Hello Iron Pen Contestants!

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in Iron Pen 2024. We received many terrific entries, and our excellent judges— Tammy Davis (nonfiction), Hannah Scott-Ravikumar (fiction), and Hannah Showalter (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 most competitive we’ve ever had.

Without any further ado, here are the winners of the 2024 Iron Pen Contest, by category:



1st Place: Peter Hadlandsmyth, of Iowa City, IA: “Pick Up”

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

3rd Place: Dee A. Robb, of New Windsor, IL: “I Know What They’re Thinking”

Honorable Mention: Natalie Murphy, of Chandler, AZ: “Shoot Your Shot”

Honorable Mention: Lex Wurth, of Ames, IA: “Pink Power Nail Polish”



1st Place: Jacob Duncan, of Aledo, IL: “Someday In the Mood for Love – After Wong Kar-Wai”

2nd Place: David Wright, of Monmouth, IL: “Why I Try to Keep Sins Away from My Lips (and Yours)”

3rd Place: Kathleen Fields, of Oak Park, IL: Morning Glory, Amen



1st place: Kristin DeMarr, of Davenport, IA: “You won’t tell folks what you fear any of this says about you”

2nd place: Emily Harvey, of Davenport, IA: “Going Home”

3rd place: Jessica Brent, of Tulsa, OK: “Owasso”

Honorable Mention: Mary Deakin, of Davenport, IA: “Intrusive Thoughts”

Honorable Mention: Samantha DeFilippo, of McHenry, IL: “The Never-Ending To Do List”


***Congrats to all of our winners!*** 


The Award Ceremony and Reading is this Saturday, March 9 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: www.youtube.com/midwestwritingcenter

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: midwestwritingcenter@gmail.com – Thanks!  

We will have the checks, medals, and certificates at the event; if you cannot attend, we will mail them to you on Monday, March 11. 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—everyne 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 3/9. Thanks again and have a good day…


All best,




Iron Pen 2024: Rules, Info, Prompt Announcement

Hello Iron Pen 2024 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 24 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 midwestwritingcenter@gmail.com — you can just send them as a reply to this email, if you like. Please do not mail or drop off your submissionsIf you have any 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 via 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. Submissions that do not follow the file type and/or formatting guidelines will not be sent to the judges.
  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 readers/judges.
  9. Winners will be announced the evening of Wednesday, March 6 via email, on the MWC home page, and on MWC’s Facebook page.
  10. The awards ceremony and reading is Saturday, March 9, 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 we welcome anyone who participated in this year’s contest to attend and share their work—we will include as many readers as time allows. Please let us know if you plan on attending and reading — we will do our best to have 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 27-29, 2024. There will be a drawing at the awards ceremony on Saturday 3/9 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 2024, 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 2024 Iron Pen contest is:

You won’t tell folks what you fear any of this says about you

Go words!

Please let me know if you have any questions—we will be in the office today 2/23 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 we will be online starting at 12:00 p.m. CST tomorrow, Sat. 2/24.

Thanks again for being a part of Iron Pen 2024. Have fun & best of luck!



* * * * * * * * * * * *

Registration for Iron Pen 2024 is Open!

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

The Midwest Writing Center is taking registrations for its 16th annual Iron Pen Contest. MWC will supply a prompt to all contestants at 5 p.m. on Friday, February 23 and contestants have 24 hours (entries are due Saturday, February 24 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 2024 Registration Form (jpeg)
Iron Pen 2024 Registration Form (pdf)

**Each paid registration for the 2024 Iron Pen Contest will have a chance to win a full registration to the David R. Collins Writing Conference on June 27-29, 2024, 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 23 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 www.mwcqc.org and on the MWC voicemail message.

On Saturday, February 24, 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 6. Awards will be given out on Saturday, March 9 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 2024 Iron Pen Contest via PayPal today:

Iron Pen 2024 – Contest Registration (per entry)

Number of Categories:

Poetry, Fiction, Nonfiction: