HRW's Emerging Writers Contest

Registrants may submit one contest entry in each of the categories: Fiction Prize, Nonfiction Prize, and Poetry Prize.

  • First Place Winners receive $250
  • Second Place Winners receive $125
  • Third Place Winners receive $75
  • Honorable Mention Winners receive $50 tuition break at HRW's 2023 Writers Conference


In an effort to encourage emerging writers, first-place winners of any of our previous contests are ineligible to enter work into the contest category for which they previously were awarded first place. For example, if you won first place in any of our fiction contests, you may not enter work again in the fiction category, but you are still eligible to enter work into both the poetry and nonfiction categories (provided that you also didn't win first place in one of those contests). If you are unsure whether you are eligible to enter in one or more of the categories, email

Additionally, if you have earned $500 or more from the sale of your writing during the term of April 2021 through the day you enter the contest, you are NOT eligible to enter this contest. You are a professional writer. CONGRATULATIONS!

All entries must be unpublished in print, in e-zines, on blogs, and on personal websites and must NOT have placed (first, second, or third) in ANY previous writing contest outside of HRW.

Authors may submit ONLY one work in each category.

ALL ENTRIES MUST BE FORMATED PROPERLY: typed on 8.5 x 11-inch white paper, 12-point Times New Roman or Courier font, black ink, double-spaced, indented paragrahs, with 1-inch margins. Page numbers and the title of the work should be included in the upper right hand corner of a header (NOT IN THE MANUSCRIPT ITSELF). Do not add a blank line between paragraphs. (Poetry does not necessarily need to be double-spaced nor indented). Work must be submitted as a .doc or .docx file.  PDF files will not be accepted since it will be impossible for the judges to add comments and/or line edits.

Judges have been requested to offer confidential written comments on each entry; the length and type of comments are at the discretion of each judge.

Entries must include a removable title page that contains author’s name, address, category, title of the work, and word count. Thus, submissions submitted through our website should come in as two files, one as the title page with identifying information and the second as the actual contest submission with only the title, page numbers, and genre listed in the header and the title centered halfway down the first page, directly above paragraph one.

The title and page numbers must appear on each page, in a header to the right. Do NOT include your name in the header. Entries with identifying information any place other than on the removable title page will be discarded. Be careful not to put your name under the title on page one or at the end of the work.

We prefer that work be submitted to us via the online submission format built into the website. We will have to manually scan in anything that is snail-mailed to us and we'd rather not have to do this. 

Whether snail-mailed or sent to us as files via our submission page, all entries must include the conference registration fee (if entrant hasn't previously registered for the conference) and must be in our office by Saturday, July 16 at 3 PM. NOTE: July 16 is NOT a postmark date but is the day on which we must have the entry in our hands. Besides, we need the entry as a .doc file emailed to us.

Failure to follow ANY of the rules will result in disqualification of entry.

All decisions by the judges are final, and all winners will be announced on FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, immediately following the keynote address. The first page of each first place winning entry will be read to the audience by a professional public speaker on SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, immediately following the keynote address.

Work will be returned to each attendee via email soon after the conclusion of the conference.

The word count for each category is:

  • Fiction: One complete story, not to exceed 2500 words (NO CHAPTERS)
  • Nonfiction: One complete article, essay, or creative nonfiction submission, not to exceed 2500 words (NO CHAPTERS)
  • Poetry: One complete poem, not to exceed 100 lines


HRW is not responsible for lost submissions.