The Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans

Congrats to the winners of the 2018 contest judged by Brian Turner, author My Life as a Foreign Country. The next contest will be held in 2020.

This creative writing contest for U.S. military veterans and active duty personnel is hosted by The Iowa Review and made possible by a gift from the family of Jeff Sharlet (1942–69), a Vietnam veteran and antiwar writer and activist. The contest is open to veterans and active duty personnel writing in any genre and about any subject matter. 

Prizes: First place: $1,000 plus publication in an issue of The Iowa Review. Second place: $750. Three runners-up: $500 each.

2020 Contest Rules

  • Submit a manuscript in any genre (poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction) of up to 20 pages. Prose submissions must be double-spaced. Work must be previously unpublished. Simultaneous submissions are fine, assuming you inform us of acceptance elsewhere.
  • The judge will select winners from a group of finalists chosen by Iowa Review editors. All manuscripts, whether selected as finalists or not, are considered for publication.
  • Proof of military service is not required when submitting. (We request documentation only when a writer's work makes it to the final round of judging.)
  • To submit online, please visit between May 1 and 31, 2020, and follow the instructions.
  • To submit via mail, please follow these guidelines:
    1. Manuscripts must include a cover page listing your name, address, e-mail address and/or telephone number, and the title of each work, but your name should not appear on the manuscript itself.
    2. Label your envelope as a contest entry and note its genre. For example: “Veterans’ Contest: Fiction.” One entry per envelope. (Note: multiple poems or prose pieces can comprise a single entry if the total number of pages does not exceed 20. For instance, you may submit two short stories of ten pages each in a single envelope, with a single entry fee.)
    3. Enclose a SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) for final word on your work. Manuscripts will not be returned.
    4. Postmark submissions by May 31, 2020, and mail to the address below:

The Iowa Review
308 EPB
The University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA 52242 

There is no entry fee.

Read Sample Submissions

These were named winner or runners-up in our 2012 Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans contest and were published in our Spring 2013 issue. We announced the winners and runners-up of our 2014 contest the following September (read the announcement); their work appeared in our Spring 2015 issue. For more veterans' writing, as well as resources for veteran writers, please visit our Veterans' Writing Gallery

Eligibility and Conflicts of Interest

Current students, faculty, or staff of the University of Iowa are not eligible to enter the contest.

Work is ineligible to win our contest if it is slated for publication before April 2019, whether in another magazine or as part of a book, or if it has been named winner or runner-up in any other contest. Please withdraw work from our contest immediately if these conditions apply.

The judge has been instructed not to award the prize to entrants with whom he has had a personal or professional relationship. Despite reading the entries with author names removed, the judge may sometimes be able to guess the identity of the entrant. Even if he can't tell during the judging process, he has the right to change his decision if it turns out that the entrant is someone with whom there is any appearance of conflict of interest. Therefore, we advise entrants not to enter the contest if the judge is someone they know personally or have worked with professionally.

The Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans is supported by the Veterans Law Office of Amy B. Kretkowski and a 2016 Art Works Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Veterans Law office of Amy B. Kretkowski