- Bear Star Press | Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Contest


Dorothy Brunsman Spencer was born in LaMoure, North Dakota. As the oldest daughter of seven children in a farming family she had a lot of responsibilities, but whenever she wasn't working she had her nose in a book, a habit that has persisted to this day. Now 90, she lives in Placitas, New Mexico, with her husband Donald, a playwright. Politically active, especially in pro-choice matters, she is also an accomplished photographer. She insists that her brother John Brunsman receive partial credit for the prize awarded in her name since he left her the stipend from which it comes. (Thanks, Uncle John, and rest in peace.) Without her support and generosity, Bear Star would likely never have gotten off the ground. A million thanks, Mom!

(Photo by Donald Spencer)

2018 Winner

The Slow Art
by Sierra Golden
Seattle, WA

Each year we award the Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize ($1,000 and publication) to a writer living west of the central time zone. The contest also serves as our best pool for finding new voices. You need not enter the contest to submit to us, but our first allegiance is to manuscripts that come with a reading fee since they help to keep the press going. Like many small independent presses Bear Star is a labor of love. The editors do not make a salary from the contest.

Competition Information & Guidelines

  • Manuscripts will be read in September, October, and November. Postmark deadline is 30 November 2018.
  • Ideally, manuscripts should be between 50 and 65 pages in length. We will not, however, reject your opus if it is under or over the required length by very much.
  • All work must be original and accompanied by a $25 reading fee. Previously published poems can be included in your manuscript if you retain the copyright (this is standard).
  • Writer must currently reside in the Western States (those within Mountain or Pacific time zones, plus Alaska & Hawaii). Previously unpublished writers are welcome to submit!
  • Any form or subject is acceptable. Use a plain 10-12 font. Serif fonts are preferred for text of poems.
  • Rights revert to author upon publication.
  • Simultaneous submissions absolutely fine so long as we are apprised of changes in manuscript status.
  • We much prefer online submissions (more info below). If you must snail-mail your ms., please do not use registered mail (doing so necessitates a 40-mile roundtrip drive to the P.O., very inconvenient for us). If you want to know whether we have received your work, simply enclose a stamped, self-addressed postcard.
  • Winner notified on or before February 2019. Check web site for winner information or send a SASE marked “results.”
  • Publication by Fall 2019 (with luck, in Summer 2019).
  • Your name, address, and phone number should NOT appear anywhere on your manuscript. Instead, you may include information about the work and yourself (optional) in the cover letter.
  • No manuscripts will be returned. They will be recycled. Please do not send your only copy. Please DO send SASE for contest results.
  • Electronic submissions are strongly encouraged as they save trees and save us a trek to the mailbox. Using Submittable—developed by writers for writers—is fast and easy. Click here to submit. Women and writers of color are especially encouraged to submit.
  • If you are unable to submit electronically, mail submissions to:

          Bear Star Press
          185 Hollow Oak Dr.
          Cohasset, CA 95973
Good Luck!

And since you asked...
Manuscripts are judged in-house. Depending on volume, other readers are tapped, but they are always poets too. Since it is entirely likely that entering more than once means your manuscript will be read by one or more of the same readers as before, it is probably in your best interest to rework your material a little before resubmitting. In accordance with CLMP's code of ethics, friends and former students of readers will be automatically disqualified from entering the contest.