Boston Review Writing Contest 2021

Boston Review is pleased to adopt a contest model shaped by social justice and accessibility concerns.

  • Contestants from the United States, Canada, and Western Europe pay an entry fee of $20, which helps subsidize the entry of contestants from outside of those countries, as well as those claiming hardship, all of whom pay nothing to enter our contests. Free entries and paid entries are read in the same way and given equal weight.

  • In addition, while a winner will be chosen in each genre, many more runners-up will have their work published, increasing the likelihood that entrants will have their work shared with Boston Review’s audience.

  • Finally, Boston Review commits to publishing an annual themed literary issue, and the contests share the issue’s theme. This offers contestants more transparency about what Boston Review’s editors are seeking in any given year. All contestants will receive a free copy of the issue, either in print (for paid entries) or digital (for unpaid entries).

In the next section you will find a description of this year’s theme for both contests, and then continue reading below that for genre-specific contest guidelines.

The Boston Review Annual Poetry Contest and the Aura Estrada Short Story Contest share the same theme this year:


We bear deep wounds—individually and collectively, for generations, for a lifetime, for a year, for a day. All have been worsened by a destructive period of pyrrhic politics that left us ill-equipped to respond to a global health catastrophe. As we struggle as a society to recover our footing and grieve our dead, Arts in Society believes that the literary arts must have a voice in the conversation about how we heal.

Tell us what it means to repair from a terrible rupture, a life-threatening harm or illness. How do we return to health, to wholeness? Is “return” even the right idea? We want to know if you think repair is possible from toxic politics, from pandemic, from racist horrors, from class warfare, from Islamophobia, from gendered violence and “reparative” therapy, from ecological brinksmanship.

Aura Estrada Short Story Contest

Deadline: May 31, 2021 (free global/hardship entries); June 30, 2021 (paid entries)
JudgeKali Fajardo-Anstine
First Prize$1,000 and publication

Complete guidelines:

  • All entries must be related to this year’s theme of Repair. We want the theme to be very broadly interpreted, but we also shouldn’t have to guess at the connection between the theme and your entry.

  • The winning author will receive $1,000 and have their work published in Boston Review's special literary issue Repair (March 2022). Some finalists and semi-finalists will also be published in the issue or online.

  • Stories must not exceed 5,000 words and must be unpublished.

  • “Unpublished” means it has never received print publication of any kind, nor is it available anywhere on the Internet. If a story is not available for Boston Review to publish as a first serial, it is not eligible to win the competition or be named as a finalist or semi-finalist.

  • Do not include a cover note. Your name should not appear anywhere in the uploaded file. All entries much be in English; translations are acceptable if they are done in collaboration with the author and the story is unpublished in any language.

  • Simultaneous submissions are OK but if your story is accepted elsewhere, you must immediately withdraw it via Submittable.

  • Submissions may not be modified after entry. The contest judge and Boston Review staff, however, reserve the right to recommend edits to the winning story as well as finalists and semi-finalists they are interested in publishing.

  • Contest entrants cannot have a close personal or professional relationship with this year’s judge or with any editors, staff, or contest screeners at Boston Review. For our purposes, “close” can be glossed as if you would socialize with any of these people, be in a position to ask them to help you with something (for example, write a recommendation or offer advice), or if there is any chance they would recongize your work even without seeing your name.

  • Make sure your address (mailing and email) in Submittable is correct, as this is the address where your free copy of Repair will be sent in early 2022.