21 Free Writing Contests With Cash Prizes

Contributed by S. Kalekar

This is a list of writing contests for a variety of genres and ages – for professional writers of short stories, non-fiction, novels and novellas, for student and amateur writers, and for non-professional writers. All  have cash prizes, ranging from £50 to several thousand dollars; a few also include residencies or travel, including to other countries. Most are for unpublished writing.

The list is in order of deadline.

1. The Stony Brook Short Fiction Prize

This is for undergraduate students in the US and Canada. Entries must be a maximum of 7,500 words.

Value: $1,000 and a scholarship to the Southampton Writers Conference
Deadline: 25 May 2017
Open for: Undergraduate students from the US and Canada enrolled in 2016/17; traditionally has encouraged submissions from those with an Asian background
Details here.

2. Earth-Day Short-Fiction contest

The topic is Big Enough Dreams. It asks writers to imagine a future: can we evolve humanity to a better place, and have a better, fairer, more sustainable future? Or, like Icarus, will we end up too close to the sun? The prize is sponsored by Sapiens Plurum and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination. Entries must be 1,500-3,000 words.

Value: $1,000, $500, $300
Deadline: 27 May 2017
Open for: All writers, aged 18 or over
Details here.

3. The Black Orchid Novella Award

Entries must be unpublished fiction that confirms to the tradition of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series. Entries must be 15,000-20,000 words, should focus on the detective skills of the sleuth, and contain no sex or violence. They should not have characters from the original Nero Wolfe series. The award is sponsored by The Wolfe Pack and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. No electronic submissions.

Value: $1,000 and publication in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine
Deadline: Entries must be postmarked 31 May 2017
Open for: Writers worldwide
Details here.

4. One Teen Story Contest

This is for writers aged 13-19, and for fiction in any genre: literary, fantasy, sci-fi, romance or horror. Stories should be 2,500-4,000 words. Honorable mentions will be in three categories: ages 13-15, 16-17 and 18-19. The magazine also accepts regular submission by teenagers.

Value: $500 and 25 contributor copies
Deadline: 31 May 2017
Open for: Writers aged 13-19 years
Details here.

5. James Bartleman Indigenous Youth Creative Writing Awards

This award is for six Indigenous students in Ontario. There are three geographic categories: fly-in community, on reserve and off reserve. A junior student (12 years or younger) and a senior student (13-18 years) is chosen in each category, for a piece of creative writing – short story, poem or song.

Value: Six awards of $2,500 each
Deadline: 31 May 2017; submissions received after the deadline will be considered for the following year’s award
Open for: Indigenous students in Ontario
Details here.

6. Fraser Institute Student Essay Contest

This is for Canadian students only, attending school in the 2016/17 school year or enrolled to attend in 2017/18. This year’s topic is Regulating the Sharing Economy: Do Costs Outweigh the Benefits? Essays must be 1,000-1,500 words and can have more than one author.

Value: $1,500, $1,000, $500
Deadline: 1 June 2017
Open for: Canadian students
Details here.

7. The Peter Blazey Fellowship

This is an award for completing a work in progress of nonfiction by an Australian writer. Writers must submit approximately 5,000 words of unpublished material. The award is in memory of Peter Blazey, journalist, author and gay rights activist.

Value: Approximately AU$15,000 and a one-month residency at the Australian Centre
Deadline: 12 June 2017
Open for: Australian citizens or those having Australian residency
Details here.

8. Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award

This is for the development of unpublished or emerging writers of color in crime fiction. Writers can submit an unpublished work of crime fiction of 2,500-5,000 words – a short story, or the first chapter of a novel in progress.

Value: $1,500; the winner can choose from a slew of activities, including retreats and workshops, and will need to specify how the money will be used
Deadline: 15 June 2017
Open for: For an emerging writer of color; unpublished writer preferred, though one published short fiction or academic work is ok
Details here.

9. The Norton Writer’s Prize

This is for an outstanding essay written by an undergraduate. Literary narratives, literary and other textual analyses, reports, profiles, evaluations, arguments, memoirs, proposals, mixed-genre pieces – any excellent writing of 1,000-3,000 words for an undergraduate writing class. Entries require nomination by an instructor. All instructors may nominate one student.

Value: $1,500, two prizes of $1,000 each
Deadline: 15 June 2017
Open for: Undergraduates enrolled in the 2016-17 year an accredited 2- or 4-year college or university
Details here.

10. American-Scandinavian Foundation’s Translation Awards

The Nadia Christensen Prize and the Leif and Inger Sjöberg Award (the latter, for those whose translations from a Scandinavian language have not been previously published) are for English translations of poetry, fiction, drama and prose originally written by a Scandinavian author born after 1900. Submit 50 pages of prose or 25 pages of poetry.

Value: $2,500 for the Nadia Christensen Prize, $2,000 for the Leif and Inger Sjöberg Award, and publication of extracts in Scandinavian Review
Deadline: 15 June 2017
Open for: Unspecified
Details here.

11. Goi Peace Foundation’s International Essay Contest

The essay theme is Learning from Nature. Entries must be 700 words or less in English, French, Spanish or German, or 1,600 characters or less in Japanese. This is an activity of the UNESCO Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development.

Value: The following prizes in the Children and Youth categories respectively: JPY100,000, a sponsored trip to the award ceremony in Tokyo and a Minister of Education award; JPY50,000;  five third prizes of a certificate and gift, and 25 honorable mentions, with a certificate and gift.
Deadline: 15 June 2017
Open for: Anyone up to 25 years, in two categories: Children (up to age 14) and Youth (ages 15-25)
Details here.

12. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society Amateur Writing Contest

This is for amateur writers in the state of Maryland, to help them reach the next level. Entries can be any genre of speculative fiction, can be a collaborative work, and should be 1,000-5,500 words. Writers must not be Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America members, or have been published in a professional SF/F magazine.

Value: $250, $100, $50
Deadline: 16 June 2017
Open for: Amateur writers aged 18 or over, a Maryland resident or currently a student at a MD 2- or 4-year college
Details here.

13. Utah Original Writing Competition

For unpublished manuscripts and short writing by Utah writers in various categories.

Value: $1,000 and $500 each for a novel, creative non-fiction book, a book-length collection of short stories, and a young adult book (this is a first-book category); $300 and 150 each for poetry (up to 10 poems, or 1,000 lines), short fiction and creative non-fiction essay (up to 7,500 words each) categories
Deadline: 23 June 2017
Open for: Utah writers aged 18 or older; the guidelines have specific residency requirements
Details here.

14. Drue Heinz Literature Prize

This is for an unpublished manuscript of short fiction, or two or more novellas. The award is a cash prize and publication under a standard contract with the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Value: $15,000 and publication
Deadline: 30 June 2017
Open for: Writers who have published a novel or book-length collection with a reputable publisher, or three short stories or novellas in nationally distributed magazines or journals.
Details here.

15. Richard J Margolis Award

This award is for a new journalist or essayist whose work combines warmth, humour, wisdom and concern with social justice. The award is named after Richard J Margolis, who gave voice to the rural poor, migrant farm workers, the elderly, Native Americans and others whose voices were seldom heard. Applications should include two work samples, published or unpublished – a maximum of 30 pages. At least one must be non-memoir.

Value: $5,000 and a one-month residency at Blue Mountain Centre artists’ colony in the Adirondacks in Blue Mountin Lake, New York
Deadline: 1 July 2017
Open for: Unspecified
Details here.

16. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future

This award is for writers of science fiction and fantasy, designed to give new writers a level playing field. It was established in 1983.

Value: $1,000, $750, $500; annual grand prize of $5,000
Deadline: 31 July 2017 (quarterly deadlines)
Open for: Those who have not professionally published a novel, short novel or more than one novelette, or three short stories
Details here.

17. Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award

This is a biannual poetry award for New Zealand/Pacific residents. This is for a collection of poems or one long poem; submit a minimum of 20 pages. Individual poems may have been published before, but not the collection itself.

Value: AU$10,000 and a year’s subscription to Landfall magazine
Deadline: 31 July 2017
Open for: New Zealand or Pacific permanent citizens or residents
Details here.

18. Landfall Essay Competition

This is for unpublished essays of up to 4,000 words by New Zealand writers, on any topic. The purpose is to encourage writers to think aloud about New Zealand culture, and revive and sustain the tradition of vivid, contentious and creative essay writing.

Value: AU$3,000 and a year’s subscription to Landfall magazine
Deadline: 31 July 2017
Open for: New Zealand or Pacific permanent citizens or residents
Details here.

19. Platt Family Scholarship Essay Prize Contest

Students must submit a 1,500-5,000 word essay on this topic: Several American presidents, including ideological opposites George W. Bush and Barack Obama, have stated that they have either admired or sought inspiration from the life and times of Abraham Lincoln. What is it about Lincoln that appeals to a wide range of political leaders?  What lessons from Lincoln’s presidency might be useful to our new president?

Value: $1,500, $750, $500
Deadline: 31 July 2017
Open for: Full-time undergraduate students in an American college or university during the Spring 2017 semester
Details here.

20. Dragonfly Tea Short Story Competition

This is a contest for non-professional writers in the UK; the theme is Journeys. The word limit is 3,000 for the main competition, and 500 for the children’s. A non-professional writer is one who has never received a fee for work (a competition prize is not a fee); entries from self-published authors will be accepted.

Value: £1,500, £750 and £500 for the main competition; £50 in gift vouchers for the child and £100 in book vouchers for the child’s school in each of the children’s categories
Deadline: 31 July 2017
Open for: Non-professional writers who are residents of the UK; entrants must be 16 years or older for the main competition. There are three age groups for the children’s competition: 4-7, 8-11 and 12-15 years.
Details here.

21. Louise Meriwether First Book Prize

This is for a debut work by a woman or a non-binary author of color. Manuscripts must be 30,000-80,000 words. The prize is granted to a manuscript that follows in the tradition of Meriwether’s Daddy Was a Number Runner, one of the first contemporary American novels featuring a young black girl as the protagonist.

Value: $5,000 advance and publication by the Feminist Press
Deadline: 31 July 2017
Open for: Women of color and non-binary writers of color who are residents of the 50 United States, District of Colombia, and US territories of possession, are 18 or older and who have not published a book
Details here.


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