Iron Pen 2020 Guidelines, Information, and Prompt

Hello Iron Pen 2020 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 22 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—or delivered to the MWC office (please note our offices and the Rock Island Public Library close at 5pm on Saturdays). Please do not mail your submissions.
  3. If you have not yet indicated which category you will be competing in, or if you would like to change categories, that’s fine—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 $10 per category you will be competing in (this can be done through the Iron Pen page on our website).   
  4. We strongly encourage you to submit via email. Email submissions should be sent as MS Word attachments (.doc, .docx, .rtf—no .pdf please), 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, February 26 via email, on the MWC home page, and on Facebook.
  10. The awards ceremony is Saturday, February 29 at 2:00 p.m. here at the MWC. 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 come and read their submission so we can all enjoy your efforts!
  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. $300 for the David R. Collins Writers’ Conference, June 25-27, 2020. There will be a drawing at the awards ceremony next Saturday to determine the winner. You do not have to present to win, but it would terrific if you are!
  12. A Note on the Prompt: For Iron Pen 2020, you will have a choice between two prompts. You only need to respond to the prompt of your choice. The Iron Pen prompt, or part of the prompt you choose, 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! Or, for this year, your choice of prompts, in honor of our co-founder David R. Collins’ “20th” Birthday):

(drum roll please…)  The two prompts for the 2020 Iron Pen contest you have to choose from are:

Option #1:

“Our nets have been mended many times in the past. They are too weak to mend again.”


Option #2:

Write a poem, story, or nonfiction piece from the point-of-view and/or in voice of one of the following historical figures, all of whom David R. Collins wrote biographies about:

George Washington Carver | Abraham Lincoln | Malcolm X | Babe Didrikson Zaharias

Go words! And remember: you only need to respond to one of the prompts—the choice is yours.

Please let me know if you have any questions—I’ll be in the office today until 5pm, and tomorrow from 11am until 5pm. Please call or message me with any questions at 309-269-6569. Thanks again for being a part of Iron Pen 2020. Have fun & best of luck!