Category Archives: writing contest with cash prizes

‘Bye, Santa…Hello, PC Writing Contest

Say good-bye to Santa as he loads up his RV to go on vacation. (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

Say good-bye to Santa as he loads up his RV to go on vacation. (Pictures by Marylin Warner)





Say hello to pioneer-style RV travel.  What story would you write about this?

Say hello to pioneer-style RV travel. What story would you write about this? (Is woman’s work ever done?)

After I moved my parents to an assisted living apartment (he had Alzheimer’s, she was showing signs of dementia), I began telling Mom about unusual writing contests. We didn’t have to actually enter the contests; the goal was to use the guidelines as writing prompts, and also to encourage her to talk about ideas and keep writing.

In the spirit of post-holiday writing, here is a real contest opportunity that also makes a great writing prompt. The PC does not stand for Politically Correct (haven’t we had enough of anything to do with politics?) The PC is for POST CARD Story Writing Contest, and writers can use any post card and then write up to a 500-word story about the cover.

The deadline for The Geist Literal Literary Post Card Story Contest is Feb. 1, 2015, and entries can be made online. The cash prizes are $500, $250, and $150, and this Canadian contest is open to ALL writers everywhere. For full guidelines, details and examples of past winners:  

Another contest for All writers is the Narrative Travel Writing Contest/2015. There is no entry fee, and the first prize is $500 for a creative narrative entry about a great travel suggestion:

If I were still using writing contests as prompts for my Mom, I would show her the postcards below and ask her to make up stories.  For the Dust Bowl, maybe she would tell a story about mothers putting wet sheets over the insides of windows and doors to keep children from choking on the blowing dust.  Of if I showed her the post card about cowboys taking a Saturday night bath in a pond, she might make up a funny story.

The post card of another Kansas personality, President Ike Eisenhower, shows him talking to the troops in WWII. What fictional conversation would you write to create a story?  

As we approach the beginning of a new year—with new opportunities for writing, creating, sharing our ideas and talents—remember that sometimes practice writing can blossom into excellent entries in writing contests.  Plus, practice writing keeps us thinking, and when we’re actively thinking, it’s a good way to keep our minds active.

A Saturday night bath in a pond? There's a story somewhere in this card.

A Saturday night bath in a pond? There’s a story somewhere in this card.


How will your characters protect themselves against a Dust Bowl?

How will your characters protect themselves against a Dust Bowl?

Could they be talking about something other than war?  Write the story.

Could they be talking about something other than war? Write the story.


Filed under "Christmas Memories With Mom", Dementia/Alzheimer's, paying writing opportunities, writing contest with cash prizes, writing exercises


"Red Hot Jello" (also known by other names.  All pictures by Marylin Warner.)

“Red Hot Jello” (also known by other names. All pictures by Marylin Warner.)


Federico Fellini said, “Life is a combination of magic and pasta.”

Maybe he was right, but this soon after Thanksgiving, I suggest you try a different combination: a Red Hot Coke recipe, and a no-entry-fee-but-cash-prizes mini-writing contest.

First the recipe. This is easy, everyone loves it, and it’s been a favorite in our family for a very long time. We don’t remember who first shared it, and we’re not even sure what the actual name is. My grandchildren call it “Red Hot Coke Salad” and “Cinnamon Bubble Salad,” and the picture is above.

Here’s the ultra-easy recipe:

Pour one cup boiling water over one large pkg. of Cherry Jello mixed with 1 cup of red hot candies

Whisk or stir until mixed completely together

Add 1 cup of very cold water and 1 cup of chilled applesauce (we like chunky) and stir well

Stir in one-half cup of cold Coke (or Pepsi)   Pour into a bowl and refrigerate

You can stop here and it’s VERY good. You can make it AMAZING by adding Cool Whip–use creamy.

When the Jello mixture is starting to set up, stir in ½ of a small container of softened Cool Whip and put the mixture back in the refrigerator. When it’s all set up, smooth the other ½ container of Cool Whip across the top.   Serve to rave reviews.

Now that you’re energized, jump right into a very short, make-yourself-think-and-take-a-challenge writing contest. Remember several months ago when I published a blog that included a 10-word-max. writing contest. (Remember Hemingway’s 6-word story: “For Sale: Baby shoes. Never Used.”)

Well this contest gives you much more room to write. Create a piece of prose between 20 words and 40 words that tells, shows or evokes a complete story idea. Oh, and anywhere in the story–just once and ONLY ONCE–use the word “refrigerator.” 

Oh, wow! This ties in with the refrigerated Jello recipe, too! Is that serendipity or what?

The salad can be served any time. The story deadline (submitted online) is next Friday, December 5, before midnight (Eastern Time). No entry free. Cash prizes. Details at:

Before her dementia, this is the kind of the thing Mom and I used to do long-distance.  Now she’ll still love the Jello, but she won’t know who I am or that I fixed it. And she’s not writing any more, not even 20 words. But I’m doing both the Red Hot Coke Salad and the mini-writing contest, and I hope you’ll try either one—or both—with me!

One of my mother’s favorite writers, Erma Bombeck, once said, “I am not a glutton ~ I am an explorer of food.”   What a magic combination: exploring both food and writing opportunities!


Another thanks to the Brits for the "Keep Calm" philosophy; I say "have a cupcake and WRITE!"

Another thanks to the Brits for the “Keep Calm” philosophy; I say “have a cupcake and WRITE!”

Need something besides Red Hot Jello to buzz you up for writing?  Stay calm and try cherry-Cherry-chocolate-fudeg cupcakes!

Need something besides Red Hot Jello to buzz you up for writing? Stay calm and try Cherry-chocolate-fudge cupcakes!


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, special quotations, writing, writing contest with cash prizes, writing exercises

NOW is the best time

Example of a Saturday card.  Cover message is ...but it's better than to miss a month

Example of a Saturday card. Cover message is
“Another birthday? Well, it’s better to be a year older…”  (inside message) “… than to miss a month.”



Another Hallmark Saturday card:  "Before LOL, TTYL, and OMG..." (inside message)  "...we were BFFS and didn't even know it!  Happy Birthday to my BFF."

Another Hallmark Saturday card: “Before LOL, TTYL, and OMG…” (inside message) “…we were BFFS and didn’t even know it! Happy Birthday to my BFF.”


How many of you have ever created your own greeting card?  Let’s see a show of hands (humor me, okay?)

As a child, maybe you colored flowers or boats on a folded piece of paper for someone’s birthday; or  you learned to print the message GET WELL SOON for a sick friend; or you wrote out coupons on strips of paper and gave them to your mom or dad for Christmas, promising “I’ll clean my room” or “I will not hit my brother.” Remember how much fun card writing was? And as my mom always said, the best cards are the personal ones you make yourself.

Hallmark’s Saturdays card line is your opportunity to make a card, and make some money. So dig out fun or funny or touching photos, color or black and white, and submit them to

Read through the section with all the open contests. To get you started, I’ve shared two of my favorite Saturdays Expressions cards…and their inside message lines, to show you good examples. Hallmark pays for each card, plus other perks, including a small picture of you and a clever bio sketch on the back of the card. Deadlines vary.

Maybe you’d rather write about a true aha! moment or Eureka experience. If so, submit a personal essay up to 1,500 words to the Life Lesson Essay Contest. The deadline is September 18, and first prize in $3,000.   No entry fee.

And for you poets, another no entry fee contest is Princemere Poetry Prize. Deadline is September 15 and first place is $300.

Or, work on your own writing deadline, or a photography, painting, drawing project that isn’t quite finished. Choose your creative endeavor and go for it…NOW.

Why NOW? As I was driving to visit my mom recently, I heard a radio commentator talking about the August 2014 phenomenon. The Chinese call it “Silver pockets full” and supposedly it happens once every 823 years. This month, August of 2014, there are five Fridays, five Saturdays, and five Sundays. Check your calendar, and you’ll see.

Supposedly—and there’s absolutely no scientific proof, but it’s certainly a good motivator to get busy—anytime during this month is an excellent time to follow your dreams, finish up your creative projects, expect the best…and encourage your friends to do the same.

Well, friends, what have you got to lose?

This isn't a card, but somebody used a smart concept to create this "fight breast cancer" T-shirt.  (If you don't get it, ask someone to explain it to's great!)

This isn’t a card, but somebody used a smart concept and teen reference to create this “fight breast cancer” T-shirt. (If you don’t get it, ask someone to explain it to you…it’s great!  Here’s a hint: think like a teenage boy on a date.  What does “getting to second base” mean to him?  So it’s a good breast cancer awareness slogan to “save 2nd base.”)


A display of "Saturday" cards by writers from everywhere.  (All photos by Marylin Warner)

A display of Hallmark’s “Saturday” cards by writers from everywhere. (Photos by Marylin Warner)


Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, friends, lessons about life, writing, writing contest with cash prizes, writing exercises


The FARMER'S ALMANAC is full of interesting information. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

The FARMER’S ALMANAC is full of interesting information. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

Colorado weather makes it a good idea to wait until after Mother's Day to plant.

Colorado weather makes it a good idea to wait until after Mother’s Day to plant.


If you get impatient for color, you can hand baskets of artificial flowers in your trees.

If you get impatient for color, you can hang baskets of artificial flowers in your trees.

When you spend several days sitting in a hospital room, you look for interesting reading material. I found the 2014 OLD FARMER’S ALMANAC. Talk about an education!

If you’re interested in the weather forecasts for 16 regions of the United States (with apologies to our non-American friends), or information about the sun, moon, stars, and planets, or articles on beeswax candles and natural pest control, The Almanac is your go-to publication.

Here’s some quaint gardening advice reprinted from 1892 folklore.

1)    To make a plant grow, spit into the hole you have dug for it.

2)    Never plant anything on the 31st of any month.

3)    Plant corn after the first woodpecker appears.

4)    Flax will grow tall if you show it your buttocks.

5)    It’s time to plant corn when your wife comes to bed naked.

At our Colorado Springs altitude of 6,100 feet, it’s risky to plant anything before Mother’s Day…even if you show the crop your buttocks or come to bed naked. If you decide you’d rather go fishing, here’s how to know if it’s a good time: watch cows. If they’re up feeding, fishing is good. If they’re down resting, don’t bother.

If the folklore printed in the Almanac isn’t strange enough for you, maybe this writing contest will do the trick. THE WRITER MAGAZINE and Gotham Writers Workshops are sponsoring a “Tell It Strange” Essay & Story Contest.

Annie Proulx won the Pulitzer Prize for THE SHIPPING NEWS, and wrote other highly successful novels, including CLOSE RANGE and BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. Writers should respond to one of Proulx’s quotes, using it as a prompt to get you motivated.

“We’re all strange inside. We learn how to disguise our differences as we grow up.” ~ this is from THE SHIPPING NEWS.   “There’s something wrong with everybody and it’s up to you to know what you can handle.” is from CLOSE RANGE.

If either of these prompts inspires a strange story or essay idea, the contest deadline is May 31, 2014. Prizes are $1,000, $500, $250. You can submit online, and WRITERS FROM EVERYWHERE are invited to submit, as long as you’re not affiliates of THE WRITER or GOTHAM WRITERS. 1,000 words max.   For full details go to

Spitting in holes might be great planting practice. Writing contests are definitely great writing practice. You can enter the contest; you can write for the contest but instead of entering it, submit it to an anthology, a magazine, an online publication. Making yourself think, plan, write, edit and meet the deadline is excellent writing discipline. Can’t think of a “strange” writing idea? Really? Go back and read #4 and #5 above. Or just pay attention to what’s going on around you. The world is strange enough to give you plenty of writing ideas.

Cover of my favorite writing journal.

Cover of my favorite writing journal.

Write on a computer, on a tablet, on a typewriter...but write!

Write on a computer, on a tablet, on a typewriter…but write!


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, gardening, writing, writing contest with cash prizes

Lemons, Lessons, and a Great Writing Opportunity

Dear Mom,

I remember when we found a contest looking for true articles from people who had who faced difficult or even heartbreaking situations but somehow found the silver lining in the cloud.  They went on to make something good of the experience, and the publisher wanted to read their stories.

We both decided to try writing for the contest, but the deadline was only a few weeks away and we got sidetracked. Our best ideas actually came AFTER the deadline. We kept saying, “We should have…” and “If only we had more time…”

That was years ago when you were still actively writing. Now The Chicken Soup for the Soul series books are inviting very similar stories, but their deadline is more than 3 months away!!! That’s plenty of time to ponder ideas, write, edit and rewrite, and submit.  So, in honor of the contest you and I wanted to enter but didn’t, let’s post this terrific opportunity for all our writing friends, okay?

Okay!  Here are all the details:

Chicken Soup for the Soul:  From Lemons to Lemonade
“When life hands you lemons… make lemonade!” And don’t just make lemonade but squeeze out every last drop of juice from that sour lemon to make the sweetest lemonade possible. We are looking for true stories that show how you made the best of a challenging situation and turned it into something positive. Tell us your success stories and how you made them happen.
Here are examples of the kinds of “lemons to lemonade” stories we are imagining:
  • You got fired/laid off and discovered a new better career
  • You prevailed over an illness or medical condition and found a wonderful silver lining
  • You overcame an addiction and found new purpose
  • You lost all your money and possessions and discovered new happiness with your family
  • You went through a difficult time with your child but came out with a better relationship
  • You lost a loved one and created a non-profit that is saving lives so other people don’t go through the same loss
Please remember, we do not like “as told to” stories. Please write in the first person about yourself or someone close to you. If you ghostwrite a story for someone else we will list his or her name as the author. If a story was previously published, we will probably not use it unless it ran in a small circulation venue. Let us know where the story was previously published in the “Comments” section of the submission form. If the story was published in a past Chicken Soup for the Soul book, please do not submit it.
If your story or poem is chosen, you will be a published author and your bio will be printed in the book if you so choose. You will also receive a check for $200 and 10 free copies of your book, worth more than $100. You will retain the copyright for your story and you will retain the right to resell it.
Select the Submit Your Story link on the left tool bar and follow the directions.
The deadline date for story and poem submissions is February 28, 2013. 

There are many kinds of chicken soup and MANY challenging experiences and touching or surprising lessons that all of us could write about. Try this, writers!
(All photography by Marylin Warner.)


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, writing, writing contest with cash prizes, writing exercises







All of us have days we’d like to relive, things we wish we’d done differently, mistakes we wish we could correct, different roads we wish we’d taken, or promises we wish we’d kept…or never made.

We ALL have regrets.

 The Fifth Annual Life Lessons Essay Contest welcomes your story. Write about a decision you regret—anything from a poor choice you made in high school to a serious lapse in judgment with major consequences as an adult—and then write about what the mistake taught you about yourself.

(I’m sharing this writing contest in honor of my mom. Before dementia and age stopped her writing, she and I challenged each other to enter writing contests. We each had to at least TRY…or buy the other one lunch.)  Here’s an idea: ask family, friends, other writers and bloggers to join your challenge!

This contest is a great writing opportunity. The winning essay will be published in REAL SIMPLE, and the writer will receive a prize of $3,000, plus round-trip tickets for two to New York City, hotel accommodations for two nights, tickets to a Broadway play, and lunch with the editors.

 2nd place receives $500.  3rd place receives $250.

 Length: 1,500 words max        THERE IS NO ENTRY FEE

 Deadline is 11:50 P.M. ET  ~  September 13, 2012

 Submit via e-mail or US mail. Full details, examples, answered questions & helpful hints at

Come on, what have you got to lose? Rise to the occasion & take the challenge…double-dog dare ya!




Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, writing, writing contest with cash prizes

AND THE WINNERS ARE… (drumroll, please…)

As always, I was touched and inspired by the contest entries. For anyone interested in writing and submitting greeting card verse ideas for placement within the industry, check out the Greeting Card Association website,, for valuable tips and information. Also, the 2012 Writers Market lists nineteen card companies willing to work with freelancers and lists the websites, contact names, addresses, needs, pay rates, etc. for each company.

Special thanks go to the judges, all of whom are trusted writer friends who genuinely care about helping other writers. The judges give their time and energy to this contest for very low pay–I buy them breakfast when we meet to add up the scores–and though we have a good time arguing and even coming up with a few of our own off-the-cuff cards, I’m still very grateful. Writing is hard work. Giving up some of their own writing time to judge is a gift.

Just a note about the point system. You will see that SECOND PlACE has a three-way tie, and the JUDGES’ SPECIAL AWARD has a tie. I know that some contests bring in a new judge as a tiebreaker, and I also know that sometimes the decision comes down to a coin toss. Neither way is what my mother would do, and I don’t play that way, either. When there are same-point ties, both/all of the entries with that score receive the full prize. To read all the entries in the contest, return to the COMMENT boxes connected to “New Contest! Write a Greeting Card for Mother’s Day” and “One Week to Deadline”


FIRST PLACE: “Being In The Middle” by Cinamyn ($25.00)

Judge’s comment: “…it was the vividly described pictures that got to me, illustrating the authenic theme that those who think they’re average are actually very special…one in a million…and so are their mothers!”

(Front cover–4 sections)

I may not be the prettiest (picture of 3 girls standing, as if winning a beauty contest–our girl, the fourth, is behind them, waving from behind)

Or the best to drive a car. (our girl in a car crashed into a mailbox)

I may not be the fastest (our girl standing with her hand shielding the sun from her eyes and several runners in the distance)

Or the smartest one by far. (our girl holding up a paper marked with a B)


Being in the middle is the hardest place to be. (our girl standing in the middle of a crowd)

But you always made me feel special by saying, “You’re one in a million to me!” (our girl and mother hugging in the middle of the crowd, highlighted)

I couldn’t have asked for a better Mom. You’re one in a million!

Happy Mother’d day!


SECOND PLACE (Three-Way TIE; Each writer receives $15.00):

Judges’ comments:

-for Sarah’s “The Best Mom for my Grandson”–“I loved that this card used a different name than Grandma, yet all grandparents can relate to it…Nana’s pride and love are so obvious…”

– for Luola’s “Single Mom”–”As a single mother, I hope my son always knows how much I struggle, care, sacrifice and give…and how very much I love him. Luola’s card hit the nail on the head about what it is to be a single mom.”

– for Margaret C’s “Where Babies Come From”–”Any woman who has adopted a baby, or any child who was adopted, will cherish this brief, wise, heartfelt card. The rest of us look on, reading the message, and applauding this loving tribute.”

“The Best Mom For My Grandson” by Sarah

(Cover Art: A young lady standing alone)

Cover Message:

You told me you were pregnant!

My heart, it skipped a beat!

Then I started crying from

The joy within my heart!

(Inside Art: A young mom, a little boy, and a Nana)

Inside Message:

You are the best mom for my grandson.

I couldn’t be more proud.

I am proud to be your mom,

Proud to be his Nana.

~     ~     ~

“Single Mom” by Luola

For all your struggles & all your care

For letting me know you would always be there

For the sacrifices you made & all the sleepless nights

For the hugs & kisses to say it will be all right

You’ve given so much, what a great price to pay

So for you I will make every day Mother’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day! I love you, Mommy!

~     ~     ~

“Where Babies Come From” by Margaret C.

(Cover art) Two Women. One is pregnant. The other wears a Big Red Heart.



(Inside message)  THANKS FOR ADOPTING ME, MOM.


JUDGES’ SPECIAL AWARDS: (Tie; Each writer receives $10.00)

The Special Awards are for entries that one or more of the judges felt had an extra special quality. For Cassandra’s “Mother Mine,” two of the judges applauded the rich imagery: reading stories under a steam tent; standing in line to buy a young girl roller skates when metal was scarce during the war, etc.  For Sam’s “Mom, My Wife Thanks You,” one judge laughed out loud, saying every man would get it, and there’s a shortage of funny greeting cards for men to send to their moms at Mother’s Day.”

“Mother Mine” by Cassandra

My mother, pretty,

Vivacious, smiley, always

Steadfast in support.

She read me dog stories

Under a steam tent when the

Measles would not break out.

She stood four hours in

Line to secure roller skates

When metal was for war.

She heard hours of teen

Drama, always on my side.

She saw the humor.

She was a mirror

Guiding me to find myself.

We were so much alike.

She’s gone to a better

World now. I miss most our

Long walking talks.


“Mom, My Wife Thanks You” by Sam

(Cover Art) An odd looking couple holding out a nicely wrapped present.

(Cover Message) Mom, my wife thanks you for teaching me these

three things:

1. Never hit girls

2. Always put down the lid

3. Never forget where you came from…

(Inside Message)    Eeeeeeewwwwww.

Thanks Mom. Happy Mother’s Day


And so, dear readers of this blog, another writing contest in honor of Mary Elizabeth Shepherd’s writing talents has come to an end. I close with this Mother’s Day quote:

From the popular long-running TV sitcom, The Golden Girls, comes this sensitive, thoughtful nugget:  “It’s not easy being a mother. If it were easy, fathers would do it.”


To paraphrase FORREST GUMP, I hope this Mother’s Day was like a box of Chocolate-covered Strawberries. Yum!

(With special thanks to Molly,Trevor,Grace and Gannon for the delicious gift!)


Filed under Contest winners, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for grandchildren, writing, writing contest with cash prizes