Emerging Writer's Contest Guidelines

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. Submit to the Emerging Writer's Contest through our submission manager.

The 2019 contest judges are Ottessa Moshfegh (Fiction), Lesley Jamison (Nonfiction), and Fatimah Asghar (Poetry). 


The winning story, essay, and poems from the 2019 contest will be published in the Winter 2019-20 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.


  • Have yet to publish a book (including chapbooks, eBooks, translations, books in other languages/countries, and self-published works).
  • Have no book forthcoming before April 15, 2020.
  • 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, 2020 (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, 2019 at noon EST and closes on May 15, 2019 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  • Submitted work must be original and previously unpublished in any form.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.
  • Cover letters are not necessary. All identifying information will be removed from submissions. 
  • International submissions welcome.

Entry Fee

Entry to the contest requires a $24 fee, which is waived if the submitter is a current subscriber. The fee is:

  • Payable by Visa or MasterCard through the online submission system.
  • Includes a 1-year subscription to Ploughshares (beginning with the Spring 2019 issue and ending with the Winter 2019-20 issue).
  • Includes free submissions to the 2019 reading period

Current subscribers—through the Winter 2019-20 issue—may submit for free.*

*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. 

Submit to the Emerging Writer's Contest through our submission manager.