The Practicing Writer 2.0: March 2020

Our seventeenth year of sharing opportunities and resources

Supporting the Craft & Business of Excellent Writing

Welcome, new readers, and welcome back to the regulars!

We value our subscribers, and we protect their privacy. We keep our subscriber list confidential.

PLEASE PASS THE NEWSLETTER ON—in its entirety—to your writing networks. If you’d like to share a particular competition or a submission alert with other writers, PLEASE CREDIT THE PRACTICING WRITER for the find. Thanks for respecting your editor’s volunteer efforts!


  1. Editor’s Note: What’s New

  2. Article/Lessons Learned

  3. Featured Resource

  4. Upcoming/Ongoing Contests, Competitions, and Other Opportunities (NO ENTRY OR APPLICATION FEES; PAYING OPPORTUNITIES ONLY)


  6. Blog Notes

  7. Newsletter Matters


Greetings, practicing writers:

Thank you all so much for the warm response to last month’s anniversary edition of the newsletter. Your kindness means a lot to me.

Fun fact: I write these introductory notes at the end of the newsletter-drafting process. And as I write this one, the Substack editor warns that I am “near email length limit.” So I’ll keep this note brief—you can check out my multiple March events elsewhere—and move everyone right along to the (packed) issue.

Here’s to a marvelous March,

P.S. Congratulations to practicing writer Adrian S. Potter, who left this comment on the Practicing Writing blog: “I wanted to say thanks - about a year ago I discovered the post you had for the Portage Press call...and it resulted in my first published book of poetry, Everything Wrong Feels Right. Thanks for all the calls and contests you list here and in your newsletter - the info you provide is appreciated!”

Please remember that I love to know about successes that come your way via this newsletter/the blogs. Please keep me posted!


It’s no secret that even the largest publishing houses aren’t providing all of the marketing and promotional support their authors might wish for these days. When you consider how many authors are working with smaller presses—not to mention the increase in self-publishing afforded by low-cost technologies—it seems that everyone might benefit from some basic, budget-friendly book-promotion tips.

While promoting my short-story collection Quiet Americans (2011), I relied on some tried-and-true techniques. I also discovered a few new tools. And I shared those insights in articles and posts.

But by the time my poetry collection Birthright was in production in 2019, some of those strategies were no longer quite so appealing (goodbye, no-longer-free Goodreads giveaways!). But other helpful resources had arrived (hello, Canva!)

Here, then, are some updated ideas for promoting your book. For the most part, they won’t consume too much of your time; even better, they’re all free!

1) Email Signatures
If you aren’t already using the valuable real estate at the end of each and every email you send, get to it! Virtually all email programs include an option for a “signature,” one or more lines of text appended to each outgoing message. Some people include their full contact information. Others choose to share a meaningful quotation. Authors should be using it to point e-correspondents to their books, even ahead of publication.

Keep the signature within reason. I try never to exceed five lines. My current signature includes my name on the first line; the phrase “Latest book: Birthright: Poems” on the second; and then URLs for my website, Twitter account, and Facebook author page. This way, anyone interested in learning more about my writing and/or connecting with me online can do so, easily.

2) Online Bios
For the purposes of this short piece, we’ll leave aside a more extensive discussion of social media. But do you already have an account on Goodreads? Twitter? LinkedIn? Have you already established an Amazon Author Central account? For that matter, when did you last update your bio on your own website (you do have a website, yes?). If you have a book coming (or newly published), it’s time to update your bio wherever you have access to it.

3) Alumni Notes and Contributor Updates
Chances are, your college (or graduate-school) alumni magazine will be happy to publicize news of your book’s publication. If you check the magazine’s website, you're likely to find instructions for submitting a brief update. Check early, even if your book’s publication date is still months away. (My college’s magazine requires “class notes” submissions by March 1 for inclusion in the May-June issue.)

Helpful hint: Think of your “alumni” status in broad terms. That writing conference you attended a few years ago may be delighted to share the news of your publishing success. And remember the literary journals that have published your work. They often share news about their past contributors, especially if the work that they’ve published (for which you have retained rights, of course), appears in your new book.

4) Canva
Images and graphics catch people’s attention. If you are tech-challenged (I describe myself that way), it may take you a little bit of time to become comfortable with Canva. But once you do, you’ll be able to design all kinds of graphics to spice up your book-promotion efforts. Yes, more options become available to you with a paid account. But you can do plenty without spending a penny. Here’s one nifty creation that I designed once my book’s “blurbs” came in—and then shared on social media.

5) Poets & Writers Directory and Literary Events Calendar
There’s no cost to apply for a listing in the Poets & Writers Directory (and yes, that's another site where, once registered, you should be sure to keep your bio updated). Once you have an account, you can also announce your readings and other literary events in the site’s calendar. It meant something to me to see the launch-event info that I’d submitted for Birthright featured right there on the popular site’s homepage (screenshot below).

Remember: In order to buy (or borrow, or request, or plan an event that involves) your book, people need to know that it exists. Everything listed above can assist you with making your book “discoverable”—even without a big marketing budget behind you.

Want more book-promo tips gleaned from my experiences publicizing my own (and other people's) books? Sign up for my March 7 session at Grub Street HQ in Boston OR my online webinar for Hidden Timber Books on March 22.


A little over a year ago, something compelled me to compile a list of writing residencies that are fee-free in two ways: They don’t charge application fees, and they don’t charge residency fees, either. Some go even further and provide stipends.

In any case, I’ve recently updated the list. (Links should all be working!)

Image description: rustic cabin and table perched in a natural scene, with text label and URL.

The list now contains more than 50 residency programs.


    Deadline: April 1, 2020. “Awarded for the best piece of writing on the theme of the 2020 Alpine Fellowship Annual Symposium: Forgiveness and Retribution. The winner receives a £10,000 cash prize and is presented with the award by the poet John Burnside. A £3,000 cash prize will go to the second place, and £2,000 to the third place runner up. The winner and two runners up are invited to attend the Fjällnäs symposium.”

    Deadline: March 20, 2020. Confers £5,000 and “the opportunity to undertake a writing retreat of up to three months at Gordon Burn’s cottage in Berwickshire in the Scottish Borders.” Eligibility: for books published between 1 July 2019 and 1 July 2020, written by an author of any nationality or descent who at the time of entering is permanently resident in the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland or United States of America. “Works of translation, books for children and poetry are not eligible for the award.” Be sure to review the additional, detailed terms and conditions.

    Deadline: March 31, 2020. “America Media is sponsor of the annual Foley Poetry Award, given in honor of William T. Foley, M.D. Each entrant is asked to submit one poem of 45 lines or fewer for consideration. Only unpublished poems not under consideration elsewhere will be considered. Poems may address any topic.” Prize: $1,000 and publication.

    Deadline: March 15, 2020. This fellowship “supports work by academics, independent scholars and writers working on significant projects relating to the literature, history, culture, or art of the Americas before 1830. Candidates with a U.S. history topic are strongly encouraged to concentrate on the period prior to 1801. The fellowship is also open to filmmakers, novelists, creative and performing artists, and others working on projects that draw on this period of history….The fellowship award supports two months of research and two months of writing. The stipend is $5,000 per month for a total of $20,000, plus housing and university privileges. The research is conducted at the John Carter Brown Library on the campus of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. The two-month writing period of the fellowship will be at the Starr Center at Washington College in Chestertown [Maryland].”

    Submissions: March 1-June 30, 2020. “The prize was founded in 2016 to honor author Louise Meriwether by publishing a debut work by a woman or nonbinary author of color, between 30,000 and 80,000 words. The prize is granted to a manuscript that follows in the tradition of Meriwether’s Daddy Was a Number Runner, one of the first contemporary American novels featuring a young Black girl as the protagonist.” Welcomes fiction and narrative nonfiction by “women of color and nonbinary writers of color who are: residents of the fifty (50) United States, the District of Columbia, and US territories and possessions; 18 years of age or older at time of entry; and who have not had a book published or have a book under contract at the time of submission.” Prize: “a $5,000 advance (half at the time of the initial award and half upon publication)” plus a contract for publication with the Feminist Press in print and digital editions in spring 2021.

    Deadline: April 30, 2020. “The program supports new literary voices that demonstrate exceptional talent and promise by providing writers working on a first book with time, space, and an intellectually and culturally rich artistic community. The goal of the program is to actively support writers working to complete a book-length project within a year, and to help launch the literary careers of three fellows per year. The Emerging Writer Fellowships are designed to provide 12 months of uninterrupted time and studio space to write; mentorship with feedback from a nationally established author in their respective genre; professional experience such as arts administration, teaching creative writing, and other opportunities; $41,000 stipend, and strong literary community support in Miami, Florida.” (Discovered via @AdaCalhoun & @KarenEBender)

    Deadline: March 16, 2020. “Intended to provide an alternative route to success in an industry where the prerequisite to an entry level position is typically an unpaid internship, this learning-oriented position seeks to provide entry to those historically underrepresented among workers in book publishing—Indigenous, people of color, LGBTQIA+, and those with disabilities….This position is based on-site in our Minneapolis offices and is full time (non-exempt, 40 hours per week, for 12 to 24 months), beginning in June 2020.” Compensation: “a salary of $35,000 per year, generous paid time off, and health and dental benefits.” NB: “Except for those with prearranged work visas or green cards, we are not considering international candidates at this time.”

    Deadline: March 30, 2020. Open to journalists ages 22-38, this fellowship “allows young journalists to do in-depth reporting on anti-Semitism and other deeply ingrained prejudices around the world.” The fellow receives $5,000 ($2,500 upfront and $2,500 upon publication) to produce a story. Fellows work closely with Moment editors and selected mentors to publish their completed project in Moment as well as partner media outlets.”

    Deadline: March 17, 2020. “North Dakota State University Press seeks poetry submissions of any style for our annual Poetry of the Plains and Prairies chapbook publication. While the author(s) may call any place home, their submissions must deftly capture the feeling of, as well as the reality of, living on the plains and prairies.” Prize confers “our standard university press publishing contract with royalties, ten free copies, and an author discount on purchases of additional copies. The author(s) must agree to give a public reading at a time and place in North Dakota, convenient to NDSU Press and the author(s), the day of, or soon after, publication.” No simultaneous submissions.  

    Deadline: March 31, 2020. Alternates between fiction and nonfiction (currently seeking fiction). “For an outstanding debut literary work by a first-generation immigrant.” (Check the website for definition/details.) Prize confers $10,000 and publication.

    Deadline: March 15, 2020. “Thanks to the generosity of the Walter E. Dakin Memorial Fund, supported by the estate of Tennessee Williams, all writers who attend the Sewanee Writers’ Conference receive partial funding. Contributors receive assistance covering two-thirds of the actual cost to attend. Additional funding is awarded to fellows and scholars.” Fellowships cover tuition, room, and board; scholarships cover tuition.

    Deadline: April 1, 2020. Named in honor of the parents of Carson McCullers, this fellowship at Georgia’s Columbus State University “begins the first of September and ends the first of December. During this time, the writing fellow will reside in a spacious private apartment inside Carson McCullers’s childhood home, the Smith-McCullers House. The fellow is provided with a stipend of $5,000 to cover costs of transportation, food and other incidentals. Fellowship recipients are encouraged to take an active role in the community and to meet informally with students and local residents interested in writing. The fellow will work with the McCullers Center director to plan a presentation near the end of the residency.”

    Deadline: April 5, 2020. Offered by Submittable, this fellowship is “dedicated to supporting a Native American writer’s book project with a month-long residency during 2020 in Missoula, MT.” Includes lodging and a $1,000 stipend for food and travel.

    Deadline: March 31, 2020. “Poetry submissions may be of any length and any style but must have a theme of Meditation or Mindfulness. Poems may reflect any discipline, any faith, or none. Poems must be previously unpublished. Poems not on the themes of meditation, mindfulness, stillness, or sacred silence will not be included in this meditation poetry event.” Cash prizes ($250/$150/$100) and publication.

    Deadline: April 1, 2020. “Now in its 19th year, this contest seeks today's best humor poems. No fee to enter. Submit published or unpublished work. $2,250 in prizes.” Open to entrants worldwide, except those in “Syria, Iran, North Korea, and Crimea (due to US government restrictions).”


  • March is a fee-free submissions month for SPLIT LIP. Pays: “(via PayPal) $50 per author for poems, memoirs, flash, fiction, and art, and $25 for interviews/reviews for our web issues. Payment for print is $5 per page, minimum of $20, plus 2 contributor copies and a 1-year subscription.” NB: “Sometimes we have to shut free subs early….We recommend submitting early in free subs months! And hey - if the fees are a burden, please reach out to us! We can’t always help out, but we like to try when we can.”

  • MARY: A JOURNAL OF NEW WRITING “accepts previously unpublished fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and hybrid genres….We like weird and risky and humming a little.” Pays: $50. Deadline: March 13, 2020.

  • OUTLOOK SPRINGS “is a literary journal from another dimension. It is devoted to fiction, poetry, and non-fiction tinged with the strange.” Submissions close March 15. “Payment is $10 per poem, $10 per flash piece (under 1,000 words), $25 for short fiction and essays (over 1,000 words). Payment via PayPal or Venmo.”

  • SHENANDOAH will consider poetry submissions between March 15 and March 31, 2020. “Please send us prayers, spells, charms, curses, blessings, invocations—poems that try to make change happen. All forms, styles, and procedures are welcome.” Pays: $100/poem.

  • Submissions to the 21st CENTURY ESSAYS SERIES at Mad Creek Books, an imprint of The Ohio State University Press, are open annually from March 15 to April 15. “This is the first and only major series that announces its focus on the essay, a genre whose plasticity, timelessness, popularity, and centrality to nonfiction writing make it instantly important in the field of nonfiction literature, with books that use words as artistic medium, appealing to literary, academic, and trade audiences.”

  • Re-opening for free subs on March 1 and remaining open until March 20 (unless, perhaps, they reach their free-subs cap, which is what caused them to close for free subs during February), NINTH LETTER will be considering fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for a special online edition. “The theme for this issue is Debts. To what are we beholden? Of course mortgages, student loans, credit cards and car payments. And with them the fraud and inherent large-scale crises that extract from and shape generations in unique ways. But also our loved ones and colleagues, the earth and the seasons, inventions and collectives, and ancestors as well as strangers. What do we owe, and to who or what is it owed?” Pays: “a small honorarium ($25 per poem, $75 per story or essay)” plus a 2-­year subscription to Ninth Letter.

  • March 20 is also the deadline for submissions for an issue celebrating FALLING STAR magazine’s 20th anniversary. They’re looking for fiction on the theme of “Twenty.” Pays: $20 (“of course”) via Paypal, plus one copy.

  • Here’s a call for poetry, short essays, fiction, and art “by those affected by gun violence,” from Swallow Publishing, in association with Mythic Picnic. They’re soliciting works for HUMANS IN THE WILD: Reactions to a Gun Loving Country, which will feature work by Kathy Fish, author of Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild. Pays: $50 (read about options for donating your payment if you choose). Open to reprints. Deadline: March 25, 2020.

  • Open through March: BRACKEN, which emphasizes “poetry, short fiction, and art exploring human nature as part of nature.” Pays: “$15 for a poem, $0.04/word for fiction (with a minimum payment of $50), and a negotiated rate for cover art.”

  • GORDON SQUARE REVIEW remains open for submissions until April 1. Pays: “Writers accepted for publication receive $25 per prose piece and $10 per poem.”

  • Also open until April 1: THE ARKANSAS INTERNATIONAL, to fiction, poetry, essays, comics, and works in translation. NB: “Until we reach our monthly cap with Submittable, there will be no fee to submit.” Payment: “$20 a printed page (capped at $250) and in copies of the journal.”

  • THE DELACORTE REVIEW seeks narrative nonfiction. “By narrative we mean a story with a beginning, middle and end - though not necessarily told in that order -- propelled by a simple question: What happened next? We publish stories that are grounded in reporting.” Pays: “$500 per story.”

  • VINAL PUBLISHING, INC. is currently open for submissions. Genres include: Popular Fiction, Children's, Middle Grade, Young Adult, Graphic Novels, Graphic Nonfiction, Anthologies, Creative Nonfiction, Selective Poetry and Memoir.

  • Make it a habit to check the CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL website, where titles in development are posted. “So whether you are a regular contributor or new to our family, please share your [true] story or poem with us. If this is your first time, please visit our Story Guidelines page, which will answer many of your questions about subject matter, length, and style.” Pays: $200 plus 10 free copies.

  • Resource alert: Over on the Authors Publish website, you’ll find a list of poetry manuscript publishers who do not charge fees for online or postal submissions. NB: I do not have details on royalty/other payment arrangements offered by these presses, so proceed with your own research.


The newsletter is published just once each month, but there’s always something new on the Practicing Writing blog:

  • (Monday) Markets and Jobs for Writers (including state/province/city-specific opportunities that are typically omitted from the monthly newsletter)

  • Midweek Notes from a Practicing Writer

  • (Friday) Finds for Writers

  • Sunday Sentence

Please visit, and comment! 

Interested in matters of specifically Jewish literary and cultural interest? Please also visit the My Machberet blog (“machberet” is the Hebrew word for “notebook”).


Information contained in The Practicing Writer is collected from many sources, with the purpose of providing general references. It is researched to the best of our ability but readers should verify information when necessary and appropriate. The Practicing Writer and its editor disclaim any liability for the use of information contained within. Thank you for subscribing/reading.

For updates and additional opportunity listings between newsletters, please check in with our “Practicing Writing” blog and follow Erika Dreifus on Twitter (@ErikaDreifus) and on Facebook.

About the editor: Erika Dreifus is a writer, teacher, and literary consultant whose books include Birthright: Poems and Quiet Americans: Stories. A Fellow in the Sami Rohr Jewish Literary Institute, she lives in New York. Please visit to learn more about her work and follow her on Twitter @ErikaDreifus, where she tweets “on matters bookish and/or Jewish.”