Writing for Money on the Interwebs
A while back, a girlfriend of mine forced me to watch a chick flick that she felt I would find inspiring. It was called The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio.
Now, I think Julianne Moore is a good actress (and I have a thing for redheads) so this didn't take that much arm-twisting. And it wasn't an altogether bad movie. But what I remember most, rather than actual plot or characters, is the idea that people used to be able to make money writing jingles and entering them in national contests.
Specifically, women used to do this. At least, according to the movie. The premise of the movie is that, back in the 1950s, companies didn't want to spend money on advertising, so they would hold contests in which housewives (who had lots of pent-up energy and creativity to burn) would submit jingles for specific products. The best ones would earn cash or some pretty serious prizes.
Julianne Moore's character, a mother of something like 8 kids (or was it 11?), keeps herself sane and her family afloat by winning these contests, seeing as how her husband, played by Woody Harrelson, is pretty useless when it comes to breadwinning. Oh, and he's a drunk.
Also interesting, from a modern perspective, is how much advertising has changed since the 1950s, and how the pendulum swings between ads that are created by advertising firms (who get paid millions of dollars to create campaigns), and customers, who are asked to enter advertising contests and win... well, not millions, exactly. There's a trend these days in which customers are encouraged to express their creativity in the form of product ads - some of this works out pretty well, some of it, not so well.
The cause of this re-emerging trend is probably laziness on the part of advertisers, and cheapness on the part of companies, but the end result, we have yet to see, since having the tools to create our OWN media is still a relatively new and fresh idea.
But I really, really liked the idea of sitting around and writing things at home, and getting paid for it. Kind of like what I do for Wise Bread, but, you know, with actual cash returns. I love writing as a money-making idea.
I've been looking around the web for writing gigs and contests that actually pay you if you win, and here's the list I cam up with. I thought some of you might be interested in it. Please note that not all writing contests are legit. I can't personally vouch for the ones below, but I've regularly read and even written for some of them, so I think most of them are OK. I personally don't enter contests with an entry fee unless I know someone involved with the organization (and then I enter under a pseudonymn).
Also, there might be some overlap between the contest lists.
Anyway, without further ado:
Common Ties holds frequent non-fiction, themed writing contests. Pay is varied, but the best stories can win hundreds.
Demockeracy holds contests for Onion-like satire. Winners get $50, which isn't a lot, but if you are good with satire, probably easy.
Helium is a bit like a giant blog, where you can write and get your writing rated, and suppsedly earn money. Helium is always peppering craigslist with ads, but I've never met anyone who has written for them.
About.com has a list of fiction writing contests organized by due date.
Willamette Writers hold a contest with many categories every year. Grand prize is $300, and second place is $150.
Firstwriter.com has a list of free and non-free writing contests from around the world.
If you've got the time, and you like to rhyme (oh yeah, I'm that good), Winning Writers will show you some free poetry contests (registration required).
It ain't free, but we're free to be you and me (and write some song lyrics and send them in to the ISC).
Hazel Street would like you to use one of their posted photos as a theme for your poem or short story ($5 entry fee). They also have a list of lists if you scroll down the screen a bit.
Amazon Shorts lets you compete to get published.
I used to read Reader's Digest at my grandma's place during the summer, and wondered if they really gave away all that money to people who sent in cliched and tired old jokes. They do.
Freelancewriting.com has catalogued a nice list of contests, too - I particularly like the idea of a "Migraine and Headache Poetry Contest", even though it doesn't have a real monetary prize.
This contest makes me want to be a Christian woman, because I could win a signed picture of Candace Cameron in addition to prize money.
Insight Magazine also appears to have a faith-themed contest.
Heck, Google has a directory for writing contests. I don't know how many of those are PAYING contests.
Humorpress requires an entry fee, and their cheesy web site makes them seem suspect, but I've heard (online, so it might not be true) that they aren't bad.
Whim's Place only asks $5 for an entry fee, and first prize is $250!
Contests for Moms actually reeks a bit of the aforementioned Julianne Moore movie, but includes Helium and lists free contests with a wide variety of prizes.
Has anyone else entered writing contests that they really enjoyed and want to share with Wise Bread readers?
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