Helena Whitehill Book Award

Submission period:  August 15th — October 31st  (postmark or online submission-date)

Final Judge: Jane Wong

Jane Wong is the author of the debut memoir, Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City, out now from Tin House (2023). She is also the author of two books of poetry: How to Not Be Afraid of Everything from Alice James (2021) and Overpour from Action Books (2016).

She holds an M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of Iowa and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Washington and is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Western Washington University. Her poems can be found in places such as Best American Nonrequired Reading 2019, Best American Poetry 2015, The New York Times, American Poetry Review, POETRY, The Kenyon Review, New England Review, and others. Her essays have appeared in places such as McSweeney’s, Black Warrior Review, Ecotone, The Common, The Georgia Review, Shenandoah, and Want: Women Writing About Desire (Catapult).

Prize:  $1,000

About the Award:

Sally Whitehill, an extraordinarily generous member of the Tupelo Press Board of Directors, has underwritten a new book prize in honor of her mother, Helena Whitehill. This prize supplants the Sunken Garden Chapbook Award, and is provided for manuscripts of poetry (of any length) as well as manuscripts of creative nonfiction, including memoir, essays, and hybrid work. The Helena Whitehill Book Award will open for submissions between August 15th and October 31st of each year.
Sally Whitehill writes: My mother, Helena Whitehill, loved words, and in particular, poetry. She believed creative expression should and could be for everybody, and passed this belief on to me and to my sisters. In Tupelo Press and Jeffrey Levine, I am excited to find partners who share this doctrine. The anonymous nature of the submission process for the Helena Whitehill Book Award is one way we have put this belief into action. I can think of no better way to honor my mother than to support this prize and other writers. 
An author and screenwriter, Sally Whitehill holds an MFA from NYU and is currently studying for her Ph.D. in Creative Writing at King’s College. London. 


The Helena Whitehill Book Award is a prestigious national poetry prize for adult writers. Established in 2002, the Prize has drawn submissions from around the country that have been judged by renowned poets such as Martha Collins, Patricia Smith, and Tony Hoagland. 

The Helena Whitehill Book Award includes a cash award of $1,000 in addition to publication by Tupelo Press, a book launch, national and international distribution by the University of Chicago Press, a one-week residence at Gentle House on the Olympic Peninsula, and unlike our other prizes, open to submissions of poetry, chapbook or full length, no page limit, and also open to creative non-fiction, no page limit. Manuscripts are judged anonymously and all finalists will be considered for publication. Please read the complete guidelines before submitting your manuscript.

Who May Submit

The Helena Whitehill Book Award is open to anyone writing in the English language, whether living in the United States or abroad. Translations are not eligible for this prize, nor are previously self-published books. Employees of Tupelo Press and authors with books previously published by Tupelo Press are not eligible. This contest is open to all poets, regardless of prior publication history.

We continue to be impressed by the quality of work we see and generally receive many, many more worthy manuscripts than we are able to publish. In addition, each of our contests and reading periods has a different team of editors, guest editors, esteemed readers, and final judge. And of course our tastes and needs evolve from year to year with each production schedule. For all of these reasons and more, please know you are welcome to submit your manuscript even if you have already entered it in one or more of our contests or reading periods in the past, and even if you have a manuscript pending in a recent submission opportunity. Thank you for honoring us with your work — we’re excited to see what wonders arrive over the transom.

Manuscript Requirements & Ethical Guidelines

Submit a previously unpublished, full or chapbook-length poetry manuscript, or creative non-fiction manuscript with a table of contents. There is no mandatory page count. All manuscripts will be read and considered with full respect, regardless of length, and no manuscript will be rejected simply because it’s shorter or longer.

If you are submitting a paper manuscript, include two cover pages: one with the title of the manuscript only, the other with title of manuscript, name, address, telephone number, and email address. Cover letters or biography notes are optional; if included, these will not be read until the conclusion of the contest.

If you are submitting a manuscript online, include a single cover page with the title of the manuscript only, so that your manuscript document remains anonymous. Submittable provides fields to fill in your contact information: name, address, telephone number, and email address.

Individual poems in a contest manuscript may have been previously published in magazines, journals, or anthologies, or chapbooks, but the work as a whole must be unpublished. If applicable, include with your manuscript an acknowledgments page for prior publications.

Simultaneous submissions to other publishers or contests are permitted, as long as you notify Tupelo Press promptly if a manuscript is accepted elsewhere.

Kindly note that poets who have personal relationships, current or recent student-teacher or mentoring relationships with the contest judge, or who have attended a program at the same time that the contest judge served on faculty, are not eligible for this prize. Likewise, poets are ineligible where it is reasonably likely that the contest judge will recognize your work. 

Before you submit a manuscript to a Tupelo Press competition, please consider exploring the work of the poets we have published. We’re drawn to technical virtuosity combined with abundant imagination; memorable, vivid imagery and strikingly musical approaches to language; willingness to take risks; and an ability to convey penetrating insights into human experience.

Tupelo Press endorses and abides by the Ethical Guidelines of the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP), which can be reviewed here, along with more about Tupelo Press’s ethical considerations for literary contests.

Guidelines for Artificial Intelligence (AI) Content:

We generally do not accept writing or translations generated with AI software because Tupelo Press and Tupelo Quarterly are venues for intentional and thoughtful human creativity. If your work quotes lines generated by AI software (for example, with a reference to another text or published work), you must clearly acknowledge any intellectual borrowing. We understand and appreciate that some interesting creative work is being done that explores and exploits these technologies, but we will only consider such work if it explicitly acknowledges the means by which it was generated.

Notification of Receipt

To confirm receipt of your paper manuscript, include a self-addressed stamped postcard.
The online Submittable system automatically confirms receipt.

Beyond these notifications, kindly refrain from requesting an individual response to confirm receipt of your manuscript and/or payment. We receive thousands of manuscripts each year and cannot offer individual acknowledgments. Thank you for your understanding.

Please do not enclose a SASE for return of manuscript. All paper manuscripts will be recycled at the conclusion of the competition, except those under consideration for future publication.

Notification of Results

To receive mailed notification of the winner and finalists, send a self-addressed stamped envelope.

We notify all entrants in three ways:

Via postal mail to those who included a SASE with their manuscript.
Via email to those who included an email address with their contact information.
We post the results on our website.


All entries must be postmarked or certified by Submittable by midnight (EST) of October 31st, 2023.

Reading Fee

A reading fee of $30 (U.S.) must accompany each submission. Multiple submissions are accepted, so long as each submission is accompanied by a separate $30 reading fee. Why a reading fee? We are an independent, nonprofit literary press. Reading fees help defray, but do not entirely cover, the cost of reviewing manuscripts and publishing the many books we select outside of our competitions.

Entry fees to our contests support community outreach, mentorship programs, the creation of new opportunities for diverse writers, and many other important ongoing initiatives:  the National Tupelo Teen Writing Program; the creation of free, downloadable readers’ guides and teaching materials for all new books; scholarships to attend Tupelo Press Seminars; and funded writing retreats for prize-winners.

If you are mailing your manuscript to us, please enclose a check or money order for the reading fee, payable to Tupelo Press. If you are submitting your manuscript online, you will be prompted to pay via the Submittable website.

Submit Your Manuscript Now

There are two ways to submit your manuscript:
1. Via postal mail. Be sure to include your check, money order, or copy of your PayPal receipt.

Mail your domestic submission to:
Helena Whitehill Book Award, PO Box 1767, North Adams, MA 01247

Mail your international submission to:
Tupelo Press Helena Whitehill Book Award, 60 Roberts Drive, Suite 308, North Adams MA 01247 USA

2. Via Submittable: Submit Beginning on August 1.  Click here to submit.

Be sure that your document is complete and formatted correctly before uploading.

See our past prize winners >>

Check out other opportunities to submit your work!>>