20 Free Writing Contests with Cash Prizes

Contributed by S. Kalekar

This is a list of 20 writing contests with cash prizes for fiction, non-fiction and poetry writers, as well as playwrights. Apart from the unthemed calls, there are calls for writing picture books for children, science fiction and fantasy stories, on vision, Australian life, on coins, about your journey as a writer, Pittsburgh and Caribbean literature. There are also fellowships, including a major national one and one on investigative journalism. As a bonus, we have included three contests with publishing contracts with prestigious presses (no upfront cash prizes).

1. In Focus Contest

This contest is for young writers, to promote awareness of the vision problems individuals in third-world countries may face on a daily basis. There are two groups: aged 10-14 and 15-18. The contest has visual arts and writing categories. Submit a prose or poetry piece (or a prose and poetry piece) of up to 1,000 words on any of these writing prompts: “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” – Helen Keller; “For my part I know nothing with any certainty but the sight of stars makes me dream.” -Vincent Van Gogh; What does vision mean to you?
Value: One CAD100 prize for the writing category in each age group; printing in an anthology for selected writing
Deadline: 10 September 2017
Open for: Writers aged 10-18
Details here.
2. Princemere Poetry Prize

Submit up to three unpublished poems for this prize.
Value: $300
Deadline: 12 September 2017
Open for: All poets
Details here.

3. Outlook Springs Creative Non-fiction prize

Submit one piece of creative non-fiction of 1,500-8,000 words.
Value: $500
Deadline: 15 September 2017
Open for: All writers
Details here.

4. The Horne Prize

Write an essay on ‘Australian Life’ of 2,500-3,000 words. It could be a profile, a reported feature on a particular issue, or a series of vignettes. They do not want essays about Donald Horne, essays that look on the past without that reflecting on the present or the future, or lyric or memoir essays that are purely expositional.
Value: AUD15,000
Deadline: 18 September 2017
Open for: Unspecified
Details here.

5. Guggenheim Fellowship

The fellowships are for those who have proven an exceptional creative ability in the arts. These are six- to twelve-month grants to help provide Fellows with blocks of time in which they can work freely; no special conditions attach to them. Writers should send samples of published books, not articles they have published. Self-published writing, genre work, and works for children/YA are not eligible.
Value: Varies
Deadline: 19 September 2017
Open for: Published US and Canadian citizens or permanent residents
Details here and here.

6. SmokeLong Quarterly Kathy Fish Fellowship

This is for new and emerging writers. Each of the four quarterly issues of the magazine will carry a flash piece by the virtual writer in residence. Send four flash fiction samples (up to 1,000 words), at least one of which must be unpublished.
Value: $500
Deadline: 20 September 2017 for free entries
Open for: Those who have not published a chapbook or a book, and whose writing has not appeared in the SmokeLong
Details here.

7. Writing Magazine Picture Book Prize

Entries should be up to 800 words and reflect traditional picture book texts that do not rely on pop-ups, tabs or touch. It should be fiction and can be rhyming or non-rhyming. The story can be split into spreads (usually 12-14) or be one continuous piece of writing. They are not looking for illustrated stories or sample illustrations.
Value: £200, agent consultation and magazine subscription; £50, picture book critique through courses and magazine subscription
Deadline: 29 September 2017
Open for: Unagented and unpublished children’s writers
Details here.

8. Solution Loans Short Story Competition

Submit a fiction piece of 1,000-2,000 words on the theme ‘Coins’.

Value: £200 and publication; £50 and publication for three runners-up
Deadline: 30 September 2017
Open for: UK writers aged 18 and above
Details here.

9, Ron Hubbard’s Writers & Illustrators of the Future

This contest is for new and amateur writers of new short stories or novelettes of science fiction or fantasy. Send stories of up to 17,000 words in length. This is a quarterly contest, and the year ends 30 September.
Value: $1,000, $750, $500 quarterly; one annual prize of $5,000
Deadline: 30 September 2017
Open for: Those who have not professionally published a novel or short novel, or more than one novelette, or more than three short stories, in any medium.
Details here.

10. Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest

Readers of this magazine are interested in music, social history, literature, politics, art, film and theater, particularly that of the counter-culture of mid-twentieth century America. While the writing should appeal to a reader with these interests, stories can be on any theme and should ideally be up to 3,000 words, though those up to 5,000 words will be considered.
Value: $100
Deadline: 30 September 2017
Open for: All writers
Details here.

11. Desi Writers’ Lounge Short Story Contest

The fiction can be on any theme, and be up to 5,000 words.
Value: PKR50,000 Dastaan Award for one writer; $100 for three shortlisted writers
Deadline: 30 September 2017
Open for: All writers
Details here.

12. Writers’ College My Writing Journey Competition

Write a 1,000 word story about your journey as a writer. The writing can be funny, quirky, and/or inspirational.
Value: AUD200
Deadline: 30 September 2017
Open for: All writers
Details here.

13. What’s Your Story? Writing Competition

There are prizes for fiction (up to 1,000 words) and poetry (up to 40 lines) for Australian and Stonnington residents. There are also memoir categories for 5-12 and 13-18-year old residents of Stonnington.
Deadline:  30 September 2017
Value: AUD200 for open categories in fiction and poetry; AUD300 for Stonnington residents in fiction and poetry; AUD150 worth of books for 5-18-year old writers in Stonnington
Open for: Australian residents for the open categories; Stonnington residents for Stonnington prizes
Details here.

14. Mother Jones: Ben Bagtikian Fellowship Program

The Mother Jones website calls it a crash course in investigative journalism. People from all backgrounds are invited to apply. Positions are now open for Editorial (San Francisco and DC) and Online editorial (San Francisco) fellowships. The fellowships last six months, with the opportunity of a further six-month extension.
Value: $2,275 per month for each fellowship
Deadline: 1 October 2017
Open for: People of all backgrounds; not for those in school or only available part-time
Details here.

15. Taking Flight Festival

This is a competition for new and emerging playwrights from East Asian, South Asian and South East Asian communities in the UK. For the Taking Flight festival, they need 30-minute to an hour play with a cast of up to five characters, and workable on a minimal set. Submit a full description of the idea on one A4 page. Selected writers will be supported through the script development.
Value: £1,000 each for three writers, script development, and performance; workshops for up to 10 applicants
Deadline: 1 October 2017
Open for: East Asian, South Asian and South East Asian playwrights in the UK aged over 18
Details here.

16. Royal Society of Literature: Giles St Aubyn Awards for Non-Fiction

This is for UK writers of non-fiction, to buy them time for completing their first commissioned work. Only works to be published in the UK or Republic of Ireland, or by UK/Ireland-based publishers, are eligible. The award will also take into consideration the author’s financial need.
Value: £10,000, £5,000
Deadline: 2 October 2017
Open for: First commissioned work of non-fiction by a UK writers
Details here.

17. Penguin Random House Australia Literary Prize

This inaugural prize is to find and develop new Australian authors in literary fiction and non-fiction. Writers should send a manuscript, synopsis and pitch document.
Value: AUD20,000 as advance against royalties
Deadline: 20 October 2017
Open for: All Australian residents 18 and above
Details here.

18. Creative Non-Fiction: Writing Pittsburgh Book Prize

This is for a non-fiction manuscript on a subject focusing on regional or national importance, by a writer with a significant connection to Pittsburgh.
Value: $10,000 and publication
Deadline: 23 October 2017
Open for: Writers with a connection to Pittsburgh
Details here.

19. Mayfesto Award

In its inaugural year, this award is open for young Scotland-based playwrights. See their guidelines for various application requirements and how the play is to be submitted.
Value: £2,000, script development sessions, public rehearsed readings
Deadline: 23 October 2017
Open for: Scotland-based playwrights aged 18-25
Details here.

20. Burt Award for Caribbean Literature

This award is for published and self-published books, as well as for unpublished manuscripts of literary works for young adults (aged 12-18) written by a Caribbean author. Literary fiction, graphic novels, short story collections by a single author, and creative non-fiction are eligible; poetry, drama or anthologies are not.
Value: CAD10,000; two prizes of CAD2,000 each and guaranteed purchases of books
Deadline: 31 October 2017
Open for: Caribbean authors
Details here.

Bonus: 3 Prizes with publishing contracts as awards

1. Heatseeker Competition

The website booksandthecity.co.uk and heat magazine have teamed up for a women’s fiction short story competition. Submit a story of up to 2,500 words.
Value: Author mentoring session, critique of work with a literary agent, and an e-book contract from Simon & Schuster UK for 25% author royalties.
Deadline: 30 September 2017
Open for: UK residents aged 18 and over
Details here.

2. The Iowa Short Fiction Award & John Simmons Short Fiction Award

The awards offer publication for a collection of short stories. Manuscripts must be at least 150 word-processed, double-spaced pages.
Value: Manuscript publishing under a standard University of Iowa Press contract
Deadline: 30 September 2017 (postmarked)
Open for: All writers who have not published prose fiction; see guidelines for exceptions and clarifications
Details here.

3. Portobello Prize

This is for debut UK writers of narrative non-fiction. Submit an overview of the subject and how the story will be told, and a sample chapter. Entries cannot be on submission to other prizes, publishers or agencies.
Value: Competitive book deal, representation by C+W, publication by Portobello Books
Deadline: 16 October 2017
Open for: UK citizens or residents; writer must be unpublished in book form
Details here.


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