The Emerging Writer's Contest is now closed. 

The Emerging Writer's Contest is open to writers of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry who have yet to publish or self-publish a book. The winner in each genre will be awarded $2,000. Read past winners of the contest here

The 2018 contest judges are Carmen Maria Machado (Fiction), Roxane Gay (Nonfiction), and Roger Reeves (Poetry). 


The winning story, essay, and poems from the 2018 contest will be published in the Winter 2018-19 issue of Ploughshares, and each writer will receive $2,000 and two copies of the issue in which their work appears. The winners will also receive a conversation with our partnering literary agency, Aragi, Inc. regarding their work and writing careers.


You are eligible if you:

  • Have yet to publish a book (including eBooks, translations, books in other languages/countries, self-published works, and poetry chapbooks with a print run of 300 or more).
  • Have no book forthcoming before April 15, 2019.
  • Are not affiliated with Emerson College or with Ploughshares as a contributing author, volunteer screener, intern, student, staff member, or faculty member.
  • Will not have a relationship with Emerson before April 15, 2019 (example: if there is a chance you will attend the Emerson MFA program in the coming year or if your work has been accepted for publication for an upcoming issue).


The contest opens March 1, 2018 at noon EST and closes on May 15, 2018 at noon EST. We will announce the winners in mid-September. 

Fiction and Nonfiction: Under 6,000 words
Poetry: 3-5 pages

Submit one entry per year via our online submission manager.

  • No entries via email or mail will be considered for the contest.
  • Submitted work must be original and previously unpublished in any form.
  • For poetry, we will be reading both for the strongest individual poem and the general level of work, and may choose to publish one, some, or all of the winner's submitted poems.
  • International submissions welcome.
  • Cover letters are not necessary. All identifying information will be removed from submissions. 

Entry Fee

Entry to the contest requires a $24 fee, which is waived if the submitter is a current subscriber through our Winter 2018-2019 issue. The fee is:

  • Payable by Visa or MasterCard through the online submission system.
  • Includes a 1-year subscription to Ploughshares (beginning with the Spring 2018 issue and ending with the Winter 2018-19 issue).
  • Includes free submissions to the 2018 reading period

**If you are not a subscriber, or your subscription expires before our Winter 2018-2019 issue, please pay the $24 submission fee here. If you are a current subscriber, you will still be prompted to checkout, but you will not be required to enter your credit card information and will not be charged. If you're not sure when your subscription expires, feel free to email us at