Iron Pen 2022 – Rules, Submission Info,

Hello Iron Pen 2022 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 26 at 5:00 p.m. CST (tomorrow!).
  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 9 via email, on the MWC home page, and on MWC’s Facebook page.
  10. The virtual awards ceremony and reading is Saturday, March 12, 2:00-4:00 p.m. CST via Zoom, Facebook Live, and the MWC YouTube page. The winners in each category receive medals, 2nd and 3rd place in each category receive certificates; all place-winners and honorable mentions will receive a 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 2 hour 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 23-25, 2022. There will be a drawing at the awards ceremony on Saturday 3/13 to determine the winner. You do not have to present on the Zoom call or livestream 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.
  12. A Note on the Prompt: For Iron Pen 2022, 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 2022 Iron Pen contest is:

What I first wanted to say was more fire.

Go words!

Please let me know if you have any questions—I’ll be in the office today until 5:30pm CST, and tomorrow I will be working from home until the contest closes at 5pm CST. Please call or message me with any questions at 309-269-6569.

Thanks again for being a part of Iron Pen 2022. Have fun & best of luck!


Registration for Iron Pen 2022 is Open!

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

The Midwest Writing Center is taking registrations for its 14th annual Iron Pen Contest. MWC will supply a prompt to all contestants at 5 p.m. on Friday, February 25th and contestants have 24 hours (entries are due Saturday, February 26th 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 the Iron Pen contest 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 2022 Registration Form (jpeg)
Iron Pen 2022 Registration Form (pdf)

**Everyone that participates in the 2022 Iron Pen Contest will have a chance to win a paid-in-full tuition with a value of $400 for the 2022 David R. Collins Writing Conference in June 23-25, 2022 at St. Ambrose**

This year all winners and finalists will have the opportunity to publish their work in the MWC’s annual Writers Block e-magazine, which will be released to MWC members in the fall of 2022. Winners and finalists will also have the opportunity to publisher their work on the MWC website.

Contest Timeline:

On Friday, February 25 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 website and on the MWC voicemail message.

On Saturday, February 26, contestants must email or bring their work to the Midwest Writing Center no later than 5 p.m. – please do not mail them.

The winners of this 24-hours contest will be announced by email and online on Wednesday, March 9. On Saturday, March 12 at 2 p.m. during a virtual event (available on Facebook Live and Zoom), the winners and finalists will be invited to read their work. All awards and prizes will be sent by mail or can be picked up at the MWC offices.


Register for the 2022 Iron Pen Contest via PayPal today:

Iron Pen 2022 – Contest Registration (per entry)
Number of Categories:
Poetry, Fiction, Nonfiction: