No Fee Contest/Cash Prize: Is this for real?

No Fee Contest/Cash Prize: Is this for real?

Two phrases together often catch a writer’s attention.  No Fee and Cash Prize!  That’s exactly what you’ll find at HRW’s 8th Annual Writers Conference. Attendees have the opportunity to submit in three categories: poetry; fiction; and nonfiction. Each category pays cash prizes. And did I mention there is no fee to submit?

Here’s what you’ll receive in each of the three categories when you win:

First Place — $500

Second Place  — $250

Third Place — $100

Honorable Mention — $75 tuition break at HRW’s 2017 Writers Conference

While HRW has created an affordable, information-rich conference that appeals to all levels of writing experience, the no fee, cash prize writing contests reflect HRW’s desire to encourage emerging writers. Attendees are encouraged to submit to all three categories, but in an effort to encourage emerging writers, first place winners of any of HRW’s previous contests are ineligible to enter work into the contest category for which they previously were awarded first prize.

When it comes to submitting here are a couple of suggestions to make the most of your submission:

1) Look at the submission guidelines. Not only do they tell you the format and word count but also the submission deadline. Every competition has guidelines and without exception you must submit accordingly or your submission will be immediately disqualified from the running.

2) Once you have selected your categories, research the particular judges for each section. They have been selected because of their skilled ability to evaluate their category submissions. It is worth your time to see what they write, where their work has been published, and what subjects they’re passionate about.  I’m not sharing this to sway your topic.  However, you will benefit and possibly increase your chances of winning contests anytime you can adapt, remove barriers, and make it as easy as possible for the judges to evaluate your work.

Even if you don’t win any of the cash prizes or the conference credit for an Honorable Mention, each judge is requested to share their observations about your piece. You’ll get valuable feedback from a professional about where and how you can strengthen the writing, something that under normal conditions would require payment.

For more tips on writing competitions visit


Sherrie Pilkington, a co-founder of Hampton Roads Writers, serves on its advisory board. She’s a daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, and writer of nonfiction.


It’s not what you know; it’s who you know

Hampton Roads Writers ConferenceWhile this old saw isn’t exactly true for writers—it’s still important to write with authority, no matter how well-connected you are—establishing a network of writers and other industry professionals can be crucial to developing your career. The opportunity for networking at writers’ conferences should not be overlooked.

I met my agent, Jeff Ourvan of the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency, at the Hampton Roads Writers’ Conference a couple of years ago. I was teaching a few seminars, he was on a panel, and after we’d had a chance to talk briefly about what I was working on, he asked me to send him my manuscript. He liked what he read, and we’ve been working together for a little over a year.

I’ve also rubbed shoulders with some of my favorite writers at conferences and have been fortunate that some of them were willing to write blurbs for my two books and letters of recommendation for fellowship applications.

It’s not a one-way street, I hasten to add. Writers should be willing to give as well as take. As an editor of
I’ve been in a position to publish writers I’ve met at conferences. And two years ago when I was putting together an anthology of short fiction, I reached out to several writers I knew through workshops. I’ve also met critique partners at conferences, writers who are looking for feedback on early drafts of their work.

Conferences can be great learning opportunities. Panel discussions, presentations, and keynote speeches will certainly be edifying. But conferences are also a great way to build a mutually beneficial network.

Clifford Garstang’s award-winning collection of linked short stories, In an Uncharted Country, was published by Press 53 in 2009. Since then, his second book, What the Zhang Boys Know, has been published. His work has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, Blackbird, Virginia Quarterly Review, Shenandoah, Cream City Review, Tampa Review, Los Angeles Review, and elsewhere and has received Distinguished Mention in the Best American Series.