Irreantum Contests: You’re Submitting, Aren’t You?

Spring is in the air (at least, it WAS in the air–right now it’s snowing), but at any rate, the calendar says spring is upon us, and that means Easter and conference and baseball and tulips.  And Irreantum contests! The deadline for the 2010 Irreantum Fiction Contest and Charlotte and Eugene England Essay Contest is May 31, so I expect that this spring, laptops all over Mormondom will be whirring as the writers among us polish and perfect their prize-winning stories and essays.

And YOU are among those writers, are you not?  Because you ought to submit.  These Irreantum contests don’t cost you a dime (we don’t even make you travel to the post office, since all submissions are received electronically). All we ask is that you pour your heart and soul and time and effort into creating a piece of art, then revise it, then read it out loud and catch all the wonky-sounding parts, then revise again, then ask your trusted friend who reads a lot of literature to take a look at it, then revise again, then go over your own personal check-list of the qualities good stories and essays need to embody, then revise again, then wake up at 3 a.m. one night and change that tricky part that’s been bugging you, then make your spouse (mother, visiting teacher, crazy uncle) read the story one last time, then do one FINAL revision, then read it out loud one more time and catch all the new wonky-sounding parts.  Then run spell check, and make sure your commas are inside the quotation marks, and remove any annoying adverbs in your dialogue tags.  And then . . . send it our way, with the hope that all your hard work will be rewarded by publication and/or a nice cash prize.

You only have until May 31 to accomplish all this, so get crackin!  We’ve been accepting submissions since January 1 and have already received an encouraging number of entries.  Irreantum publishes work by well-established professional writers, by new writers who’ve never seen their name in print, and by all those in-between.  We encourage ALL of you to submit and contribute to the cause of publishing the best-of-the-best in Mormon literature.

Here’s your contest info:

Irreantum Contest Rules

All unsolicited fiction and creative nonfiction submissions received during our submission window will be considered for that year’s Irreantum Fiction Contest and the Charlotte and Eugene England Personal Essay contest, respectively, and must be submitted according to contest rules. The submission window for each year’s contest is January 1st-May 31st. Any submission received outside the submission window will not be considered; however, we encourage authors to consider resubmitting the following year after January 1st.

Irreantum Fiction Contest

The first-place author will be awarded $250, second place $175, and third place $100 (unless judges determine that no entries are of sufficient quality to merit awards). Publication is not guaranteed, but winners agree to give Irreantum first publication rights.

Any unpublished fictional form up to 8,500 words will be considered, including short stories and excerpts from novels. Because Irreantum is a literary journal dedicated to exploring Mormon culture, entries must relate to the Mormon experience in some way. Authors need not be LDS. Individuals may submit a maximum of two entries. Irreantum staff and members of the AML board are not eligible.

Deadline: May 31.

Submission Instructions

Only electronic submissions will be accepted. Please email your entry as an MS Word, WordPerfect, or RTF file attachment to

In the subject line, please write “Irreantum Fiction Contest.” Include your name, the title of your submission, and your contact information, including address and phone number, in the body of the email.

To facilitate blind judging, no identifying information should appear in the story itself other than the title of the manuscript, which should appear as a header on each page.

Winners will be posted on Irreantum‘s website, by August 31.

With no official connection to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Irreantum Fiction Contest is supported by the Utah Arts Council, with funding from the State of Utah and the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art.

Irreantum Charlotte and Eugene England Personal Essay Contest Rules

The first-place author will be awarded $200, second-place $150, and third-place $100 (unless judges determine that no entries are of sufficient quality to merit awards). Publication is not guaranteed, but winners agree to give Irreantum first publication rights.

Unpublished personal essays up to 5000 words will be considered. Because Irreantum is a literary journal dedicated to exploring Mormon culture, essays must relate to the Mormon experience in some way. Authors need not be LDS. Individuals may enter a maximum of two essays. Irreantum staff and members of the AML board are not eligible.

Deadline: May 31.

Submission Instructions

Only electronic submissions will be accepted. Please email your entry as an MS Word, WordPerfect, or RTF file attachment to

In the subject line, please write “Personal Essay Contest.” Include your name, the title of your submission, and your contact information, including address and phone number, in the body of the email.

To facilitate blind judging, no identifying information should appear in the essay itself other than the title of the manuscript, which should appear as a header on each page.

Winners will be posted on Irreantum‘s website, by August 31.

With no official connection to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Charlotte and Eugene England Personal Essay Contest is funded through the estate of Eugene England.


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23 Responses to Irreantum Contests: You’re Submitting, Aren’t You?

  1. Th. says:


    One thing I find unclear from the website. Play submissions count as fiction? And therefore . . . may only be submitted during the contest window?

  2. Angela H. says:

    You’re right, Th. We need to clarify that. We will accept plays, but not for the fiction contest. We’ll make a change.

  3. Wm Morris says:

    Have you thought about bumping up the word count max? I know that means more work for the reader(s), but since the contest entries effectively form the slush pile, I really think that you should consider up to novelette length. And by that I mean novelette as defined by the SFWA — up to 17,499 words. Although I think you could knock that down to 15,000.

    Some of the best works in Science Fiction and Fantasy every year fall in to the novelette category, and I think it’d be awesome if Irreantum could encourage LDS writers to gain experience with longer story forms with the possibility of reward and publication. We need the practice, imo. Yes, of course, the danger is short story bloat. And, yes, excerpts are currently allowed. But I personally would rather that my subscription be paying for a complete novelette every so often than a novel excerpt.

  4. Lee Allred says:

    I can see where William is coming from. A longer story can be a larger canvas resulting in possibly better stories. The difficulty is that IRREANTUM’s slush is tied to the contest.

    Having read slush myself, I can feel for the judges/editors. Combining IRREANTUM and the contest gives them only one pile to read from. For the purposes of the contest, I’m quite fine with the current contest length. The length is sufficent to tell a good story. The shorter length may reduce somewhat the quality of the pool the eventual IRREANTUM issue draws from, but overall I’m fine with the current contest length.

    I taliored my submissions to fall well under the contest limit and didn’t feel cramped.

    For the record, one of the reasons for so many novelettes in science fiction is that it’s often difficult to set up the ground rules/background of the sf story’s fictive universe in shorter lengths. Much of that extra length is used mixing in world-building; subtract that and the "story" portion of a sf novelette is closer to a contest length mainstream story. (Alternate history, what I write a lot of, requires [i]a lot [/i]of world buidling/background.)

    Also, one reason for the extra high quality of novellas and novellettes found in sf magazines is because if the editor is going to tie up that much space in the book with one story, it’d better be a corker.

    Novelettes and novellas are [i]very [/i]hard for beginners/new writers to sell to sf magazines, something I learned much to my regret when starting out. Novellette seems to be my natural length. Editors accept those lengths from well-established writers. New writers, not so much. (SF antholgy paperbacks are a different matter; I learned that lesson, too, a much happier lesson.)

    FWIW, I’ve sold all four sf lengths: novella (longer than a novelette, shorter than a novel), novelette, short story, and vignette (short-short — very difficult to write for sf except for "gimmick" stories).

    – Lee

  5. Lisa Torcasso Downing says:

    Wm, I haven’t exactly been with [i]Irreantum[/i] for a long time, but I have now done the fiction editing on stories that rose to the top during three contest cycles. I tend to ask writers of anything that exceeds 25 pages to cut their stories. Some resist, but I think they tend to be happier with the results when all is said and done. The 30 page stories that have come in–and that are done well enough to be published–tend to have extraneous stuff, stuff that could be tightened, stuff that is repetitious, stuff that distracts… Some kind of stuff that isn’t needed. Evaluate carefully. If you send in a longer story, make sure it [i]has[/i] to be that long.

    The magic in the short story comes from the "short" part. It takes such hard work and writerly self-control and insight to craft an effective story in around 20-25 pages. My general recommendation to writers interested in submitting (and this is just me, but you’ll face me if you finish well) is to look carefully for extraneous stuff. If your short story is around 30 pages, cull over it carefully. Keep pacing matched to the tenor of your story (slower is ok for more internal stories), but pacing will always be thrown off by unnecessary passages, even if they are full of spectacular prose. Prose alone isn’t the key to success.

    So keep watch for things that might pull the reader/judge away from your main goal (or your protagonist’s story goal). Every word/phrase must build the story. If it doesn’t, cut it. In fact, make sure that your protagonist [i]has[/i] a story goal. Make sure you know what that goal is. Don’t let the character get away from you.

    As to [i]Irreantum[/i] publishing novelettes or novellas, well, if its good, I would be in favor of it. But not in the contest for short fiction. Perhaps Angela and Jack would consider reading and accepting them in the same manner they do stage plays. Separately. But that’s their call.

    Now submit, submit, submit. There’s been too much talk of the slush pile here. Everyone who has ever had their work in print has also had their work in someone’s slush pile. Much of what is published has been slushed over by some other publication. Just get your stuff out there. And folks, really, really, really, re-submit a story that you’ve improved that didn’t win in a subsequent year. We have to turn away some stuff that is good, but not quite there or not as "there" as someone else’s story. We want to read [b]you[/b].

  6. Wm Morris says:

    I completely agree with the advice to trim short stories; to keep them tight (with some caveats, of course, there is always a danger in making inviolated the constraints and tendencies of the form, which sadly the marketplace tends to do for various marketing and other non-literary considerations). However, whittled down, finely carved stories leads to only one kind of authoring and reading experience — a good one, for sure, but not the only way Mormon literature can happen.

    I see the novelette and novella as a different beast and as a form that has especial potential in the era of ebooks and apps and shorter attention spans and film adaptations and too many authors writing novels before they have developed as a writer. Mormon authors need incentive to and experience in writing longer works, which is why I raise the issue here. Speaking for myself only, Irreantum is the single biggest motivator I have as a (meager) producer of Mormon fiction.

    During the 19th century novellas/novelettes were supported by the journals and the result was excellent training for up and coming authors. Some of the best works of literature to come out of that era end up in that word count range (7,500 – 40,00). Currently the author of Mormon literary fiction’s main outlets are short stories for Irreantum, Dialogue and Sunstone and to hope that they can get a novel published by Zarahemla or Parables. Perhaps some meddling in the middle ground could be interesting and evocative and fruitful.

    As I mention above, I understand that there is a danger in authors larding stories if Irreantum editors up the word count max. And if it is a major hassle, then that’s cool.

  7. Scott Parkin says:

    A note on the essay section–

    It appears that they are looking for essays of the creative non-fiction type rather than traditional essays. In other words, the kinds of personal essays that read much more like short stories with the focus on imagery and descriptive writing.

  8. Th. says:


    <i>And folks, really, really, really, re-submit a story that you’ve improved that didn’t win in a subsequent year. </i>

    As a matter of probability, unless I was told that a work had been close for reasons that are fixable in rewrite, it seems crazy to resubmit a story. And most journals specifically forbid it. So I wonder in what cases you would genuinely consider resubmission to be a good decision.

  9. Angela H. says:

    Just to comment on a few points that have been raised:

    First, Wm, I agree that it would be nice to see a novella published in Irreantum, but I don’t think it would work to increase the word count for the fiction contest. First of all, I read all the initial entries (usually around 80 or so) and we have a fiction contest committee made up of volunteers who read all the semifinalists. Sometimes this is up to 20 stories. We have to limit length, or else the amount of time it would take to read all the entries would be prohibitive. But the other reason is exactly what Lisa mentioned: many of our submissions need to be tightened, and increasing the word count max might encourage long-windedness.

    I also want to clarify that it’s all *unsolicited* fiction that must be submitted to the fiction contest. If we come across an excellent writer with a novella, we might consider soliciting and publishing it. But it would have to be excellent, simply because we do have a certain number of pages we’re working with, so publishing a novella would mean not publishing other worthy submissions.

    And Scott, as far as essays are concerned, "creative nonfiction" is a wide open, hard to define genre. For the contest, we’re interested in any essays that fall under that genre’s umbrella, from experimental stuff to more memoir-like pieces to personal essays. It’s true that we want contest essays to have an element of the "personal" about them, definitely–we publish critical essays, and these pieces are considered separately from the contest. But we want the net we cast for submissions to be rather wide. And each year, we have a different committee taking a look at the contest submissions, so the committee’s tastes and preferences do change year-to-year.

    As far as resubmitting stories that didn’t win in previous years is concerned, my recommendation would be to only resubmit if you’ve substantially revised. Simply resending an already submitted piece after a few minor tweaks probably won’t result in a win. But a story that’s undergone thoughtful revision? Send it along.

  10. Lisa Torcasso Downing says:

    Angela is correct: Don’t be afraid to send in a thoroughly revised story for a second go-round if you’ve know you’ve caught problems and destroyed them. We are all learning and growing as writers and if a story has grown (not in size, but quality), we’ll reconsider it. It would make me particularly happy to see that growth in the work of any of our writers.(I hope I haven’t overstepped here.)

    Wm has a great point about the mid-length fictions and their relationship to journals. It would be fun to see Irreantum corner this market.

  11. Wm Morris says:

    Thanks, Lisa. I’ve been thinking about this more, especially after your and Angela’s and Lee’s comments, and have come around to the notion that the most likely effect of upping the word count for the contest would be an increased work load way out of proportion to the actual benefit. Mid-form fiction might work better as a special project/dispensation.

  12. Lee Allred says:

    I feel bad, William. We ended up doing a bit of a dog-pile on your idea. I really do like your idea of encouraging mid-length Mormon fiction. I meant only to point out issues that make novelettes problematical for magazine publishing — the contest-driven fiction selection for IRREANTUM in particular.

    Maybe I can make amends this time by looking at ways we can make longer fiction happen.


    I left out something in discussing novelettes and novellas in sf magazines. One of the reasons the magazines continue to run them in their pages is that the Nebula and Hugo Awards both have specific categories for both of them (hence the SFWA specified length you mentioned).

    Admittedly, this has less to do with motivating writers than it does with magazine editors and publishers. There’s a sort of friendly rivalry between the top three print magazines (ASIMOVS, ANALOG, and F&SF) in scooping up the most awards each year. Having extra award categories means more potential awards. The length precludes a lot of competition. The odds of a novella or novelette winning an award are much higher than a short story. There’s a smaller pool to award from compared to short story length (novellas especially).

    Some writers write with that in mind as well. I’ve heard it bluntly stated in writerly circles that if you’re really award-hungry, you stand a better chance with the longer length. (The down side of course is the reduced odds of getting the story published in the first place. See my last post.)

    Now, I don’t know if AML should create a mid-length fiction award. The problem is a severe lack of Mormon fiction venues. I’m not sure there’s enough mid-length Mormon fiction published each year to warrant such an award, nor am I sure the ASIMOVS-ANALOG-F&SF friendly rivalry can be readily adopted by IRREANTUM-SUNSTONE-DIALOG or whomever.

    But an AML (or other entity) mid-length award is one possibility.


    As you suggested (you beat me to it!) perhaps specifically creating a mid-length project may be the answer.

    One possibility is a novelette contest.

    The main problems I see here are getting volunteers to administer and judge it, funding for operation and prizes (if awarding prize monies), and publicity — all without (hopefully) robbing pre-existing Mormon Letters Peters to pay new novelette contest Paul.

    Funding I think would be less problematic than rounding up volunteers.


    Another option might be creating a novelette print anthology (or ambitiously, a magazine).

    Financial concerns top the problem list here (although finding publishing staff is also an issue). Print projects cost a good chunk of change, and, sad to say, story anthologies do not sell as well as novels.

    The science fiction market publishes a lot of anthologies. One of the ways they drum up a bit more interest than a generic multi-author anthology is to create theme anthologies like Sherlock Holmes in Space or the Alternate Generals series I was in (alternate history about a military historical figure). Other specialized anthologies are "shared-world anthologies" — several authors all writing in the same fictive universe created specifically for that anthology series (David Drake has done a number of them like THE FLEET, FOREIGN LEGIONS, HEROES IN HELL, etc.). Another type is a "Shared-world" anthology in a top author’s specific story universe like the HONOR HARRINGTON anthologies in David Weber’s fictive universe or DRAKAS! in S.M. Stirling’s dystopia (I was in one of those).

    I don’t know how well the above (theme anthologies) might translate over to a Mormon anthology. Book of Mormon stories? (There was a contest of those recently.) Nauvoo stories? Mormon Trail? Temple wedding anthology? It might work.


    Angela just mentioned commissioning stories for IRREANTUM outside of the contest submission project. I think this is a good practice. (SF magazines often commission stories from the top pros.) Commissioning a new novelette from, say, Doug Thayer (just to pull a name from a hat) is in my opinion a very good use of IRREANTUM resources.

    The main problem with this is that I don’t see IRREANTUM doing more than one a year (issues of limited magazine space and publication frequency). A great idea for its own sake, but it does little to actually increase mid-length fiction much.


    I think this is the best option. The financial resources needed for creating an online anthology (or ongoing magazine) are far less than that for print. (The professional online sf magazines have become important venues for the longer-length stories.) Project staff, of course, is still needed.

    A quarterly or semi-annual online magazine might create a big enough pool to also include the awards idea (AML or other entity).

    One particular online option is an e-book anthology. might be a good option. They’re used by several sf pros already and have just cut a Kindle deal with Amazon and a similar one with Apple, providing a distribution chain for the project. ( is a source of free public domain cover art.)

    The novelette anthology could be a one-shot or a recurring series depending on resources and volunteers. The smashwords option needs not much more than an editor and someone to format the files to send off.

    Main drawback here is that the Mormon fiction market is already a very small niche market. The Mormon fiction e-book market is an even smaller readership I’d imagine. A lot of work for just a few eyeballs.

    – Lee

  13. Lisa Torcasso Downing says:

    I worry that we have more ideas about how to publish great stuff than we have great stuff to publish. Are many of you writing novellas? Would you write them if there was a means to publish them w/in our community? Maybe we should start there before we dream of establishing contests and entire online journals for them. But don’t misread me. I’d be [i]very happy [/i]to see these develop.

    At the fiction contest, we may get 80-100 entries, but we don’t get 80-100 great entries. If the ratio of good to weak stories held true (which is a big assumption) for the few novellas ("few" is another big assumption) that are being written, it may be that we’d only have one novella that is publication-ready every several years.

    Everyone, keep writing!

  14. Wm Morris says:

    I have a novella. I’m not actively writing it at the moment because I’m lazy, but also because at the moment it appears that the only thing to do with it would be to self-publish it.

    Writers need a glimmer of hope and even better the terror of a deadline before they pour hours in to their work. Thus why the Irreantum contest is so important to Mormon letters. As I’ve said before, my already meager fiction output would be half of what it has been the past 5 years without the contest.


    Excellent analysis and ideas. I have had many similar thoughts, but my first stop is the <a href="">Monsters & Mormons</a> anthology.

  15. Th. says:


    Which, Lee, you should definitely check out.

  16. Lee Allred says:

    Which, Theric, I already have something ready. Just waiting on the post-pre-announcement submission details. :)

  17. Lee Allred says:

    Lisa, thanks for that latest post. One of the reasons there are few good longer-length fiction pieces written is, as Willaim intimated, a lack of venues for them. I think more would be produced if there were places for them to go. "If you build it they will come" is a good metaphor for how a hungry writer’s mind works.

    The current IRREANTUM contest just isn’t the right cornfield to build the stadium, imo.


    – Lee

  18. Moriah Jovan says:

    [b]"If you build it they will come" is a good metaphor for how a hungry writer’s mind works.[/b]

    Mmm, I kinda feel like Peculiar Pages is being built on that basis (one I agree with, by the way).

  19. Th. says:


    Long before The Fob Bible, Peculiar Pages was a thought experiment on making a forum for short Mormon fiction. But Irreantum is filling that need well, I think, so on to other things.

    And Lee — can’t wait to see your submission. (Tell your friends!)

  20. Lisa Torcasso Downing says:

    Lee, that "build it and they will come" line has been rolling around in my head ever since I last posted. I’m not surprised to see it came to your mind as well.

    I’m all for some ambitious soul with the know-how creating a forum for the novella. (Is Peculiar Pages it?) I do believe more writers would write novellas if it seemed publication was possibe. Perhaps the editors at [i]Irreantum[/i] will craft some kind of submission guidelines for longer works outside of the contest, but it seems to me that publishing a novella would seriously restrict the amount of short fiction the journal could publish. That would not be good for our community, I don’t think. I think its important for [i]Irreantum[/i] to publish as many writers–including and perhaps especially those who are first timers–as possible. So the novella would probably remain a hard sell, though I’m speaking as a fellow writer and not in any official capacity as a section editor. I really have very little sway in acquisitions. Those decisions remain in the laps of Angela and Jack. (phew) I’m just the post-acceptance villain with the hatchet. (baawaahaha)

  21. Th. says:


    I have to agree. I think with so few markets, Irreantum is obliged to go for breadth, not depth.

  22. Is a memoir considered previously published if I self-published it? (For the Eugene England contest)

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