Literary Contests

Literary Contests

Annual fiction, non-fiction and poetry contests open to all students

2016-2017 Literary Contests

Congratulations to our 2016-2017 Award Winners! This year's winners will give a public reading on April 25. They will also be honored at the Department of English Awards Convocation on April 28.

Public Reading

Tuesday, April 25, 3:00pm
Bailey Library (Andrews 229)

English Department's Awards Ceremony

Friday, April 28, 1:30pm
Bailey Library (Andrews 229)

How to Enter

  1. Complete a separate entry form for each contest you are entering. (Entry forms are available in the English Department Office, 202 Andrews Hall.)
  2. Submit one paper copy of each entry. Format manuscripts in 12pt font, black ink, with 1" margins. Poetry manuscripts should be single spaced, and prose should be double spaced. Do not include your name anywhere on your manuscripts — only on the entry form.
  3. For each contest you are entering, staple or paper clip the manuscript(s) for that specific contest to the relevant entry form, in the order you want the judges to read them. Do not submit a sheaf of manuscripts that requires us to sort and collate your work. Please note that all manuscripts will be recycled after judging.
  4. Submit finished entries to the English Department Office, 202 Andrews.

Eligibility Information

Download a copy of this year's contest bulletin
  • 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.
  • No past winner of a first prize in any contest is eligible to enter that contest again, except undergraduate Vreeland winners, may enter again as graduate students.
  • 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:

Michael Page
Contest Coordinator
mpage3@unl.edu

Graduate Contest Descriptions

The Vreeland Awards

Two prizes ($1,000): poetry and prose. Material: A portfolio of representative creative writing in a single genre. Prose portfolios are limited to 50 pages of text, double-spaced (approximately 12,000 words). Poetry portfolios are limited to 20 pages or 20 individual poems. Literary essays may be included, but the award must be based on achievement in creative, not critical, work. 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 fellowships.

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 Contest Descriptions

The Vreeland Awards

Two prizes ($500): poetry and prose. Material: A portfolio of representative creative writing in a single genre. Prose portfolios are limited to 50 pages of text, double-spaced (approximately 12,000 words). Poetry portfolios are limited to 20 pages or 20 individual poems. Literary essays may be included, but the award must be based on achievement in creative, not critical, work.

Marjorie Stover Awards for Short Story

The competition is open to undergraduate majors in the College of Arts and Sciences currently enrolled in the English Department. 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 English Department. 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 and fall 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 English Department Awards Celebration.