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I'm new to this thing. I've developed an awesome talent for essaywriting and poetics, but I have never entered a contest, gotten paid for it, etc.

So this question is simply: What is a typical "workflow" for locating a contest or assignment to pursue, and how to follow it through to the end?

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Perhaps now that your "awesome talent" has been publicised, the promoters of contests will seek you out. –  Fortiter Jan 25 '13 at 5:57
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2 Answers

Joining other local writers, as Amanda Witt said, is great. There are also online databases and sites that will help you locate contests and markets, and even provide statistics on those contests.

https://duotrope.com

includes info on poetry and essay markets, although it has recently made much of the info available only to subscribers (only $5 a month).

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Join a writer's centre in your city/homestate if you can. They have lots of advice and information on competitions that you can enter your work in. A few years ago I did a lot of legwork myself to learn about this process, and it worked really well. Also attend workshops/classes where you often learn from professionals and meet other like-minded souls.

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