Literary Contests

Literary Contests

2018 Contests now open

Our annual fiction, non-fiction and poetry contests are open to all current students.
Find out how to enter your work.

2018 Literary Contests

All winners of these contests will be honored at a public reading in the Dudley Bailey Library, Andrews 229, on Tuesday, April 24 at 3:00 p.m. and at the Department of English Awards Convocation on Friday, April 27 at 12:00 noon in the Bailey Library.

Public Reading

Tuesday, April 24, 3:00 p.m.
Bailey Library (Andrews 229)

Department Awards Convocation

Friday, April 27, 12:00 p.m.
Bailey Library (Andrews 229)

View past years' winners

How to Enter

  1. Entrants should complete an entry form specific to the contest(s) they are entering. (Entry forms are available in the Department of English Office, 202 Andrews Hall.)
  2. Entrants should submit one paper copy of all entries (single spaced for poetry, double spaced for prose, 1" margins, 12pt font, black ink) and attach the copies to the entry form.
  3. Staple all pieces for an entry together sequentially. (e.g. if you submit multiple poems for an entry, staple them all together in the order you want the judges to read them; I don't need each one individually paper-clipped). Use a clip if necessary for a large entry. Do not give me a sheaf of manuscripts that I have to sort through and collate.
  4. Authors' names must not appear anywhere on the submitted manuscripts. All manuscripts will be recycled after judging.

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 (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 Contest Descriptions

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.