28th Annual Writing Contest

The Rules

Please review these carefully. We regret that noncomplying entries will have to be disqualified without refund.

  • Entries, characters and worlds must be original to the writer unless characters are real people. Fan fiction is not allowed.
  • Winning entries from previous SAWG contests are not eligible.
  • Entries previously published in any medium except for brief samples on authors’ social media or web sites are not eligible.
  • Entries accepted before the contest closes for publication elsewhere must be withdrawn.
  • Entries that do not conform to all requirements will be disqualified. 
  • Entry fees are not refundable.
  • Unlike many other contests, SAWG entrants retain all rights to their contest entries. SAWG will publish no part of an entry except the author’s name and the title. A piece that enters or even wins does not count as being published.
  • The Guild will retain one copy of each winning entry. These will be available in case a claim of plagiarism is levied at a later date.

The Categories

  • Book-length fiction
  • Short story
  • Nonfiction (including memoir), either length
  • Poetry

The Submission Requirements

  • Book-length: 500-word synopsis followed by the first 5,000 words (or if the first chapter is between 4000-5500 words, the first chapter), in a single document.
  • Short: maximum length 12,000 words
  • Poetry: no size limits
  • File type must be .doc, .docx or .pdf
  • Font must be Times New Roman 12-point or Courier 12-point.
  • Author’s name or identifying information must not appear anywhere in the document.
  • Paragraphs must be double-spaced.
  • Pages must have one-inch margins all around.
  • Pages must be numbered in the footer section of the page.
  • Entry category and title must appear as a header of each page, including the first page.

The Deadlines & Entry Fees

 PoemsAll Other Genres
Early bird: Sept 1 – Dec 15$7 per entry$26 per entry
Late Bloomer: Dec 16 – Jan 31$12 per entry$32 per entry

Discount: $5 per entry (except poetry) for students, military and Guild members.

The contest will close at 11:59 PM Central (US) on January 31, 2020.

The Prizes

In each category:

  • First place $100
  • Second place $50
  • Third place $25
  • Honorable mention

Every prize includes one year’s SAWG membership (a $35 value) and a link to the writer’s web site on SAWG’s web page.

A writer may receive only one prize per category.

Number of Entries

A writer may submit two entries per category, ten total entries per person.


There are two rounds of blind judging.

  • The first round is done by writer volunteers screened, selected and trained by SAWG. 
  • Each entry will be assessed by at least three judges who are familiar with that genre.
  • Volunteer judges will have no contest entries in the genres they judge.
  • Five entries in each category with the highest initial scores will advance to the final round.
  • The final judges are professional writers who specialize in the entries’ genres. They include Guggenheim Fellow novelist Cecelia Holland, scifi, nonfiction and script expert Mel Gilden, Gotham Memoir and nonfiction writer and teacher Cullen Thomas, and widely published poet Caitlin Doyle.
  • Winners will be contacted by email, announced at the monthly meeting following the completion of judging, invited to read their winning entries at a SAWG meeting, and their names and websites will be posted on the SAWG website.
  • All contestants may, if they wish, receive the detailed score sheets for their work, including all judges’ comments and advice, via email after the winners are announced.
  • All finalists may correspond with their final judges if they wish to.

How to Submit and Pay

Send your entry to sawgcontest@gmail.com as an attachment to an email. Pay your submission fee through this PayPal form:

Type of Submission