In 1981, Karren Alenier, Deirdra Baldwin, Jim Beall, and Robert Sargent created the Washington Prize, a United States national literary competition awarding $1000 to an American poet. In 1999 the prize award was increased to $1500. From 1981 to 1987 winning poems were published in a full-page ad in Poets & Writers magazine. In 1988, the prize progressed from a single poem competiton to a book-length manuscript award. In 2011, Word Works offers the option of electronic submission. Poets read and judge contest entries blind. Literary merit is the sole criterion. As a book publication award, the Washington Prize has given The Word Works national recognition and has increased distribution.

In 1999, The Word Works published WINNERS: A RETROSPECTIVE OF THE WASHINGTON PRIZE, an anthology of poems, anecdotes, essays, and photos of and by the winners and judges of the prize from 1981 to 1999. This collection of work by 80 poets tells the complete story of the Washington Prize. Entrants to the competition should consider this book a reference for how to win this prize.

All snail mail queries about the Washington Prize are answered with a graphically attractive brochure that describes the organization, provides the Washington Prize contest rules, profiles our books, and solicits orders. Typically, distribution is through booksales at readings by the author, Small Press Distribution, Ingraham, Amazon, Paypal, and mail orders to The Word Works. 


In 2015, The Word Works will award a living American or Canadian poet $1,500 and book publication for a volume of original poetry in English. To enter:

  • Submit a manuscript of 48 to 80 pages.
    • Include a separate cover letter with manuscript title, author's name, and all pertinent contact information. Author’s name should not appear anywhere in manuscript.
    • With the cover letter, include an acknowledgments page and a one paragraph bio. Attach acknowledgments and bio to title page with a staple. For electronic submission, you may forego acknowledgments, but you will have the option to use the comment field to include your bio. You may send your file as .pdf, .doc, or .rtf.
    • Repeat the title of the manuscript on the table of contents page.
    • Use a standard font type, such as Times New Roman or Ariel. Font size 10-12 point type.
    • For paper submissions, use only a binder clip to fasten the manuscript. Please do not use staples or folders. No manuscripts will be returned.
    • Kindly indicate the information source where you learned about the Washington Prize. For example, AWP newsletter, Poets & Writers Magazine,The Word Works website.

  • Enclose entry fee: $25 US drawn on a US bank only, payable to The WORD WORKS. Our submission manager allows credit card payment through Paypal or their standard Paypal crediting.

  • Optional for paper submissions, enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) for contest results. Early in 2015, all entrants to the 2014 Washington Prize will receive the winning publication.

  • Between January 15 and midnight March 15, 2015, inclusive, submit electronically or mail manuscript by first class postage, entry fee, and business-sized SASE to:
    • Nancy White, Administrator
    • WORD WORKS Washington Prize
    • Dearlove Hall
    • Adirondack Community College
    • 640 Bay Road
    • Queensbury, NY 12804

ELECTRONIC SUBMISSION: Exercise this option now.

The winner will be selected by August 2015. Book publication is planned for January 2016.

Direct questions to Nancy White, Washington Prize Administrator, electronically or by regular mail to The Word Works, PO Box 42164, Washington, DC 20015. Include a self-addressed stamped envelope with all regular mail inquiries. Many questions are answered in WINNERS: A RETROSPECTIVE OF THE WASHINGTON PRIZE or in our online FAQs.

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Q: Can I submit my manuscript electronically?

A: Yes, in 2011, The Word Works made available electronic submission of Washington Prize manuscripts.

Q: What is the advantage of submitting electronically?

A: There are financial, environmental, and quality of life advantages to submitting your manuscript through our electronic submissions manager. You will save money by avoiding postage, packaging, and copying costs. You will save trees by avoiding all the paper and packaging. Finally, you will save time both in sending and getting an update on your status.

Q: What are the benefits of entering the Washington Prize?

A: All Washington Prize entrants get a copy of the winning book. Those entrants whose manuscripts are passed up to second readers have the option of getting feedback from our readers and/or judges on their manuscripts.

Q: What are the benefits of winning the Washington Prize?

A: The poet who wins the Washington Prize will enjoy the benefits of working with an attentive editor, receive a cash purse of $1500 once the manuscript is edited, receive at no cost to the author 100 copies of his/her book, get assistance in sending out 30 review copies, and have the honor of distribution of said book to all entrants of the Washington Prize. In 2011, all of new books were on the best seller list of Small Press Distribution and many copies of these books were sold at the 2011 AWP conference.

Q: May I send a manuscript that exceeds your limit of 80 pages?

A: While we prefer that submissions meet our guidelines of 48 to 80 manuscript pages, we usually tolerate a manuscript that might run over or under by a few pages.

Q: May I send a postcard for notification that you received my manuscript?

A: Yes, but we prefer that you consider your canceled check as proof that your MS arrived safely.

Q: May I send more than one manuscript?

A: Yes, and it is best if we know that you are doing this so that the manuscript can be distributed to different first readers. Please be sure to submit a $25 entry fee per manuscript--i.e., $50 for two manuscripts, $75 for three, etc.

Q: Will you accept work by more than one author?

A: Our contest is set up for a single author winner. While we entertained a collaboration in 2014 that made finals, we have given serious consideration to this question and feel that collaborations are in a separate category.

Q: Why do you require that a binder clip hold a paper manuscript together?

A: if your manuscript is selected, we will copy that manuscript for our final judges and want easy access to the pages. Therefore we do not want stapled or bound manuscripts. We also do not want manuscripts sent in folders because the pages might fall out and get lost.

Q: is there a limit on the length of any one poem submitted for this contest? For example, could one poem exceed one or two pages?

A: Individual poems may be of any length as long as the manuscript adheres reasonably to our manuscript length of 48 to 64 manuscript pages.

Q: What kind of paper should I use?

A: Use standard white 20 lb copying paper sized 8 ½ “ X 11”. We handle a lot of manuscripts and do not want unnecessarily heavy manuscripts.

Q: May I use distinctive fonts and styling?

A: Text should be printed in black ink. The single font you choose should be standard and easy to read, such as Times New Roman or Ariel. Font size must be 10-12 point type.

Q: May I include illustrations and/or drawings?

A: No. The contest is judged solely on the poetry.

Q: I have submitted to your contest before and want to know if I am wasting my time and money sending my manuscript again.

A: All manuscripts are read without identification of the author. If you read about our judging process, you will see that it is not likely that your manuscript will be read by the same first reader, which is a critical point in the competition’s process. If you have been submitting your manuscript without notice of it being selected as a finalist, consider working with a professional editor or a peer group to make revisions.

Q: How does your judging process work?

A: When a manuscript arrives, it is assigned an identification number and logged into our database. When the contest closes March 15, first readers are assigned 20-30 manuscripts. From that group, a first reader selects up to 5 manuscripts to pass on to a second reader. Second readers receive 15 to 20 manuscripts and pass along as many as 3 manuscripts to the final judges. Final judges receive copies of the same 10-12 manuscripts. Therefore, a single manuscript making it to the hands of the five final judges is read by one first reader, one second reader, and the complete panel of five judges. If a reader or judge recognizes the work, he or she will recuse him/herself from reading the manuscript and will allow others to read it. After the final judges have read the final manuscripts, they meet, discuss the merits of the manuscripts, and vote on a winner. The winner is usually called from that meeting.

Q: Is there a particular school or style of poetry that The Word Works prefers?

A: The Word Works looks for the best manuscript without any restriction to style or subject matter. The best advice for a winning manuscript can be found in an essay by Hilary Tham in Winners, A Retrospective of the Washington Prize.

Q: What happens to my fee?

A: Your $25 fee helps support the cost of printing the winning book, supplying the winner’s monetary award, advertising the prize, and the mailing costs associated with sending every entrant a copy of the book.

Q: When or how will I hear the contest results?

A: if you are selected as the winner, you will be called. Be sure to include your phone number and email address. If you provide an SASE, we will send you a news release about the winner. Results will be posted on our website at Those entrants submitting through our electronic submissions manager will be notified automatically after the winner has been confirmed.

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The Word Works is pleased to announce that Jamison Crabtree of Las Vegas, Nevada, won the 2014 Washington Prize for his poetry manuscript, Rel[am]ent. The prize includes book publication and a cash award of $1,500. Publication is slated for spring 2015.

Rel[am]ent is Crabtree’s first published book. His work has appeared in such publications as DIAGRAM, Blackbird, and Hayden's Ferry Review. Crabtree earned his MFA in poetry as a Rogers Fellow at the University of Arizona and is currently a Black Mountain Institute PhD fellow at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

Rel[am]ent was chosen from 237 manuscripts submitted by American and Canadian poets. Grief, loneliness, and despair have never been seen like in this way before. Darkness becomes noir, a mystery to investigate. Maybe this collection of poems answers why we scream in the fun house.

The Washington Prize is judged blind in a three-level process by a group of practicing poets from around the country. Finalists were Lament/Praise by Anne Keniston (NV); Swan and Jack-Knife by Nikia Leopold (MD); Her, Infinite by Sawnie Morris (NM); Happy You Are Here by Ayaz Pirani (CA); Proximity By Cindy Savett (PA); The Derelict Daughter by Brittney Scott (PA); Thimbleful by Cindy Veach (MA); According to Discretion by Adam Vines & Allen Jih (AL); and Silk Road by Daneen Wardrop (MI). Lament/Praise by Anne Keniston (NV) also received an Honorable Mention.

Final judges in this year’s contest were Karren Alenier, J.H. Beall, Fred Marchant, Leslie McGrath, and Nancy White. First readers were Barbara Anderson, Stuart Bartow, Matt Broaddus, George Drew, Michael Gossett, Elaine Handley, Erich Hintze, Amy MacLennan, Marilyn McCabe, Kathleen McCoy, Michael Mlekoday, Cat Ricrdson, Naftali Rottenstreich, Mary Sanders Shartle, Kodi Saylor, Kate Surles, Maria van Beuren. Second readers were Carrie Bennett, Brad Richard, Jay Rogoff, Barbara Ungar.

The Word Works has awarded the Washington Prize since 1981. In 2015, The Word Works again will offer publication and a $1,500 prize to a volume of original poetry. Submissions are accepted from Jan. 15 to March 15, and the entry fee will be $25. All entrants receive a copy of the winning book, and finalists and semi-finalists may receive feedback from their readers upon request. For further information and guidelines, visit the Word Works Web site at

Rel[am]ent is available by advance order for $17 plus $4 shipping and handling at our website or from the mailing address above. Distribution will be through Small Press Distribution, Ingram, and Baker & Taylor.


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  • 1981 - Barbara Goldberg for "Nee Maggie Malone"
  • 1982 - Susan Gubernat for "To the Close Friend Most Unlike Me"
  • 1983 - Judith Steinbergh for "Initiation at Bish Bash Falls"
  • 1984 - Lindsay Knowlton for "Flight"
  • 1985 - Enid Shomer for "Stalking the Florida Panther"
    In 1987 Word works published Enid Shomer's full-length book
    STALKING THE FLORIDA PANTHER as the first Washington Prize book
  • 1986 - Renee Ashley for "Crow"
  • 1987 - Lisa Ress for "Setting the Table, Eating What is Served"
  • 1988 - Christopher Bursk for THE WAY WATER RUBS STONE
  • 1989 - John Bradley for LOVE-IN-IDLENESS
  • 1990 - Barbara Moore for FAREWELL TO THE BODY
  • 1991 - Elaine Magarrell for BLAMELESS LIVES
  • 1992 - Nancy White for SUN, MOON, SALT
  • 1993 - Fred Marchant for TIPPING POINT
  • 1994 - Jay Rogoff for THE CUTOFF
  • 1995 - Linda Lee Harper for TOWARD DESIRE
  • 1996 - George Young for SPINOZA'S MOUSE
  • 1997 - Ann Rae Jonas for A DIAMOND IS HARD BUT NOT TOUGH
  • 1998 - Nathalie F. Anderson for FOLLOWING FRED ASTAIRE
  • 1999 - Peter Blair for LAST HEAT
  • 2000 - Charlotte Gould Warren for GANDHI'S LAP
  • 2001 - Michael Atkinson for ONE HUNDRED CHILDREN WAITING FOR A TRAIN
  • 2002 - Miles Waggener for PHOENIX SUITES
  • 2003 - Ron Mohring for SURVIVABLE WORLD
  • 2004 - Carrie Bennett for BIOGRAPHY OF WATER
  • 2005 - Richard Lyons for FLEUR CARNIVORE
  • 2007 - Prartho Sereno for CALL FROM PARIS
  • 2008 - Richard Carr for ACE
  • 2009 - Frannie Lindsay for MAYWEED
  • 2010 - Brad Richard for MOTION STUDIES
  • 2011 - Mike White for HOW TO MAKE A BIRD WITH TWO HANDS
  • 2012 - B. K. Fischer for ST. RAGE'S VAULT
  • 2014 - Jamison Crabtree for REL[AM]ENT
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WINNERS: A RETROSPECTIVE OF THE WASHINGTON PRIZE was published December 1999 as part of The Word Works 25 year celebration. This anthology of poetry by Washington Prize winners, readers, and judges includes anecdotal material about winning or judging the prize since the competition was started in 1981. Winners: A Retrospective of the Washington Prize is a reference for anyone who enters the competition for the prize.

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