• Charter Oak Award for Best Historical •

Writing Award for Best Unpublished History-Themed Pieces

About Alternating Current’s Charter Oak Award for Best Historical

The Charter Oak Award for Best Historical is Alternating Current Press’ annual writing award to recognize the best history-themed writing submitted to the press. All history-themed pieces submitted to Alternating Current are considered for the award, and there is no additional submission process. The winner is announced each spring from our history finalists, selected by an external judge with knowledge in the craft, to receive publication, publicity, a monetary award, and other incentives from our press.

Award Process and Guidelines

Council of Literary Magazines and Presses Contest Code of Ethics

We Subscribe to the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP) Contest Code of Ethics: CLMP’s community of independent literary publishers believes that ethical contests serve our shared goal: to connect writers and readers by publishing exceptional writing. We believe that intent to act ethically, clarity of guidelines, and transparency of process form the foundation of an ethical contest. To that end, we agree to 1.) conduct our contests as ethically as possible and to address any unethical behavior on the part of our readers, judges, or editors; 2.) to provide clear and specific contest guidelines—defining conflict of interest for all parties involved; and 3.) to make the mechanics of our selection process available to the public. This Code recognizes that different contest models produce different results, but that each model can be run ethically. We have adopted this Code to reinforce our integrity and dedication as a publishing community and to ensure that our contests contribute to a vibrant literary heritage.

Alternating Current’s Selection & Judging Process

1.) We take submissions through Submittable and use its tools and our own to accept semi-blind submissions. We say semi-blind because the Editor-in-Chief has access to the information (although she does not read or accept submissions); snail mail submissions cannot be read blind (but are also included in our process so there is a submitting option available for everyone); and the Acquisitions Editor occasionally has access to contact information provided by solicited manuscripts. The Acquisitions Editor only selects work for publication. While the Editor-in-Chief and Acquisitions Editor determine what is published on our press, they do not make judging decisions for awards.

2.) We ask submitters not to include their names, contact information, or any identifying marks within the documents, titles, and file names of submissions.

3.) Staff members of Alternating Current may have pieces published on The Coil or submit pieces for blind submission consideration, but they are not eligible to win award prizes. (Please note that some of our staffers became staff members after they won awards because they enjoyed working with our press during the process.)

4.) For all awards, the Editor-in-Chief compiles a spreadsheet of all the eligible pieces, makes sure everything is stripped of any contact information, and sends that spreadsheet to an external judge. The judge is not announced until after the contest results are tallied, and is not affiliated as a staff member of Alternating Current (although he may be a previously published author or guest editor on our press). The judge ranks his selections from 1-12 to choose the Top 12 Finalists for individual categories, including a first, second, and third place. The judge is not to announce himself as the judge until all results are tallied, and he is not to be contacted by submitters during any part of the process. Judging decisions are final.

5.) While the pieces are read blind, the judge is asked to disqualify any pieces that he may recognize as posing a personal conflict of interest. Once selected, we will reveal the winner’s name privately to the judge before announcement to clarify that there is no conflict of interest. Should there be, the next finalist in line without conflict shall become the winner. Conflicts of interest are defined as: close friends, relatives, students, and former students of the judge. We do not consider workshops to be disqualifying factors, unless the judge personally feels there is a conflict there. We leave the discretion of conflict identification up to the judge.

6.) All winners and finalists are notified prior to announcement. The results are publicly posted online at The Coil and on the press website. The locked judging spreadsheet is made publicly available, and we publish the judge’s comments.

Submit History-Themed Pieces to the Charter Oak Award

All history-themed pieces submitted through our history/Footnote portal, special projects categories, diversity category, private-invitation link, individual manuscript selection, and Submit Anything! Open-Reading periods, are entered into and considered for the next Charter Oak Award, as well as for open-reading acceptance on our press through our history-themed journal, Footnote, and through our online journal, The Coil. There is no separate submission process. Pieces must have a noticeable history theme, but we keep it open-ended as to what that means to the author or reader, and we consider prose, poetry, and hybrid work of all kinds within the theme. We have rolling deadlines for different categories year-round, but the award period runs from December 1 of one year through November 30 of the next year, with the award announcement being made the following spring. There are first, second, third, fourth, and fifth place winners, followed by seven finalists. We also publish our finalists and semifinalists in our annual issue of Footnote. We will respond to all submissions within a few weeks to a few months; you do not have to wait through the whole award period to get an answer to your submission. Any history-themed acceptances automatically become semifinalists.

We will answer all submissions, and we do not respond to status update requests. Feedback and expedited options are available.

For those accepted for publication: Please note that we are on a yearly print schedule. All pieces accepted in 2017 will receive publication in and throughout 2018. We understand that writers get antsy to see their work printed, but please do not inquire about the status of your work or publication date. We will be in touch with you when it is your turn.

Read our general guidelines here.
Read our history-themed guidelines here.

Current 2017 Prize

The First Place winner receives $50 (upon publication); publication of his piece at Alternating Current Press both online (on the website award page and on The Coil) and in print in Footnote #3; a complimentary print copy of the journal; complimentary digital copies of the journal in all formats; our virtual gold award medallion for use on book covers, social media profiles, and websites; a certificate; and a press release mailing-list blast. Second Place and Third Place receive our silver/black-and-white virtual medallion for use on book covers, social media profiles, and websites; certificates; their pieces published online at our award website page; and $10 each (upon publication). All Top Twelve Places are published online on The Coil, with their finalist positions indicated. All winners, finalists, and semifinalists receive publication in Footnote #3 in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats and complimentary digital copies of the journal. Both Footnote and The Coil pay a small token payment for publication of all pieces.

What is the Charter Oak?

Legend has it that this unusually large white oak tree on what early colonists named Wyllys Hyll in Hartford, Connecticut, was where the Royal Charter of 1662 was shoved into a hidden hollow to thwart its confiscation by the English governor-general who wished to revoke the piece of legislation that granted autonomy to the colonists.

This tree, named the Charter Oak, has since become a symbol of the power of documents and recorded history, the freedom they give us, showcasing the lengths one would go to protect, to defend, and to stand by words that could forever change the course of people’s lives.

While the Charter Oak is a strong, undeniable piece of American history, its symbol is universal. Words empower us all, the whole world over, and we’ll die to protect our right to them. Here, at Alternating Current, we want to preserve and reward those words that empower us, so that they, too, may go down in history.


Painting: The Charter Oak, oil on canvas, Charles De Wolf Brownell, 1857. Artwork in public domain.

Charter Oak Award Medallion Designers

Special thanks and acknowledgment to Devin Byrnes and SuA Kang of Hardly Square, for their creativity in designing our annual medallion imprint. Hardly Square is a strategy-, branding-, and design-based boutique located in Baltimore, Maryland, that specializes in graphic design, web design, and eLearning courses. Their invaluable design expertise has made our annual awards come to life. Learn more about our medallion designers.