The Utah Original Writing Competition (UOWC) is one of the country’s oldest, continuously curated state-run writers contests. Past winners have included Poets Laureate Lance Larsen and Katharine Coles and a slew of other writers, including the likes of Utah native Ron Carlson, who have gone on to wide acclaim as poets, novelists, short story writers and young adult authors. The competition is managed through the Utah Division of Arts & Museums.
The competition not only provides a fairly substantial purse for a state with a small-ish population, but it brings established, out-of-state authors in as judges. The (often) generous comments the judges make on the first and second-place winning manuscripts (and sometimes even those tagged as “honorable mentions”) are highly prized, not to mention the networking opportunities. Logan-based Shanan Ballam, for example, won first place in poetry collection in 2012 and the judge was so impressed that brokered its publication as Pretty Marrow, Ballam’s first book. (You can read a selection of Ballam’s more recent poems featured on 15 Bytes’s Sunday Blog Read and watch her read her poem”Reasons” here.) That same year, the University of Utah Press became a partner with the UOWC, providing first option rights for the winner of the non-fiction prize, the impetus for the publication of Jeff Metcalf’s award-winning manuscript and now first book Requiem For the Living. You can read Laynn K. Kilpatrick’s 15 Bytes Book Review of Requiem here and listen to an interview of him on Radio West here.
The competition continues to morph under the direction of literary manager Alyssa Hickman Grove. With the explosion of narrative / creative nonfiction, UOWC has recently changed its guidelines for the category which originally alternated yearly between narrative/creative nonfiction (essays, memoir, extended narrative etc.) and history / biography. As of this year, nonfiction writers of every stripe will be able to submit book-length submissions each year in all nonfiction genres. Book-length categories in the competition are reserved for authors who have never had a volume published in that genre.
Even though the book-length categories are reserved for emerging writers, both they and established Utah authors show up annually on the list of winners, place holders and honorable mentions. Though it doesn’t offer publication as a prize (except, as mentioned above, in nonfiction, with the first option of the UofU Press), the competition is an important mechanism for acknowledging the literary talent in the Beehive State, connecting emerging talent with established authors both within and without the state and, of course, elevating artistry.
To complement that mechanism, and to tighten a few loose bolts on it, 15 Bytes recently launched its inaugural reading of the READ LOCAL, Finch Lane Gallery Reading Series, in partnership with the SLC Arts Council and Utah Humanities. In April, 2015’s first place winner in novel, Eric Robertson, read from his unpublished manuscript The Salted Earth. The series is designed to celebrate the works of UOWC winners and finalists as well as winners in other local writing contests. The next reading in the series is June 9th with poet Anne Vinsel, 2015 1st place winner in poetry. She will be in conversation at the event with Utah Poet Laureate Lance Larsen. The series is free and open to the public.
June 24, 2016 is the UOWC deadline to submit works in novel, nonfiction, collection of poetry, juvenile (all book-length manuscripts), as well as poetry, short story and creative nonfiction / essay. Submissions are done online, and entries are reviewed in a blind process by judges selected from outside of Utah. There is no entry fee, and it is open to all Utah residents age 18 and over.
Read the 2016 guidelines before submitting. The link to the online submission form is included in the guidelines.
2016 Competition Timeline
Monday, May 2, 2016: Guidelines posted and submission period opens
Friday, June 24, 2016: Submissions due by 5 p.m. MDT (all submissions must be made online)
September 2016: Winners and press notified
October/November 2016: Awards presentation
Click HERE to read an article by Connie Goldsmith, last year’s Young Adult Book judge, with tips on polishing your manuscript before entering it in a competition.
Click on the links below to see lists of winners in the past two previous years: