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Contest Submission Guidelines

We are now accepting submissions for the 12th Annual Contest through September 6, 2021.

Now Open: Terrain.org 12th Annual Contest

More than $3,500 in prizes! $1,000 grand prize in each genre and $100 to finalists.

We accept contest submissions from May 1 to Labor Day. The deadline for our 12th Annual Contest is September 6, 2021 (Labor Day in the U.S.), for publication in February 2022.

Contest Details

Judges for 12th Annual Contest

Ellen BassPoetry: Ellen Bass
Ellen Bass is the award-winning author of Indigo, Like a Beggar, The Human Line, Mules of Love, and others. A Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, she founded poetry workshops at Salinas Valley State Prison and the Santa Cruz, California jails, and teaches in the MFA writing program at Pacific University.

Aimee NezhukumatathilNonfiction: Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s newest book is a collection of illustrated nature essays, World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments. She is also the author of four books of poetry, most recently, Oceanic. She is a professor of English and creative writing in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program.

Maurice Carlos RuffinFiction: Maurice Carlos Ruffin
Maurice Carlos Ruffin is the author of The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You and We Cast a Shadow, which was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the PEN America Open Book Prize.

Submission Period

The contest submission period for our 12th Annual Contest is May 1, 2021 to 11:59 p.m. on September 6, 2021 (Labor Day in the U.S.). Winners will be announced no later than December 2021.


A prize of $1,000 plus publication for the first-place winner will be awarded in each genre. Finalists in each genre will also receive publication and a $100 prize.

Selection Process

All submissions are considered for publication. Terrain.org’s editors will read all entries, passing the top entries in each genre to the judges, who will choose the first-place winners. Decisions of the judges are final. Judges and editors do not know the identity of the contestants.

How to Submit

You are not eligible to enter this contest if you are a current student of the contest judges or if you have been a winner in the contest in the last five years. Finalists are welcome to submit again.

Simultaneous submissions are acceptable, but previously published material in any format, including blogs, will not be considered. Submissions can be withdrawn through the submission system, though in that case contest entry fees will not be refunded. Individual components of submissions (i.e., a single poem in a poem set) may be withdrawn by sending a message through Submittable.


The cost to submit is $20 per story, essay or article, or set of 3-5 poems (or single long poem).

What to Submit

You may submit up to three entries (at $20/entry) in any or all genres:

Submit 3-5 poems or one long poem (5+ pages) per entry. Combine all poems into a single document. For poetry, we are seeking not just the best poem, but the best set of 3-5 poems or the best long poem, with the hopes of awarding our prizes to poetry sets or long poems rather than individual, shorter poems, when possible. No maximum lines per poem. Poems must contain only the poem title(s) and poem(s) without the author name or contact information (including in the document header/footer).

Submit one story, up to 5,000 words total, or up to three flash fictions (up to 1,000 words each) per entry. Stories must contain only the story title and story itself without the author name or contact information (including in the document header/footer).

Submit one essay or article, up to 5,000 words total, or up to three flash essays (up to 1,000 words each) per entry. Essays must contain only the essay title and essay itself without the author name or contact information (including in the document header/footer). We will consider all nonfiction, but are most interested in creative nonfiction, including personal essays, lyric essays, memoir, literary journalism, and other literary forms.

The Submission Process

Submissions and payment for the 12th Annual Contest will be conducted on our Submittable site.

Submit Now!


Contest Winners

11th Annual Contest Winners

Five Science Poems by Susan Cohen
Judged by Arthur Sze

“Notes on Building a Somewhat Bearable Space for Disbelief” by Kristina Moriconi
Judged by Julian Hoffman

“Star, Fish” by Cameron Walker
Judged by Joy Castro

10th Annual Contest Winners

“In the Forest,” “The Water, the Truth, the Water,” and “Grounded” by Stacey Balkun
Judged by Camille T. Dungy

“Hysteresis” by Cara Stoddard
Judged by Alison Hawthorne Deming

“The Night of the Day of the Dead” by Michael McGuire
Judged by Tara Lynn Masih

9th Annual Contest Winners

“Tallow,” “Exhibit: ‘Song of Lost Species’,” and “armadillo” by Jane Lovell
Judged by Jane Hirshfield

“The Violence of the Given World” by Sarah M. Wells
Judged by Elizabeth Dodd

“Out of Good Ground” by John Thomson
Judged by Daniel Orozco

8th Annual Contest Winners

Two Poems by Edward Harkness
Judged by Robert Wrigley

“Ghost Trees” by Jennie Goode
Judged by Nicole Walker

“N-Place Exiting” by Thomas Ausa
Judged by Padma Viswanathan

7th Annual Contest Winners

One Poem in Four Parts by William Wright
Judged by Eamonn Grennan

“Varya’s Black Suede Shoes” by Peter Justin Newall
Judged by Kate Bernheimer

“Geography of the Self” by Catherine Mauk
Judged by Lauret Savoy

6th Annual Contest Winners

Theme: (Dis)placement

Four Poems by G. L. Grey
Judged by Pattiann Rogers

“Contrition” by William Cass
Judged by Luis Alberto Urrea

“Of No Ground: Late Days in the Country of Eighteen Tides” by Lawrence Lenhart
Judged by Scott Russell Sanders

5th Annual Contest Winners

Anne Haven McDonnell
“The Underworld is Alive” and “Emerging View”
Judged by Derek Sheffield

Nancy Campbell
“The Library of Ice”
Judged by Julian Hoffman

4th Annual Contest Winners

Issue No. 34 : Elemental

Rob Carney
“Seven Pages from The Book of Sharks
Judged by John Daniel

Eloise Schultz
“The Water Cycle”
Judged by Teague Bohlen

Nancy Geyer
Judged by Kathryn Miles

3rd Annual Contest Winners

Issue No. 31 : Ruin and Renewal

Genevieve Leet
“[when I died they found a nest of snakes in my intestines, their backs]” and “Somewhere beyond the curve of the earth, there is a ceremonial bamboo boat”
Judged by Suzanne Frischkorn

Sonya Huber
“Love and Industry: A Midwestern Workbook”
Judged by Christopher Cokinos

Courtney Amber Kilian
“Color Has History”
Judged by Skip Horack

2nd Annual Contest Winners

Issue No. 28 : Image

Rebecca Dunham : “Morning: Joplin, MO”
Judged by Alison Hawthorne Deming

Julian Hoffman : “Faith in a Forgotten Place” + Image Gallery
Judged by Elizabeth Dodd

GE Tallant : “Song of the Turkey Vulture”
Judged by Andrew Wingfield

Inaugural Contest Winners

Issue No. 26 : The Signal in the Noise

Laura-Gray Street : “Goya’s Dog”
Judged by Jessie Lendennie

Elizabeth Dodd : “Sinuous”
Judged by David Rothenberg

Andrew Wingfield : “Right of Way”
Judged by Aurelie Sheehan

For further information or assistance, please contact us.

Terrain.org is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.