Announcing the Winners of Iron Pen XV

Hello Iron Pen Contestants!

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in Iron Pen 2023. We received many terrific entries, and our excellent judges—Samantha DeFilippo (nonfiction), Rachel Rixen (fiction), and Deanie Vallone (poetry), who are last year’s winners in each category—had very difficult decisions to make in their evaluations. We appreciate everyone’s time and talents in making this year’s contest one of the biggest we’ve ever had (120 people registered for Iron Pen XV).

Without any further ado, here are the winners of the 2023 Iron Pen contest by category:


1st Place: David Adams, of Bay Village, OH – “The Mountain”

2nd Place: David Nash, of La Crescent, MN – “The Trip”

3rd Place: Dwana Back-Lamberson, of Greenfield, IN – “Home”

Honorable Mention: Meredith White, of St. Louis, MO – “Wolf’s Clothing”


1st Place: Hannah Showalter, of Iowa City, IA – “Between the Ocean and the Mountain is a Wild Forest”

2nd Place: Terry Haru, of Bettendorf, IA – “The Search”

3rd Place: Monica Flink, of Davenport, IA– “Pills”

Honorable Mention: Emily Kingery, of Davenport, IA – “Comprehend, comprehensive. See surrender.”


1st place: Tammy Davis, of Fort Wayne, IN – “Out of the Woods”

2nd place: Natasha Walker, of Chicago, IL – “FINDING SPACE FOR GRACE”

3rd place: Philip Goldfarb Styrt, of Davenport, IA – “Between the Mountains and the Ocean”

Honorable Mention: Margaret Sherwin, of Colorado Springs, CO – “The Midline”

Honorable Mention: Kimberly Lipshutz, of West Des Moines, IA – “The Plastic Bag”

Honorable Mention: Kara Lynn Kavensky, of Carmel, IN – “Untitled”

Congrats to all of our winners!

The Award Ceremony and Reading is this Saturday, March 11 at 12pm CST at the Rock Island Public Library, Downtown Branch, 2nd Floor Community Room. It will also be livestreamed to MWC’s YouTube page:

The winners, 2nd, 3rd Places and Honorable Mentions will be our featured readers, but anyone who participated is welcome to read their entry to this year’s contest. If you would like to read during the event, please send an email to let us know if you plan on reading so we have an idea of how many readers to expect: – Thanks!

**Please note: the Downtown Branch of the Rock Island Public Library will be closed to the public Saturday, March 11, as Library staff will be hosting the grand opening of their new Watts/Midtown Branch from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. If you are attending the reading, you will need to enter the library through the south entrance (facing the alley), and use the elevator to get to the Community Room. The south entrance to the library will open starting at 11:30 a.m.

We will have the checks, medals, and certificates at the event; if you cannot attend, we will mail them to you on Monday, March 13. We will also have our drawing for the full registration to the David R. Collins Writing Conference, and for some other prizes, during the event on Saturday (please note: you do not need to be present to win the Conference registration—anyone with a paid Iron Pen Entry will be included in the raffle, and each paid entry enters your name one time—so, for example, if you entered in all 3 categories, your name will be in the drawing 3 times). You are of course welcome & encouraged to help spread the word about the event; here’s the Facebook event page:

We hope you had fun with this year’s prompt—everyone certainly did a great job of going from zero to finished piece in a mere 24 hours! Thank you all so much again! Please let me know if you have any other questions about the contest or the Award Ceremony this Saturday 3/11. Thanks again and have a good day…

All best,

Ryan Collins

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Registration for Iron Pen 2023 is Open!

The fastest writing contest in the Midwest is back and taking registrations now!

The Midwest Writing Center is taking registrations for its 15th annual Iron Pen Contest. MWC will supply a prompt to all contestants at 5 p.m. on Friday, February 24 and contestants have 24 hours (entries are due Saturday, February 25 by 5 p.m.) to write and submit their best fiction, non-fiction, and/or poetry pieces. Writers are welcome to enter into as many categories as they like with a paid registration for each entry.

The cost to enter Iron Pen is $10 per entry, per category. Anyone can enter! Contestants do not need to be from or reside in the Quad City area. Contestant entries will be judged blind in genre categories—Poetry, Fiction and Non-Fiction (please note there is a 2,000 word limit for fiction and nonfiction entries). The Iron Pen contest is open to all ages.

Registration forms can be found via the link below or at the Midwest Writing Center, c/o RIPL, 401 19th St., Rock Island, IL 61201.

Iron Pen 2023 Registration Form (jpeg)
Iron Pen 2023 Registration Form (pdf)

**Each paid registration for the 2023 Iron Pen Contest will have a chance to win a full registration to the David R. Collins Writing Conference on June 22-24, 2023, valued at $400**

The winners in each Iron Pen category will receive $50 and a medal, and the 2nd and 3rd place winners will also receive prizes. Winners and honorable mentions in each category will also have the opportunity to publisher their work with MWC Press in the annual Writer’s Block e-magazine and/or other publications.

Contest Timeline:

On Friday, February 24st at 5 p.m. contestants will receive an email from the MWC that includes: a topic, an opening line, or a specific character. The prompt will also be announced on our Facebook page, our website and on the MWC voicemail message.

On Saturday, February 25nd, contestants must email their work to the Midwest Writing Center no later than 5 p.m. – please do not send entries via mail.

The winners of this 24-hours contest will be announced by email on Wednesday, March 8th. Awards will be given out on Saturday, March 11th at 12 p.m. at the Midwest Writing Center, where the winners in each category will receive medals, and the winners and finalists will be invited to read their work.


Register for the 2023 Iron Pen Contest via PayPal today:

Iron Pen 2023 – Contest Registration (per entry)
Number of Categories:
Poetry, Fiction, Nonfiction: