24 Free Writing Contests & Fellowships with Cash Prizes

Here are 24 contests/fellowships with cash prizes for writers of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. They are very roughly divided by geography. The prize amounts range from $50 to $45,000. They don’t charge entry fees, or have some sort of fee-free option. – S. Kalekar


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 (see FAQ)
Open for: Unspecified
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Malice Domestic Grants for Unpublished Writers
This is given to an unpublished writer (see guidelines) in the Malice Domestic genre at each year’s Malice Domestic convention.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.

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; $5 for every honorable mention
Deadline: 1 November 2020
Open for: All writers
Details here.

Quarterly West Prose and Poetry Contests
Entry is free for writers of color for these contests. This is the first time this magazine is holding prose and poetry competitions – they are looking for writing that is “Exciting. Challenging. Risky. Unpredictable. And Different.” For prose, send one  longer piece or up to three pieces of flash prose (1,000 words or less) per entry – fiction, non-fiction, experimentation, hybridity, texts that somehow defy categorization; for poetry, they will accept up to three poems, no more than eight pages.
Value: $1,000; $250 in prose and poetry
Deadline: 1 November 2020
Open for: Free entry for writers of color; paid entry open for all writers
Details here.

The Society of Classical Poets Ekphrastic Contest
They want poetry based on a photograph they’ve posted on their website, of Chateau Boswell, a winery, vineyard, and tasting room located in California. Each entrant may submit up to two poems of any length. Entries are expected to be classical in style, meaning that they must have a regular meter. Rhyming and other traditional techniques are good as well. Read the guidelines carefully – poets are to paste their poems in the ‘comments’ section of the guidelines page.
Value: $100
Deadline: 8 November 2020
Open for: All poets
Details here.

PEN/Robert J Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers
This award recognizes 12 emerging fiction writers for their debut short story published during a given calendar year in a literary magazine or cultural website, and aims to support the launch of their careers as fiction writers. Work must be submitted by editors of eligible publications. Participating publications may be cultural websites, online magazines, or print magazines distributed in the US and the work must be the writer’s debut short story. Stories must have been published or forthcoming in 2020.    
Value: $2,000 each
Deadline: 15 November 2020
Open for: Debut short story writers
Details here.

One Teen Story Contest
This short story contest is for writers aged 13-19 about the teenage experience; issues of identity, friendship, family, and coming of age. Stories should be 2,000-4,500 words and can be in any genre. They also accept translations (see FAQ).
Value: $500 each for 3 writers
Deadline: 20 November 2020
Open for: Writers ages 13 to 19
Details here.

Leonard L. Milberg ’53 High School Poetry Prize
The Leonard L. Milberg ’53 High School Poetry Prize recognizes outstanding work by student writers in the 11th grade in the US or abroad. Contest judges are poets on the Princeton University Creative Writing faculty.
Value: $500, $250, $100
Deadline: 27 November 2020
Open for: Student writers in the 11th grade
Details here.

ServiceScape Short Story Award         
For this award, any genre or theme of short story is accepted. All applicants should submit a work of short fiction or non-fiction, 5,000 words or fewer. Read the guidelines carefully – they reserve the right to modify or terminate the contest at any time without prior notice. Also see their scholarship for students.
Value: $1,000
Deadline: 30 November 2020
Open for: All writers
Details here.

Dappled Things: The J. F. Powers Prize for Short Fiction
Dappled Things is a space for emerging writers to engage the literary world from a Catholic perspective. For this contest, they want stories of up to 8,000 words “with vivid characters who encounter grace in everyday settings—we want to see who, in the age we live in, might have one foot in this world and one in the next.” 
Value: $500, $250
Deadline: 30 November 2020
Open for: All writers
Details here.

Better than Starbucks Sonnet Contest
This contest accepts metrical sonnets. Their guidelines say, “Your sonnet can be shakespearean, petrarchan, spenserian, rhymed, or slant-rhymed. Blank verse is fine, as long as the sonnet form is clearly identifiable. We’ll consider tetrameter, hexameter, etc. as well as pentameter. Some metrical variation is fine, but don’t forget the volta!” They do accept previously published work, as long as the poet holds the rights (see guidelines). Submit up to two sonnets. The first prize is higher this year because of a donation. 
Value: $350, $100, $50
Deadline: 30 November 2020
Open for: All poets
Details here.

Black Hare Press: Dialogue Only Contest
This is an Australian press and their tagline is ‘Dark tales for dark hearts’. They want a short story, of up to 5,000 words, written entirely in dialogue form. Their guidelines say, “A story told in dialogue only. At least one character must be from a speculative fiction world (alien, superhero, werewolf, zombie, vampire, faerie, etc)

A good example of this is The Sunset Limited by Cormac McCarthy”. They plan to publish these stories as single-author publications. They also have other themed calls for Dark Moments, their online publication – see this page.
Value: $100, $50, $10 (AUD)
Deadline: 30 November 2020
Open for: All writers
Details here.

Brunel International African Poetry Prize
This is for poets born in Africa, or who are nationals of an African country, or whose parents are African, and who have not yet had a full-length poetry book published. Writers need to submit 10 poems exactly. These poems, though, may have already been published. 
Value: £3,000
Contest dates: 2-30 November 2020
Open for: African poets
Details here.

Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets
This is a debut poetry book contest for African writers (someone who was born in Africa, who is a national or resident of an African country, or whose parents are African).  Manuscripts must be at least 50 pages long. 
Value: $1,000
Deadline: 1 December 2020
Open for: African poets
Details here.

Washington College: Patrick Henry Writing Fellowship
This is a full-time residential writing fellowship, for writing on American history and culture. Applicants should have a book currently in progress. Their guidelines say, “The project should address the history and/or legacy – broadly defined – of the American Revolution and the nation’s founding ideas. It might focus on the founding era itself, or on the myriad ways the questions that preoccupied the nation’s founders have shaped America’s later history. Work that contributes to ongoing national conversations about America’s past and present, with the potential to reach a wide public, is particularly sought.”
Value: $45,000, other allowances, residency
Deadline: 1 December 2020
Open for: Published writers
Details here.

(Also see Commonwealth category for Canadian writers)

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).

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; poets may submit one poem. 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 2020
Open for: US poets (see guidelines)
Details here.

Grist Fellowships
These are opportunities for US-based early-career journalists – for News & Politics, and Environment Justice fellowships. It is a paid writing opportunity for six months – see guidelines for writing samples and other submission requirements for each fellowship. Applicants should have a four-year degree, or equivalent professional experience, and strong understanding of Grist’s brand. Writers can work remotely from anywhere in the US.
Value: $3,334/month for six months, other benefits, and mentorship
Deadline: 16 November 2020
Open for: Early-career US journalists
Details here.

Polar Expressions: Student Contests for Short Story and Poetry
Polar Expressions has announced their 15th annual short story and poetry contests for Canadian students, from kindergarten to grade 12. Poems should be up to 32 lines and stories up to 450 words, on any topic.
Value: First prizes of $60-100 (Canadian) for students of various grades, as well as second and third prizes; additional cash prizes for schools
Deadlines: 27 November 2020 for poetry, 4 December 2020 for short stories
Open for: Canadian students
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.

The Graphic Short Story Prize  
This is an opportunity for UK-based aspiring graphic novelists, or a team of writer and artist, for a graphic story. The prize is organized by Jonathan Cape and Comica, together with TheObserver. Stories can be fiction or non-fiction, in black and white or color, and with or without words. Entries have to be mailed.
Value: £1,000, £250
Deadline: 6 November 2020
Open for: UK-based aspiring graphic novelists/graphic novel writer and artist teams
Details here (scroll down) – download the entry form from here for terms & conditions, acceptable format, and other details.

Hope Mill Theatre: Through the Mill Prize
Hope Mill Theatre has launched a playwriting prize for UK-based writers. Plays should have a run time of one hour or more; apart from the cash prize, this is also an opportunity to get their plays produced, and mentorship.
Value: £5,000
Deadline: 27 November 2020
Open for: UK writers
Details here.

The Society of Authors: The Betty Trask Prize and The Betty Trask Awards
This is for UK-based writers under 35, for a debut novel. Writers can enter a published book or an unpublished manuscript which must be in a traditional or romantic, and not experimental, style.
Value: Unspecified; the total prize award fund was £26,250 in 2019 – see announcement (scroll down)
Deadline: 30 November 2020
Open for: UK, North Ireland, Commonwealth writers (see guidelines)
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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