17 Free Writing Contests With Cash Prizes

The following is a list of free writing contests with cash prizes. All of the contests are currently open to submissions. The earliest deadline is October 11th, 2016.

Included is a very wide variety of contests. With awards for essays, short stories, poetry, and novels, there is something here for everyone.

The contest prizes range from a couple hundred dollars to $50,000. All of the contests are completely free to enter.

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  1. Glamour Magazine is currently hosting an essay contest. The theme: “Every woman has a moment in life that changes everything. What’s that moment for you?” Essays should be no more than 3,500 words. The deadline is November 1st. Learn more here.
  2. Lyric Magazine’s College Poetry Contest is a $500 poetry content for college students in the US or Canada. Poems must be original, unpublished poems, written in a traditional form. The deadline is December 1st. Learn more here.
  3. The Ohioana Walter Rumsey Marvin Grant offers $1,000 to writers who were born in Ohio or who have lived there for at least 5 years. Entries consist of at least 4 pieces of prose. The deadline is January 31,2017. Learn more here.
  4. The H.S. Poetry Prize is an annual $500 award for Sophomore and Junior high school girls in New England. Entry is free. One poem per student. The deadline is December 1st. Learn more here.
  5. About the Schneider Family Book Award is an annual award honoring children’s books that “embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.” There are 3 $5,000 prizes, depending on the age group the book is for. Books must already be published. The entry deadline is December 1st. Learn more here.
  6. Writers & Illustrators of the Future has a regular writing contest with prizes of $1,00, $750 and, $500, plus an annual grand prize of $5,000. They accept submissions of science fiction, fantasy, and dark fantasy. The word limit is 17,000 words. It is not open to professionally published writers. Learn more here.
  7. The Betty Trask Prize and The Betty Trask Awards are open to citizens of the British Commonwealth (UK, Australia, Canada, etc.)  The contest is for a published or unpublished first novel by an author under 35 years of age. The total prize money starts at 20,000 British Pounds.  Learn more here.
  8. The Commonwealth  Short Story Prize is open to residents of the British Commonwealth, including the UK, Canada, Australia, and any commonwealth member country. (Not the US.) The prize is £2,500 each, and one overall winner, with a prize of £5,000. The deadline is November 1st. Learn more here.
  9. The Burt Award for Caribbean Literature is an annual Award given to three English-language literary works for young adults written by Caribbean authors. First place prize is $10,000 CAD. Learn more here.
  10. The Amy Lowell Traveling Poet Scholarship offers $54,000 to the winning writer. Upon acceptance of the prize, the writer is required to travel outside the United States for the entire year. The entry deadline is October 15th. Learn more here.
  11. The James Hurst Fiction Prize is open to residents of North Carolina. They offer a $500 prize for a max 5,000 word short story, and a $250 prize for a max 1,200 word short story.  The deadline is October 11th. Learn more here.
  12. New York Encounter is sponsoring a poetry contest on the theme “Reality as Never Betrayed Me.”  The theme is inspired by Pope Benedict’s claim that “the intelligence of faith has to become the intelligence of reality.” The prizes are $300, $200, and $100. The deadline is November 1st, 2016. Learn more here.
  13. Drake University is hosting a $500 essay contest on the topic of “change and changes.” Essays are limited to 3,500 words. The winner will be brought to Drake University to read from the winning essay. Learn more here.
  14. The PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers awards $2,000 to 12 fiction writers who have published their first short story during a given calendar year. Entries must be sent by the editor of the publication you were published in. That means, if you’ve been published this year, you should be bugging your publisher about entering this contest for someone, even if it isn’t you. The deadline for entry is November 11th. Learn more here.
  15. St. Martin’s Minotaur / Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition. This is an annual mystery novel contest with a $10,000 prize. Entries must be longer than 220 typewritten pages, or 60,000 words. This contest is NOT open to novelists who have previously published a novel, unless that novel was self published. Learn more here.
  16. The William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grants Program for Unpublished Writers awards a $2,500 grant to one writer each for, to help complete a manuscript in the “malice domestic” genre, loosely described as mystery stories of the Agatha Christie type. The deadline for entry is May 1st. Learn more here.
  17. The Vermont Writers’ Prize offers a $1,500 prize for the best story, essay, or poem that celebrates the state of Vermont. The deadline for entry is November 1st. Learn more here.


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