Written by S. Kalekar February 1st, 2021

26 Themed Submission Calls for Writers in February 2021

There are 26 themed calls in the 22 markets here for writers of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Some of the themes are: circles, water, queer Gothic, fire, sound, 1986, habitats, cyberpunk fairy tales, good Southern witches, dark hearts, cryptids, a postcard from the past, dark carnival, gorefest, roots, home cooking, and internet. There are a few themed contest calls at the end, none of which charge a submission fee. Also see this list of themed fiction submissions – some deadlines are coming up.

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review: Circles
They publish themed poetry and visual art (cover art, but not inside art, must contain a seagull or seagulls). Poetry can be of any length and genre congruent with their themes, including traditional poems, form poems, prose poems, and narrative poems. They’re reading work on the ‘Circles’ theme in February. They’ve also announced their other reading periods and themes.  
Deadline: 15 February 2021
Length: Up to three poems
Pay: $5 for poetry and inside art, $10 for cover art
Details here.

Nyx Publishing: Queer Gothic short stories
They want queer Gothic short stories for a sequel to their Unspeakable anthology. They welcome submissions featuring queerness in a broad sense. This includes perspectives from LGBTQIA+ characters, but also queering of gender and sexuality in a more abstract sense. Their guidelines say, “We love tried-and-true Gothic tropes such as crumbling castles, sketchy families, superstition, confusion over what is real or not, occultism, blurring between life and death. We also love fresh interpretations of the Gothic. Send us your gloomy retellings, genre-mash-ups, or experimental writing. Vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural beasties are welcome.”
(Their submission page also has details of their call for holiday-themed novellas and novels.)
Deadline: 20 February 2021
Length: 100-8,000 words
Pay: £40
Details here.

Claw & Blossom Equinox Issue: Water
This is a quarterly online journal of short prose and poems that touch upon the natural world. They are reading work for issue 8 (the March Equinox issue), and the theme is ‘Water’. The editor looks forward to receiving interpretations of the theme that are suitable and on-point while still being subtle and surprising. The work must contain elements of the natural world – this need not be the main focus, but it should have a distinct and relevant narrative presence. Regarding poetry, they are partial to free verse, and aren’t keen on traditional forms.
Deadline: 21 February 2021
Length: Up to 1,000 words for prose, one poem
Pay: $25
Details here.

Speculative City: Sound
This speculative fiction magazine wants fiction, poetry, and essays on the Sound theme. They seek provocative works that are centered within a cityscape.
Deadline: 24 February 2021
Length: Up to 5,500 words
Pay: $20-55
Details here.

The Dread Machine: 1986
They are reading fiction for their first annual anthology. The theme is 1986; they want horror stories, and all submissions must inspire dread. Their guidelines say, “Do you remember a time before the internet? Before we each carried a lifeline in our pockets? Before security cameras documented everything? Back when parents didn’t worry about their kids until after the street lights popped on? Do you remember how it felt to step into the neon-lit arcade on a Friday night, your pockets heavy with quarters?
For our very first anthology, we’re seeking dread-inspiring stories that take place in 1986—either the 1986 of our reality or an alternate version. Bring us back to a simpler, scarier time.” 
Deadline: 25 February 2021
Length: 3,000-10,000 words
Pay: $0.08/word
Details here.

It Gets Even Better: Stories of Queer Possibility
They want speculative fiction for this anthology, stories about positive queer possibility. Their guidelines say, “Stories may feature near-future social and political change, far-future imaginings of new societies, alternate universes with completely different systems of gender and relationships, alternate histories proposing better outcomes for true events of the past, creative explorations of queer identity—any kind of speculative fiction that posits queer affirmation and joy … please submit to us only if you are comfortable with “queer” being used to describe your story.” All kinds of representations of queer identities are welcome. Writers can submit up to three stories at once (see guidelines). They also accept reprints (audio rights must be available).
Deadline: 27 February 2021
Length: Most acceptances likely to be under 7,000 words; can accept up to 15,000 words
Pay: $0.08/word, and royalties
Details here.

Triangulation: Habitats
They want fantasy, science fiction, weird fiction, and speculative horror for this anthology on the Habitats theme. They want stories about “Sustainable habitats, in tune with their surroundings.
Show us places we want to live that never existed or that we don’t know ever existed. Past, present, and future domiciles for humans, aliens, and fantasy creatures.
Ideally, the story plot will hinge on the habitat design. Let us hear about a new way to live, thriving, not merely surviving. What does it mean to live sustainably in outer space, underground, in the sea, floating in the atmosphere?
What does sustainability look like in a fantasy setting?”
Deadline: 28 February 2021
Length: Up to 5,000 words (sweet spot is 3,000 words)
Pay: $0.03/word
Details here.

Trenchcoats, Towers, and Trolls: Cyberpunk Fairy Tales
This is a call for a fiction anthology, of cyberpunk with fairy tales. Their guidelines say, “Give me a story of Rapunzel trapped in a tower of circuits rather than stones, of trolls who live under bridges as well as those who do their work behind a keyboard — or whatever passes for a keyboard in the future. What if Snow White was a computer and the apple a virus? What if Hansel and Gretel were hackers following digital breadcrumbs? Or Cinderella was a program who must stop running by midnight or else?” Original fairy tales as well as retellings are welcome.
Deadline: 28 February 2021
Length: Up to 7,500 words
Pay: $0.01/word
Details here.

Air and Nothingness Press: Once Upon a Twice Time
This is a fiction anthology. They want two fairy tales, mashed up in a genre of the author’s choice – they’re open to Grimdark, New Weird, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Dying Earth and genre bending/ breaking. Deadline: 28 February 2021
Length: 1,000-3,000 words
Pay: $0.08/word
Details here and here.

Curious Blue Press: Good Southern Witches
ETA They have closed to submissions early.
This is a new independent publisher of fantasy and horror fiction and occult nonfiction. They are reading now for a themed fiction anthology. Their guidelines say, “Your story should be a complete and satisfying tale of magic. Light, dark, humorous, serious, all okay, just nothing too experimental, sexy, or violent. The story should take place in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, or West Virginia, OR at least prominently feature a character or characters from one of these settings.” The characters can be of any race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender expression.
Deadline: 28 February 2021
Length: 2,000-5,000 words
Pay: $25
Details here.

Ghost Orchid Press: Dark Hearts
This is a UK-based indie press and their tagline is ‘Eye-catching horror, Gothic, & dark fiction’. They are reading fiction submissions about the darker side of love. Their guidelines say, “Heartbreak. Obsession. Grief. Jealousy. Love can turn tainted, even cruel. Picture the ghost who won’t stop haunting the man who jilted her. The husband who will go to gruesome lengths to keep his wife alive. The stalker who’d rather kill her victims than face their rejection.
Dark Hearts will be an anthology of stories exploring the twisted side of love. We’re looking for stories that jump off the page. Stories that chill, shock or disturb us. Stories that move us or make us laugh… grimly.”
Deadline: 28 February 2021
Length: 1,000-6,000 words
Pay: $0.01/word
Details here.

Thunderbird Studios: Decades of San Cicaro
This is a fictional anthology, set in the imaginary town of San Cicaro, and taking place between 1930-1989. Their guidelines say, “This winter season, Thunderbird Studios is opening its doors to another round of stories for their “Decades of San Cicaro” project. This new anthology will continue the tradition of unusual fantasy and macabre tales in the “Jewel of California.”
As before, we’re looking for tales of urban fantasy, magical realism, the weird, the dark and the hopeful. But unlike the prior anthologies, we’re unlocking the past. You’ll have to add a bit of historical fiction to the mix, with stories taking place between 1930 all the way to the 1980’s.” See their thematic rules for details.
Deadline: 28 February 2021
Length: 5,000-8,000 words
Pay: $200
Details here.

Cuppatea Publications: We Cryptids
This is an urban fantasy anthology about cryptids (which exist in the luminal spaces between fact and fiction – like Bigfoot, Nessie, vampires, werewolves, kraken, and more). They invite writers to consider what would happen if cryptids lived among us. They want urban fantasy only – no science fiction or horror, although horror elements may be present in the story. Other forms of fantasy (epic fantasy, Historical Fantasy, or Steampunk, for example) will not be accepted. If the cryptid you choose to write about was sighted in a timeframe earlier than 2020, you are welcome to write within that time frame, but the more modern the story, the better. The editor wants noblebright, and not grimdark stories (see guidelines for more). Translated stories are welcome.
Deadline: 1 March 2021
Length: 3,000-6,000 words
Pay: $200 + royalties
Details here.

Parabola: Two themes
This is a quarterly journal that explores the quest for meaning as it is expressed in the world’s myths, symbols, and religious traditions, with particular emphasis on the relationship between this store of wisdom and our modern life. They are open for work on two themes; ‘Young & Old’, and ‘Fire’. Apart from poetry, and retellings of traditional stories (they do not publish original fiction, only retellings), they publish articles, book reviews, and forum contributions. Their guidelines say, “We look for lively, penetrating material unencumbered by jargon or academic argument. We prefer well-researched, objective, and unsentimental pieces that are grounded in one or more religious or cultural tradition; articles that focus on dreams, visions, or other very personal experiences are unlikely to be accepted.”
Deadline: 1 March for Young & Old; 1 June 2021 for Fire
Length: 500-1,500 words for retellings of traditional stories, up to 5 poems, 1,000-3,000 words for articles, up to 500 words for book reviews and forum contributions
Pay: Unspecified
Details here.

Thema: Three themes
They are accepting short stories, poems, essays, photographs, and art on three themes currently: A Postcard from the Past;Watch the Birdie!; and Get It Over With! The premise (target theme) must be an integral part of the plot, not necessarily the central theme but not incidental, either. They do not accept electronic submissions, except from writers living outside the US.  
Deadlines: 1 March 2021 for A Postcard from the Past; and 1 July 2021 for Watch the Birdie!; and 1 November 2021 for Get It Over With!
Length: Fewer than 20 pages of prose; up to 3 poems
Pay: $10-25 for short fiction and artwork, $10 for poetry
Details here.

The Evil Cookie Publishing: Gorefest
They are looking for fiction for an open-themed horror anthology. Also, “We … prefer our horror with a heavy hitting dosage of gore and carnage.”
Deadline: 1 March 2021
Length: Up to 3,000 words
Pay: $0.03/word
Details here.

Mslexia: Two themes
This magazine accepts poetry, short stories, and plays by female-identifying authors and they are reading for two themes.
— Portrait: “For Issue 90 we’re looking for pieces about artists and their subjects, about seeing and being seen, about paint, pencil and film.”
— Roots: “Our Issue 91 theme is about hidden depths and ancestry, about what nourishes and anchors plants and humans alike.”
They accept up to 4 poems, 2 short stories, and 2 scripts per entrant.
Deadlines: 8 March 2021 for Portrait; 7 June 2021 for Roots
Length: 2,200 words for stories, up to 40 lines for poetry, scripts of up to 1,000 words
Pay: £25
Details here.

Macabre Ladies Publishing: Dark Carnival

They want fiction on the ‘dark carnival’ theme – fiction about “Circus terrors and frights … Freaks and clowns … and always, a healthy side of the macabre.”
Deadline: 10 March 2021
Length: 3,000-8,000 words
Pay: $10
Details here.

Eye to the Telescope: Weird West
This is a speculative poetry magazine and they’re reading submissions on the ‘Weird West’ theme. Their guidelines say, “speculative poems set in western North America could feature a wide range of peoples, histories, mythologies, and landscapes.  Weird Western poems could contain quite a list of characters: conquistadors, cowboys, horses, Native Americans, gunslingers, stagecoach bandits, school marms, soiled doves, vaqueros, and even mammoths and mammoth hunters.  We are all extremely familiar with Western movie tropes and that is why it is so fun to throw in a werewolf, space ship, or time travel.  My only qualification is that it contain either a character or setting which identifies it as a Western.”
Deadline: 15 March 2021
Length: 1-3 poems
Pay: $0.03/word, up to $25
Details here.

Hungry Zine: Home Cooking
This is a new magazine and they are looking for fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for their pilot issue, on the ‘Home Cooking’ theme; they also accept visual art and photography. They’re particularly looking for work from writers underrepresented in food media. Their guidelines say, “What stories, emotions, questions, relationships does “home cooking” bring up for you? In this year when many of us have been spending much time at home, what are you cooking and eating? What are your comfort foods? Who are the people you learned to cook from? What foods or meals are important to you? From who, or where, did you learn how to prepare them? How do you recreate, create and document home cooking knowledge?”
Deadline: 15 March 2021
Length: Up to three poems; up to 1,000 words for prose
Pay: $50
Details here and here.

Red Cape Publishing: A-Z of Horror – I is for Internet
They are reading work for horror fiction anthologies. Currently, they are reading on the ‘I is for Internet’ theme. “We need short horror stories exploring the dark side of the Internet – think online dating gone wrong, killers for hire, cyber bullying etc.” They have other themes listed too, for which they will start accepting submissions later.
Deadline: 15 March 2021
Length: 4,000-8,000 words
Pay: £10
Details here.

This is a story-a-day anthology of queer science fiction, fantasy, and horror by queer authors; they are accepting short fiction and comics, and they want work by queer authors only. The writing will be released to subscribers every day of Pride month. The deadline is unspecified.
Deadline: Open now
Length: Up to 7,500 words
Pay: $25-200 for fiction, $75 for comics
Details here.


Narrative ‘Tell Me a Story’ High School Contest
They want poetry on the ‘Escape’ theme by high school students (ages 15-18) all over the world – see guidelines for suggestions on what the theme can entail. Poems must be 10 to 50 lines long, and submitted by the student’s English teacher.
Value: $500, $200, $100; $50 for four finalists
Deadline: 4 February 2021
Open for: High school students
Details here.

University of Pittsburgh: The 2021 Center for African American Poetry and Poetics Book Prize
This is for a manuscript of 48-168 pages. The prize will be awarded to a first or second book by a writer of African descent and is open to the full range of writers embodying African and African diasporic experience. The book can be of any genre that is, or intersects with, poetry, including poetry, hybrid work, speculative prose, and/or translation.Value: $3,000
Deadline: 15 February 2021
Open for: Writers of African descent
Details here.

NYU Journalism: Matthew Power Literary Reporting Award
This is for promising early-career nonfiction writers to research and write an article that tells the truth about a human condition.
(They also usually have the Reporting Award, which has been suspended for 2021.)
Deadline: 15 February 2021 for proposals
Value: Up to $12,500
Open for: All journalists, early career nonfiction writers
Details here and here.

Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contest
This is a short fiction contest run by the Little Tokyo Historical Society in Los Angeles. Stories must take place in Little Tokyo, and can be set in the past, present, or future. Stories can be in Japanese (5,000 ji or fewer) or English (up to 2,500 words). There are three categories: Youth (under 18s), Japanese, and English.
Value: $500 in each category
Deadline: 28 February 2021
Open for: Unspecified
Details here.

The Fountain Essay Contest
They want an essay on the topic ‘My COVID-19 Story: Reflections on Life and Human Existence During the Pandemic’. See guidelines for details on the theme. Ideal length is 1,500-2,500 words. Read the FAQ carefully; any of the entries may be published, whether or not they win the prize.
Value: $1,000, $500, $300; two prizes of $150 each
Deadline: 1 March 2021
Open for: All writers
Details here.

Deep Wild: 2021 Student Poetry Contest
This is a contest for students currently enrolled in undergraduate studies. Send a poem of up to 70 lines that is backcountry infused and inspired.
Value: $100 each for three poets, publication
Deadline: 1 March 2021
Open for: Undergraduate students
Details here.

Bio: S. Kalekar is the pseudonym of a regular contributor to this magazine. She is the author of 182 Short Fiction Publishers. She can be reached here.


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