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Magazine writing contest seeks life lessons

Real Simple Life Lessons writing magazine contests found in back issues. Real Simple magazine nonfiction essay writing contest

One of the major writing contests that falls under the glossy magazine essay contest category is Real Simple’s annual writing contest that seeks essays full of inspiration and motivation. This is another major magazine that offers a huge prize package including potential publication. The cash prize is $3,000.00. Magazine writing contests have specific submission periods. This one is no exception.

Contest begins at 12:01 A.M. EST on May 13, 2013, and runs through 11:50 P.M. EST on  September 19, 2013. – 2014 Real Simple Life Lessons Essay Contest

Most magazine contests have a theme and the annual Real Simple nonfiction essay contest is no different. This year’s focus is on the question of bravery and of courage. They ask, “What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?”

Magazine writing contests feature themes like life's decisions

Should I go or should I stay?

Maybe, in the course of your life, you’ve had an Erin Brockovich moment: say, the time you stood up to a bully in second grade, or the day you ended a long-standing friendship that had turned toxic. Or maybe your acts of courage have been less dramatic but no less powerful: moving  to a new country. Daring to fall in love a second time around. Leaving a settled career to embark on a risky new venture. Whatever your story, share it with us. – Real Simple magazine guidelines (2013)

What do magazine writing contests look for? 

When you’re selecting manuscripts for submissions to various writing contests for magazines, including the glossy magazines like Glamour or Real Simple, it’s good to get a feel for what the judges want. Understanding the magazine’s main audience is as helpful as performing a careful read of the rules and guidelines.

In the case of the Real Simple’s magazine essay contest, a few key items are mentioned. Entries will be judged equally on the following criteria: originality, creativity, use of language, and appropriateness to contest theme.

  • Stick to the theme of the contest. Sounds obvious, right? But every year we get many entries that diverge—sometimes wildly—from the stated topic. You may have an amazing essay in the bottom drawer of your desk, but if it doesn’t cover the contest theme, it’s not going to win.
  • But don’t feel the need to parrot back the exact wording of the contest theme in your essay. For example, if the theme is “What was the most important day in your life?” try not to begin the piece with “The most important day of my life was…”
  • Check your spelling. Double-duh, or so you’d think. But as many as one in five entries has multiple misspellings.
  • Avoid clichés. (And please don’t try to work the phrase ‘real simple’ into your essay. It almost never works.)
  • Try writing on a less-expected subject. Many submissions cover similar ground: pregnancies, weddings, divorces, illnesses. Many of these essays are superb. But you automatically stand out if you explore a more unconventional event. In one year’s batch of submissions, memorable writers described the following: a son leaving for his tour of duty; getting one’s braces off; and learning that an ex-wife was getting remarried.

Check out previous essay winners

Singer shares life-changing decision in magazine writing contests entry. One of the best ways to get a feel for what the contest judges of magazine writing contests have in mind is to read the winning entries from previous years. Read how previous submissions tackled the year’s theme. Try to get a feel for the writing style and tone. Last year’s question centered around past life decisions: If you could change one decision in the past, what would it be? 

Real Simple contest requirements 

Submission rules and guidelines are as important for major magazine writing contests as they are for any other type of submission. Make sure you read all the rules and requirements. Don’t rely solely on this blog post. Check the links below to verify all the information.

  • Essays must be nonfiction.
  • Maximum wordcount: 1,500 words maximum; no minimum but entries are encouraged to be around 1,000 words.
  • All essay entries must be original and not previously published.
  • Open to US residents and the District of Columbia.
  • Include name, address, and phone numbers (home, cell, work) in body of email and on all attachments.
  • No anonymous entries.
  • Manuscript format: Typed, double-spaced submission
  • Entries can be emailed or mailed.
  • Submission format: Prefer email essay submissions in a Microsoft Word document but will accept essays that are pasted into the body of an email.
  • No handwritten submissions.
  • Contest begins at 12:01 A.M. EST on May 13, 2013, and runs through 11:50 P.M. EST on  September 19, 2013.
  • Main entries to Essay Contest Real Simple, 1271 Avenue of the Americas, 9th floor, New York, NY 10020
  • Email submissions: Email essay contest entries to
  • All submitted essays must be nonfiction.
  • Real Simple magazine will ONLY verify receipt of email submissions not those sent via mail.
  • Open to legal residents of the United States age 19 or older at time of entry.
  • Void where prohibited by law. (Entries will not be returned.)
  • Notification of winners and runners-up around January 7, 2014.

Again, do a careful read of this year’s Real Simple magazine rules and official rules.

More on Real Simple magazine nonfiction essay contest

Writing contests, especially magazine writing contests, are full of rules and are often centered around themes. Pay particular attention and make sure you follow all the guidelines. Contests are sticklers and don’t reward those who ignore the rules or skip over their guidelines. Remember, the contest deadline is September 14, 2013.

While the glossy magazines have wider audiences and offer larger prizes than many writing contests, the submission pool is much larger. Make sure you do all you can to ensure that your essay is a winning entry. Share your thoughts in the comments below about magazine writing contests. Have you written and submitted something to a major magazine for a contest? Do you like contests? What’s your favorite writing contest?

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  • claudine

    I love hearing about writing contests! I really can’t think of anything brave that I’ve done that would be inspirational though. I’m such a fearful person, that my bravery usually involves doing things that others do with ease, such as flying, or driving towards lightning. I’m going to think on it though. Thanks for sharing this.