Prize: $2,000 and publication

The annual Dorothy and Wedel Nilsen Literary Prize for a First Novel is endowed by author and editor, Wedel Nilsen. The competition is to identify and publish completed fiction manuscripts of high literary quality by authors who have not previously published a full-length novel, novella, or linked story collection. 

Submissions: Previously unpublished novels, novellas, and collections of closely linked short stories may be submitted for the competition. We do not accept manuscripts that have been self-published. The competition is open to unpublished novelists who are U.S. residents writing in English. 

Manuscripts submitted to the contest will be read and judged anonymously. A final judge will choose the winning manuscript from a pool of finalists.

Deadline: April 1, 2020

Reading Fee: $25

Prize: $2,000, publication, and 30 copies for the author

Manuscripts submitted to the contest will be read and judged anonymously.

Submission Guidelines


  • Individual poems in the manuscript may have been published previously in a chapbook, magazines, journals or anthologies, but the work as a whole must be unpublished.

  • Translations and previously self-published books are not eligible.

  • Open to any poet writing in English, age 18 or older, regardless of publication history.

  • Send 48-100 pages of poetry–any style or theme–with a table of contents and an acknowledgements page for any previously published poems.

  • The page count doesn’t include the table of contents or acknowledgements.

  • Manuscripts must be typed, each manuscript page numbered, with the following information entered in the Cover Letter field on Submittable:     

    • Contest title

    • Manuscript title

    • Author name

    • Address

    • Telephone number

    • Email (if available)

    • Your name and contact information must not appear anywhere else on the manuscript.



  • Contestants may submit more than one manuscript, but a separate entry fee must accompany each manuscript.

  • Please let us know immediately if your manuscript is accepted elsewhere.

  • Employees and students of Southeast Missouri State University Press are not eligible.

  • Failure to follow these guidelines may disqualify entry.

 Winner and finalists will be announced in the winter following the contest deadline, on our website.

For further information, Carrie at

Southeast Missouri State University Press