Do it now.

If you’re a new writer—by which we mean not yet published—Michigan Writers is extending a special invitation to you here. Right now.

What does a new writer need most? The answer isn’t writing classes, groups or journals (as necessary as these might be). What a new writer needs most, we think, is to connect with readers—and that’s a pretty good definition of “publication.”

That’s why we’re now opening our annual chapbook contest, whose winner(s) will be edited, published and launched by Michigan Writers Cooperative Press in 2014 in a series of ceremonies that combine acclaim with riches.

Except for the riches.

In lieu of the fortune commonly associated with writing, this chapbook contest offers a great beginning. Our contest features judges who know (and are known in) their genres. We don’t want to brag, but past judges have included nominees and winners of several Pushcart Prizes and NEA and Guggenheim Fellowships, the American Book Award and the National Book Award, and the Pulitzer Prize. What this means is that your first published book will arrive buoyed by their judgment and support as well as by ours at Michigan Writers.

And yes, in case you missed that part because you were thinking about the Pulitzer, we’ll repeat that: Your first published book.

It’s part of our mission as Michigan Writers to promote beginnings, and that’s what this chapbook contest is. Chapbooks are short—around 10,000 words for prose—and are often collections of poems or several shorter pieces of fiction or nonfiction. All genres are welcome; we’ll distribute them to our judges in the poetry, fiction and nonfiction realms.

To enter the contest, send your manuscript to us by December 15. It’s that hard, and that simple—although you will want to check out the details about eligibility (you must be a member of Michigan Writers, for instance) and the submission requirements and how-to’s you’ll find here. And if you have any questions, send a note to Jen Kirkpatrick Johnson, who’s coordinating the contest, at [email protected].

We’ll announce this year’s judges later this fall, and the contest winners next spring.

In 2009, Teresa Scollon was one of the chapbook contest winners with her poetry collection Friday Nights the Whole Town Goes to the Basketball Game. “Winning the competition,” she says, “gave my writing life a huge boost. I felt supported and welcomed by a real literary community. The confidence, experience, and community I gained helped pave the way for my next writing efforts”—which already include, by the way, her 2012 collection To Embroider the Ground with Prayer, published by Wayne State University Press. [1. Teresa also became president of Michigan Writers, although doing so wasn’t an actual requirement of winning.]

So, new writers, go and do thou likewise. And one more thing:

Do it now.

Daniel Stewart is an historian, print and book designer, radio producer, and memoirist. He has lived in Leelanau County, Michigan, since 2004, and most of what he does is related to the telling of good and true stories. He joined the board of Michigan Writers as part of that mission. Dan would love to hear from you; you can send him a note at [email protected].

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