Bi-Monthly Contest

Important Change In Policies:

Users are now required to leave feedback on at least 2 recent posts (in any category) for every competition entry submitted.

We have made this change in hopes of creating a stronger community and an open exchange of thoughts and knowledge between authors. We here at N&GN passionately believe that authors blossom in environments where they can share their own ideas, methods, opinions as well as benefiting from those of others. Feedback is a cornerstone of our foundation and it has been since the beginning. Our editors and administrators do our best to read and comment often on posts and we make our Judges’ feedback available to finalists but peer feedback is just as useful (if not more so) and it saddens us to see so little of it here.

It has been brought to our attention that many of our site users who might leave thoughtful feedback were intimidated by the possibility that their feedback might influence the competition. This is NOT the case. We do consider feedback but only in cases where our 1st round reader scored an entry low but community feedback was positive. In those cases a 2nd reader is assigned to the entry and the highest score from the two readings is the final 1st round score. Commenting, in other words, is only used to help us gauge fairness and to allow for the possibility that our reader’s tastes are not infallible. However, it is not possible to sabotage the competition here at Grace Notes nor is it possible to hurt your own chances by leaving a positive review on “the competition”. Please see below for our judging procedures and further information about peer commenting in regards to the judging process.

This new commenting policy is devised to benefit all and our administrators will be monitoring comments and entries. After posting an entry, users have 48 hours to leave feedback on 2 posts. This feedback cannot be generic or nonspecific. Throw-away comments like “Wow!” or “This was really good” will not be applied to your feedback requirement. We did not devise this policy to encourage people to pretend to read posts, after all, but to encourage users to actually read them.

If you are unable to meet the feedback requirement within the time limit, our administrators will un-publish your entry until the requirement is met. If the requirement is not met, we will be unable to consider your entry for the competition.



These are guidelines for the Notes & Grace Notes Monthly Competitions and NOTES Magazine (below). For submission information about Grace Notes Books, click HERE.

Notes & Grace Notes Creative Writing Competitions

What we like and what we don’t like: At Grace Notes we are open to any genre in any form. We specially instruct our judges to score pieces based on artistic and creative merit rather than marketability. This enables even experimental pieces to have the same chance of winning our monthly prize as those works in more standard forms.

We do not restrict adult themes or language here at Grace Notes but do insist that any pieces of an adult nature be clearly labeled as such with a parenthetical (ADULT THEME/LANGUAGE) in the title of the entry. Adult geared entries without this labeling will be disqualified and removed from the site. Please do not submit pornographic materials. Violence is acceptable material as long as it is an integral part of the story being submitted. We will not consider (or host) materials that glorify violence. In general, if you are not sure if your materials are suitable, contact our administrators

Entry limits: Entrants are permitted to enter up to two entries per category, per competition cycle. Additional submissions should be categorized properly (poetry, fiction etc) but should list an additional tag (category) as either “General Post” (which indicates it is not competing) or “Magazine Submission” for those who want to submit but have exceeded the maximum on contest subs. Posts that exceed the 2 and are not labeled with an additional category will be unpublished by our administrators without notification.

Competition Timelines:

  1. Each contest accepts submissions for 2calendar months. See the heading at our homepage to find out the current contests’ duration.
  2. Finalists for any given contest are announced at the end of the final day of competition. For instance: if the current contest is running through September and October, finalists will be announced between 10PM and Midnight on October 31. Submissions will not be accepted between those hours for the current competition or the following.

Length Restrictions (for competition only):

Poetry: Upton 125 lines

Fiction and Creative Nonfiction: No more than 3500 words. Works over 3500 words will be considered for NOTES Magazine, not the Monthly Competitions.

Special Categories: 1500-3000 words.

General Rules:

  1. Contest entries and submissions for NOTES must be posted in the proper category. Miscategorized entries or entries that aren’t categorized may be disqualified and will not be considered for publication. We cannot judge a piece if we don’t know what it is. Please see the guidelines for NOTES Magazine (below) for categorization instructions for submissions.

The instructions for categorizing posts can be found on the right side of the submission form.

  1. Unlike most competitions, at N&GN you may revise an entry after it has been submitted. However, we strongly recommend marking your submission “Revised” if you make changes so our administrators have the chance to review the changes. If your submission was already scored by a 1st round reader and you fail to note it, your revision will not be scored. If you choose to delete an entry, please notify us.
  2. Writers must be ages 18 years and older and must own the sole rights to their entries.  Authors submittingworks that are not their own intellectual property will be disqualified from the contest, their entries will be removed from the site, and they will be reported to the proper authorities. Plagiarism is a crime and will not be tolerated at Grace Notes.
  3. In entering our contests or submitting to NOTES, you are acknowledging these rules and understand that Grace Notes cannot be held responsible for any intellectual theft of posted works. As with any Internet writing site, there is always a risk of theft. To protect yourself, Grace Notes advises copyrighting or registering your work with the WGA .
  4. The writer gives Grace Notes permission to forward these works to our guest judges and affiliates and to consider their work for NOTES Magazine or any upcoming anthologies. Authors retain the right to reject any such offer, of course, and are not obligated in any way.

Contest Judging:

  1. Reading Rounds: The first round of judging is conducted by our editorial staff and a few trusted readers. There are at least 2 Grace Notes Editors assigned to each category. They read entries throughout the competition cycle and send competition scores and publication recommendations to our Editor-In-Chief and Managing Editor, bringing about the second round of judging. Our head editors read the combined recommendations of all 1st round readers and determine finalists by combining scores from the 1st and2nd round readings. Finalists are then posted on the site and passed on to our final judges. Our judges vary. We often use volunteers who are professional authors, editors, or publishers. All are chosen carefully (not just anyone who volunteers is permitted to judge our competition). To determine winners, scores from the second round and the guest judge’s scores are combined. Pieces with the highest combined scores are named winners.
  2. Peer Feedback Policies: Negative peer comments will not harm one’s chances at going on to be a finalist (or winning) our competitions but positive comments may improve one’s chances. Comments are considered as follows:
  3. Our 1st round readers read each piece before reviewing peer comments. They score the piece based on Grace Notes criteria. Peer comments are reviewed lastly and ONLY in the 1st round of reading.
  4. Negative Comments policy: If the peer comments are negative but the editor enjoyed the piece—the negative comments are discarded and the piece is still passed along to the next round of reading. If the reader’s scores and the negative peer comments reflect the reader’s opinion, the piece will not move on as a finalist.
  5. Positive Comments Policy: If an entry received low scores from the 1st round reader but a wealth of legitimate, positive peer feedback, the reader will pass the piece on to another reader for a second set of scores. The highest scores from the two will be considered the 1st round score for the piece and placed accordingly. If the peer feedback and the 1st round scores are both positive, the entry will go on to the next round of reading.
  6. NOTE: When we say “legitimate” feedback, we mean it! If a piece has received 20 positive comments but half of those commenting only registered the day they made the comment, were otherwise inactive users, or had the same IP addresses as “others” commenting—these comments will be discarded. If the comments come from regular users but are generics — “Great!” and “Brilliant.” and “This was a good read” are considered generics meaning they are non-specific—they will not be taken into consideration. We appreciate camaraderie but cannot allow it to influence the judging process, folks.

We are striving to create an enjoyable social community in addition to our competitions and these policies were devised with that in mind. We do not want community users to feel uncomfortable leaving positive comments because may be helping their competitors or to feel guilty leaving “negative” (but hopefully constructive) feedback for fear of their opinion harming someone else’s chances. We also want to discourage anyone from intentionally bad-mouthing pieces that are competing against them. One of the most vital principles of this organization is to nurture a community of writers, helping one another to grow within their craft and though we host these competitions we also want to discourage a depressingly “competitive” environment.

  1. Hits& Traffic: Traffic to a particular piece is not considered when our readers determine finalists. While we appreciate it greatly if authors invite their friends and family to visit the site and read their submission, we are also highly aware that many people have a vast social network online and could easily use that to pump up the hit count on their submissions. While every post does have a hit counter, this is for the author’s benefit and never considered by our readers. This is not a popularity contest.
  2. Who Are The Final Round Judges? Grace Notes uses guest judges who are professional writers, publishers, or editors volunteering their time. There is at least one guest judge in each category though often there are two. These judges are anonymous until after the contest period they are working on is over, at which time we often post advertisements or links to their projects, works, or publications.

All finalists may receive a copy of their judges’ comments upon request. Please send the request

To see samples of the Judges Report Cards and gain a better understanding of the criteria your work will be judged upon, please click one of the following: Poetry, Fiction , or Creative Nonfiction.

Awards, Gifts, Perks, & Prizes

  • Each competition cycle will award one Golden Grace Note and one Silver Grace Note per category. Depending on the number of entries and/or the level of competition we may also award as many as three honorable mentions in any given category.
  • Recipients of The Golden Grace Note will receive equal shares of 50% of the site’s total revenue for the month as well as a portion of revenue accrued by Grace Notes Books and NOTES Magazine. Because there is no entry fee, there is no minimum prize amount. However, the more entries we receive the more traffic the site receives the more advertising revenue we earn and the more potential for sales of GN Products. We encourage site users to help us spread the word about our community, competitions, books, art prints, and our Magazine. It takes a village and by helping out in this way you can ensure that prize amounts increase and we are able to offer more as a community and a foundation supporting the art of storytelling.
  • Winners also receive special consideration/products/services through our affiliates.
  • We ask users include their mailing address in their profile (this information is not shown publicly and never sold or shared with anyone for any reason). We often send free products (books, art, and free copies of NOTES Magazine) to winners of our bi-monthly contests.
  • Winners will be posted on the Grace Notes home page one month after the close of the contest month. For instance: If the competition runs through September and October (with finalists posted on November 1st) winners will be posted on December 1st.
  • Prize payments will be made up to 14weeks after winners are announced.

Policies Regarding Competition Cancellation:

If a category does not receive more than 8 entries, the contest for that category will be canceled. It has been our policy for the last 3 years to award winners in any category as long as there were 2 entries. We have changed this policy because, as a non-profit, we have to divide our revenue carefully in order to stay afloat. In addition, if a category receives less than 20 entries and we don’t feel that any one entry meets our standards for greatness, we reserve the right to cancel that competition. We feel that it is essential for our winning stories and poems to reflect what our organization stands for and celebrates in literature. Awarding works that don’t do that would be—just plain dishonest.

NOTES Magazine

Guidelines for Submissions

NOTES Magazine is interested in short fiction, personal essays, and poetry as well as submissions for our public columns The Accidental Anthropologist and Notes From a Schmuck. At this time, we prefer submissions to be posted here at Grace Notes. However, some authors are not comfortable posting publicly and if you are one of them, please visit our Grace Notes Books site for direct submission options.


Competition entrants are only permitted to post 2 entries per category (per contest). If you have already reached your max for contest submissions but have addition work you would like to submit to Notes, please follow these directions:

  1. Go to the “Post or Edit Entries” tab in the user menu and click “Post” as you would for a regular contest entry.
  2. Title your submission and paste it into the submission form as you would for contest entry.
  3. Categorize your submission as fiction, CNF, or poetry as you would for a regular entry—BUT, add the additional category of “Magazine Submission”.
  4. After you have published your submission, please check to make sure that it has 2tags: one indicating the genre and another indicating it as a submission.

Fiction & Creative Essays:
NOTES does not have genre restrictions but we do have very specific desires in terms of style.
We publish stories that celebrate a blending of the best qualities from both ‘literary’ and ‘mainstream’ stylings. Work submitted to us should have the engaging and realistic characters, vivid settings, and fast-paced storylines found in mainstream writing. We are not hung up on “plot” in the sense that we look specifically for “thriller” or “horror” or “coming of age” but we do seek stories that have a strong sense of being “About Something”– even if that something is simply life or love or friendship. We don’t want to read a story that leaves us thinking, “That was beautifully written… but what was the point?” BUT these qualities should be combined with the thoughtful prose and unique language often found in the “literary” genre.
NOTES celebrates balance in the works we publish. Finding mainstream stories to often be engaging but empty and the literary genre to be beautiful but often slow and dull– we seek the slipstream, the middle ground, the best of both worlds. This is our only true criteria aside from asking that your submission be in professional condition, free of typos and grammatical errors (for the most part at least) and in a legible 12 pt. font.
Makes life easier on our editors!
We do prefer pieces under 3000 words for layout purposes but will work with longer stories of exceptional quality. Response could take from 1 month to 2months depending on the number of submissions we are currently considering. However, we have no issue with simultaneous submissions and ask only that authors notify us if another publisher picks up the story.

If you submit your poetry directly through Grace Notes Books, please send no more than three poems at a time and do not submit again until you have heard back from us on your initial submission. If you submit through Notes &Grace Notes.Com, please follow N&GN’s entry rules. We would love to see your poetry if– and ONLY if– your work does NOT:
1. Contain the phrase “My Soul” or “Your Soul” or the word “soul” in any way, shape, or form– especially in the title. We’re also not real big on the words (or words in the realm of) enlightenment, spirit, or spirituality. It’s not that we have an issue with spiritual poetry in particular but we find these words are often the product of passionate poets who might not have learned to mine their minds for unique perspectives and subtle themes. Also, “heart” or “my heart” might not earn you any points here unless you’ve managed a minor miracle with them. We find that poems that contain these words/phrases tend to me more exclusively introspective than the type of poetry we’re interested in and are usually (although not always) an immediate indicator of poor expression.
2. Does not contain centered poems, bolds, underlines, a variety of fonts, or an unusual amount of italics.
3. Does not use a single word, phrase, or sentence repeated over and over. For instance: IamGodandGodisme. I am God and God is me. I. Am. God. And. God. Is.Me…(repeat, rinse, repeat to amount to 500 words.)
Yes, we’ve seen this as an actual example– and, no, we don’t think it’s amazingly creative. Sorry.

Public Columns:
To submit to our public columns, see samples of The Accidental Anthropologist or Notes from a Schmuck listed under Entries àMagazine Submissions. To submit to either column the author must mimic to tone of the fictitious author (Claire and Irving, our cartoon characters). To get a feel for their unique voices, visit the profiles under “Browse users” in the user menu (top left). If you have done so and feel your piece fits the bill post it under the proper category. Submissions for these columns should always be titled with the name of the column itself and include a subtitle relevant to your article.

Length guidelines for these public columns are as flexible as those for fiction/creative nonfiction but we do prefer pieces less than 2500 words—for layout purposes. But we’ve never turned away a brilliant piece of writing because it was too long and we’re not going to start now. We also prefer pieces that are no less than 700 words—but if you’ve accomplished something awesome in less? We want to see it.


Yes, we are paying authors! We are authors too, and we know how nice it is to be paid for your work. Payments for future issues will be an honorarium based on available funds until we are more established and can pay more upon first acceptance. All contributors will always receive a free contributor copy as well.

Editorial Procedures:

NOTES Magazine and the Grace Notes Foundation prides itself on helping promising authors reach their greatest heights. With that mission in mind, we do not offer publishing opportunities only to those pieces in pristine condition but also to those who (with proper guidance) show great potential of crossing into greatness.

Our editors may send out revisions notes to potential contributors to assist in the editing process and to work a piece into publish-ready condition. We would rather work with a great writer to produce a perfect story than publish lesser works that are more “technically” well written. However, we place high value on maintain voice and style and our editors will never ask an author to make changes they are uncomfortable with, will never revise a submission on the author’s behalf (our editors correct only grammatical issues), and are open to discussion pertaining to revision. Ultimately, at Grave Notes, the author is always in control of their work.

Potential contributors retain all rights and may decline the revision suggestions made by our editors. However, this may hurt an author’s chances of being published in NOTES Magazine, depending on how crucial the suggested re-writes were in terms of keeping up with our high standards to produce a magazine unlike any other. Author’s receiving revision notes from our editors will also be informed of the importance we are placing on their revisions.


By submitting to Notes Magazine or entering our monthly competition you are accepting that you have read and understand our guidelines and policies regarding publication.