The 2021-2022 Literary Contests have closed.
Winners will be announced in April.
- 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.
How to Enter
- The deadline for all 2021-22 contests is Monday, March 7 at midnight.
- For each contest you wish to enter, prepare your manuscript as specified and fill out the linked form on or before the deadline. Unlike in previous years, each contest now requires its own form.
- 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
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.
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.
Sunita Jain Literary Award
One prize of $500. The Sunita Jain Literary Award is for excellence in poetry. Each entrant may submit up to 200 lines of poetry in any combination.
Dr. Sunita Jain earned her PhD. in English from UNL in 1972. During her time at Nebraska, Dr. Jain was the winner of the Vreeland Award in 1969 and the Sandoz/Prairie Schooner Award in 1970 and again in 1971. Dr. Jain went on to become one of India's most celebrated bilingual writers, publishing more than sixty books in English and Hindi. She was the recipient of one of India's highest civilian honors, the Padma Shri, for her literary contributions. Dr. Jain passed away in 2017. UNL was always near and dear to her heart, and even after 40+ years of honors and awards, she was incredibly proud of winning the university's literary awards. Her greatest passion was poetry, and in that spirit, the Jain family has generously established this award.
John Robinson Award for Scholarly Papers
This award honors the memory of John W. Robinson, former chair of the Department and a distinguished scholar of Medieval and Renaissance drama, who died at the age of 51 in 1986. Professors nominate graduate students for excellent scholarly writing produced during the current academic year. A $500 prize is awarded to the winner or split between winner and runner-up.
The John Robinson Award for Scholarly Papers is administered by the Department of English Graduate Committee.
The Vreeland Awards
Two prizes ($500 each): one for poetry and one for prose. Material: (1) a portfolio of representative work in a single genre, and (2) a brief cover letter that offers insight into your experience with creative writing at UNL. While your portfolio must be either all prose or all poetry, you may speak in your cover letter of your work in multiple genres. Poetry portfolios are limited to 20 pages or 20 individual poems. Prose portfolios (fiction and/or creative non-fiction) are limited to two pieces of original work, double-spaced (approximately 10,000 words).
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.
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.
Undergraduate Student Awards for Poetry
- The Irby F. Wood Prize for Undergraduate Poetry ($500)
- The Gaffney Prize for Undergraduate Poetry ($200)
- The Gaffney Prize runner up for Undergraduate Poetry ($100)
This 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.
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 2021 semesters). 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.
Nominees will be sent the link to this form by their nominating teacher.