21 Free Writing Contests With Cash Prizes (Up to $60,500)

Here are 21 contests, bursaries and fellowships with cash prizes for writers of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. They are very roughly divided by geography. The prize amounts ranges from $55 to $60,500, and none of these charge an application fee. – S. Kalekar


Dream Foundry Short Story Contest
They want a speculative fiction story of up to 10,000 words for this contest. It is for beginning professional writers (see guidelines). Also check out their contest for artists.
Value: $1,000, $500, $200
Deadline: 11 October 2020
Open for: Beginning professional writers
Details here (scroll down).

Transitions Abroad: Expatriate and Work Abroad Writing Contest
This is an international contest for professional and freelancer writers, to write a non-fiction inspirational and practical article or mini-guide of 1,200 to 3,000 words that describes their experience living, moving, and working abroad.
Value: $500, $150, $100, $50
Deadline: 15 October 2020
Open for: All professional and freelance writers
Details here.

Welter 55 Contest
Welter is the literary journal of the University of Baltimore, and their contest guidelines say, “Something to say? Up for a challenge? Can you get your point across in exactly 55 words, no more, no fewer? Help us celebrate our 55th year of Welter by composing a 55-word story, poem, or piece of creative nonfiction.”
Value: $55
Deadline: 19 October 2020
Open for: Unspecified
Details here.

The Open Notebook/Burroughs Wellcome Fund fellowship
This is a global opportunity for early-career science writers. The eight-month fellowship is remote and part-time. Fellows will report and write six articles for publication at The Open Notebook with the guidance of a mentor who will help shape story ideas, provide reporting and writing guidance, edit final copy, and offer career-development mentoring. Each fellow will receive a stipend. The fellowship is open to early-career science writers with fewer than two years of regular professional science writing experience. (Internships and student work do not count toward this requirement). Graduate students in the sciences who are interested in science writing are eligible. 
Value: $4,200
Deadline: 25 October 2020
Open for: Early-career science writers
Details here.

Victoria Literary Festival Short Story Contests
There are contests on two themes for this Canadian literary festival. They want short stories of at least 1,400 words. For 2020, the themes are: ‘Hats Off’ and ‘Ghost Writer‘. An author can submit stories in each of the two contests. Read the guidelines carefully – writers have to send both, an emailed entry and a postal one.
Value: CAD350; CAD50 each for runners-up
Deadline: 30 October 2020
Open for: Unspecified
Details here.

The Society of Authors: McKitterick Prize
This prize is for an author over the age of 40 for a fiction novel, published in the UK, or unpublished. The author must not have had a novel published before, barring works for children. For unpublished manuscripts, submit the first 30 pages.    
Value: £4,000, £1,000
Deadline: 31 October 2020
Open for: Debut novelists over 40
Details here (scroll down).

James Tiptree, Jr Literary Award
This is for a range of disciplines – writers, artists, scholars, media makers, remix artists, performers, musicians, or something else entirely. If the applicant’s work is changing the way we think about gender through speculative narrative – maybe in a form recognizable as the science fiction and fantasy genre, maybe in some other way – they are eligible. Writers do not have to be a professional or have an institutional affiliation, as they hope to support emerging creators who do not already have institutional support for their work.     
Value: $500
Deadline: 31 October 2020
Open for: All writers
Details here.

Malice Domestic Grants for Unpublished Writers
This is given to an unpublished writer (see guidelines) in the Malice Domestic genre at each year’s Malice Domestic convention. The grant may be used to offset registration, travel, or other expenses related to attendance at a writers’ conference or workshop within a year of the date of the award. In the case of non-fiction, the grant may be used to offset research expenses. The Malice Domestic genre is loosely described as mystery stories of the Agatha Christie type—i.e. “traditional mysteries.” These works usually feature no excessive gore, gratuitous violence, or explicit sex. See guidelines for additional details and submission requirements. Apart from the cash award, the prize covers a comprehensive registration for the upcoming convention and two nights’ lodging at the convention hotel, but does not include travel to the convention or meals. 
Value: $2,500, and other expenses – see aboveDeadline: 1 November 2020
Open for: Unpublished writers in the Malice Domestic genre
Details here.

Defenestrationism: 2020 Flash Suite Contest
This is a contest for at least three flash fiction pieces that co-relate in some way. Finalists will be published daily on the site, followed by at least two weeks of Fan Voting – winners will be selected by a judging panel, with Fan Voting counting as an additional judge vote.    
Value: $75, $60
Deadline: 1 November 2020
Open for: All writers
Details here.

Black Mountain Institute: Shearing Fellowship
This is a residential fellowship for emerging and distinguished writers who have published at least one book with a trade or literary press. Apart from the cash stipend, this fellowship includes: a semester-long letter of appointment; eligibility for health coverage; office space in the BMI offices on the campus of UNLV; free housing (fellows cover some utilities) in a unique and vibrant arts complex in the bustling district of downtown Las Vegas. While there are no formal teaching requirements, this is a “working fellowship” (see guidelines). The Believer magazine is associated with this institute.
(The page also has details of City of Asylum fellowships, now closed, which provides safe haven for writers whose voices are muffled by censorship, or who are living with the threat of imprisonment or assassination; these are associated with the International Cities of Refuge network, which serves as an umbrella organization and information clearinghouse for local asylum programs worldwide.)
Value: $20,000 over 4 months, residency
Deadline: 1 November 2020
Open for: Unspecified
Details here.

(Also see ‘Commonwealth’ category for Canadian writers)

Canada Council for the Arts’ Explore and Create Grants
These are for Canadian artists, curators and writers (literature includes fiction, poetry, drama, graphic novel, young people’s literature, literary non-fiction, exploratory literary works using new technologies, spoken word creation, storytelling and literary performance). Grants provide support for creative research, creation and project development. Individuals who are Deaf or who have disabilities, including those living with mental illness, and require accommodation at any stage of the application process may be eligible for additional assistance.
Value: Up to CAD25,000
Deadline: 7 October 2020
Open for: Canadian writers
Details here and here.

Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship
This is for a poet born in the US, who is willing to spend a year outside the continent of North America. While many recent winners have been published poets, there is no requirement that applicants have previously published their work. Applications have to be mailed.
Value: Approximately $60,500, adjusted for inflation; if there are two winners, both will receive the same amount
Deadline: 15 October 2020
Open for: American-born poets
Details here (application instructions), here (application form), here (FAQ), and here (home page).

The Haven Foundation Grants
These grants were instituted by Stephen King after he suffered a debilitating accident. They give financial assistance to help freelance artists and writers who have suffered disabilities or a career-threatening illness, accident, natural disaster or personal catastrophe. They do not give emergency grants or COVID-19 grants.
Value: Varying
Deadline: 23 October 2020
Open for: Legal US residents
Details here.

The Howard Foundation Fellowships
These are funds for rotating disciplines. For the upcoming cycle, they will consider proposals from authors and scholars working in any genre, style, or media that can be classified as Creative Non-fiction. This includes but is not limited to the familiar or personal essay, the lyric essay, biography, autobiography, memoir, oral history, travel writing, nature writing, science writing, sports writing, the interview, or other forms of literary non-fiction. (Also see the focus on scholarly works of history for the upcoming cycle). These fellowships are to buy writers time for their work, and are often used to supplement a sabbatical leave. They are for early mid-career writers based in the US.
Value: $35,000
Deadline: 1 November 2020
Open for: Early mid-career US-based writers
Details here (home page) and here (FAQ).


Neal Street Productions – Screenwriting Bursary
This is an opportunity for Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) writers in the UK. It offers five successful applicants a cash prize, and opportunity £20,000 each to be trained and guided through the development process of writing their own original screenplay, as well as mentoring and an opportunity to network with established writers and commissioners. An application includes a sample of your work which can be a completed original screenplay, a play, a TV pilot or a short story. The sample must be a minimum of 30 pages and maximum of 120 pages.
Value: £20,000 each for five applicants
Deadline: 9 October 2020
Open for: BAME UK writers (see guidelines about other eligibility rules)
Details here.

Comma Press: The Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction
This is a fiction contest for UK-based writers. They want a short story, of 2,000-6,000 words, on the theme of ‘Home’.
Value: £500
Deadline: 23 October 2020
Open for: UK residents
Details here.

The Society of Authors: The ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Awards
This award is for a short story of up to 5,000 words, published or unpublished. Applicants must have had at least one short story accepted for publication before.    
Value: £1,000
Deadline: 31 October 2020
Open for: UK, Commonwealth, or Ireland based authors
Details here (scroll down).

The Society of Authors: The Eric Gregory Awards
These are for young UK poets, for a collection of poems – send up to 30 poems to be considered, published or unpublished. The prize purse for these awards is unspecified.   
Value: Unspecified
Deadline: 31 October 2020
Open for: Poets who are British nationals or living in the UK/North Ireland aged 30 or under
Details here (scroll down).

Benjamin Franklin House Literary Prize
This prize is for young UK-based writers. They want fiction or non-fiction of 1,000-1,500 words on the relevance of Benjamin Franklin’s relevance in our time. The quote for this year’s competition is ‘Glass, China, and Reputation, are easily crack’d, and never well mended’ Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1750. Writers are asked to interpret this quote for its significance today.
Value: £750, £500
Deadline: 31 October 2020
Open for: UK writers aged 18-35
Details here (scroll down).

The Young Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction
This is a prize for young UK writers for two categories, ages 11-15 and 16-19. They want historical fiction of 800-2,000 words. The fiction can be in any form – a story or an extract from a longer work, a poem or drama script, a fictional diary, letters, or reportage. The story can be set at any time in history, as long as it is an identifiable period before the author was born, in a world recognisably different from the present. They want mailed entries only. The prestigious Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction (for published works) is also open for submissions, with a later deadline.
Value: £500 travel and research grant for two category winners, an invitation to the Borders Book Festival in Melrose, Scotland, in June 2021 (Covid permitting)
Deadline: 31 October 2020
Open for: UK residents aged 11-19
Details here.

Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize
This is for writers in the Commonwealth regions of Africa, Asia, Canada and Europe, Caribbean, and Pacific. As well as English, stories are accepted in the Bengali, Chinese, French, Greek, Kiswahili, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Tamil and Turkish languages. Translated entries from any language into English are also eligible.
Value: £5,000; £2,500 for regional winners
Deadline: 1 November 2020
Open for: Writers in the Commonwealth (see guidelines for the list of countries)
Details here.

Author Bio: S. Kalekar is the pseudonym of a regular contributor to this magazine. She is the author of 182 Short Fiction Publishers. She can be reached here.


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