2020 Writing Contest

Please Note: This contest is now closed. Thank you to all writers who entered! We look forward to reading your work. Winners will be announced in late December.

Update: Congratulations to our 2020 Awards winners! Yuchi Zhang of NJ won First Place with his story The Call of the Void, and Helen Qian of MD second with her story So Give Us Light, but Take It First. Check back soon for our next contest! 


All high-school writers between the ages of 14-19 who have not published a full-length manuscript or chapbook can submit. The work you submit cannot have been previously published (with the exception of appearing on your own blog/website, or school literary magazine) or won large national/international awards. They must be original.

To enter, there is a $3 submission fee that can be paid through this Paypal link. (Please manually type in the amount. Any additional dollars donated will go towards all things Wintermute—maintaining/expanding the publication, and for this contest.) *NOTE: Right now all fees will be donated to the organizations of the BLM movement.


First Place Winner: will receive a cash prize, a book of their choice, and publication in Wintermute 
Second Place Winner: will receive a book of their choice, and publication in Wintermute
Other finalists may be considered for publication.


1. Contest opens June 1, 2020 and closes at 11:59 PM, July 31 [deadline is subject to change]. Late entries will not be read.
2. Submission to the Awards implies consent for publication, and all rights will revert back to the author after publication.
3. All stories must be speculative fiction, and be a maximum of 4500 words. [For more knowledge on what qualifies as speculative fiction, please check our submissions guidelines or do a quick Google search].
4. Please submit your story through email. Title the subject line Wintermute Awards. Please do NOT label it "Wintermute Submission" or "Wintermute Award Submission" or any other variation.
5. Attach your story as a Word DOC or PDF.
6. NO identifying information in the file, please. Just the title and the story is fine. All submissions will be read blindly, and past experience or honors are not considered. In the email itself, please include the Paypal username you used for the fee, and also your name and pronouns.
7. No novel excerpts or poetry, please. Prose only.


All submissions will first be screened through the masthead of Wintermute, and then finalists will be forwarded to our judges to pick the first and second-place winners.

A photo of Ada looking at the camera and smiling in front of trees.
Ada Hoffmann is the author of the space opera novel The Outside, the collection Monsters in My Mind, and over 60 published speculative short stories and poems. Her work has appeared in professional magazines such as Strange Horizons, Asimov’s, and Uncanny, and in three year’s-best anthologies. She is the winner of the Friends of the Merrill Collection Short Story Contest (2013, “The Mother of All Squid Builds a Library”) and a two-time Rhysling award nominee (2014 for “The Siren of Mayberry Crescent” and 2017 for “The Giantess’s Dream”). Ada is an adjunct professor of computer science at a major Canadian university, and she did her PhD thesis (in 2018) on teaching computers to write poetry. Under her legal name, she has published eight papers and presented her work at conferences around the world. She is a former semi-professional soprano, a tabletop gaming enthusiast, and an active LARPer. She lives in southern Ontario with a polyamorous family and a curious black cat. You can find her on twitter @xasymptote.

Justin C. Key - Home | FacebookJustin C. Key had wanted to write for as long as he can remember. He blended his passions for science and writing by penning short stories in middle school and sat down to draw up his first novel while studying Biology at Stanford University. He’s been writing ever since. His short stories have appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Crossed Genres, and KYSO Flash, as well as in the revolutionary children’s iPad application, FarFaria. He held a writing advice blog for several years at Scribophile.com and worked as a professional health blogger and content editor at WellnessFX while applying to medical school. Justin’s medical training richly informs his writing, and the power of story and narrative allows him to connect with patients on a deeper level. Justin lives in Manhattan with his wonderful wife and two sons. Even as a full-time Resident Physician in Psychiatry, he finds ample time to write. Just don’t ask him how he does it; he wouldn’t be able to tell you.


wintermutesubmissions@gmail.com for any further inquiries. 

Tips for Young Writers

Even if you do not win the contest, this can be a great opportunity for incentive to write a new piece of speculative work and perfect it. Here are Margaret Atwood's 7 tips for writing spec-fic:

1. Take an Idea From Current Society
2. Strengthen Your Cause-and-Effect Muscles
3. Determine Your World’s Winners and Losers
4. Research
5. Develop A Strong Visual Language
6. Stick To Your Own Rules
7. Read The Greats

Check em out here.
[updates soon]


  1. can I submit a horror story?

    1. Yes, you can! However, the category of speculative fiction involves elements that don't exist in the real world---so your horror story must have these elements to qualify as speculative fiction. This can include supernatural, sci-fi, fantasy, or other imaginative elements. There are certainly amazing "real-world" horror/thriller/slasher stories, but I'm afraid those aren't speculative. Some well-known examples of speculative horror include HP Lovecraft's works ("The Call of Cthulhu") or Stephen King ("The Shining," "It," etc). I hope this helped, and thanks so much for commenting!

  2. Hi! Yes, sorry for the confusion - the deadline for this contest has been changed to July 31st, 2020. We look forward to your submission!

  3. Hi! Are simultaneous submissions allowed for the awards?

    1. Hi! Yes, they are allowed. We look forward to your submission :)

  4. Hello! Have contest results come out?


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