Poetry Competitions, Submissions & Opportunities – June 2020

The new poetry list is here with over 130 poetry competitions, writing submissions and opportunities open or with deadlines in June 2020.

What a time we’re living through. Like so many, I am appalled by the death of George Floyd and the police violence toward protesters in the US that has marked its aftermath.

Yesterday, I posted Black Lives Matter: What Can I Do As A Writer? including a list of resources, reading lists and relevant work by black writers and poets. Please read the post and take action:

  • Sign petitions;
  • Donate, if you can, share info and resources, if you can’t;
  • Educate yourself about racism and its impact on all our lives – there are reading recommendations and free resources at the link above;
  • Support black writers and writers of colour – read and share their work.

Black lives matter and we are all in this together.

Otherwise, I hope you are all well and holding it together whether you are still in lockdown or if restrictions are now easing. Take care of yourselves and each other. Stay creative, stay grounded, stay connected and stay safe.

Whatever you’re up to with your writing during June, I wish you luck. I normally ask you to consider support this blog with a small Paypal donation but this month I’d ask you to put that money toward supporting the George Floyd fund, Black Lives Matter, Bail Funds or an organisation fighting racism near you. Thank you!

June 2020

Headline Poetry and Press: Restoration V.1 – Poetry, Flash – closes 1 June (submit online)

The Montreal International Poetry Prize – Poetry – closes 1 June (submit online)

The White Review – Poetry, Fiction – closes 1 June (submit online)

The Blue Nib (Print) – Poetry, Fiction, Creative Non-fiction & more – closes 5 June (submit online)

Lumin – Poetry, Visual Poetry, Text Art, Prose (experimental – 50% BME, LGBTQ+, neurodivergent, disabled, low-income and marginalised voices) – closes 7 June (submit online)

Mollyhouse – Poetry, Fiction, Creative Non-fiction (welcomes work from deaf/disabled, LGBTQ+, women/non-binary and Black/POC/Indigenous writers) – closes 7 June (submit online)

The Seventh Wave Editorial Residency – Deadline extended for Black writers, artists and activists (paid opportunity) – closes 7 June (submit online)

Mslexia – Poetry, Fiction, Drama, theme: Wildlife – closes 8 June (submit online)

The Aurora Prize for Writing – Poetry, Fiction – closes 8 June (submit online)

Francis Ledwidge Poetry Award – Poetry – closes 11 June (submit online)

Columbia Journal Online – Poetry, Fiction, Non-fiction, Art, theme: Loneliness – closes 12 June (submit online)

Nottingham Virtual Print & Publishing Fair 2020 – Indie Print & Publishing, Zines, Pamphlets etc – closes 12 June (submit online)

Sonder – Poetry, Fiction, Flash, Creative Non-fiction & Art, theme: Challenges – closes 12 June (submit online)

Trócaire Poetry Ireland Poetry Competition – Poetry, theme: Standing her Ground – EXTENDED – closes 12 June (submit online)

Empty Mirror: LGBTQ+ Pride Issue – Poetry, Non-fiction, Art – closes 12 June (submit online)

EX/POST Magazine – Poetry, Fiction, Non-fiction, Drama, Art & more (feedback to 15 poetry/15 prose subs on proof of $15 donation to George Floyd-related fund) – closes 14 June (submit online)

The Sappho Prize for Women* Poets – Poetry (*cis, trans, non-binary, identifying as) – closes 14 June (submit online)

The Seventh Wave – Poetry, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Art, theme: Before After – closes 14 June (submit online)

Akron Poetry Prize – Poetry manuscript (48-90 pages) – closes 15 June (submit online)

Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year Competition – Poetry – closes 15 June (submit online)

Queen Mary Wasifiri New Writing Prize – Poetry, Fiction, Life-writing (emerging writers only) – closes 15 June (submit online)

River Styx International Poetry Contest – Poetry – closes 15 June (submit online)

Segora International Writing Competitions – Poetry, Fiction, Drama – closes 15 June (submit online)

Visual Verse – Poetry, Flash, Non-Fiction – closes 15 June (submit online)

Fly on the Wall Press: Mancunian Ways Anthology – Poetry, Photography, Art, theme: Manchester – closes 16 June (submit online)

Beyond the Storm Poetry Competition – Poetry – closes 19 June (submit online)

Verve Poetry Press – Poetry manuscripts (pamphlet – 22-32 pages / collection – 60+ pages) – closes 20 June (submit online)

The A3 Review – Poetry, Flash, Art, theme: The Heart – closes 26 June (submit online)

Tales From the Forest – Poetry, Fiction, Art, theme: Time – closes 28 June (submit online)

Red Line Book Festival WIR – All genres – closes 29 June (submit online)

Alchemy Spoon – Poetry, Essays, Artwork, Reviews, theme: Time – closes 30 June (submit online)

Atlanta Review – Poetry – closes 30 June (submit online)

14 Magazine – Poetry (14 lines) – closes 30 June (submit online)

Bath Magg – Poetry – closes 30 June (submit online)

Black Lawrence Press – Poetry manuscripts (pamphlet 16-36 pages / collections 45-120 pages)  – closes 30 June (submit online)

Broken Sleep Books – Poetry manuscripts (40+ pages – welcomes working class, LGBTQ+ and BAME writers) – closes 30 June (submit online)

Copper Canyon Press – Poetry manuscript (45-200 pages) – closes 30 June (submit online)

Fairy Tale Review: The Gold Issue – Poetry, Fiction, Non-fiction, Artwork, theme: Anne Sexton’s ‘Transformations’ – closes 30 June (submit online)

Manchester Cathedral Poetry Competition – Poetry – closes 30 June (submit online)

Poetry Birmingham – Poetry (incl. 5 free critiques for unpublished working class black and asian writers) – closes 30 June (submit online)

Poetry Book Awards – Independent writers and small presses – closes 30 June (submit online)

Spoonfeed – Poetry, Fiction, Flash, Creative Non-fiction & more, theme: creative food writing – closes 30 June (submit online)

Split Lip Magazine – Poetry, Fiction, Flash, Memoir (free submissions for Black writers) – closes 30 June (submit online)

Sundog Lit – Poetry, Fiction, Creative Non-fiction, Art – closes 30 June (submit online)

The Bangor Literary Journal: The Forty Words Competition – Poetry, Fiction – closes 30 June (submit online)

The Fingal Poetry Prize – Poetry – closes 30 June (submit online)

The Interpreter’s House – Poetry, Fiction – closes 30 June (submit online)

Tiny Spoon – Poetry, Fiction, Experimental, theme: Solitude – closes 30 June (submit online)

Wells Festival of Literature International Writing Competitions – Poetry, Fiction, Children’s Books – closes 30 June (submit online)

Carte-Blanche – Poetry, Comics, Translation, Photography, theme: Anxiety – closes 1 July (submit online)

Penfro Poetry Competition – Poetry, theme: Ecology – closes 1 July (submit online)

The Blue Nib (Web) – Poetry, Fiction, Creative Non-fiction & more – closes 1 July (submit online)


Ó Bhéal Five Words – Poetry – deadline each week, annual prize (submit online)

Rattle: Poets Respond – Poetry, theme: current events – deadline each week (submit online)


The Second Shelf – Essays, Creative Non-fiction – closes 2 July (submit online)

Ireland Chair of Poetry Trust Special Commemorative Anthology – Poetry, Essay, theme: Poetry Mentors (emerging Irish/NI writers, especially those under-represented on the basis of gender, civil status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race, and membership of the Traveller community; as well as writers from diverse socio-economic backgrounds) – closes 6 July (submit online)

Ledbury Poetry Festival Poetry Competition – Poetry – closes 16 July (submit online)

Poetry London Mentoring Scheme – Poetry (incl. travel bursary) – closes 31 July (submit online)

Impossible Archetype – Poetry (LGBTQ+, all genders) – opens 1 June & closes 1 Aug (submit online)

Shoreham Wordfest Poetry & Short Story Competition – Poetry, Fiction (10 lines / 10 words) – closes 1 Aug (submit online)

Acumen – Poetry – open (submit online)

Agenda – Poetry, Essays, Reviews – re-opening early 2020 (submit online)

Algebra of Owls – Poetry – open (submit online)

Ambit – Poetry, Fiction, Art – open (submit online)

A New Ulster – Poetry, Fiction, Artwork – open (submit online)

Anthropocene – Poetry – open (submit online)

Apartment Poetry – Poetry – open (submit online)

Atrium – Poetry – open (submit online)

Bear Review – Poetry, Fiction, Essays, Artwork – open (submit online)

Brittle Star – Poetry, Fiction – open (submit online)

Carve Magazine – Poetry, Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction – open (submit online)

Cheat River Review – Poetry, Fiction, Flash, Non-Fiction – open (submit online)

Driftwood Press – Poetry, Fiction, Literary Criticism – open (submit online)

Dust Poetry – Poetry – open (submit online)

Fecund Journal – Poetry, Fiction, Essay & more (POC only) – open (submit online)

FIVE:2:ONE – Poetry, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Artwork by underrepresented writers (POC, LGTBQ, non-binary, neurodivergent, trauma survivors etc.) – open (submit online)

Frontier Poetry – Poetry – open (submit online)

Fruit Journal – Poetry, Fiction, Non-fiction, Hybrid (LGBTQI+, with emphasis on unheard voices – POC, trans, working class) – open (submit online)

Guernica – Poetry, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Photo Essays – open (submit by post)

Hosking Houses Trust Residencies – Women writers over 40 (all genres – must have contract to publish / broadcast / perform) – open (submit online)

Idler – Poetry, Fiction, Essays – open (submit online)

Ink Sweat & Tears – Poetry – open 13 Jan 2020 (submit online)

Irish Literary Review – Poetry – open 1 Jan 2020 (submit online)

Lighthouse Literary Journal – Poetry & Short Fiction – open (submit online)

LitMag – Poetry, Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction, Essays – open (submit online)

Marble – Poetry – open (submit online)

New Contrast – Poetry, Fiction – open (submit online)

Omelette Literary Magazine – Poetry, Visual Poetry, Fiction, Flash, Creative Non-fiction & more – open (submit online)

One – Poetry, a single poem – open (submit online)

Orbis – Poetry – open (submit by post (UK) or online (overseas only))

PANK – Poetry – open (submit online)

Palette Poetry – Poetry – open (submit online)

Peepal Tree Press – Poetry, Fiction, Non-Fiction manuscripts from Black & Caribbean writers – open (submit online)

Pigeon Pages – Poetry, Fiction, Non-fiction – open (submit online)

POETRY Magazine – Poetry (submit online)

Poetry Ireland Review – Poetry – open (submit by post)

Poetry London – Poetry – open (submit by post or online)

Poetry Salzburg – Poetry – open (submit by post or online)

Poetry Wales – Poetry – open (submit by post or online)

Porridge Magazine – Poetry, Fiction, Non-fiction, Art – open (submit online)

PN Review – Poetry, Essays, Reviews – open (submit by post)

Rattle – Poetry – open (submit by post and online)

Riggwelter – Poetry, Short Fiction, Visual Art – open 31 March 2020 (submit online)

Shakespeare & Co Tumbleweeds Residency – all writers – open (submit online)

South Bank Poetry – Poetry – open (submit online)

Spry Literary Journal – Poetry, Fiction, Flash, Creative Non-fiction, Artwork – open (submit online)

Squawk Back – Poetry, Fiction, Non-fiction, Reviews, Plays – open (submit online)

Stand Magazine – Poetry, Fiction – open (submit online)

Stepaway Magazine – Poetry, Flash Fiction, theme: walking in the city – open (submit online)

Tears in the Fence – Poetry – open (submit online)

The American Journal of Poetry – Poetry – open (submit online)

The Brooklyn Quarterly – Poetry, Fiction, Non-fiction, Translation, Humour – open (submit online)

The Cardiff Review – Poetry, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Flash (preference given to students and unpublished graduates of Creative Writing, English Literature & Journalism) – open (submit online)

The Compass Magazine – Poetry – open (submit online)

The Curly Mind – Poetry, theme: experimental – open (submit online)

The Dark Horse – Poetry – open (submit by post)

The Ellis Review – Poetry, published weekly – open (submit online)

The Galway Review – Poetry, Fiction, Non-fiction, Reviews, Plays – open (submit online)

The Lake – Poetry – open (submit online)

The Lascaux Review – Poetry, Fiction, Essays – open (submit online)

The London Magazine – Poetry, Non-Fiction, Art – open (submit online)

The Missouri Review – Poetry, Fiction, Non-Fiction – open (submit online)

The Moth – Poetry, Fiction – open (submit online)

The Offing – Poetry, Translation, Art and more – open (submit online)

The Ofi Press Magazine – Poetry & Short Fiction – open (submit online)

The Poetry Village – Poetry – open (submit online)

The Poetry Review – Poetry – open (submit online)

The Sea Letter – Poetry, Fiction, Artwork – open (submit online)

The Selkie – Poetry, Fiction, Non-fiction, Features (marginalised and/or under-represented voices incl. women (or identify as), people of colour, immigrants, LGBTQIA+, neurodivergent and more) – open (submit online)

The Seventh Quarry – Short Poetry – open (submit online)

The Southeast Review – Poetry, Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction, Reviews, Artwork – open (submit online)

The Sun Magazine – Poetry, Fiction, Essays, Interviews – open (submit online)

The Times Literary Supplement – Poetry (submit by post)

Three Drops From a Cauldron – Poetry, Flash, theme: Myth, Folklore, Fables, Fairytales – on hiatus until 2021 (submit online)

Tinderbox Poetry Journal – Poetry – open (submit online)

Wildness – Poetry, Fiction, Non-Fiction – open (submit online)

Best of luck!

If you have a competition or journal with a deadline in May 2020, and it is not included above, feel free to add the details with a link in the comments section below!

(Illustration by Nicole Ray via Etsy)

Black Lives Matter: What Can I Do As a Writer?

For those of you waiting for the new list of poetry competitions, writing submissions and opportunities open or with deadlines in June 2020, it will be published tomorrow. Thank you for your patience.

I’ve held it back a day for #BlackOutTuesday – to show respect for the death of George Floyd, highlight the senseless loss of black lives due to police brutality and protest the disturbing use of state force against the citizens of the US right now.

We all live in a world shaped by racism and now more than ever, we need to acknowledge and understand that Black Lives Matter. This quote from a 2014 essay by Scott Woods is particularly resonant.IMG_20200602_114203_465

In immediate response to the murder of George Floyd, here’s a great summary of direct action options from Black Lives Matter.

If you want to better understand the issues surrounding racism, the POC Online Classroom is curated by and for people of colour and has a fantastic database of reading and resources, including articles, essays and poems on everything from identity to organizing to self care with writing by Audre Lorde, Bell Hooks, Angela Davis, Langston Hughes, Marlon James, Angel Nafis and more. Here are a few relevant sections to check out:

I’ve been thinking about how I could better educate myself and help amplify black voices within the literary community. If you feel as helpless as I do and want to know what you can do to take a stand against racism, here are some of the things I’m pledging to:

  1. Make a donation – to the family of George Floyd, to Black Lives Matter, to Reclaim the Block who work to make communities like George’s safer, without police intervention, or to Minnesota Freedom Fund to help with bail funds for protesters who have been arrested. In Ireland, you can tackle racism by supporting MASI (Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland) or MERJ (Migrant & Ethnic-Minorities for Reproductive Justice). Petition your local TDs and councillors to end Direct Provision. If you are in the UK, check out this poem and list of resources by poet, Salena Godden.
  2. Educate myself. Do the work to understand the insidious nature of racism and how it impacts on everyone’s lives. None of us are free from its impact, as Scott Woods explains above. Don’t ask black friends or colleagues to do this work for me. The information is widely available. There are lots of resources being shared under the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag on Twitter and Instagram right now. Here are a few ideas to get started:
    • How to Be an Anti-Racist, Ibram X. Kendi;
    • This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work, Tiffany Jewell;
    • Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Reni Eddo-Lodge;
    • Me and White Supremacy, Layla F. Saad;
    • Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehesi Coates;
    • So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo;
    • This thread on racism in Ireland by Dr. Justine Akase.
  3. Support the work of black writers and poets. As a writer, read and share their work. Here are some great books to get started:
    • Citizen, Claudia Rankine;
    • Don’t Call Us Dead, Danez Smith;
    • Incendiary Art, Patricia Smith;
    • The Evidence of Things Not Seen, James Baldwin (pretty much anything by Baldwin);
    • White Teeth, Zadie Smith;
    • The Black Flamingo, Dean Atta;
    • Don’t Touch My Hair, Emma Dibiri;
    • This Hostel Life, Melatu Uche Okorie;
    • Correspondences: An Anthology to Call for an End to Direct Provision, ed. Stephen Rea and Jessica Traynor;
    • The Jhalak Prize is also a great reference point for recent work by British BAME writers.
  4. Amplify. I actively seek out and highlight submission opportunities for Black writers, as well as other marginalised groups, in my monthly poetry list but am painfully aware how few journals and competitions make their work a priority. As an editor or publisher, please ensure your submissions policy is inclusive toward black and other marginalised groups of writers. Make space for their voices.
  5. Listen. Who am I following on social media? Whose voices and experiences am I paying attention to? Am I only listening to voices and experiences that chime with my own? Break out of the echo chamber. Accept that my opinion is neither relevant nor necessary in every conversation.
  6. Know that I will make mistakes. Know that those closest to me will make mistakes and some will not be interested in doing the work. Don’t dig in behind these errors. Learn from them. Apologise and pledge to do better. Continue to hold myself and others accountable for words or actions that are harmful to others. Do this with compassion.

Will you join me?

Don’t forget, when buying books, please try and support local, independent and/or black-owned bookshops. 

For some poetry to read right now, here’s a great compilation of Poems of Protest, Resistance, and Empowerment by Poetry Foundation. It includes one of my all-time favourite poems: Rosa Parks by Nikki Giovanni.

…they noticed his stutter and probably understood
why his mother wanted him out of Chicago during the summer
when school was out. Fourteen-year-old Black boys with limps
and stutters are apt to try to prove themselves in dangerous ways
when mothers aren’t around to look after them.

Rosa Parks – Nikki Giovanni

Update: Here’s a fantastic thread of poems and recommended reading by black poets from Luther X. Hughes on Twitter.

Update: Here’s a link to an Antiracist Allyship Starter Pack from Kandice Le Blanc’s post ‘Dear White People, This is What We Want You to Do’, with thanks to writer and editor Chiamaka Enyi-Amadi for sharing on FB.

Update: Here’s a link to Racial Equity Tools: Arts & Culture Strategies, with thanks to Chiamaka, as above, for sharing on FB.

I realise this only scratches the surface of a pervasive problem and if you have any other ideas or reading recommendations, please feel free to add them in the comments section below. I’ll keep updating this post as more ideas about useful information come to me.

Featured Image: Black Lives Matter

Poetry Competitions, Submissions & Opportunities – May 2020

Welcome to May and the Celtic festival of Bealtaine – the mid-point between the Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice! Although we’re still figuring out how to navigate summer as we continue and/or emerge from lockdown, the good news is that there are over 120 poetry competitions, writing submissions and opportunities open or with deadlines in May 2020. Continue reading


‘Time is a storm in which we are all lost.’ – William Carlos Williams

‘…it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff.’ – The Doctor

‘There Will Be Time’ is the theme for Poetry Day Ireland 2020 and to celebrate you’re invited to become Time Lords for the day and explore the phenomenon of Time in all its glory in this FREE online writing challenge!

We are living in the eye of a global storm right now but through poetry we can write the words to change the weather, unravel the wibbly-wobbly bits or find our way home.

The rules of the challenge are simple. 

  • Read the Time-themed prompts and poems.

  • Listen to the Time-themed tunes.

  • Write for 15 minutes.

  • Share your poem in the Facebook group.

  • Read and respond to other posted work.

Most of all, be creative and enjoy yourself!

how do i join the writing challenge?

Here’s what to do:

  • Sign up for the FREE challenge on Eventbrite by clicking the button below.

  • Join the Timey Rhymey Challenge Facebook group on 29 April.

  • Get ready to enjoy a day of Timey Rhymey poetry writing fun!

What are you waiting for? Click here to sign up:

The group opens on the 29 April, with a welcome, introductions and time-related stuff to get you in the mood for writing.

The challenge proper kicks off on Thursday 30 April for Poetry Day Ireland 2020, with poet Angela T. Carr sharing new prompts and inspiration throughout the day.

This event is hosted in conjunction with Poetry Ireland as part of their Bright Ideas programme for Poetry Ireland Day 2020.

what’s next?

Please share the challenge on social media with the hashtags #PoetryIrelandDay #ThereWillBeTime #TimeyRhymey.

Don’t forget to tag me @adreamingskin and @poetryireland (Twitter & Instagram).


What a strange time we’re living through right now. Wherever you are, I hope you are staying safe and well as we move into Spring with all its promise of endurance and rebirth. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed in uncertain times. Our physical and mental health are in such sharp focus at the moment that flexing the creative muscle might not seem like a priority, even when it has the potential to do us so much good. 

If you need to reclaim that creative space, this is a reminder that it’s almost April and National Poetry Writing Month or NaPoWriMo – the annual call to write a poem a day for 30 days. Once again, I’m running a 30 Day Writing Challenge with plenty of topical and Spring-themed prompts to spark your imagination and get you writing every day.

If ever there was a year to get things off your chest and onto the page, it’s 2020. There’s so much going on in the world and all of it moving so quickly, it’s hard to focus on big projects or ideas. The 30 Day Challenge helps you tap back into your writing, with bite-sized daily exercises, inspiration and opportunity to explore or vent in equal measure, and a supportive and encouraging community of writers in the private Facebook group.

Whether you’re looking for focus, connection or a creative kickstart, the challenge offers a reprieve from the world – plus a chance to conquer the inimitable #NaPoWriMo. Numbers in the Facebook group are limited and spots are allocated on a first come, first served basis – please book early to avoid disappointment as the last challenge sold out in 24 hours!

For the first time, I’m also offering an email only version of the challenge as a reduced price for those who want to avoid social media and the internet right now. You’ll receive all the materials direct to your inbox, without any external distractions. And no need to worry about meeting the challenge timescale – the prompts will be waiting for you in your inbox whenever you feel ready to engage.

All the information is on the website – just click the button below for details.

For those of you using this time to send your work out, a new poetry list will be out in a couple of days and there are still plenty of opportunities available in the March Poetry Competitions, Submissions & Opportunities list!

I completely understand that this might not be the right timing for you to take part in a challenge and that’s OK. Nurture your creative self in any way you can during this difficult time – DO WHAT YOU LOVE – play, read, make art, make something with your hands, knit, sew, mend, grow seeds, try something new. Stay grounded.



Image by Riz Mooney for Unsplash.


Do you want to set some new writing resolutions this winter? Fancy getting a jump on a new year and new decade by having 30 crisp new first drafts by 1 February 2020?

Following the success of the January & April Write-Offs and 30 Days of Summer, the 30 Day Writing Challenge returns next month with #30DaysofWinter – a series of fun new year and winter-themed prompts to spark your imagination and get you writing every day during January 2020.

Writers on my mailing list always get first dibs on new opportunities and places on the new challenge have already been snapped up overnight. Numbers are limited and the remaining spots will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

The challenge takes place online – follow at your own pace at home or interact with the Facebook group and community, it’s up to you. All the information is on the website – just click the button below for details. And if you have any questions, drop me a line.

Hope to see you in the Challenge!



Do you want to keep your daily writing practice on track this summer? Fancy having 30 crisp new first drafts by 1 September?

Following the success of the January & April Write-Offs, the 30 Day Writing Challenge returns next month with #30DaysofSummer – a series of fun summer and sun-themed prompts to spark your imagination and get you writing every day during August 2019.

Writers on my mailing list always get first dibs on new opportunities and places on the new challenge have already been snapped up overnight. Numbers are limited and the remaining spots will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

The challenge takes place online – follow at your own pace at home or interact with the Facebook group and community, it’s up to you. All the information is on the website – just click the button below for details. And if you have any questions, drop me a line.

Hope to see you in the Challenge!


Surviving NaPoWriMo: Tips for a 30-Day Poetry Challenge

NaPoWriMo kicks off on April 1 and writers around the world will attempt to write a poem a day for 30 days. I’ve taken part in NaPoWriMo and other 30-day challenges, and I’ve also hosted them. I thought it might be useful to share some tips about how to get the most out of an intensive creative challenge.

Why Do It?

Writing is a solitary experience – we are only accountable to ourselves and that can be isolating. A 30-day challenge provides the opportunity to:

  • Focus: Put your writing front and centre for a set period of time.
  • Commit: Show up at the page every day.
  • Establish Boundaries: Protect your writing time as an integral part of your day.
  • Create a Writing Habit: It only takes 22 days to form a habit.
  • Be Part of a Community: Enjoy support and encouragement around a shared experience.
  • Be Surprised: At what you can accomplish in a single month!

What to Expect?

Week 1 – enthusiasm, excitement, fun – it’s a novelty and you’re full of ideas!

Week 2 – life intrudes, miss a day and it feels like failure, habit starts to slip.

Week 3 – inspiration fades, repeating yourself, overwhelm, time to push through.

Week 4 – almost there, renewed spurt of energy, rush of adrenaline, triumph!

Top TIPS for Surviving NaPoWriMo

It’s easy to become overwhelmed and burn-out when doing an intensive challenge like this, or to miss a day due to the everyday responsibilities and feel like a failure. Here are some ideas to help you make it through.

  1. Go easy on yourself: NaPoWriMo is a bit of fun, not another chore. If you miss a day, start again the following day. If need to take a day to catch your breath, same. Don’t write off the whole challenge because of a couple of missed days. At the end of the month, you will still have achieved much more than you normally would or had even thought possible.
  2. Manage your mindset: The challenge is derived from NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month in November, where the focus is on quantity, not quality. Think of it as a 30-day scavenger hunt – you want to spark an idea, capture the essence of it and move on. Switch off your critical voice. Knowing that these are fast first drafts takes the pressure off. As Jodi Picoult says: ‘You might not write well every day but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.’
  3. Limit your writing time: I recommend a 15-minute free-write. It’s enough time to explore an idea or prompt but not so much that it will interfere with the rest of your day. It keeps the bar nice and low and the challenge manageable. Setting your alarm clock 15 minutes earlier or taking the time out at the end of the day isn’t too much of a hardship.
  4. Use prompts: Prompts focus the mind on finding the best way to write about a subject, rather than finding something to write about. It’s one less barrier to getting started and they can startle interesting responses that, otherwise, you might never have written. There are lots of resources online for writing prompts and the official NaPoWriMo site publishes a prompt every day.
  5. Join a group: Because it’s a global phenomenon, there’s so much support out there for poets during the month of April. A group provides encouragement for when the novelty wears off and you need to dig a little deeper. Check in once a day to keep yourself accountable. I recommend a ‘no critique’ environment as the work is just at the first draft stage – the focus of the group should simply be on supporting and encouraging one another in the task.
  6. Don’t try to write a complete poem in a day! Poems need time to come to fruition – this is about catching an idea, getting enough down on the page to pick up again later but do try to get the complete shape of the poem if you can. You’re creating a store of potential poems to come back to and develop.
  7. Manage Expectations: Not every idea will be genius and that’s OK. There is more to be gained in showing up at the page every day. It trains your mind to be receptive and open to new ideas. Think of it as a month of new beginnings, of exploration rather than achievement.
  8. Don’t Cheat: If you’re working with prompts, it can be tempting to pull a poem with a similar theme out of a drawer to give yourself a day off. The problem is your brain knows you didn’t do the work, that you’ve let yourself off the hook, and – because brains like problem-solving – it immediately goes looking for other ways to bunk off, the scamp! I recommend the fifteen-minute free-write for this reason – it’s achievable, even on the busiest of days. And if you need a day off, it’s better just to acknowledge this and start fresh the next day.
  9. Experiment with Poetic Form: Not every poem has to be an epic! On the days when the words are in short supply, try one of the many short poetic forms like Haiku, Cinquain, Triolet or Sonnet. Here’s a great resource of 100 Poetic Forms to play with.
  10. Ego & Competition: Challenges and group dynamics can quickly bring out your competitive streak – ignore it! The only person you are competing with in writing is yourself – your last poem, your best ideas. Don’t get caught up in ego trips or mind-games.
  11. To share or not to share? It’s daunting to share a first draft with a group of strangers – I leave it up to you to decide if it’s the right choice for you. Other options are to share a line or two that you like from your free-write or to simply report how you got on that day. I do think it’s important to post something every day even if you’re finding it hard to write (especially if you’re finding it hard to write). It’s a good way to check in with your writing self and reading the group’s responses to the challenge may shake something loose!
  12. Read other poems: Whenever I feel stuck in my writing, I’ll pick up a collection, start to read and within minutes ideas are sparking! In order to draw from the well of inspiration, we first have to fill it. A great resource is the Poetry Foundation’s Poem a Day – sign up to their mailing list and you’ll receive a poem a day in your inbox.
  13. Enjoy!

If that’s whetted your appetite, there are still a few places left in my NaPoWriMo April Write Off – a private Facebook group with prompts, daily advice, inspiration and lots of feedback and encouragement. Click the button below to sign up.

***April 2019 Challenge Now Closed***

Featured image by Anna Sullivan for Unsplash.