Iron Pen 2023: Rules, Info, Prompt Announcement

Hello Iron Pen 2023 Contestants,

Thank you all very much for participating in the fastest writing contest in the Midwest! We appreciate your writing courage & quick imagination, and we look forward to seeing all of your terrific submissions.

Before we get to the prompt (which will also be available via phone on the MWC’s outgoing voice message at 309-732-7330, via the home page and the Iron Pen page on the MWC website, and on our Facebook page), a few guidelines and other important bits of information:

  1. Submissions must be received by Saturday, February 25 at 5:00 p.m. CST (tomorrow!). Any submissions received after 5:00 p.m. CST will not be sent to the judges.
  2. Submissions must be emailed to (most preferred)—you can just send them as a reply to this email, if you like. Please do not mail or drop off your submissions. If you have a questions about submitting your work, please contact us.
  3. If you have not yet indicated which category you will be competing in, or if you would like to change categories, that’s no problem—please indicate which category you are submitting for when you email/return your submission. If you decide you want to compete in more than one category, that is fine, but you will need to pay an additional $10 for each category you will be competing in (this can be done through the Iron Pen page on our website).   
  4. Email submissions should be sent as MS Word attachments (.doc, .docx, .rtf—no .pdf please), as a Google Doc, or pasted into the body of the email (attachments are strongly preferred, in order to preserve the formatting of your work). MS Word docs should have standard formatting: 12 pt font, Times New Roman, 1” margins.
  5. Please include “IRON PEN SUBMISSION” in the subject line of your email (or, again, just send as a reply to this email to keep it simple J).    
  6. Limit of one poem, one story, or one nonfiction piece per entry (but you are welcome to submit multiple times in a single category with a paid registration for each entry, and, of course you are welcome write as many as you can / want / need—just submit your best one!).
  7. Fiction and nonfiction pieces must be 2,000 words or less; there is no word limit for poems. 
  8. Submissions will be read anonymously by the judges.
  9. Winners will be announced the evening of Wednesday, March 8 via email, on the MWC home page, and on MWC’s Facebook page.
  10. The awards ceremony and reading is Saturday, March 11, 12:00-1:30 p.m. CST at the Rock Island Public Library in the 2nd Floor Community Room. The event will also be livestreamed via Facebook Live and the MWC YouTube page. The winners in each category receive $50 and a medal, and 2nd and 3rd place in each category receive certificates; all place-winners and honorable mentions will receive a MWC Press book as well. Winners will be featured readers at the awards ceremony, but anyone who participated in this year’s contest is welcome to join the event and read their submission so we can all enjoy your efforts! Please let us know if you plan on attending and reading—we will do our best to accommodate as many readers as possible during the event.
  11. Please remember that everyone that participates in this year’s Iron Pen Contest will have a chance at winning a full registration with value of approx. $400 for the virtual David R. Collins Writers’ Conference, June 22-24, 2022 at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL. There will be a drawing at the awards ceremony on Saturday 3/11 to determine the winner. You do not have to present to win, but it would terrific if you are! Winner will be contacted after the awards ceremony. Each $10 entry fee puts your name in once, so, for example, if you paid $20, you name will be entered twice. You will be entering into the drawing whether or not you submit any writing; each paid registration of $10 enters you in the drawing one time.
  12. A Note on the Prompt: For Iron Pen 2023, the prompt can be used as the title of your piece, as an epigraph, as the first line, somewhere in the text of the piece, as a premise for your piece, an inspiration, etc. The prompt does not have to appear explicitly in the text of your submission, but its influence / inspiration / point-of-view / other use or reference must be clear in your submission. Your submission will be judged on artistic merit (60%), the adherence to/use of the prompt (30%), and technical execution, such as grammar, syntax, clarity (10%). 

Now that we have all of that established, I get to play Chairman (like in Iron Chef’s Kitchen Stadium) and reveal the secret ingredient (THE PROMPT!):

(Drum roll please…)  The prompt for the 2023 Iron Pen contest is:

Between the ocean and the mountains is a wild forest. That is where I want to make my home.

Go words!

Please let me know if you have any questions—I’ll be in the office today 2/24 until 5:00 p.m. CST, and tomorrow I will be working from home until the contest closes at 5:00 p.m. CST, and I will online starting at 11:00 a.m. CST tomorrow, Sat. 2/25.

Thanks again for being a part of Iron Pen 2023. Have fun & best of luck!

All best,

Ryan Collins

Executive Director

Midwest Writing Center

c/o RIPL

401 19th St.

Rock Island, IL 61201

(309) 732-7330