Little Bird Writing Contest

The Little Bird Writing Contest

The 2019 Little Bird Contest is opening soon! Please check back for more details.

Read the announcement of the 2018 winners.
Sign up for my letters below to stay in the loop about our Spring 2019 competition.

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  • Winner: $1,000
  • First runner-up: $250
  • Second runner-up: $250
As well, the winning stories are published in an annual short fiction anthology: Little Bird Stories.
Please note: these are the 2018 contest guidelines, for your reference. Please check back later in the year for the 2019 contest guidelines.

Here's What To Do:
  1. Start writing. Your story must be inspired by this year's contest prompt: Start your story with a balloon that has an unusual message. Use the words “lemon” and “ecstasy” somewhere in the story. End the story with an electrical storm.
  2. Read “Deep Revision”, my free series of writing tutorials. Do the homework: it will help you rewrite your story draft to make sure it’s the best it can be. You can find it on my Free Resources page.
  3. Subscribe to Little Bird Stories to read stories by past winners.
  4. Submit your finished story by June 1, 2018, at 9pm ET here.
  • be a maximum of 2,500 words
  • be inspired by this year's contest prompt
  • be double-spaced with numbered pages and submitted as a .pdf or .doc file (.docx files are not accepted)
  • be submitted anonymously: your name must not appear anywhere on your story to ensure the objectivity of the judge (your name will go on the submission form only)
  • be accompanied by a $25 entry fee (you may enter as many times as you like).
Important dates:

May 1, 2018: Contest opens

June 1, 2018, 9pm ET: Contest closes

The winners were announced in July, and the anthology will be released in August.

Any questions? Please get in touch with us at [email protected]

About this year's judge
Michelle Winters is a writer and painter from Saint John, N.B., living in Toronto. Her written and visual work embraces the absurd, explores the lushness of the industrial, and anthropomorphizes with gay abandon. Her stories have been published in THIS Magazine, Taddle Creek, Dragnet, and Matrix, and she was nominated for the 2011 Journey Prize. Her debut novel, I Am A Truck, was shortlisted for the 2017 Giller Prize.
About the contest
When I first went on Twitter, I tweeted daily writing prompts. They worked so well that people wanted to know how to use what they’d written, which is where the idea for The Little Bird Writing Contest came from. It’s now an annual, international contest exclusively for innovative, emerging short fiction writers. The contest opens each spring when the birds come back and showcases the excellent stories (up to 2,500-words) that come from Sarah Selecky Writing School's daily writing prompts. And when we say showcase, we mean it—each year we publish a beautiful anthology that is available to subscribers. Five dollars from every subscription goes to the Pelee Island Bird Observatory, to help protect the real little birds out there. To subscribe, go here. And that’s not all. Each winning story is chosen by a celebrated author who also participates in The Little Bird Salon so that you can benefit from what they have to say (see below).

Little Bird Judges
  • 2018 - Michelle Winters
  • 2017 - Esi Edugyan
  • 2016 - Lisa Moore
  • 2015 - Neil Smith
  • 2014 - Rebecca Lee
  • 2013 - Alex Ohlin
  • 2012 - Zsuzsi Gartner
  • 2011 - Matthew Trafford & Jessica Westhead

Little Bird Salon
Each year, since 2013, I’ve spoken to The Little Bird Writing Contest judge about what inspires them, the process of writing, what they think of revision, and more.

In 2013 Alix Ohlin and I spoke on the phone with over 250 writers and readers listening around the world. In 2014, Rebecca Lee and I had a Skype chat from Toronto-Wilmington, NC. In 2015 I spoke with Neil Smith, from Montreal. In 2016, I spoke to Lisa Moore about the “tremendous engine of desire” that drives story and why a writer has to use intuition before submitting something for publication. In 2017, Esi Edugyan gave practical advice to writers who want to understand the creative process, especially how to balance research with writing, how to turn first draft scenes into full stories, and what makes a compelling opening paragraph. This year, Michelle Winters and I talked about why writing contests are so important. She shared what she's looking for in a story—what makes a "gut punch" happen—and why surprises are so critical in short-story writing. We also talked about extensive revisions, and how to balance deadlines and rewriting.

We have a secret room in our Sarah Selecky Writing School classroom to inspire your creative process. All of the Little Bird Salons, along with other free resources, are available for you. Please help yourself! Sign up on my Free Resources page.
Become a Little Bird Stories Subscriber
Subscribe to Little Bird Stories, and read what writers who placed in The Little Bird Writing Contest did with our Daily Writing Prompts in previous years! Get all published volumes of Little Bird Stories right now, and receive a new anthology of fresh short fiction every year. A lifetime subscription is $25. A percentage of every subscription goes to the Pelee Island Bird Observatory, to help protect the real little birds out there. When you become a Little Bird Subscriber, you're supporting the study and conservation of wild birds and their habitats!

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