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Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop

Nickie's Prize Announcement

Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing is a new writing competition designed to attract original, funny stories about sisters. Up to 20 winning writers will each be awarded a $300 cash prize for a previously unpublished, humorous nonfiction essay of 1,000 words or less. The contest is sponsored by the University of Dayton’s Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop and Marcia Stewart, a West Coast editor and writer, in memory of her beloved sister Nickie, an aspiring humor writer.

Yes! We’re seeking essays from a diversity of authors — women and men — of all experience levels. Essayists, bloggers, book authors — anyone with a hilarious story — is invited to submit a humorous essay about their sister. All original material will be considered, including pieces that expand on the theme, such as a cousin or close friend who’s like a sister. The contest is open to writers 18 years of age and older. All entries must be in English.

Material may not have been been published in traditional print or digital publications. However, judges will consider something you’ve written in your personal blog or social media posts. By submitting your entry, you guarantee the work was written by you and expresses your original ideas.

In the spirit of Erma Bombeck, the tone can be humorous, absurd, offbeat, quirky or fun in a smart way. Tap into your comedic voice and write a personal essay about your sister that makes readers laugh. We prefer essays that traverse the road of family humor and steer away from politics, however.

Yes. But please let us know if your work is accepted elsewhere by emailing us at

No, if you submit more than one essay, only the first one will be considered.

It will be disqualified. Our judges will not consider pieces that exceed 1,000 words.

The contest opens at noon (EST) Monday, June 15, and closes at midnight (EST) Saturday, Aug. 1. Only online entries will be accepted through Submittable, with credit card payment, starting June 15.

Fill out a short online application and upload your essay. It’s helpful to read through the FAQs before applying.

  • Preliminary judges — authors, columnists and comedy writers — will assess quality of the essays and rank them. Winners will be judged by averaging scores assigned by judges to each entry.
  • Finalist judges — nationally known established writers and humorists — will select the winners from the finalist pool, using the same criteria.

The winners will be notified by email or telephone before the official Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, announcement on the workshop’s website and through its e-newsletter, social media and other promotional channels. All who enter the competition will receive an email listing the winners.

No, you retain copyright ownership of your submission. If you are selected as one of the winners, you agree in advance to grant to us, the nonexclusive right to reprint your submission in a collection or anthology of sister-related materials without any further compensation. You will be asked to sign documents granting this nonexclusive and stating that you still own the copyright.

We would love to publish (through a traditional publisher or self-published) a book that includes winning essays, as well as stories and quotes from well-known authors and celebrities, photos and graphical material, such as cartoons — all about sisters. But this is all speculative. At the very least, we will publish the winning essays online.

Good question! We may seek reprint rights for some published pieces, depending on whether we move ahead on publishing a book. However, we do not have the additional funds to pay for essays that authors submit for review outside the contest.

No, they are separate activities. The writing contest is offered biennially, with the next one slated for 2022.

The $25 application fee helps offset the administrative costs of this writing contest and provides operating funds for the workshop.

Please send an email to

Please email us at

To enter the competition, click here.


Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop