16 Free Writing Contests With Cash Prizes (Up to $50,000)

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These are contests, as well as grants and fellowships for writers of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, plays, and for translators. They range from £50 to $50,000, and none of them charge an entry fee. — S. Kalekar
Elizabeth So Fellowship This is for giving writers the time and solitude to help finish a book that is already in progress. Writers must have a novel, collection of stories, memoir, or other prose work (fiction, non-fiction, or hybrid), or a poetry collection, in progress. There are two fellowships, one for writers who are immigrants in the US, either documented or undocumented, and another is for Native American writers. The prize includes stay at Missoula, Montana. Value: $500 food stipend, $400 airfare, Residency Deadline: 5 April 2019 Open for: US immigrant writers, Native American writers Details here.
Queer Sci Fi: Migration They want to see science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, or horror LGBTQIA stories of up to 300 words on the theme of Migration. Their guidelines say, “We live in an age of migrations – from one kind of society to another, from one country to another, from one platform to another. It’s a rich vein to mine, and we look forward to seeing your entries, whether they are dark signs of things to come, sophisticated comments on today’s society, or hopeful looks at the future of mankind.” Value: $75, $50, $25 Deadline: 10 April 2019 Open for: All writers Details here.
23rd Annual Parsec Ink Short Story Contest — Noir This is a contest for a science fiction, fantasy or horror short story (up to 3,500 words) on the theme ‘Noir’ – the winning story will be one which uses the contest theme as a key element. Entrants must be non-professional writers (those who have not met eligibility requirements for Science Fiction Writers of America or equivalent: sale of a novel or sale of 3 stories to a large-circulation publication). Read the terms carefully – one of these is, “Submission to the contest implies consent for publication, but all rights revert immediately to the author upon publication.” Value: $200, $100, $50 Deadline: 15 April 2019 Open for: Non-professional writers (see guidelines) Details here.
2019 ALTA Travel Fellowship Each year, between four and six fellowships are awarded to emerging (unpublished or minimally published) translators to help them pay for hotel and travel expenses to the annual American Literary Translators Association conference (November 7-10 , 2019 in Rochester, NY). Among the fellowships is the Peter K. Jansen Memorial Travel Fellowship, which is preferentially awarded to an emerging translator of color or a translator working from an underrepresented Diaspora or stateless language. Also check out their other awards for published works, most of which do not charge a submission fee. Value: $1,000 each Deadline: 15 April 2019 Open for: Unspecified Details here.
Hektoen Journal: Grand Prix Essay Competition This is a journal of medical humanities. For their seventh Grand Prix competition, they want an essay of up to 1,600 words. Topics might include art, history, literature, education, etc. as they relate to medicine. Read the rules carefully: “Submission of an article implies consent to publish in Hektoen International. If accepted for publication, an article may be published at any time regardless of the outcome of the competition. If major edits are made, proofs will be sent to the authors before publication.” Value: $3,000; $800 Deadline: 15 April 2019 Open for: All writers Details here.
Saroyan Writing Contest 2019: Important Places This is an essay contest for students. The theme is ‘Important Places’ – their guidelines say, “Places are central to William Saroyan’s writing, often as significant to the story as the characters. … Write about a place that is important to you. How has that place contributed to who you are and/or your plans for the future?” There are specific requirements if this contest is used as a class project. There are five categories of participants, in grades 1 through 12. Value: $100, $75, $50 Deadline: 15 April 2019 Open for: Students Details here (can download the entry form from here).
Ayn Rand Institute: Three Essay Contests for Students These are international essay contests for students centred around Ayn Rand’s works: Anthem, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged. All runner-up prizes have more than one winner in each contest and category. One of the contests has a whopping $25,000 prize – the deadline for that is a few months away yet. The guidelines also say, “All entries become the property of the Ayn Rand Institute and will not be returned. Essays may be reproduced on our website and/or shared with third parties for purposes of marketing the contest.”

Anthem: There are contests for two sets of grade levels: one for 8th, 9th, and 10th, and another for those in 11th and 12th grade. Submit an essay of 600-1,200 words on one of three specific topics centred around Ayn Rand’s novel, Anthem. Value: $2,000, $250, $100, and $25 in each category Deadline: 18 April for 11th and 12th graders; 25 April for 8th, 9th and 10th graders Open for: All students Details here.

The Fountainhead: This is for those in 11th and 12th grade. Submit an essay of 800-1,600 words on one of three specific topics centred around Ayn Rand’s novel, The Fountainhead. Value: $10,000, $2,500, $500, $50 Deadline: 25 April 2019 Open for: All students Details here.

Atlas Shrugged: This is for 12th graders, college undergraduates and graduate students. Write an essay of 800-1,600 words on one of three specific topics centred around Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged. Value: $25,000, $2,500, $500, $100 Deadline: 19 September 2019 Open for: All students Details here.
Whiting Foundation: Creative Nonfiction Grant Up to eight grants will be awarded to US writers of creative non-fiction, for books under contract by US publishers – the subjects include, but are not limited to, history, cultural or political reportage, biography, memoir, the sciences, philosophy, criticism, food or travel writing, and personal essays. It is intended for multiyear book projects requiring large amounts of deep and focused research, thinking, and writing, after significant work has been accomplished. The work should be intended for general, not academic, audiences. One of the application requirements is three sample chapters, or up to 25,000 words. Value: $40,000 Deadline: 22 April 2019 Open for: US writers with a contracted book Details here.
Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships These fellowships are for young poets in the US (see guidelines). Application includes up to 10 pages of poetry. Value: Fellowships of $25,800 each Deadline: 30 April 2019 Open for: US residents or citizens aged 21-31 years Details here.
The Irene Adler Prize The scholarship is for a woman pursuing a degree in journalism, creative writing, or literature at a recognized post-secondary institution in the US or Canada. Applicants are to write a 500-word essay on one of these three topics: — “Why are you studying journalism, creative writing, or literature?” — “Which woman inspires you to write despite not being principally known as a writer herself?” — “If you could live anywhere outside North America, where would you go and what would you do there?” Value: $1,000 Deadline: 30 April 2019 Open for: US or Canadian citizens Details here.
Humane Education Network: A Voice for Animals This is an international essay contest for students in two categories: for 14-15-year-olds, and for 16-18-year-olds. The essay themes include mistreatment of one animal species, the preservation of one endangered species, and the effects of climate change on animals (see guidelines). Participants must currently be attending middle or high school, or be home-schooled, and less than 19 years of age on January 22, 2019. The contest is also open for those for whom English is a second language. Entries can be essays (1,400-1,500 words), essays with photos, or videos. Also see this link for an essay contest for students in grades 7 and 8 in Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara Counties. Value: Total prize purse up to $5,900; prizes of $500 and below Deadline: 30 April 2019 Open for: All students Details here.
Lake Superior State University High School Short Story Prize This prize is for a short story on any theme, of up to 5,000 words, by a high school student residing in the US or Canada. The $500 prize can be increased to a $1,000 cash scholarship if the student chooses to attend Lake Superior State University. Value: $500; can be increased to a $1,000 scholarship Deadline: 30 April 2019 Open for: US and Canadian students Details here.
Tamworth Litfest Writing Competition For this contest, they want stories and poems on any theme. The contest is free to enter in two categories — Secondary school (ages 7-11), of up to 1,000 words, and Primary school (up to and including year 6), of up to 500 words. Value: £50, £25, £15 for Secondary school; £20, £15, £10 for Primary school Deadline: 30 April 2019 Open for: Unspecified Details here.
Remastered Words Contest This organization creates audio dramatizations of short story submissions and an audio recording. Submit a story of up to 5,000 words in any fantasy sub-genre. Value: £75, £50, £25, and royalties Deadline: 1 May 2019 Open for: All writers Details here.
The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture: Hiett Prize in the Humanities This prize is aimed at identifying candidates in the early stages of their careers devoted to the humanities and whose work shows extraordinary promise to have a significant impact on contemporary culture. Applications include a Narrative Profile of Accomplishments and Published Work, and a plan for Future Scholarship and/or Project in the Humanities. Applicants must be active and continuing in their work. Age and length of experience are not necessarily limiting factors. Past winners have included writers of columns, non-fiction, poetry and memoir, and journalists. Value: $50,000 Deadline: 3 May 2019 Open for: Those resident in the US Details here.
The Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting This is for UK-based (see guidelines) playwrights of any background, and some playwrights from other countries. They want a play script of 1 hour or above. Their guidelines also say, “An International Award of £8,000 – open to international playwrights invited to anonymously apply via our named international partners: The BANFF Centre in Canada; Belvoir Theatre and Melbourne Theatre Company in Australia; Berkeley Rep and Playwrights Horizons in the USA. We are afraid that no other international submissions can be considered at this time.” Value: First prize £16,000, Judges’ Award of £8,000, Original New Voice Award of £8,000, an International Award of £8,000 Deadline: 5 June 2019 Open for: UK playwrights; some international playwrights (see guidelines) Details here.


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