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.


From middle school to writers association

Screen shot 2015-09-16 at 10.48.52 PMThere was this girl in my seventh grade English class who was perfect. Her hair was always shiny and perfect, her schoolwork was always perfect, and her outfits were always the coolest items from The Limited Too perfectly paired with accessories from Claire’s Boutique. She could sing; she could act. She knew all of the words to every New Kids on the Block song. She even “went out” with my sixth grade crush, which really equated to nothing more than the occasional hand holding and passing of notes but was still a very big deal back in middle school in my day. I envied her, yet I really liked her. She was too perfect not to like.

More than twenty years later, I still remember the day I saw this perfect girl reading a Sweet Valley High book during our sustained silent reading time. It was the very same book I had read about two books prior in the series. I wondered what her favorite part was. I was convinced she was just as surprised at the plot twist as I had been. Although I may have been steps down from where she was on the pristine pedestal we’d put her atop of, I now knew we were on the same level in some ways as I watched her turn the page.

In that instant and many before it, I knew I wanted to become a writer. I wanted to one day write stories that could inspire, shock, and move the perfect people of this world in the same way they’d relate to the most imperfect souls and everyone in between.

Last year, I attended my first writers conference, the Hampton Roads Writers Association’s conference. In addition to learning a lot about the writing and publishing business, I received great encouragement to keep writing and met a lot of amazing writers with their own stories of why they write and what inspires them. I was in my element. I can’t wait for this year’s conference to begin.

If you didn’t register this year, you are missing out. For everyone attending, I am looking forward to meeting you and hearing your wonderful stories about what you are writing and how you got into writing. See you very soon!

This blog post was written by editor and author Nealy Gihan. Nealy is a former newspaper reporter and copy editor who now labors in coastal Virginia as a corporate copywriter by day and lives as a fiction writer by night. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Hampton University and a master’s in literary writing from DePaul University. Nealy has published short stories and has written a couple of screenplays, which have been performed in Chicago.