2021 Writing Contest

Rules and Categories


Best Book of 2020 (fiction and nonfiction) – August 1, 2021

Everything else – August 31, 2021


$30.00 Membership + $15.00 Contest entry + $2.00 For Pay-Pal Cost

Members $16.00  Contest entry

2021 Adult Writing Contest Categories


NOTE: Unless otherwise indicated, prizes are a certificate of achievement plus 1st $50, 2nd $30, 3rd $20. Honorable Mention, if granted, receive a certificate.


S1 Humorous Short Piece

Go Ahead. Make me laugh but do it fast!

Limit 3000 words

Sponsor: Russell Gayer


S2 Flash Fiction Story - EXACTLY 100 Words

Tell a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end inspired by the photo prompt in precisely 100 words.

Limit: EXACTLY 100 words.

Sponsors: Rochelle Wisoff-Fields and Jan Fields


Photo Prompt for the Flash Fiction Category

S3 Inspirational Romance

Write an inspirational romance, set in any time period, that inspires the reader to be a moral fiber in a weather-worn fabric. Story must have the essentials of a romance, including a HEA (Happily Ever After) ending.

Limit: 2,000 words

Sponsor: Diane Yates


S4 “I didn’t see that coming!” O’ Henry Style Story

Write a story that concludes with a “wow I didn’t see that coming” ending.

 Limit: 1,500 words.

Sponsor: Bud Hanks


S5 Paranormal Western

Tell a story that is both western and paranormal.

Limit: 1,500 words

Sponsor: Bud Hanks


S6 Western Short Story

Write a Western short story with a beginning, middle, and end. Must be set in America, in the frontier before 1900.

Limit 3000 words

Sponsor: Duke Pennell


S7 “Write the Old Stuff" Historical Fiction

Write a historical tale set before 1970. Historical figures may appear, but this must be a fictional story coming from your own imagination.

Limit 2,000 words.

Sponsor: Nancy Hartney

S8 Jeanie's First Love historical Western in honor of Jeanie Horn.

Write about a first love set in the old west. It can be a romance or the love for a horse, a place, or an atmosphere. Make me feel the emotion.

Limit: 2500 words

Sponsors: Bonnie and Richard Tesh

Prizes: 1st $25, 2nd $15, 3rd $10



N1 Memoir & Creative Nonfiction

In memory of Black & Kiddo. An interesting true story or essay of something you have experienced or witnessed. 

LIMIT:  3,000 words.  

Sponsor: Brenda Black 


N2 Nonfiction Article

Any nonfiction article that is targeted for a specific magazine may be entered. The targeted magazine must be listed on the manuscript. List source for any quotes. This is not an essay category.

Limit: 750 words

Sponsor: Veda Boyd-Jones


N3 Crawford Humorous Anecdote Prize

Write a humorous anecdote of about 1 page.

Limit: 300 words

Anecdote (definition): a short account of a particular incident or event, especially of an interesting or amusing nature.

Sponsor: John “Doc” Crawford

Prizes: 1st $25, 2nd $15, 3rd $10, 3 HMs $5


P1 Crawford Poetry Prize

The theme is "Courage in Crisis." This might include a portrait of a hero of a crisis. The form will be free verse.

Limit:  36 lines.

Sponsor: John “Doc” Crawford

Prizes: 1st $100, 2nd $50, 3rd $25, 1st HM $15, 2nd HM $10, 3rd HM $5


P2 Haiku

Set a vivid scene

While making me feel something.

In five-seven-five

LIMIT: 17 syllables

Sponsor: Jan Morrill-Vanek

Prizes: 1st $25, 2nd $15, 3rd $10


B1 Best First Page of a Fiction Book in Progress

Share the first page of your WIP (work in progress) and be sure to pull us into your story. You can start near the top of the page. Be sure to give the book title.

LIMIT: 1 page

Sponsors: The Prose Squad: April Brock, Bonnie Tesh, Darrell Lacey, and Margarite Stever


B2 Best Published Fiction Book of 2020

Best fictional book in hardcover, paperback or ebook published during the calendar year of 2020 (book must show a copyright date of 2020 and have an ISBN).

Sponsor: Billie Holladay Skelley

1 prize of $100


B3 Best Published Nonfiction Book of 2020

Best nonfiction book in hardcover, paperback or ebook published during the calendar year of 2020 (book must show a copyright date of 2020 and have an ISBN).

Sponsor: Veda Boyd-Jones

1 prize of $100




First, read carefully. Everything you need is in here. If you can’t find it, email OWL “dot” contests “at” gmail “dot” com.



Join us for another exciting year of award-winning writing. OWL members may enter as many of the adult categories for a flat fee of only $15! NON-members may pay $45 to include membership and contest entry.


Not a member yet? You are most welcome to join and submit your entry fee at the same time by check for $45 or via the PayPal button.



Gratitude and Appreciation


First things first: We sincerely thank all our contest sponsors. Every category you see is here because a generous person or group donated the prize money. There would be no writing contests without YOU! Sponsors are listed with their categories.




What You Get for Your $15 Contest Entry Fee:


  1. A chance at a cash prize!

  2. You may enter as many categories as you like, making it much more affordable than others that charge you per category or include an expensive three-figure conference!

  3. You get motivation to WRITE.

  4. The categories and themes give you some guidance, so you’re not staring clueless at a blank screen.

  5. You can use your entries in other contests or submit for publication afterwards.

  6. Since we are a regional group and not a national one, your odds of winning something are higher!

  7. Winning any prize, even an honorable mention, empowers you to use the brag-worthy accolade of “award-winning author” and a credit to add to your portfolio.


How to pay the contest entry fee:


You may pay online or via check.


Online: Use our handy PayPal button. Please note: There is a $1 charge to cover the PayPal processing fees.


Snail Mail: Send $15 if you’re a member, or $45 to include membership and contest fee ($30 for student membership plus entry) to:

OWL Contests

c/o Russell Gayer

20053 Pug Gayer Road

Fayetteville, AR 72703


Please note: This address is ONLY for the contest/membership fee. Contest entries sent to this address will be disqualified.



Writing Contest RULES


General Guidelines


  • No gratuitous or graphic violence or sex. Let’s keep it clean.

  • Only one entry per category is allowed.

  • You may only enter a manuscript in ONE category.

  • EVERY piece needs a title, including haiku.

  • All entries must abide by the rules, including manuscript and submission expectations. Any deviation, such as a wrong font or font size, lack of a title, or missing author information, will result in disqualification of that piece.

  • Physical entries (Best Book/Crawford) must be mailed to the contest coordinator. Contest entries mailed to the treasurer or anyone else in OWL will be disqualified.

  • All entries, with the obvious exception of best published book, must be UNPUBLISHED at the time of submission, and be the original work of the writer. (If your entry has appeared in any written form, such as in a blog, website (like Wattpad), or other electronic outlet, it is considered published and ineligible for entry in any OWL contest.)

  • Best Fiction and Best Nonfiction Book of 2020 are just that. Any book with a publication date other than 2020 is disqualified.

  • Both Best Book categories require an ISBN, or they will be disqualified.

  • Submit all entries except Best Fiction Book, Best Nonfiction Book, and/or Crawford Poetry Prize categories via email to OWL “dot” contests “at” gmail “dot” com.  See Special Exceptions for those categories that differ.

  • Payment of contest entry fee will be verified by the Contest Facilitator. No entry fee, no entry.

  • Once published at the opening of the contest period, these rules are fixed and final.



Manuscript Formatting Guidelines


  • Improperly formatted manuscripts will be disqualified. You should know your word processor’s settings. If you do not understand how to set your margins, change your font to the standard, add a header, or set the line spacing to double, look it up and get it right before submission.

  • TITLE: For the love of all things writerly, GIVE YOUR PIECE A TITLE!

  • WORD COUNT: Word limit is just that. The title does not count toward your word count.

  • FILE TYPE: All files EXCEPT for Best Book (fiction or nonfiction) must be in MS Word (.doc or. docs) format.

  • TITLE LOCATIONS: The title must appear in 3 places: the filename, the header, AND on the first page of your submission. (Exception: Published Books)

  • STANDARD FORMATTING: Use standard submission format and rules: Times New Roman, 12-point, double-spaced (except for poetry), and 1” margins.

  • FIRST LINE: Put the contest ID and word count flush left on the first line. Example: N2 Memoir, 1200 words. Categories with no word count designation, such as haiku, poetry, and first page of a WIP, do not need a word count but still need the proper category designation.

  • HEADER: Your page should have a header that includes Category ID & story title on the left and page number on the right. EXCEPTIONS: Haiku, Crawford Poetry, and Best first Page. DO NOT include your name.

  • EBOOKS: Ebook entry for Best Fiction Book and/or Best Nonfiction Book must be attached to an email as either .PDF, .doc, .docx, .mobi or .epub formats.Full author information must be in the body of the email.

  • ATTACHED FILES: The attached submission file(s) must have NO author identification details, but each MUST have the contest identifier (Like B1) and a TITLE. This means that in the submissions (file or files you attach), nothing identifying the author may appear. The only exceptions are Best Nonfiction and Best Fiction Book, which obviously have the author’s name printed in it.



Submitting ELECTRONIC Entries:


  1. The BODY of your email must have FULL AUTHOR CONTACT Information and SUBMISSION INFORMATION. That means:

  • Author Name

  • Pseudonym, if applicable

  • Mailing Address

  • Email

  • Phont

  • Submission ID, title and word count where applicable



Category ID, title, and word count OF EACH ENTRY attached.EXAMPLES:

  • B1–Best First Page of a Fiction WIP – Title

  • N1–Magazine Article – Title, word count


YOUR FILES MUST INCLUDE THE TITLE IN THE FILENAME. Please label each file as follows: Contest Designation (Like N1) –Title,

EXAMPLE filename: B1 – Best Book Ever Written

  1. Suggestion for your sanity’s sake: Put all your contest files into a folder on your computer and write the file names as follows: Contest ID, title. Example: “P1-MountainPoem.”

  2. Email digital entries to OWL “dot” Contests “at” gmail “dot” com



Special Exceptions: Crawford Poetry Prize and the two Best Book Categories

  • For Crawford Prize, send TWO (2) copies of your titled poem and ONE (1) cover page with the title and full author contact information to the contest coordinator.

  • For hard copies of your Best Fiction Book and/or Best Nonfiction Book entries: Submit ONE (1) copy of your print book published in calendar year 2020 along with a cover page containing all author information AND THE BOOK TITLE as detailed below. Do not suggest on your submission sheet that “the book has all the information you need,” because no, it does not. Entry sheets that do not list the book title along with full author information are disqualified.

  • DO NOT mail contest entry fee checks to the contest coordinator.

  • MAIL your Crawford Poetry Prize &/or Best Book Award Entries to the contest coordinator. We need books by August 1, because the mail has been slow lately. Besides, your book was already published, so you aren’t pushing at the last minute to produce a book that was published last year.

Mail to:

Ronda Del Boccio

3455 State Highway H

Lampe, MO, 65681




Best Book (both): August 1, 2021

Everything Else: August 31, 2021


The Rest of the Fine Print:


  • You must be an OWL member to enter the contest. You may pay the $30 membership dues plus $15 contest entry fee for a total of $45 in order to participate. Your membership includes information-packed conferences plus other benefits.

  • Neither OWL nor the Contest Coordinator is responsible for misdirected or lost entries. You will receive an email to confirm receipt. 

  • DISQUALIFICATION: Late entries or those breaking any rule are disqualified.

  • No manuscripts will be returned, and all will be deleted/destroyed after judging is final. Those entering Best Fiction end/or Best Nonfiction Book Award may have it returned if a mailer AND sufficient postage is sent with the entry. Otherwise, they will be donated.

  • Qualified judges will conduct blind judging. 

  • Judges and sponsors, if OWL members, may not enter the category they judge or sponsor, but may enter other categories.

  • Even if we receive three or fewer entries in a category, those will still be judged and awarded prizes.

  • First Place winners may not enter that manuscript in any subsequent OWL writing contest.




Get your motor writing!


Congratulations to the 2020 OWL Writing Contest Winners!



Sponsor: Jan Morrill

1st Place: “Cool Rain in Late June” by Larry Wood

2nd Place: “Question of motive” by Russell Gayer

3rd Place: “Pond in Moonlight” by Margarite Stever

HM: “My Sons” by Terry McDermid

Crawford Poetry Theme: Mountains:

Sponsor: John Crawford-

1st place: "The Mountain” by Russell Gayer

2nd place:  A Week in the Mountains” by Terry McDermid

3rd place, "Call to Mato Paha" by Ronda Del Boccio          

1st HM: "Rockies at Rest" by Bonnie Tesh

2nd HM  "Grandfather Mountain" by Annie Smith

3rd HM: "Goodbye Mountain" by Joy Keeney


Magazine Article

Sponsor: Anonymous

1st Place: “’For Pete’s Sake’: Charity Gives Cancer Patients a Needed Getaway” by Marti Attoun  

2nd Place: “Datura: Toxic Beauty” by Billie Holladay Skelley

3rd Place: “Bass Reeves, U.S. Deputy Marshal” by Diana West

HM: “The Terrible McWaters” by Larry Wood

HM: “Keeping Your Leader Dog Happy and Well-adjusted During the Pandemic” by Ronda Del Boccio

Memoir & Creative Nonfiction

Sponsor: Brenda Black

1st Place: “Believing in Thunder” by Ronda Del Boccio

2nd Place: “The Elephant's Whiskers” by Mary-Lane Kamberg

3rd Place: “A Little Different” by Billie Holladay Skelley

HM: "Christmas by Candlelight” by Bonnie Tesh  

HM: “I Never Saw My Father Cry” by Jim Hamilton

Short Story

Paranormal Short Story (FICTION): Ghost stories, cryptid hunts, UFO sightings, and the like are all welcome in this category.

Sponsor: Ronda Del Boccio

1st Place: “The Haunted House Contest” by Terry McDermid

2nd Place: “A Prosperity Halloween” by Larry Wood           

3rd Place: Lost Souls of Havenhurst” by Rhonda Harvey

Humorous Short Story


Sponsor: Russell Gayer

1st place: “Jenny’s Curtain Call” by Annie Lisenby Smith

2nd place: “Runaway Asses” by Margarite Stever

3rd place: “A Truly Bonafide Random Drawing” by Joan Banks

HM: “Food for Thought (or Idiom Schmidiom)” by Billie Holladay Skelley

Historical Romance

Sponsor: Parris Afton-Bond

1st Place: “The Lady Governess” by Annie Lisenby Smith

2nd Pace: “Out of the Blue” by Cassandra Jordan

3rd Place: “It Had to be You” by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Flash Fiction

Sponsor: Jan Wayne Fields

1st Place: “Dark Star, Bright Light” by Billie Holladay Skelley

Place: “Revenge” by Lonnie Whitaker

3rd Place: “Poverty at School” by Margarite Stever


Western Short Story

Sponsor: Duke Pennell

First Place: “The Sage Grouse and the Bandit Queen” by Billie Holladay Skelley

Second Place: “Showdown at Leadville” by Larry Wood

Third Place: “A Cowboy's Frustration in Manhood” by Michael Koch


Inspirational Story

Sponsor: Diane Yates

1st Place: “Requiem in C Sharp Minor” by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

2nd Place: “The Pear Tree” by Bonnie Tesh

Place: “A Candle in the Window by Cassandra Jordan

HM: “And I Always Will” by Ronda Del Boccio

HM: “Summer of His Life” by Larry Wood

Short Story Western Romance

Sponsor: Bud Hanks

1st Place: “Home on the Ranch” by Larry Wood

2nd Place: “Mail Order Husband” by Annie Lisenby Smith

3rd Place: “Montana Rose” by Bonnie Tesh

Short Story – O. Henry Style Story

Sponsor: Bud Hanks

1st Place: “Little Orange Lies” by Marti Attoun

2nd Place: “A Rocky Mountain Prayer” by Larry Wood

3rd Place: “ A Terrible Neighbor” by Margarite Stever

HM: “Order Up” by Ronda Del Boccio

HM: “Operation Tooth Fairy” by Annie Lisenby Smith

HM: “Annabell West” by Haley Humbird

Wilshire Short Story

Sponsors: Dr. Gil Wilshire – in memory of his parents, Professor Bruce and Donna Wilshire 

1st Place: “Praying For Rain” by Joan Banks

2nd Place: “Memory Lane by Joy Keeney

3rd Place: "Untitled countdown story" by Haley Humbird

HM “Please, Jesus, Don’t Let Me Wet Myself” by Ronda Del Boccio


Best First Page of a Book in Progress

Sponsors: The Prose Sisters  


1st Place: “James E. Hanger and His Artificial Leg” by Mary-Lane Kamberg

2nd Place: "Walnut Creek Chronicles" by Terry McDermid

3rd Place: "Shadow Walking" by Cassandra Jordan

HM "Texas Heat" by Rhonda Harvey

Best Unpublished Book Manuscript

Sponsor: Robert Lawrence

1st Place, "Deadly Mist" by Ronda Del Boccio

2nd Place: "The I Love to Write Poetry Book" by Mary-Lane Kamberg

3rd Place: "Deadly Memories" by Larry Wood


Best Published Book of 2019-2020

Sponsor: Veda Boyd Jones

Fiction: "Where Light No Longer Shines" by H. D. Pelton

Nonfiction: "Ozarks RFD" by Jim Hamilton 

HM "Missouri Innovators" by Paul W. Bass   


Congratulations to the 2019 OWL Writing Contest Winners!

OWL Youth Writing Contest

OWL Writing Contest

2019 Youth Contest Winners


1st Place- “The Piano” by Addysen Garrett, Skyline High School, Urbana, MO

2nd Place- “The Words of a Writer” by Savannah Barnett, Skyline High School, Urbana, MO

3rd Place- “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Ella Dougherty, Skyline High School, Urbana, MO


Short Story

1st Place- “Evelyn and the Imp” by Harmony Ortman, Gainesville High School, Gainesville, MO

2nd Place- “The House that Creams” by Destiny Holt, Skyline High School, Urbana, MO

3rd Place- “Satisfaction” by Angelina Curtis, Skyline High School, Urbana, MO


Thanks to contest coordinator April Brock. 

2019 Writing contest winners


Presidents Award

Brenda Clem Black for Black and Kiddo



1st Place - Annie Lisenby for Puerto Rico

2nd Place - Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for Pernicious

3rd Place - April Brock for Worth It

Honorable Mention - Ronda Del Boccio for Torment



1st Place - April Brock for Love Conquers Fear

2nd Place - Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for Dearly Beloved

3rd Place - Karen Williamson for Gypsy


O. Henry Style

1st Place - Larry Wood for Blacklist

2nd Place - Joy Keeney for Desperate Call

3rd Place - Rhonda Harvey for Blind Fate


Humorous Short Story

1st Place - Sasha Ball-Rives for Harebrained Christmas

2nd Place - Larry Wood for Bowled Over

3rd Place - Annie Lisenby for Wasps!


Wilshire Short Story

1st Place - Billie Holladay Skelley for One-Two-Three

2nd Place - Sasha Ball-Rives for Riding the Waves

3rd Place - Annie Lisenby for The Listener


Crawford Poetry Prize

1st Place - Jennifer Johnson Conner for Wild Ozark Song

2nd Place - Bonnie Tesh for Belle Starr and Richey Mansion

3rd Place - Ronda Del Boccio for Branson's Haunted Railway

1st Honorable Mention - Billie Holladay Skelley for Honoring the Plant Doctor

2nd Honorable Mention - Diana West for Ozark Spook Light

3rd Honorable Mention - Larry Wood for Triolet at Carver National Park


Paranormal/Fantasy Fiction

1st Place - Joy Keeney for Hartsville Asylum

2nd Place - Jessica Carrick for Shadowland

3rd Place - Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for Day of Atonement

Honorable Mention - Jennifer Johnson Connor for Final Flight


Unpublished Manuscript

1st Place - Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for What the Heart Wants

2nd Place - Annie Lisenby for Contributing Members

3rd Place - Larry Wood for Wild in His Sorrow


WIP First Page

1st Place - Ronda Del Boccio for Hypnotic Deception

2nd Place - Rhonda Harvey for Liquid Silver

3rd Place - Billie Holladay Skelley for Manumission

1st Honorable Mention - Gary R. Hoffman for Highway 50

2nd Honrable Mention Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for Last Dance with Annie


Underdog Short Story

1st Place - Larry Wood for A Grave Situation

2nd Place - Gary R. Hoffman for Saul and Mordecai

3rd Place - Joy Keeney for Struggles of the Heart

Honorable Mention - Sasha Ball-Rives for Why We Don't Tell


Western Romance

1st Place - Billie Holladay Skelley for A Ruse for Romance

2nd Place - Rhonda Harvey for Between Sisters

3rd Place - April Brock for Bradford's Mare

Honorable Mention - Annie Lisenby for Falling Hard and Running Wild


Memoir/Creative Nonfiction

1st Place - Gary R. Hoffman for Traveling Picture Show

2nd Place - Bonnie Tesh for The Wino Goose

3rd Place - Larry Wood for Decoration Day

Honorable Mention - Jennifer Johnson Conner for The Soul of Wild Places


Best Book Award

1st Place - Brenda Clem Black for Black and Kiddo

2nd Place - Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for A Stone for the Journey

3rd Place - Ronda Del Boccio for The All Died Smiling

Honorable Mention - Larry Wood for Show-Me Atrocities