How to Submit: The Journey of Contest Submission


by Elizabeth Jannuzzi

Find the Contest Opportunity

I cruise through my CRWROPPS (Creative Writers Opportunities) emails that come in. I see one that catches my eye. I’m intrigued because the contest is for flash nonfiction and I had fun writing a one-minute memoir for a previous contest from Brevity. And then I’m wow’ed by the $500 prize. I don’t really think I could win, but … it would be fun to write and fun to try.

Get More Information & Read the Guidelines

I’ve never heard of Sweet: A Literary Confection, so I follow the link to its Submittable page for more information.

I carefully read the guidelines, which are:

  • Submissions should be between 500 – 1,000 words and double-spaced
  • Please remove all identifying information from your manuscript
  • Submissions must be previously unpublished
  • Simultaneous submissions are welcome; however, please withdraw your entry immediately via Submittable if it is accepted for publication elsewhere
  • The contest entry fee is $10, and all submissions will also be considered for regular publication.

Take Notes

I note the word count. The previous flash nonfiction I wrote was only 150 words. So I’d have to either write something new or add to my mini-memoir. I also note the $10 submission fee, which is a bummer. But I haven’t spent too much money on my writing adventures lately, so I’m willing to open my wallet for this submission. But before I do, I …

Become Familiar with the Literary Magazine

As I previously stated, I know nothing about the literary magazine Sweet. Their contest announcement gives me some clues. It says: “Broadly speaking, we appreciate a close attention to language and a quirky sense of humor.” But that’s not enough. I need to read the work that is published on Sweet’s website. It’s easy enough to do with a click and a few extra minutes.

I read the work published on the website and think Ok, my work would fit here.


Then, I get to work writing my flash nonfiction. When I’m finished, I send my draft to my writing group to be workshopped. After I get feedback from other writers, I spend some time revising my piece. And when I think it’s ready, I go back to the Sweet Submittable page.

Submit, But First – Pay Attention to the Guidelines

I look carefully at what they want me to submit. The title, that’s easy enough. They ask for a cover letter with a short bio. I go to my file on my computer called “Cover Letters.” I review the various cover letters I have saved and decide to go for the simplest one …

Dear (Editor) ,
Thank you for considering my piece _____________ for __________.
Below is a short bio.
Thank you,
Elizabeth Jannuzzi
[My Address]
[My Email Address]

Elizabeth Jannuzzi is a writer and a mother living in New Jersey. Her work has been featured in Entropy, Mothers Always Write, and Grapevine. In 2018, she received Honorable Mention in Memoir Magazine’s Recovery Contest, and in 2016, she was a finalist in the International Literary Penelope Niven Creative Nonfiction Contest. She is currently a student in the Creative Writing Intensive Workshop at Project Write Now in Red Bank, N.J., where she is working on a memoir and personal essays about loss, motherhood, and recovery.

Find the Editor’s Name

To complete my cover letter, I need to find the Nonfiction editor for Sweet. I do this by visiting its website and clicking on “Masthead.” I find the name and enter it, along with the other information, into my cover letter. If I can’t find the name, I just write “Dear Editor.”

Oh no, life interferes and I’ve got to attend to it, but I haven’t finished completing the submission form! That’s okay. Submittable lets me save my draft.

When I have free time again, I log back onto Submittable. In the upper right, underneath my name, I click on “My Submissions.” I try to not get distracted by the “Declined” notices on previous submissions. Instead, I find my Sweet submission draft under the tab “Saved Drafts.” I get back to work.

Check and Double-Check

I make sure my piece doesn’t have my name anywhere in order to comply with the guidelines. I make sure I’ve spelled the editor’s name correctly. I make sure there aren’t any typos in my cover letter.

Upload & Submit

I click “Choose my File” and upload my soon to be a winner flash nonfiction piece. And then I click submit.

Now Wait & Obsessively Check Status

Waiting is the hardest part. The contest is over November 30th, so I don’t expect to hear from them until after that date.

But I can check up on my submission anytime by signing into my Submittable account and looking at my submission status. It tells me how far along I am in the process.

Submissions are marked with one of seven statuses:

  • Received: Your submission has been successfully sent to the organization and is in queue or being printed and read outside the Submittable system
  • In-Progress: Your submission has been received and additionally handled in some way (e.g. assigned, commented on, etc.)
  • Declined: Your submission has been declined. (Boo!)
  • Accepted: Your submission has been accepted. (Yay!)
  • Completed: Your submission has been processed and is no longer being considered. (Note: Some organizations prefer to use this status instead of “Withdrawn” for situations like large, public contests, in which, for example, they’ve publicly announced the winners online and would prefer not to “Decline” the remaining submissions.)
  • Withdrawn: Your submission has been withdrawn from consideration.
  • Editable: Your submission is open for editing

Wait Some More & Be Patient

I try to be patient, because it’s a virtue. I know that each organization has its own reviewing system. At this time, no response is better than a “Declined.”

Get “Accepted” or “Declined” on Submittable

We’ll see … Wish me luck! $500, can you imagine?

Elizabeth Jannuzzi is the Writers Institute community manager for Project Write Now.