Pictures may be worth 1000 words but apparently stories are only worth 800, give or take.
The Worth1000 site sponsors Photoshop, photography and multimedia challenges. But they have also been sponsoring writing (including poetry) challenges for quite a few years. Enter the current contests or use some of the ideas as writing prompts.
Main writing challenge page with current and most recent contests are on the Text Contests home page, and an rchive of all writing challenges is in the directory. (On the directory page, the tabs at the right list the other challenges. The links in the top purple bar will filter them by type. The Head to Head contests are forum members challenging each other.)
If you go to check out the writing challenges, do check out the visual challenges also. (There's also a huge archive in the gallery. Some of them are truly astounding (and will make you question any fantastic digital photo you see in the future! ;-) If you're still on dialup, the pages can be an exercise in patience: go make some tea, do some writing challenges, build the Eiffel Tower out of paperclips then come back and be amazed. :-)
Current challenges (ending September 8):
Alien Invasion: Alien invasion! Large scale or small, just before, during, or immediately after; anything goes, but the basic premise is alien(s) have attacked (a town, city, state/province, country, whole planet...) (900 words)
Poetry - Rondeau: A Rondeau is a French form, 15 lines long, consisting of three stanzas: a quintet (five lines), a quatrain (four lines), and a sestet (six lines) with a rhyme scheme as follows: aabba aabR aabbaR. Lines 9 and 15 are short - a refrain (R) consisting of a phrase taken from line one. The other lines are longer (but all of the same metrical length).
A small sampling of recent challenges:
Pet Personals 2: "Loving home needed.": We've done Pet Personals but not like this. In this contest you are going to write a Personal ad from the perspective of a Pet, but they aren't seeking a mate, they are seeking an owner. The rules of the game are thus: Write a personal ad, from the perspective of a pet looking for an owner. Humor is key in this contest. (60 words)
Fish Stories: Tell a story about an oridinary thing, but make it sound extraordinary with exaggerations, and downright lies. (800 words)
Sleep Deprivation: Your character has gone without sleep for an extended period of time. How do they react to what is going on around them? Are they falling asleep every two minutes? Cold shower? Blaring radio? Window rolled down? What is your character doing? The rules of the game are thus: Write a story where the main character hasn't had any sleep for an extended period of time. The story should rely heavily on the lack of sleep factor. (800 words)
Unusual Job With Application: The rules of the game are thus: Create a job that no one would apply for and then create a person who would fit the job perfectly.(Write their application letter.) 1) Create the job(brief description of the job is acceptable for this contest.) 2) Write application letter(Why they think they are the best person for the job.) (500 words)
Writer's Block: What happens when writer's block shows up? The rules of the game are thus: Write an agonizing account of a writer afflicted with the block, his fruitless attempts to circumvent it, his idea process, the ridiculous derailed trains of thought. (800 words)
Past to Future: Isaac Asimov wrote a story once where someone brought Shakespeare to the future and enrolled him in a college course on Shakespeare. He flunked. What would happen if you were to take people from the past and show them the results, implications, uses, etc... of their inventions or ideas? The rules of the game are thus: Write a story where you take an inventor from the past(or present) and bring them to the present(or forward to the future). What is their experience in the new environment? Do they have new inventions to share or are they totally lost and confused by technology? (800 words)
Opening Paragraphs: Horror 3: If you want to get to page two of any story, you've got to get the reader interested on page 1. In this contest, you'll do just that. Hook the reader with the scariest opening paragraphs you can conjure up in 666 words. Set the tone, create the mood, make people shudder with fear and beg for more. Remember, these are only the opening paragraphs, so leave the readers hanging. (666)
Text Re-visibles 5: Like a reverse take on the old Mad Lib books of my misspent youth, I'm giving you bits of a headline and key ingredients to a humorous news brief. Your job, should you choose to accept it (or are able to follow along) will be to fill in the blanks, make the invisibles, revisible. Got it? Headline segment: While ______ ______ ______ ______ the ______ _______ That's the headline of your news story - six words missing, they can be anything you want (within the guidelines). Complete the headline, and then write the brief story that follows. But wait, there's a catch... you must include the following words in your news brief ... assuming, tutorial, European cup. (500 words)
Notice of Intent: "You forgot the mustard on my hotdog!" Write a bizarre letter to a person explaining to them that you're suing them and outline the reasons for taking action and what you want in return e.g. suing a neighbour for emotional distress linked to him having a better car than you. The rules of the game are thus:Write a bizarre letter to a person explaining to them that you're suing them and outline the reasons for taking action, and what you want in return e.g. suing a neighbour for emotional distress linked to him having a better car than you. (250 words)
Note: you can enter all the challenges for free but you can't win "credits" unless you pay the entry fee (5-10 credits). This was the site's owner's way of raising money for $5000/year server costs without discouraging people from entering. You can read more about it at Why the new format?
(The site is work and child friendly. There are a few challenges that have more mature content but they're clearly marked with a page that says "Mature Content Warning" so you can't stumble on them accidently.)