Contest Testimonials

Sheila, your comments and suggestions greatly improved my work. I appreciate the way this competition was structured.

—Rhonda Wiley-Jones

Thank you so very much for your SUPER fast and thoughtful reply. I`ve been stuck with this piece for almost two years and any revising was to no avail. The ending did not seem right, as you suggested. And some of the images did not fit, such as the tear extinguishing the flame – I like your rephrasing for that part. In summary, all your comments were “right on” and will get me out of this rut! Thank you!

—Beth Krueger

I`ve really appreciated your thoughtful responses to my essays… It`s so great to get some solid feedback!

— Kristie McLean


This was a fantastic story. I don`t usually like war stories, but you brought the whole experience to life. A compelling read! Thank you.

— Celia Jones

Thanks so much!I`m thrilled to be honored by Writing It Real and look forward to your comments.

— Jan Burak Schwert

This is a huge thrill for me. Thank you! 

— Lori Stott

As I have mentioned before, your experience, writing and website is so important to me and to so many others. It is as though we have found a united voice for our memories, feelings and ideas to share with others and in turn help us understand who we are, why we write and the importance of having a site like yours to exchange our essays. Thank you so much for my honorable mention award. It means a lot to me.

— Diane Leone-Ferdico

October 1 was the 12th anniversary of Writing It Real! We are happy to have helped so many writer’s fulfill their dreams of writing stirring poems, essays, and stories. Now we are celebrating by announcing our next writing contest–one with a play on “12”. For each entry, send us prose, fiction or nonfiction, of up to 2500 words. We want to see you play with topics that bounce off the number 12 somewhere in your prose: a dozen of anything, a calendar day, months in a year, jurors, age 12 at which something happened for you, 12 days of Christmas, high noon, setting a compass by the sun–whatever 12 means as inspiration for you. You can use the number in a title, in the text, as an organizing force in the essay. Prizes for three winners are the choice of free tuition for a Writing It Real online class or an hour’s editing time–each of those services cost $12 times $10! As usual, Sheila will read your entry and give you response you might want to use in revising and resubmitting before the final deadline for final judging by our winter 2015 guest judge, author and publisher Midge Raymond. She is co-founder of Ashland Creek Press and author of Forgetting English, Everyday Book Marketing and Everyday Writing. Send in some work! We’ve dropped the reading fee $3 so we can say $12– and that $12 reading fee is worth the responses! And poets, don’t despair, we’ll offer a poetry contest soon! In the meantime, go ahead and try your hand at prose. 

“I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.”

–James’ Michener

Our Contest Goes Like this:

1) Submit Your Entry
2) Receive Sheila’s Comments
3) Revise Your Entry if you’d like to
4) Submit Revision for guest judge BY THE DEADLINE OF January 15 or We will use the original one you entered.

At Writing It Real, we believe the writing is in the revising. In that spirit our contests are about receiving detailed response to a draft and having our entrants send revisions in for consideration by a guest judge, who chooses three place winners. Our guest judge this round will be announced soon.

Submit up to 2500 words of prose and Sheila Bender will respond in detail via email within a week after receiving your entry. Then you may revise the work (revisions may exceed the initial word limit) and resubmit by the contest deadline.

The reading fee of $12 entitles the entrant to detailed response and a chance to win editing time or a class with Sheila. There is no additional reading fee for the re-entry. If entrants do not submit a revision, their original entry goes on to final judging.

Sheila wants everyone to be a winner, and by receiving her detailed response to your submitted writing, you get a jumpstart in making your writing sing. Again, our guest judge chooses three winners. Each winner receives their choice of a free class or editing time. All (with the author’s permission) winning writing will be published in Writing It Real.

The sooner you enter, the more time you’ll have for revision. Please submit your writing soon.

How to Enter

If you are a member, log into Writing It Real and then click the Buy Now button below. You then pay your entry fee ($12) and submit your entry. If you are not a current Writing It Real member, it’s easy to join and enter the contest in one payment. You’ll receive the many benefits of belonging to Writing It Real, including being able to enter other contests during the year to receive Sheila’s response for the low reading fee of $12. This contest is worth it! Previous entrants to Writing It Real contests went on to publish their writing in journals around the country after they revised based on Sheila’s comments.

Sheila believes customized help from a writing professional empowers writers to reach the next level in their work.

Our online form allows you to pay your fee via Credit Card. Your entry must be attached as a double-spaced Microsoft Word or .rft document. We will not be able to read submissions that are in any other file type.

If you’d like to submit hard copy, mail a double-spaced copy of your entry along with a check to Writing It Real, 394 Colman Drive, Port Townsend, WA 98368. Remember to include your email address.

Again, entrants receive Sheila’s detailed response within a week of receipt of the document. The detailed response is guaranteed to speed you on your way to a finished piece.

Then after you revise, return to the entrance form and check “revision” and your revision (remember at no extra charge) will be entered for final consideration. And again if you don’t resubmit, your initial entry will be entered into the judging.

If you are already a member, be sure to login now, then you’ll only pay the $15 reading fee for your contest submission.The contest fee for nonmembers is $47 and includes a $35 Lift Off level year’s membership to Writing It Real, plus the contest reading fee of $15. Please use the buy button below to join now. After you submit your payment, you will be routed to the contest submission form. You can upload it as a .doc, .docx or an .rtf file (most word processing programs allow you to save in one or more of these formats). Do not put your name on the submission. Your name and email is on the form you fill out.

If you have questions, email us. If you prefer, send your double-spaced manuscript and a check to:

Writing It Real Contest
394 Colman Drive
Port Townsend, WA 98368

If you do a paper submission, include a cover letter with your name, address, email address and phone number as well as the name of your submitted pieces. Do not put your name on the submissions themselves.

Need Some Encouragement?

“At the core of the personal essay,” Philip Lopate writes, “is the supposition that there is a certain unity to human experience.” As essayists and, to my mind, poets, in writing about ourselves and our experiences, we are in some way talking about everyone. It is not only our experience that matters, but our interest in sharing it that moves others.

Orhan Pamuk, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature, put it this way in his acceptance speech, “All true literature rises form this childish, hopeful certainty that we resemble one another.”

As personal essayists and as poets, we work very hard to catapult ourselves, via our words, into new territory. When we are done, the beautiful web of our thinking and associations glistens. It is as if we are working toward the creation of love and compassion even when we are writing of horrors. The Dalai Lama says that love and compassion are not luxuries but necessities because without them we lose our humanity. For those of us who write, words on the page are our way of moving toward those necessities.

To judge a personal essay contest means first to be an interested reader, honoring that I am being let in on all manner of human experience. For me, this work is not only pleasurable, but elicits my gratitude.

— Sheila Bender