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

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These are prizes for writers of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, with prizes/fellowships ranging from $50 to $50,000. There is also a bonus residency listed, which does not have a cash award.

Also see this list of fee-free grants and fellowships for writers. Several deadlines are coming up. – S. Kalekar

The Academy for Teachers: Stories Out of School
They want honest, unsentimental stories, of 6-479 words, about teachers and schools. The story’s protagonist or narrator must be a K-12 teacher. Sentimentality is discouraged and education jargon is forbidden. The stories will be published online by Electric Literature.
Value: $1,000, $500
Deadline: 1 October 2019
Open for: All writers
Details here and here.
The Word Poetry Competition
The contest is organized by Lichfield Cathedral, and is for UK poets. They want “new poems inspired by the awe and wonder of the anniversary of the Moon landing and that one small step for humanity, to reflect on the origins of the universe and the vastness of space, light and time, and to explore our fragile earth through the themes of creation and cosmology, space travel and astronomical discovery.” Poems submitted should be written on the theme of either ‘Awe and Wonder’ (7–11 and 12–16 age categories) or ‘Light in our Darkness’ (17–25 and 26 and over age categories).
Value:  £100, £50, £25; prizes in the 7–11 and 12–16 categories will be awarded as book vouchers for the winning schools
Deadline: 3 October 2019
Open for: UK poets
Details here.
NUHA Foundation Blogging Prizes
This is an international prize for writing, and there are different themes for writers in each age category to choose from. Prizes are for young writers, youth, and adults. It doesn’t matter if English was not the author’s first language, the jury will look at the quality of their arguments and the originality of their ideas. Read the guidelines carefully – they ask for rights to potentially use, reproduce, or adapt all submitted articles, regardless of whether or not they win.
Value: Up to $250 for young writers, up to $900 for youth, up to $2,400 for adults
Deadline: 12 October 2019
Open for: All writers
Details here.
Dream Foundry Short Story Contest
They want a speculative fiction story of up to 10,000 words for this contest. Professional writers are not eligible to enter (see guidelines). C. C. Finlay, editor at the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Lisa Rodgers, literary agent with JABberwocky Literary Agency, will judge the final ten stories. Also check out their contest for new artists (scroll to the bottom of the page).
Value: $500
Deadline: 13 October 2019
Open for: Beginning writers
Details here.
Public Space Fellowships
This is for writers who have not yet published or been contracted to write a book-length work. Part of the submission requirement is a one previously unpublished prose piece – there is no word count requirement (if selected, this prose piece will be published in the magazine). They want to seek out and support writers who embrace risk in their work and their own singular vision. The fellows will receive six months of editorial support from A Public Space editors to prepare a piece for publication in the magazine, and an opportunity to meet with members of the publishing community. Three fellowships will be awarded and international applications are welcome. There is no residency requirement for this fellowship.
Value: $1,000, editorial support
Deadline: 15 October 2019
Open for: Writers who have not published a book
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: 16 October 2019
Open for: All writers
Details here.
Halloween 50 Word Horror Short Story Contest

For this contest, they want 50-word horror stories. Writers can enter as many times as they want. Read the guidelines carefully – the stories have to be posted as comments on the Every Writer website, and some stories from these will be published in an anthology. There will be a cash prize for one winning story.
Value: $500
Deadline: 25 October 2019
Open for: All writers
Details here.

American Antiquarian Society: Fellowships for Creative and Performing Artists and Writers

These are fellowships for historical research by those who wish to produce “imaginative, non-formulaic works dealing with pre-twentieth-century American history.” Room fee will be charged if staying in the Society’s scholars’ housing. Fellowship projects may include (but are not limited to) historical novels, documentary films, TV programs, radio broadcasts, plays, screenplays, illustration and other graphic arts, magazine or newspaper articles, and non-fiction works of history for a general audience, either for adults or for children. The deadline has been extended.
Value: $1,850 (less room fee in some cases – see above), residency
Deadline: 21 October 2019 (extended)
Open for: All writers
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 ‘Artificial Intelligence’.
Value: £500
Deadline: 25 October 2018
Open for: UK residents
Details here.
Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers’ Award

This is for unpublished (see guidelines) prose writers who would benefit from financial support to complete their work, in the British Commonwealth and Eire. Send 20-30,000 words of a work in progress, fiction or non-fiction, which is not under contract. Applications are only open to writers who have not previously published or self-published a full-length book of prose (with the exception of a collection of poetry). The judges for this cycle are Ian Rankin (Chair), Sarah Perry and Max Porter.
Value: £10,000; £1,000 for runners-up
Deadline: 31 October 2019
Open for: Unpublished prose writers in the British Commonwealth and Eire
Details here.

Kraemer Intergenerational Story Contest
They want stories about people in skipped, non-adjacent relationships in four ways — the written word (i.e. story, poem, memoir, of up to 500 words), video (i.e. story, song, dance), visual art (i.e. quilt, painting, pottery), or audio clip. The contest rules say they may create subcategories of judging based on ages and abilities, so they encourage everyone to submit. Also, they say they have the non-exclusive right to distribute and publish these works – it is unclear whether they mean all submissions, or the winning entries.
Value: $500; four prizes of $250 each
Deadline: 31 October 2019
Open for: All writers
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 2019
Open for: Debut novelists over 40
Details here.
The Society of Authors: The Tom-Gallon Trust Awards
This award is for a short story of up to 5,000 words, published or unpublished. Applicants must have had one short story accepted for publication before.
Value: £1,000, £500
Deadline: 31 October 2019
Open for: UK, Commonwealth, or Ireland based authors
Details here.
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 2019
Open for: UK poets aged 30 or under
Details here.
Aftermath Short Story Contest: The End of Our World
For this contest, they want short fiction on the end of our world – about the harm that we are doing to our planet and the dire consequences this will have. Their guidelines also say, “What we don’t like to see are stories that ignore the human causes of our downfall and simply embark on wild post-apocalyptic fantasies. They have no cautionary value. And that is ultimately what all this is about. An attempt to bring humans to their senses, by conceiving the inconceivable, showing them what they are doing and what this is going to do to them and their loved ones.”
Value: $1,000, $300, $100
Deadline: 31 October 2019
Open for: All writers
Details here.
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 2019
Open for: All writers
Details here.
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 2019 is ‘Love your Enemies, for they tell you your Faults’ — Poor Richard, 1756. Writers are asked to interpret this quote for its significance today. Winning entries will also be published online by The Telegraph.
Value: £750, £500
Deadline: 31 October 2019
Open for: UK writers aged 18-35
Details here (scroll down).
Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize
This is for writers in the Commonwealth regions of Africa, Asia, Canada and Europe, Caribbean, and Pacific. Translated entries are also eligible, as are stories written in the original Bengali, Chinese, French, Greek, Kiswahili, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Tamil and Turkish.
Value: £5000; £2,500 for regional winners
Deadline: 1 November 2019
Open for: Writers in the Commonwealth (see guidelines for the list of countries)
Details here.
Academy of American Poets: Treehouse Climate Action Poem Prize
This prize is given to honor exceptional poems that help make real for readers the gravity of the vulnerable state of our environment at present. It is for US writers (see guidelines). In addition to the prize money, all three poems will be published in the popular Poem-a-day series.
Value: $1,000, $750, $500
Deadline: 1 November 2019
Open for: US poets (see guidelines)
Details here.
Weird Christmas Fiction Contest
This is a contest for winter holiday short fiction of up to 350 words. Stories should be weird or strange or odd. According to guidelines, “It can be “Haha!” weird or “Oh, Jesus, no!” weird. It can be genre (sf, fantasy, horror/weird, bizarro, etc.) or it can just be off-kilter. Sentimental is fine, but it better be sentimental in a way that leaves me feeling…uncomfortable. As long as it’s something about the holidays we aren’t expecting, it fits.” Try to avoid evil Santa (or monster Santa or Cthulhu Santa or diabolical Santa) stories. Stories will be published on the website and as a podcast.
Value: $50, $25
Deadline: 2 November 2019
Open for: All writers
Details here.
Gaius Charles Bolin Dissertation and Post-MFA Fellowships
This is for US writers who must be PhD or recent MFA graduates. Their guidelines say, “Fellows devote the bulk of the first year to the completion of dissertation work—or in the case of MFA applicants, building their professional portfolios—while also teaching one course as a faculty member in one of the College’s academic departments or programs. The second year of residency (ideally with degree in hand) is spent on academic career development while again teaching just one course.” For post MFA writer applicants, 2-3 short stories, 10-15 poems, or novel passages not to exceed 50 pages is part of the application requirements. The Bolin Fellowships are awarded to applicants from underrepresented groups.
Value: $50,000, additional $4,000 for research, other benefits; Residency at Williams College
Deadline: 15 November 2019
Open for: US writers
Details here.
fresh.ink writing contest
This contest is for short stories, novelettes, novellas, and novels. Writers can enter as many times as they like, and entries can be from anywhere in the world. Writers are free to publish already-published stories. Read the guidelines carefully – fresh.ink is a platform that will connect your writing to beta readers for ratings, engagement analytics, and feedback. According to guidelines, “Our judging process works the same way. Rather than using a small team of editors to decide, we’ll match your work with a subset of readers on our fresh.ink mobile reading app.” Writers are rated by the average ‘completion rate’ (the number of readers who finished reading your story) and star rating. All submissions have to be in US English. They do not offer publishing deals.
Value: $3,000 for novels, $2,000 for novellas, $1,500 for novelettes, and $1,000 for short stories
Deadline: 1 December 2019
Open for: All writers
Details here.
Bonus: Writers Omi Residency
This residency welcomes published writers of every type of literature. All text-based projects – fiction, non-fiction, theater, film, poetry, etc. – are eligible. It is fully funded, with accommodation, food, and local transport provided. Notable alumni include Booker, PEN/Faulkner Award, and Commonwealth Prize winners, as well as bestselling authors. A writing sample of up to 50 pages, published or unpublished, is part of the application requirement. Also check out their translation lab. They have residencies for other disciplines as well, including art.
Value: Residency at Ledig House, overlooking the Catskill Range
Deadline: 15 October 2019
Open for: Published writers
Details here.


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