Fiction
Topic: Absurd Stories
Judge: Meg Pokrass
Winner: Nyanka Joseph for To Be a Snake in Winter

Talking Writing Prize for Personal Essay
Topic: Mental Illness
Judge: Mark Vonnegut
Winner: Jane McCafferty for Unleashed

TW Contest Winner for 2015

Talking Writing Prize for Hybrid Poetry
Judge: Amy King
Winner: Elisabeth Weiss for The Anna Fragments

 TW Contest Winners for 2014

Talking Writing Prize for Flash Nonfiction
Judge: Dinty W. Moore
Winner: Stephen Brown for How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away?

Talking Writing Prize for Advice Writing
Judge: Emily Toth
Winner: Ruth Carmel for Misdirection

TW Contest Winners for 2013

Talking Writing Prize for Flash Fiction
Judge: Joanne Avallon
Winner: Charlotte M. Porter for Deaf Uncle

Talking Writing Prize for Creative Nonfiction
Topic: Family Life
Judge: Lorraine Berry
Winner: Drew Ciccolo for Paige

TW Contest Winners for 2012

Talking Writing Prize for Short Fiction
Judge: David Cameron
Winner: David Meischen for Agua Dulce

Talking Writing Prize for Nature Writing
Judge: Steven Lewis
Winner: John Gredler for Glistening Scar


Small Print

By submitting a contest entry, you agree that if your piece is a prize winner or is selected for publication, Talking Writing, Inc., will acquire First North American serial rights, the right to put it or portions of it on the TW website, and the one-time, non-exclusive right to include it in a TW anthology, should there ever be one. All other rights are retained by the author.

You also warrant that your piece is an original work, is solely owned by you, and has not been previously published.

Contest image for 2017: Many thanks to Jill Slaymaker, a featured artist in TW's Spring 2017 issue, for allowing us to use her work here. Published with artist's permission only.



Specimens of Chromatic Wood Type, Borders, Etc.
Specimens of Chromatic Wood Type, Borders, Etc.They appear via the Public Domain Review. 


Yes, certainly, the TW contests are open to non-Americans, as long as the pieces are in English. At TW, we're looking for great online writing, and we see such writing crossing all sorts of boundaries. Thanks for asking, Lucia.

Anne, thanks so much for checking in. Occasionally, we republish blog posts in Talking Writing. For the contest, however, they would be ineligible, since we'll request First North American serial rights for winning pieces.


I would like to submit a poem (750 words) for your present contest. It is about mental illness. If it is not suitable and you only take essays would you place it in your future poetry contest.

Poetry Submissions in June

Dorsey, a poem doesn't qualify for our current essay contest. However, we will be opening up general poetry submissions during the month of June, and that would be the time to submit your poem to TW. Our poetry editor will be reviewing new poetry submissions over the summer. All the best.

Submitted my Mental Health Essay and the $15 fee...

I received a confirmation that it had gone through - but, and this was alarming, it said the results would be announced on December 2015! If that is an error, it needs to be corrected. Could you please let me know that it has been corrected, and what the real result date is? Thank you!

Mira, the results of the

Mira, the results of the spring essay contest will be announced in August 2016. Thanks for pointing out the error in the automatic submission reply, which incorrectly stated December 2016 as the date for results -- definitely a long time to wait! We have corrected the date now.

We can publish a piece under

We can publish a piece under a pseudonym, as long as we indicate in the author's bio that it is a pseudonym. However, you need to submit the work to us under your real name. One of our previous contest winners did this, and we published her winning piece using her pseudonym.

Please note that if you want us to reply to you directly, submit a query through our Submittable site. Queries are free, but we need to track everything in this way so that email responses don't get lost in the shuffle. Many thanks.

Reverse Evolution

I am not attempting to show up or shame anyone, but it seems to me that a judge of a writing contest ought to be aware of the following information: the opposite of 'evolve' is not 'devolve'. It is 'regress'. I realize we all have gaps. This one, however, struck me as particularly unprofessional both on the writer's and editor's part since it begs this question: What else might be overlooked by the publication hosting this contest or its judge?

I appreciate the careful

I appreciate the careful reading here, although the first definition Merriam-Webster gives for "devolve" is "to gradually go from an advanced state to a less advanced state." Other verbs might be more precise or elegant, but I think "devolve" gets across the meaning, especially in a conversational quote. Besides, for Flash Fiction of the Absurd, we're drawn to language that twists off-center.

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