24 Free Writing Contests & Cash Grants (Up to $30,000)

Here are 24 contests and grants for writers of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, screenwriting, and for journalists, with prizes up to $30,000. None have an entry fee. They’re very broadly segregated by geography. However, there are some exceptions to the broad definitions (for instance, there’s an award for all writers except American in the ‘International’ category; an entry under the ‘US entries’ doesn’t specify the citizenship of entrants, but entrants must be eligible to work in the US; and so on). It may also be a good idea to check award websites before submitting in these uncertain times, as some awards have had their dates shifted, or have even been cancelled recently. – S. Kalekar


Bitch Media Fellowships
Bitch Media has announced international fellowships on four topics – Sexual Politics, Pop Culture Criticism, Technology, and Global Feminism. The goal is to develop, support, and amplify emerging voices in feminist media. Writers with minimal publishing experience are encouraged to apply. The fellowship is for three months.
Value: $2,000
Deadline: 30 June 2020
Open for: Emerging writers
Details here.

Richard J. Margolis Award
The award is for non-fiction writers of social justice journalism. It is for a promising new journalist or essayist whose work combines warmth, humour, wisdom and concern with social justice. Applications should include 2-3 non-fiction writing samples, up to 30 pages.
Value: $5,000, residency at Blue Mountain Centre artists’ colony
Deadline: 1 July 2020
Open for: Unspecified
Details here

Fitzcarraldo Editions, Giramondo and New Directions: The Novel Prize
This is a prize for a full-length novel manuscript for writers around the world. Manuscripts should be at least 30,000 words. The judges will be looking for novels which explore and expand the possibilities of the form, and are innovative and imaginative in style. The Novel Prize will be managed by the three publishers working in collaboration – writers based in Africa and Europe should submit to Fitzcarraldo Editions, those based in the Americas should submit via New Directions, and writers based in Asia and Australasia should submit to Giramondo (see guidelines).
Value: $10,000 advance against royalties
Deadline: 1 July 2020
Open for: All writers
Details here.

Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award
The competition is designed to motivate non-American novice writers under the age of 30, and offer them the recognition and encouragement that might lead to a successful career in television scriptwriting. Entrants are asked to create a completed half-hour to one-hour English-language television drama script. Apart from the cash award, the winner also gets a trip to New York City, and an invitation to the International Emmy® Awards Gala in November (TBC).
Value: $2,500
Deadline: 1 July 2020
Open for: All writers except American
Details here.

Green Stories Writing Competitions: Full-length novel
This is a contest for a full-length novel (for adults – the deadline for children’s stories is in September). Their guidelines say, “We are looking for Full-Length Novels for adults that in some way touch upon ideas around building a sustainable society. … We will consider all genres – rom-com, literary fiction, science fiction, mystery, crime etc. – but stories must engage with the idea of environmentally sustainable practices and/or sustainable societies.” Submissions should be 5000 – 10,000 words (of a 50,000-100,000 word novel) that must include the following: the first chapter; another chapter that best showcases how your novel meets the green stories criteria; a third chapter (suggest the final chapter if possible); and a one-page synopsis. Apart from the cash prize, they have agreement from Peter Cox from the literary agency, Redhammer Management, to provide a one to one mentoring session with the winners (at their office in London or virtual meeting).
Value: £500, £100, £50; best student submission prize of £50
Deadline: 2 July 2020 (extended)
Open for: All writers
Details here.

The H G Wells Short Story Competition
This is a short story contest on the theme of ‘Vision’, of 1,500-5,000 words. There is no fee for those under 21 years.
Value: £1,000 for the Junior Award (under 21)
Deadline: 6 July 2020
Open for: All writers
Details here.

The 6th Singapore Poetry Contest
This contest is for anyone who isn’t a Singapore citizen/permanent resident. Poems should contain the word ‘Singapore’ (or its variants) in some creative manner. Poems don’t have to be about Singapore; in fact, the organizers prefer that poems not be about Singapore. Submit up to three poems.
Value: SGD100, SGD50, SGD20; winners nominated for the Hawker Prize, worth SGD1,500
Deadline: 15 July 2020
Open for: Poets who are not citizens or permanent residents of Singapore
Details here.
(The page also has details of the Singapore Unbound Relief Fund for creative writers who are Singapore citizens or permanent residents, a no-strings-attached fund of $200, or SGD280).

Origami Poems Project: Kindness 2020 Contest
This is their third contest on the theme of kindness. They want to read poems that give insight and perspective on the qualities that make us better companions to one another.
Value: $100
Deadline: 15 July 2020
Open for: All poets
Details here.

2020 ArabLit Story Prize
This is an award for the best short stories, in any genre, newly translated from Arabic into English. Translators must have rights to the work, and translations must have been previously unpublished. Stories will be judged primarily on the quality of the translated work as a thing-in-itself, although translators must also submit the Arabic original, as this must be a translation, not a loose adaptation nor a work written originally in English.
Value: $500, split between the author and translator
Deadline: 15 July 2020
Open for: All translators
Details here.
(Also see this link for the forthcoming ArabLit Quarterly issue with the Cats theme; they pay $15/page.)

The McGraw Business Journalism Fellowship
The McGraw Fellowship provides editorial and financial support to journalists who need the time and resources to produce a significant investigative or enterprise story that provides fresh insight into an important business, financial or economic topic. They accept applications for in-depth text, video or audio pieces, and they encourage proposals that take advantage of more than one storytelling form to create a multimedia package. This is not a residency Fellowship. All Fellows work from their own offices. It is open to anyone with at least five years professional experience in journalism. Freelance journalists, as well as reporters and editors currently working at a news organization or a journalism non-profit, may apply. Applicants should submit a story proposal of no more than three pages. The applications are open twice annually.
Value: Grants of up to $15,000
Deadline: 17 July 2020 – “However, we will consider time-sensitive projects on a case-by-case basis outside of the deadline periods.”
Open for: Anyone with at least five years of experience in journalism
Details here.

Pop Up Projects: 10 Stories to Make a Difference
This is a short story contest for children’s fiction/poetry, for writers under 26 years. Each story will explore or touch on the theme of difference. Stories can be inspired by the subject in any way – they might explore diversity or transformation, otherness or other worlds. They will be printed – and stories will be 10 pages long, between 750 and 3,000 words, professionally edited and art directed, and hand-printed in a special small print-run limited edition. Stories can be picture book text, prose fiction for any age up to YA, or poetry – a collection or one long poem. They will pick three winners from this public call; overall, 10 works will be published. Winners will receive a fee for their story, be matched with a published children’s illustrator, who will illustrate their story, and get time with a publishing editor and art director to perfect their story. It is unspecified whether this is writers around the globe, or for UK-based writers only.
Value: £500
Deadline: 30 July 2020
Open for: Writers under 26 years
Details here.

Platypus Press: Broken River Prize
This is an international poetry chapbook contest. It is for books that are 35-50 pages long.
Value: $250
Deadline: 31 July 2020
Open for: All poets
Details here.

PEN/Jean Stein Grant for Literary Oral History
These grants are for literary works of non-fiction that use oral history to illuminate an event, individual, place, or movement. They are to help maintain or complete ongoing projects. Oral history must be a significant portion of the work and its research. Writers have to send in writing samples and transcripts as part of the application.   
Value: Two grants of $15,000 each (increased)
Deadline: 1 August 2020
Open for: Unspecified
Details here.

PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship

This is for an author of children’s or young-adult fiction. The fellowship is for helping writers whose work is of high literary caliber and is designed to assist a writer at a crucial moment in his or her career to complete a book-length fiction work-in-progress. Applicants must have already published one work for children or young adults that was warmly received by literary critics, but whose work has not yet attracted a broad readership. 
Value: $5,000
Deadline: 1 August 2020
Open for: Published YA/children’s writers (by a US trade publisher)
Details here.


HarperCollins Diverse Voices Open Inbox
This is an opportunity for US writers from diverse backgrounds to submit a manuscript in any genre for Middle Grade (ages 8-12) readers to HarperCollins. (A typical middle grade novel is 30,000 – 75,000 words in length, and a typical middle grade graphic novel does not exceed 250 pages.) The submission should be reflective of a diverse background, with an emphasis on #ownvoices. Prizes include a cash fee, editorial feedback, and possibility of manuscript acquisition.  
Value: $1,000, possible manuscript acquisition
Deadline: 1 July 2020
Open for: US writers
Details here.

Bard Fiction Prize 
This residency and cash award is for a writer who is a US citizen aged 39 years or younger. Submissions should write a cover letter explaining the project they plan to work on while at Bard and submit a CV, along with copies of the published book they feel best represents their work – no manuscripts will be accepted. The deadline for this prize is usually in June, but it has been extended this year.
Value: $30,000
Deadline: 30 July 2020
Open for: US writers
Details here.

The Lincoln Forum: Platt Family Scholarship Prize Essay Contest
This essay contest is for full-time undergraduates at an American college or university. The topic for the 2020 essay is: The Influence of Women on the Era of Abraham Lincoln. Their guidelines say, “As America commemorates the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, discuss how women, who could not vote in 1860, nevertheless exerted influence on the era of Abraham Lincoln.” Entries must be 1,500- 5,000 words.
Value: $1,500, $750, $500
Deadline: 31 July 2020
Open for: Students in a US college or university
Details here.

Polar Expressions Publishing: 13th Annual National Poetry and Short Story Competitions
These poetry and short story contests are for Canadian residents and citizens. Poems must be up to 48 lines and short stories, up to 750 words. Fan fiction and essays are not allowed. Translations are accepted.
Value: CAD500, CAD250, CAD100 each in poetry and short story for those aged 16 or over; CAD200, CAD100 and CAD50 each in poetry and short stories for those 15 and under
Deadline: 31 July 2020
Open for: Canadian writers
Details here.

Google News Initiative Student Fellowship 
This program is aimed at developing and supporting students of color who are interested in careers at the intersection of technology, media, and journalism. It intends to address the barriers of access to early career opportunities many students of color face in newsrooms, as well as support investigative journalism, technological innovation, and digital transformation in local newsrooms that serve diverse and underrepresented populations. Entrants must be enrolled in an accredited college or university as of January 1, 2020 or graduated from an accredited university within the last 12 months; eligible to work in the United States of America; able to work remotely if required by host newsroom; and be able to demonstrate financial need. See guidelines for the list of their partners, as well as the (US-based) newsrooms the applicants must apply to.
Value: $5,000 stipend + $1,000 travel payment
Deadline: 1 August 2020
Open for: Students of color eligible to work in the US (see guidelines)
Details here.

International Women’s Media Foundation: The United States Journalism Emergency Fund
This is for US journalists of all genders, and includes staff journalists as well as those working independently. It is for supporting journalists with immediate needs related to their professional work, such as medical aid, destroyed or stolen equipment and protective gear; support long-term journalist needs such as trauma, mental health services and referrals to legal support; and support journalists targeted as a result of their reporting at events related to the highly charged political unrest and polarization in the US, including but not limited to elections, civil movements and other challenging environments.
Value: Unspecified
Deadline: Unspecified
Open for: US Journalists
Details  here.

(Also see details of the IWMF Emergency Fund, which provides women journalists with a lifeline of support in times of crisis, and the COVID-19 Relief Fund/Journalism Relief Fund, open to women-identifying journalists in dire straits, on the same page – these don’t seem to have residency requirements).  


Scottish Book Trust: New Writers Awards
This is an opportunity for emerging Scotland-based writers. There are three categories, Fiction and Narrative Non-Fiction (also known as creative non-fiction), Poetry, and Children’s and Young Adult Fiction. All travel expenses are covered. This year, they are also introducing a new access fund to help support their awardees with any barriers they may face. Entries are invited in English, Scots and a combination of both. There are also two awards for Gaelic writers, run in association with the Gaelic Books Council. Apart from the cash award, winners also get a writing retreat (subject to current circumstances), mentorship, and other benefits.  
Value: £2,000
Deadline: 8 July 2020
Open for: Scotland-based writers
Details here.

The Stephen Spender Prize 2020 : Youth categories
This is a prize for UK or Irish citizens, or pupils at a British School overseas, for translated poetry. Translate into English any published poem from any language – ranging from Arabic to Uzbek, from Danish to Somali. There’s a special ‘Spotlight’ prize for translation from Polish. The categories are: 18-and-under, 16-and-under, 14-and-under, and Open (adult); entry for the Youth categories is free.
Value: 14-and-under category: £75, £50, £25; 16-and-under category: £125, £75, £40; 18-and-under category: £200, £100, £50
Deadline: 17 July 2020
Open for: UK or Irish citizens, or pupils at a British School overseas
Details here (for the Youth categories) and here.

John McGahern Award
This is a call to early career writers of fiction resident in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland. Applicants must have had some fiction or short stories published in a recognised journal or anthology selected by an established publisher or editor. Application includes three samples of recent separate work of up to 500 words each. Apart from a stipend, the recipient of the award will receive a two-week fully resourced residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre.
Value: €1,000
Deadline: 31 July 2020
Open for: Those resident in Ireland/Northern Ireland
Details here.

Royal Society of Literature: Giles St Aubyn Awards for Non-Fiction
The Royal Society of Literature has established annual awards for first-time writers of non-fiction in perpetuity. These awards are for three writers, for their first commissioned books of non-fiction. They are meant to provide financial support for talented new writers to complete their first book of non-fiction for a mainstream audience, especially by buying them time for writing or research. The writer must be a resident of UK or Ireland.
Value: £10,000, £5,000, £2,500
Deadline: 31 July 2020
Open for: UK/Irish writers
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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