Writing Competitions



Most of the time I remember the competitions I enter and the prizes I am after but as I don’t always keep a regular record of them, occasionally I am surprised when an unexpected parcel arrives at the front door. I am also delighted, mind you. This happened the other day when I was greeted by a courier who handed over a vey large parcel in which I found a DeLonghi Dehumidifier worth about $500. It took a little while to twig but eventually I realised it was a prize for writing a letter to my Sunday paper. The letter, which took me about 10 minutes to write and email, won the best letter for September.
This wasn’t the first time I had won this monthly competition. The last time was about 16 months ago when I won my Nokia Smartphone and a 6 months free unlimited phone and data plan from Amaysim. The prizes for this letter writing competition are always good, well worth winning and not that difficult. It is just a matter of keeping it short, snappy and to the point, written from the heart and addressing an issue that the magazine might see as having interest for the readers. Use your 25 WOL skills but make the letter a bit longer. Count the number of words in the letters already printed – that should give you a clue to the ideal word count.
Entering writing letter writing competitions and other writing competitions may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it occasionally works for me so I thought I would take some time here to share a few hints and tips and a couple of current ones that might be worth entering. There are plenty around at any given time and some may appeal more than others. Here are a few:-
1. Positive Words Magazine. Each month this magazine runs a mini writing competition based on a specific topic but the entry is restricted to around 100 words. On top of this each year they also run an end-of-year competition for short stories (around 500 words) and poetry (maximum of 20 lines). It costs $4 per entry but you can pay with the equivalent in stamps. I won a year’s subscription to this magazine a few years ago and it certainly boosted my writing confidence immensely. For more information visit www.positivewordsmagazine.wordpress.com/about/.
2. Reader’s Digest – 100 Word Competition. Do you think you could write a compelling story in just 100 words? Well if you can, Reader’s Digest is offering a $1000 prize to for the best one and $250 for two runners-up. All three will then be published next year. The story needs to be exactly 100 words and the competition closes on 31st December. Why not check it out at www.readerdigest.com.au.
3. Short and Twisted. This is not a competition but an opportunity to get a story into print and a free copy of the anthology when it is published in June next year. It is a collection of stories, poems and illustrations with a twist at the end submitted by mostly amateur writers. It is run each year by Celapene Press and everything you need to know and more is on their website www.celapenepress.com.au.
4. Dear Monica Competition. This last one is being run by Penguin Books Australia. It involves writing a letter to Monica McInerney (the author of Hello from the Gillespies) about a favourite family memory in less than 1000 words. The prize for the best entry is a whopping $5000 with ten runners-up receiving a copy of her book. It is easy to enter online at www.penguin.com.au/dearmonica. However you need to get it in before November 17th.
That’s it for now and for all those who are going to give any of these a try. Good luck and happy writing!

Extra Cash for Christmas



Won plenty of prizes this year and have them tucked away safely to use as Christmas presents? I hope so but if not there is still a bit of time and maybe you could also think about some other ways of lightening the financial load in the coming months. Below I have put together a few ideas that could add a little extra cash to your wallet in time for Christmas or to spend through the holiday season with your family and friends.

1. Sell your unwanted prizes or pretty much anything that is cluttering up your space and you don’t really need. There is always Ebay but why not hold a garage sale? It is the peak time for garage sales and heaps of people are getting about on Saturdays looking for bargains. If you are quick and can organise yourself (and a few friends or neighbours as that adds a bit of fun to it) by Saturday 25th October you can join the annual Australia-wide Garage Sale Trail. To get all the information you need to join; hints and tips on running a garage sale and how to register go to www.garagesaletrail.com.au.

2. Join some Survey Sites. Doing surveys can be a fun way of earning extra cash or vouchers if you don’t mind ploughing through a load of questions (some of which can be a little tiresome). Depending on the number of successful surveys you complete, it is possible to build up enough credit to exchange for cash or vouchers or to go into a prize draw. The earlier you start in the year the more you may be able to accumulate for Christmas. I don’t enter that many any more but in the past I have been able to cut sown my grocery bills each week using vouchers. One time I even won a $200 voucher from a prize draw after completely a survey (which was quite an easy one too compared to many others). Some survey sites are better than others but it often depends on your particular interests, family size and available time to complete them. Here are a few to get you started – Valued Opinions (www.valuedopinions.com.au); Rewards Central (www.rewardscentral.com.au); Your Voice (www.yourvoice.com.au) and Toluna (http://au.toluna.com).

3. Use Rewards Points. Another fairly easy way to cut down on your Christmas costs is to build up rewards points though the year and use them to buy presents, party goodies or for some of your holiday expenses. The most common ones are Flybuys and Everyday Rewards but many businesses have their own versions of them too. I use my Flybuys to buy summer clothes (as the points value double with clothes purchases) or vouchers that reduce my grocery bills when I am a little short of cash. In the past I have bought gifts with them too. My Visa Card also has a reward programme and although it is not as rewarding as Flybuys I have been able to use it from time to time for gifts as well.

4. Become a Mystery Shopper. You won’t make a lot of money by doing Mystery Shopping assignments as the payments can range from $5 to $20 but you will be reimbursed for any purchases made which can come in handy as small gifts or for lunches or dinners (usually fast food outlets or hotels). The ideal Mystery Shopper can write clear and detailed reports; do the assignments professionally and have their reports in (online) on time. Mystery Shopping can be a fun way of making a little extra cash for Christmas if you have the spare time and enjoy shopping. While these are not recommendations here are a few companies you could check out – Gap Buster (www.gapbuster.com); Mystery Shopper (www.mysteryshopper.com.au) and Hoed (www.hoed.com.au).

Finally don’t forget to enter the weekly Guessing Competition on this site (there’s real cash up for grabs) and have a go at getting to the top of the Leader-board (lots of people are enjoying their wins from this each month too).

Instant Wins



The other week I noticed a comment in the Forum asking whether anyone ever has had any luck with instant win competitions. I thought that was a good question.
The most common instant win competitions are the Instant Scratch-its. My father loved Scratch-its and for just about any family gathering would but a heap of them and give them out to everyone. Some of us won small prizes from time to time but I think it was more about the anticipation of a prize that made it fun. We all got to love that family tradition.
The odds of winning a prize with an Instant Scratch-it are about 1:4 but that doesn’t mean that if you buy four tickets you will win with one of them although if you are going to indulge in buying them, buying a few of one kind will certainly increase your chance of a small prize. The odds of winning one of the top prizes however can be quite different. This can range from 1 in 700,000 to 1 in 1,500,000 or more depending on the size of prize, which means in broad terms, you are probably more likely to win an Olympic medal (1 in 662,000) or date a supermodel (1 in 88,000) or have your car stolen (1 in 340 cars) although I am not sure whether these statistics are accurate as I am not sure where they came from.
When all is said and done there is nothing much you can do to increase your chances of winning with Instant Scratch-its except by buying more than one ticket. If you do buy tickets, buy the cheap ones as you are then more likely to at least win a prize, even if it is a small one. Instant Scratch-its, like Lottery and Lotto tickets are simply ways of raising money for the government; other instant win competitions are more about raising brand awareness or increasing product sales. I fondly remember nagging my parents into buying Streets paddle pops as a child in order to uncover instant prizes printed on the wooden sticks, although I don’t remember actually winning anything of note.
So what about some instant win competitions being run at the moment? PayPal just recently ran a “Win a Million Cents” competition and I know a couple of people who won small prizes. I didn’t. It simply involved watching a promotional video and entering through your PayPal account. It’s closed now but I am sure we are likely to see more like these in the future as they certainly attract a good following.
McDonalds Monopoly Game runs until the 21st October so if you are interested and like McDonalds you still have a week or so to try your luck to win a number of prizes including a holiday, a car, a home entertainment system or a million or so food prizes. The only hitch is that you have to get a game ticket by purchasing particular McDonalds meals. According to their promotional material and terms and conditions, there are 1 in 5 chances of winning something. By collecting property sets (i.e. by buying even more maccas) you can also try your luck at winning one of the top prizes but you will also need to register the tickets and create an account. Here is the best place to go to get all the information you might need if this appeals to you – www.maccasplay.com.au.
When looking around for more instant win competitions and scratch-its, don’t forget that like a lot of other competitions out there in cyberspace, some are simply scams. The more outrageous the promises of big wins the more likely they are not legitimate. So take care. Don’t be fooled into giving away over too many personal and financial details to untrustworthy sites or individuals and always take steps to keep your computer or smart-phone virus resistant.
But good luck if entering any of the real ones!

Photo Attribution – Senorhorst Jahnsen




I can’t believe it is nearly the middle of October. This year is slipping by at a fast rate and soon we will be seeing children dressed in all kinds of weird and spooky costumes wandering the streets in search of treats or threatening to perform tricks.
Halloween (or All Hallows Eve) is an annual celebration observed in a number of countries on the 31st October, the eve of the western Christian feast of All Hallows Day. The traditional focus of All Hallows Eve revolves around the theme of using
?humour and ridicule to confront the power of death’. Apart from the trick or treating kids and pumpkin carving, people of all ages are known to hold costume parties and organise a night watching horror films.
Halloween celebrations are becoming more popular in Australia as each year passes so I thought I might look around for any Halloween-themed competitions that seem interesting enough to enter. Last year my local real state agent letterbox dropped pumpkin seeds and ran a pumpkin growing competition with some great prizes. I entered it but being restricted in my pumpkin-growing by my unit balcony, I didn’t win.
The first competition I came across this year was run by Skiddoo through their Facebook page. It had a prize of two return tickets to San Francisco flying United Airlines to celebrate Halloween in the United States. I duly entered my son into this as Halloween is one of his most favourite nights of the year. Unfortunately it closed on the 31st September but maybe they will hold it again next year.
The next competition I found was in That’s Life magazine. It involves sending in a photo of
?your little monster in their favourite Halloween costume’ with a brief story and contact details. Check it out a www.thatslife.com.au/win. There are five prizes of $100 Spotlight voucher. The closing date is 15th October so you still have a little time to get your costumes made, put them on your kids, take some great photos and enter.
While on the subject of Halloween costumes – at the moment Child Magazines is running a “That’s Mine Costume Box Halloween Giveaway” with four prizes of a $50 vouchers on offer from Costume Box. The closing date is the 13th October so you still have time to enter at www.childmags.com.au/win. Kidspot (www.kidspot.com.au) is one of my favourite websites for kid’s activities, giveaways and competitions. At the moment they also have a great section on Halloween costumes, activities and crafts. Free information is always welcomed in my home, especially if it is local, interesting and informative.
After a rather tiresome search the other night I finally found two more obscure Halloween competitions (there are heaps in the US but ones in Oz are hard to find). The first one was at Kitty’s Crumble (a kitty litter business). This involves emailing a photo of you cat in a Halloween costume with a $50 prize of kitty litter up for grabs each week until Halloween. The email address is contests@kittyscrumble.com.au. The other one was on a Facebook page – Ten Little Fingers Nail Art. You just need to register to win one of 9 sets of Haunted Nail Stickers but you need to get your entry in by 12th October.
Finally why not hold your own Halloween competition for your local neighbourhood kids and make it a creative adventure for them. Better still, why not make it an adult night with a costume party and some prizes for the best dressed and lots of nibbles and liquid refreshments. Enjoy!

P.S. The picture that I have put up today with this blog is my son Terry dressed and made up as The Joker. Pretty scary isn’t he!

Prizes I Haven’t Won … Yet



We all have those elusive prizes we really want to win in the back of our minds when we enter competitions. You know – those things we can’t afford to but for ourselves. Otherwise, well, what’s the point? My list has evolved over the past year while I discovered and surveyed all the various competitions available to us in Australia; the prizes on offer and the odds of winning them. What a list!
On top of my list is a new car. Since my husband retired at the beginning of this year we have been sharing one car. It doesn’t actually bother me but as time goes by and it ages I am not sure we will be able to afford a new one. So number one on my list is a brand new sparkling car. Luckily there are quite a few competitions with cars as prizes but on the downside the chances of winning are fairly slim, but not impossible. I persist with as many as I can find particularly those in the puzzle magazines. My latest attempt is through a Lovett Puzzle Magazine competition. But it doesn’t close until January next year so I will try to find a few more to enter before then. . I also think I know the answer to the GuessWho car competition so I am entering that too. Yesterday I entered a competition to win a Vespa scooter through The Upstairs Lounge – that would be a great prize too!
Number two on my ever-growing list is a holiday. But this is not necessarily for me although a holiday in Tasmania (there are always these ones available to enter) or a trip on The Ghan (pretty regular competitions too) would be good. I would really love to win an overseas holiday for one of my children, possibly my son who is still slightly footloose and fancy-free. There are so many on this website the odds must be reasonably good so I will continue with this quest as well.
While reaching casually into my grocery cupboard the other day I came across a jar of Dick Smith peanut butter with WIN on the label. Boy… was I cranky! How could I have missed this opportunity? On top of the fact that I had not noticed it (my husband does most of the shopping and he isn’t as tuned into competitions as me) the prize was a helicopter trip with Dick Smith himself. That would he been the perfect birthday or Christmas present for the said, old hubbie of mine. So of course I didn’t win because I didn’t enter it because it was well past the closing date. A little bit of further research revealed that there were about 4,000 entries. That could have clearly been placed number three on my prize list. According to a mutual friend of Dick Smith it is very likely he will have more competitions like this – so now I am keeping my eyes peeled to everything he brings home in the shopping from now on.
Now for number four. This may sound absurd but what I would really love to win is a large box of chocolate coated strawberries. I saw this on a Facebook page of Captain’s Wife Catering, a local business the other day but you had to comment on all the toppings they had put on them. Too hard…but then again…so yummy. OK then I’ll have a go! I’ll let you know when I win them… Then again any win that involves chocolate would be mush appreciated.
Number five is simply cash. But apart from Lotto and Lotteries there are not as many ways to win this. So in a few weeks I will look at some other ways of getting your hands on extra cash especially useful as the months lead up to Christmas. Finally here is one thought on winning I found the other day that I thought I might share:

‘‘Winning isn’t everything but the will to win is.” Vince Lombardi