Best Buy Company Essay Contests

Colorado Review

Nelligan Prize

Cash Prize: $2,000

Entry Fee: $15

Application Deadline: 3/14/18

Genre: Fiction

A prize of $2,000 and publication in Colorado Review is given annually for a short story. Margot Livesey will judge. Submit a story of any length with a $15 entry fee...

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Prairie Schooner

Book Prizes

Cash Prize: $3,000

Entry Fee: $25

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction

Two prizes of $3,000 each and publication by University of Nebraska Press are given annually for a poetry collection and a short story collection. An editorial board will...

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James Jones Literary Society

First Novel Fellowship

Cash Prize: $10,000

Entry Fee: $30

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Fiction

A prize of $10,000 is given annually for a novel-in-progress by a U.S. writer who has not published a novel. A selection from the winning work will be published in ...

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Sonora Review

Annual Contests

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $15

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction

Three prizes of $1,000 each and publication in Sonora Review are given annually for a poem or group of poems, a short story, and an essay. The 2018 contest theme is "...

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The Pinch

Literary Awards

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $20

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction

Three prizes of $1,000 each and publication in the Pinch are given annually for a poem, a short story, and an essay. Maggie Smith will judge in poetry, Carmen Maria...

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Bellingham Review

Literary Awards

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $20

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction

Three prizes of $1,000 each and publication in Bellingham Review are given annually for works of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. The 49th Parallel Award for...

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The Word Works

Washington Prize

Cash Prize: $1,500

Entry Fee: $25

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry

A prize of $1,500 and publication by the Word Works is given annually to a U.S. or Canadian poet for a poetry collection. Submit a manuscript of 48 to 80 pages with a $25 entry...

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Southampton Review

Frank McCourt Memoir Prize

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $15

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Creative Nonfiction

A prize of $1,000 and publication in Southampton Review is given annually for a personal essay. Using the online submission system, submit an essay of up to 4,500...

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Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation

Poetry Prize

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $10

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry

A prize of $1,000 is given annually for an unpublished poem. Richard Blanco will judge. Submit up to three poems of no more than three pages each with a $10 entry fee by March...

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The Writer's Center

McLaughlin-Esstman-Stearns First Novel Prize

Cash Prize: $500

Entry Fee: $0

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Fiction

A prize of $500 is given annually for a first novel by a U.S. author published during the previous year. Authors, publishers, and agents may submit three copies of a novel...

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Kundiman/Tupelo Press

Kundiman Poetry Prize

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $28

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry

A prize of $1,000 and publication by Tupelo Press is given annually for a poetry collection by an Asian American poet. The board members of Kundiman and Tupelo Press will judge...

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Sarabande Books

Morton and McCarthy Prizes

Cash Prize: $2,000

Entry Fee: $29

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction

Two prizes of $2,000 each and publication by Sarabande Books are given annually for collections of poetry and fiction. For the Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry, submit a...

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Hunger Mountain

Literary Prizes

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $20

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction

Three prizes of $1,000 each and publication in Ephemeral Artery, Hunger Mountain's online publication, are given annually for a poem, a short story, and an...

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Slope Editions

Book Prize

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $22

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry

A prize of $1,000 and publication by Slope Editions is given annually for a poetry collection. Ocean Vuong will judge. Submit a manuscript of 40 to 90 pages with a $22 entry...

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Hidden River Arts

Eludia Award

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $30

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Fiction

A prize of $1,000 and publication by Sowilo Press is given annually for a novel or story collection by a woman writer over the age of 40. Using the online submission system,...

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Cave Canem Foundation

Poetry Prize

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $20

Application Deadline: 3/16/18

Genre: Poetry

A prize of $1,000 and publication by Graywolf Press is given annually for a first book of poetry by a black poet of African descent. Chris Abani will judge. Using the online...

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Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation

Literary Awards

Cash Prize: $10,000

Entry Fee: $100

Application Deadline: 3/16/18

Genre: Fiction, Creative Nonfiction

Two prizes of $10,000 each are given annually for a book of fiction and a book of nonfiction (including creative nonfiction) published in the previous year that "foster peace,...

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Fourth Genre

Steinberg Essay Prize

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $20

Application Deadline: 3/20/18

Genre: Creative Nonfiction

A prize of $1,000 and publication in Fourth Genre is given annually for an essay. Using the online submission system, submit an essay of up to 6,000 words with a $20...

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New South

Writing Contest

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $15

Application Deadline: 3/21/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction

Two prizes of $1,000 each and publication in New South are given annually for a poem and a story or essay. Safiya Sinclair will judge in poetry, and Alissa Nutting...

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Enizagam

Literary Awards

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $20

Application Deadline: 3/23/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction

Two prizes of $1,000 each and publication in Enizagam are given annually for a group of poems and a short story. Jesse Nathan will judge in poetry, and Rachel Khong...

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Trustees of the Robert Frost Farm

Frost Farm Prize

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $6

Application Deadline: 3/30/18

Genre: Poetry

A prize of $1,000 is given annually for a poem written in metrical verse. The winner also receives a scholarship and honorarium to give a reading at the Frost Farm Poetry...

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Florida Review

Editors’ Awards

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $20

Application Deadline: 3/31/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction

Three prizes of $1,000 each and publication in Florida Review are given annually for a group of poems, a short story, and an essay. The editors will judge. Submit...

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Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing

Poetry and Prose Prizes

Cash Prize: $1,600

Entry Fee: $25

Application Deadline: 3/31/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction

Two prizes valued at $1,600 each will be given annually to a poet and fiction writer to attend a weeklong seminar at the Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing Summer...

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Pages

Mr. Bares and Ms. Lavorgna are among a small group to try this unconventional sales method. In 2015, for example, an innkeeper in Maine dispensed with her bed-and-breakfast through an essay contest; she had acquired it in the same fashion in 1993. Such contests are uncommon largely because they involve serious legwork, with no guarantee of success. Rather than hammer a “for sale” sign into the lawn and wait for the open house, these sellers have to set up and run a contest, generating enough buzz around a single property to convince thousands of people to gamble on it. Already, Mr. Bares and Ms. Lavorgna have had to extend their deadline, originally set for Jan. 31.

So far, Mr. Bares and Ms. Lavorgna, who live in New Jersey, have spent about $40,000. They hired a lawyer to establish rules and guidelines, judges to read the entries and a publicist to spark interest. They built a website with a promotional video showcasing the property and its surroundings, located in a gated community called the Chapin Estate. They declined to say how many people have submitted essays, as the contest is continuing.

The contest strategy has the potential to appeal to far more potential buyers than might otherwise purchase homes in the area. “I’m absolutely amazed by who enters these contests,” said Sara F. Hawkins, a lawyer in Phoenix, who has handled about five similar competitions, including the one in Bethel. “They’re from all over, all walks of life.”

In the promotional video, set to inspirational music, Mr. Bares and Ms. Lavorgna walk hand-in-hand through the wooded property, roast marshmallows at a campfire and play horseshoes with friends. They have been trying to sell the property because they rarely visit it, which is due in part to the fact that they own two bed-and-breakfasts in Cape May, N.J. The house, just steps from a lake, has a log cabin-y feel, with vaulted ceilings and a stone fireplace.

The video makes it all seem so dreamy. But it also poses the question: If no one was willing to buy the property when it was listed for $825,000 in 2015, why would 5,500 people want to bid on it now?

It all comes down to money, Mr. Bares said.

“I do believe that there are at least 5,500 people who would be willing to pay $149 for a vacation house that’s within two hours of one of the great cities of the world,” he said. “I think that the pool is huge.”

But Christine Vande Vrede, a saleswomen at Chapin Sotheby’s International Realty, with offices in the Chapin Estate, doubts that the pool is so vast. “I don’t see this happening in this neck of the woods,” she said. Unlike internationally famous vacation spots like the Hamptons, people who buy homes in this part of the Catskills “have a regional knowledge,” she said. (Unless, of course, you consider Bethel’s claim to fame, as the actual location of the Woodstock festival in 1969.)

The Chapin Estate has sprawling Adirondack lodge-style homes spread across 20,000 acres of forested land with lakes and mountain views. One listing asks $6.75 million for a 14,400-square-foot compound with two homes, a horse stable and riding arena. A more modest one asks $775,000 for a three-bedroom lodge.

By contrast, Ms. Vande Vrede described 391 Woodstone Trail as “basically a three-car garage with a finished apartment above it.” She added that “what that home has to offer might not be what our clients are looking for.”

Mr. Bares paid around $750,000 for the land in 2007, before he met Ms. Lavorgna. He spent another $350,000 building the home. If the essay contest is successful, it will have raised nearly as much as the 2015 list price of $825,000. “They are trying to short circuit the market,” said Jonathan J. Miller, the president of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers and Consultants, who described the contest as “more of a gimmick than a real contest.”

These types of contests are not without problems. A winner might not comprehend the tax implications, and ultimately be unable to afford the cost of owning and maintaining the property. Contestants who don’t win might challenge the results. There are complicated legal issues associated with holding a national contest, as laws vary from state to state. Without enough contestants, sellers would have to return hundreds, if not thousands, of checks, itself a daunting task.

Mr. Bares and Ms. Lavorgna see the contest as not only a way to sell a difficult property, but also as the start of a business venture. In addition to their two bed-and-breakfasts, they also own an interior design company. They have been featured on HGTV, on Caribbean Life and Flea Market Flip, where they won $5,000.

Using the essay contest as a model, they are designing an internet platform where sellers could list homes for sale by contest. Initial setup plans would cost between $5,000 and $10,000 for access to contest rules, legal plans, promotional materials, social media and a judging platform. Mr. Bares anticipates that the seller would ultimately pay about half the price of a broker’s fee, which is usually about six percent of the selling price.

Their hope rests on the notion that if people can turn their homes into ad hoc bed-and-breakfasts using platforms like Airbnb, what’s stopping them from selling their home in a game of skill? If the entry fee costs about the same as a night on the town, buyers just might take a chance. “Everyone seems to be looking for a deal these days,” Ms. Hawkins, the lawyer, said. “Why not this?”

Continue reading the main story
Correction: February 12, 2017

An article last Sunday about an essay contest to win a house in the Catskills misspelled the given name of the lawyer handling the competition. She is Sara F. Hawkins, not Sarah.

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