Entering a writing contest can be a good way of getting recognized as a writer. Winning a contest is not always easy, but the practice you get writing on a topic or theme, meeting a deadline, adhering to guidelines will benefit you in the long run. Some contests offer attractive prizes, including cash, trips to meet with editors and in some cases even a book deal.

On the flip side, you have to be watchful for scams. Most contests charge an entry fee which may range from $2 to $5 for poetry to $10 to $25 for short stories and chapbooks. These fees are necessary to meet administrative and other costs. Those contests that do not require a reading fee may sound like a viable option, especially to the beginner, but in many instances these are the scam artists who would state (in fine print) that the author will be giving up all rights in exchange for having her work published in their anthology, which you pay for.

Before entering a contest, you should research the organizers of the contest if they are unfamiliar to you. A few places to check are http://www.writers-editors.com/Writers/Contests/contests.htm; Preditors and Editors and Writer Beware Blogs.

Here are some writing contests you may be interested in:
Real Simple Life Lessons Essay Contest
A prize of $3,000 and publication in Real Simple is given annually for a personal essay on a theme. This year’s theme is, “When did you first understand the meaning of love?” Deadline September 15, 2011. No entry fee.
Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival 2012 Fiction Contest. Award: $1500. Deadline November 15. Entry fee $25. http://www.tennesseewilliams.net/contests
2012 William Van Dyke Short Story Prize. Maximum 7,000 words. Awards: $1000 to the winner. Deadline: midnight October 1, 2011. Info: www.ruminatemagazine.org/contests/short-story.html
A Woman’s Write fiction contest by women about women. $40 entrance fee includes critique. http://www.awomanswrite.com/rules.html. Deadline November 30.

My first short story was published in a college magazine as a result of a contest. The following year I won an honorable mention in a nationwide contest. So now I’m off to get started on one of these. If this article has been helpful to you, or you know of any more contests or have ever been successful in any, please leave a comment below. I love hearing from you.