Submit to Our Contests

Each year, So to Speak holds annual contests in the genres that we publish: visual art, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Each contest is judged by a renowned writer in that genre. In the past, judges have included Claudia Rankine, Emily St. John Mandel, and Jeannie Vanasco. Please read instructions for your specific genre below before submitting. We also recommend reviewing the Submissions page on our website.

So to Speak accepts submissions using our Submittable submissions manager. Each contest charges a $10 reading fee per entry. Submissions are free for Black and Indigenous writers, who may use the genre-corresponding submission portal designated as free submissions for Black and Indigenous writers. If you are not a Black or Indigenous writer but the fee poses a serious barrier to you, please reach out to us via rather than using this submission portal. 

Multiple submissions are welcome in the same or other genres, but they must be in separate entries, and a writer can only win one genre.

We only accept previously unpublished work as submissions to our contests and magazine. This means submissions must not be published on any platform. 

The winner of each genre will be awarded $500 and publication; finalists may also be selected for publication. 

If you win a contest, you must wait three years to submit to that contest again. If you are a runner-up, you must wait one year to submit to that contest again. If you are a finalist but your piece is not printed in the contest issue, you may submit again as soon as you’d like (when submissions are open).

Current and former students of the judges are disqualified from entering corresponding contests, as well as students of George Mason University’s MFA program and graduates within 5 years of graduating. In addition, judges will be reading finalists as selected by the So to Speak editorial staff.

We look forward to reading your entries! Feel free to reach out with questions and concerns. You can purchase last year’s contest issue on our Submittable page. You can find out more about our submission guidelines on our website and/or on our Submittable page.



We’re looking for 3-5 of your best poems per submission; the winner will be awarded $500 and publication in the journal. Up to three finalists may also be featured in the journal. 


A Bronx, New York native, Roya Marsh is a nationally ranked poet/performer/educator/activist. She is the Poet in Residence at Urban Word NYC and works feverishly toward LGBTQIA justice and dismantling white supremacy. Roya’s work has been featured in Poetry MagazineFlypaper MagazineFrontier Poetry, the Village VoiceNylon MagazineHuffington PostButton Poetry, Def Jam’s All Def DigitalLexus Verses and Flow, NBC, BET and The BreakBeat Poets Vol 2: Black Girl Magic (Haymarket 2018).

In Spring 2020, MCD × FSG Originals published Roya Marsh’s dayliGht, a debut collection of experimental poetry exploring themes of sexuality, Blackness, and the prematurity of Black femme death—all through an intersectional feminist lens with a focus on the resilience of the Black woman.  

On poetry submissions, Roya says: “My favorite poems are brimming with imagery and hyperbole. I’m interested in learning what the writer wants to teach me. I don’t favor and form over another and am honored to sit as a judge for this contest.”


September 10-November 10


Send your single best work of fiction up to 4,000 words; the winner will be awarded $500 and publication in the journal. Up to three finalists may also be featured in the journal.


Natalie Lima is a Cuban-Puerto Rican writer and a graduate of the MFA program in creative nonfiction at the University of Arizona. Her essays and fiction have been published or are forthcoming in Longreads, Guernica, Brevity, The OffingCatapult and elsewhere. She has received fellowships from PEN America Emerging Voices, the Tin House Workshops, the VONA/Voices Workshop, the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, and a residency from Hedgebrook in 2020. You can find Natalie on IG and Twitter @natalielima09.

About fiction submissions, Natalie writes: “I’m drawn to stories that speak to emotional truths, from realism to fabulism. For me, this most often happens through strong characterization. I love to be taken on a journey, especially unconventional ones, about people who make mistakes or do “bad” things. A strong voice is my favorite.”


September 10-November 10


Send your single best work of nonfiction up to 4,000 words; the winner will be awarded $500 and publication in the journal. Up to three finalists may also be featured in the journal.


Sophia Shalmiyev emigrated from Leningrad to America in 1990. She is a feminist writer and painter living in Portland with her two children. Shalmiyev’s work has appeared in Literary Hub, Guernica, Electric Lit, LARB, The Rumpus, Vela, BOMB, Entropy, Portland Review and other publications. She teaches creative writing at PNCA and PSU. Her first book, Mother Winter, is now out in paperback.

In nonfiction, Sophia considers the following questions:

• “How can we embody an evolving intersectional feminist practice and weave in our lost/forgotten art lineage and literary inheritance?
• Can polyvocality, collectivism, intertextuality and an anti-capitalist stance help us get out of the “genius” trap of the kill-or-be-killed mentality?
• What borders exists between creative nonfiction and poetry, fiction, criticism and other literary forms? How & why might we transgress or even tear down those borders?
• Must writers maintain complete fidelity to the objective “truth” in literary nonfiction? What possibilities exist for speculative imagination in nonfiction? Is it ok for memoirists to fabricate events/memories? What constitutes outright lying in creative nonfiction?”


September 10-November 10


So to Speak is open to review any form of visual artwork. Past issues have included photography, drawing, painting, digital media, and images of various installations and sculpture. We welcome submissions including performance, digital and new media, photography and all 2D and 3D visual art forms.

The winner will be awarded $500 and publication in the journal. Up to three finalists may also be featured in the journal.


Dani and Sheilah ReStack have embarked on an artistic relationship that is formally and
emotionally adjacent to their domestic lives, a quotidian zone they share with their young
daughter Rose. Both artists have established careers on their own. “Neither Dani’s video work nor
Sheilah’s multimedia performance and installation work could exactly prepare us for the force of
the women’s collaborative efforts.” – Michael Sicinski, Cinema Scope, 2017.

ReStack collaborations have shown at the 2017 Whitney Biennial, Iceberg Projects Chicago,
Toronto International Film Festival, Images Toronto, Lyric Theater, Carrizozo, NM, Leslie
Lohman Project Space, Gaa Wellfleet and The Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio. They have
received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Hanley Award. They have been
residents at The Headlands in Marin County and their newest video Go Ask Joan was made at
the MacDowell Colony.

On judging art submissions, the ReStacks say: “In our collaborative work we have spoken of our curiosity for a feral domestic. We like feral domestic because there is an implication of living within the structure, while something wild happens within the same structureThere is an idea of a doubled inhabitation, within the word feral, that acknowledges the recognizable and the unrecognizable as co-existing.  We are curious how fantasy and re-imaginings inside the domestic space can lead to rupture from dominant paradigms and offer new proposals.  Our question for you is how to characterize the private space in a way that acknowledges its generative potential.

What happens if the home is a space for alternative inhabitation, intentional eschewing of dominant structures, and creation of self-generated worlds? We are thinking here of the home as a place to experiment—briefly hidden from the very boundaries and rules that we are asked to oblige to outside the home. 

For this rendition of So to Speak we are looking for artworks that imagine radical inhabitations, using domestic or private life as a method of rupture and  re-imagining.

Relevant artistic practices involved in producing these works could include sculpture, painting, drawing, photography, printmaking, social practice, process-based practices, or installation, but must be able to be adequately visually represented in print for the So to Speak publication.”


September 10-November 10