Literary Contests

Congratulations, 2018-19 Contest Winners!

This Year's WinnersDetailsEligibilityAward DescriptionsPast Winners

Graduate Student Award Winners

Vreeland Award for Poetry

Katie Henson

Vreeland Award for Fiction

Shawn Rubenfeld

Sandoz/Prairie Schooner Awards for Fiction

First Place: Adrienne Christian
Second Place: Rachel Cochran
Third Place: Alex Ramirez

Gaffney/Academy of American Poets Awards for Poetry

First Place: Cameron Steele
Second Place: Saddiq Dzukogi
Third Place: Zach Mueller

Susan Atefat Peckham Fellowship

Gina Keplinger

Undergraduate Student Award Winners

Vreeland Award for Poetry

Bianca Swift

Vreeland Award for Fiction

Izchel Quintero

Marjorie Stover Short Story Awards

First Place: Lauren Mayer
Second Place: Rylan Chilcott

Undergraduate Poetry Awards

Irby Wood Prize: Henry Zander
First Place Gaffney Prize: Camille Paddock
Second Place Gaffney Prize: Nicholas Harmon

Gaffney Scholarly Essay Award Co-Winners

Zainab Saleh and Margaret Rieckman

Gaffney Personal Essay Award

Natalia Martinez

Ted Kooser Award for Outstanding First-Year Writing

Sam Wright
Instructor: Anne Nagel

How to Enter

  • Prepare your manuscripts as specified below and fill out the online contest entry form by Friday, March 1 at midnight.
  • Authors' names must not appear anywhere in the submitted files or the filenames.
  • Submit one file for each contest you are entering. Each file must be a PDF or Word document (.pdf, .doc or .docx) following this format:
    • 12 pt font
    • black text
    • single spaced for poetry, double spaced for prose
    • 1" margins

Eligibility Information

  • Contests are open only to currently enrolled UNL students. UNL students of any major are eligible for all contests unless specified in the contest description below.
  • Undergraduates are not eligible to submit to contests they have already won in previous years.
  • Graduate students are eligible to submit to contests they’ve won in previous years.
  • No more than one prize award will be given to any individual in the same year.
  • Students who are UNL employees will have federal and state withholding deductions reflected in their award check.

Questions? Contact:

Contest Descriptions

Graduate Contests

The Vreeland Awards

Two prizes ($1,000): poetry and prose. Material: A portfolio of representative creative writing in a single genre. Prose portfolios (fiction and/or creative non-fiction) are limited to 50 pages of text, double-spaced (approximately 12,000 words). Poetry portfolios are limited to 20 pages or 20 individual poems. Applicants should prepare brief statements (250 words) of their experiences and aims as writers for attachment to the entry. Do not include your name on your statement.

Mari Sandoz/Prairie Schooner Awards for Short Story

Three prizes: First Prize $300, Second Prize $180, Third Prize $120. Submit only one story of no more than 7,000 words.

The Susan Atefat Peckham Fellowship

One prize of $400. Submit either one creative nonfiction piece (limited to 20 pages of prose - approximately 5,000 words) or a maximum of 200 lines of poetry in any combination. Full-time employees or lecturers are not eligible for this fellowship.

Gaffney/Academy of American Poets Award for Poetry

Three prizes: First Prize $300, Second Prize $180, Third Prize $120. Each poet may submit no more than 200 lines of poetry in any combination. Winner of first prize will be included in the Academy's announcement of winners, which appears in the summer issue of American Poet, the Academy's journal.

Undergraduate Contests

The Vreeland Awards

Two prizes ($500): poetry and prose. Material: A portfolio of representative creative writing in a single genre. Prose portfolios (fiction and/or creative non-fiction) are limited to 50 pages of text, double-spaced (approximately 12,000 words). Poetry portfolios are limited to 20 pages or 20 individual poems.

Marjorie Stover Awards for Short Story

The competition is open to undergraduate majors in the College of Arts and Sciences currently enrolled in the Department of English. Two prizes: First Prize $200, Second Prize $100. Each prize is to be awarded for an outstanding original short story. Outstanding children's stories are especially welcome. Entries are limited to 20 pages of prose (approximately 5,000 words). Each entry is limited to one piece.

Undergraduate Student Awards for Poetry

The competition is open to undergraduate majors in the College of Arts and Sciences currently enrolled in the Department of English. Each entry is limited to no more than 200 lines of poetry in any combination.

Three prizes:

  • 1. The Irby F. Wood Prize for Undergraduate Poetry ($500)
  • 2. The Gaffney Prize for Undergraduate Poetry ($200)
  • 3. The Gaffney Prize runner up for Undergraduate Poetry ($100)

Wilbur Gaffney Scholarly/Critical Essay Contest

One award: $200. Entries are limited to 5,000 words in length. Entries should be academic (critical/research) in nature. One essay per entrant. Essays should demonstrate originality, clarity, and rhetorical purpose and effectiveness.

Wilbur Gaffney Personal/Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest

One Award: $200. Entries are limited to 5,000 words in length. Entries can include personal, expository, or creative non-fiction essays. One essay per entrant. Essays should demonstrate originality, clarity, and rhetorical purpose and effectiveness.

Ted Kooser Awards for Outstanding First-Year Writers

The competition is open to students nominated by their first-year writing teacher for this award. Instructors may nominate only one student from each first-year writing section (both spring 2017 and fall 2017 semester). The nominated submission will consist of up to ten pages of written work. A monetary prize of $200 will be awarded to the recipient and $100 will be awarded to the instructor. The prizes will be presented at the Department of English Awards Convocation in April.