28 Free Writing Contests & Fellowships With Cash Prizes (Up to $72,000)

These contests and fellowships are for writers of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. The prizes range from $100 to $72,000. They are, very roughly, divided by geography. – S. Kalekar



Undiscovered Gems Award
For this contest, writers are to create a short story based on their book (including non-fiction and memoir). “Your story must be self contained, which means readers should be able to appreciate it without reference to your whole book.
Your story must be based on or at least inspired by a book that you have written (or are in the process of writing) that you would like to get published by a traditional publishing house.” The winner and runners-up will also be invited to submit their manuscripts.
Value: $500
Deadline: 1 December 2021
Open for: All writers
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 2021
Open for: African poets
Details here

Thin Air Magazine: The Bird in Your Hands Prize
This is a contest that centers and celebrates BIPOC voices. It is for poetry, fiction, and non-fiction in any form under 500 words. Apart from a cash prize, there is publication, an invitation to a literary festival, and other prizes.
Value: $1,000, other prizes
Deadline: 1 December 2021
Open for: BIPOC Writers
Details here


Invisible City: Nonfiction Flash Contest
Invisible City is an online publication of the MFA in Writing Program at the University of San Francisco. They want flash creative non-fiction entries, of up to 750 words, for this flash contest.
Value: $500, $200, $100
Deadline: 5 December 2021
Open for: All writers
Details here

  1. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Awards
    Two awards are given for non-fiction works in progress which deal with a topic of American political or social concern, to aid their completion. Writers must already have a contract with a US-based publisher. There is no fee for the work-in-progress award. The prizes are run by Columbia Journalism School – they also have the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize and the Mark Lynton History Prize, and these awards have an entry fee.
    Value: $25,000
    Deadline: 9 December 2021
    Open for: Unspecified
    Details here and here

Table//Feast Literary Magazine Contests
They have three contests: for flash fiction, a micro/mini poem, and translations of poetry (send up to 3 translations).
Value: $40 each for flash and micro/mini poem; $200 for translations
Deadline: 15 December 2021
Open for: All writers and poets
Details here

Quantum Shorts Short Story Contest
They want a short story, under 1,000 words, inspired in some way by quantum physics, which should also contain the phrase “it’s a lot to think about”. However, please read the rules carefully – they ask for sweeping rights from all entrants, including “ royalty-free, sublicensable, irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive license” to reproduce, modify, or publish any entrants’ work by them or their partners, including derivative works. The contest is open to all writers ages 13 and above.
Value: $1,500; $1,000; $500
Deadline: 16 December 2021
Open for: All Writers
Details here.


St. Martin’s Minotaur/ Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition
This is an international contest for crime novel manuscripts, for writers who have never been the author of any published novel in any genre. The writing should be no less than 220 pages, or approximately 60,000 words. Minotaur is an imprint of St Martin’s Press, which is part of Macmillan.
Value: $10,000 advance against royalties
Deadline: 17 December 2021
Open for: Unpublished writers (see guidelines)
Details here

Cove Park Residencies
These two- to six-week residencies are to provide artists with the time and support required to focus on their practice. These are for UK-based, and international artists in many disciplines, including writers, poets, and translators; and including those engaged in cross-disciplinary work, and those working collaboratively. “We are pleased to accept applications from those wishing to engage with Cove Park’s first enquiry connected to the environmental crisis.” See guidelines for work sample requirements that are part of the application.
Value: £450 per week, accommodation at Cove Park, overlooking Loch Long on Scotland’s west coast, and some travel fees, ranging from £50 to £750, depending on the applicant’s location
Deadline: 20 December 2021
Open for: All writers and translators, including UK-based ones
Details here and here

International Young Theatre Playwriting Contest
This prize is for bold and powerful plays for young audiences (no plays for children or adult audiences, or musicals), written in any official European language. Performance time for Category A is 60-120 minutes; for Category B, 30-60 minutes; and for Category C, 10-30 minutes. They accept plays co-authored by more than one writer. Writers can send up to three entries. The play must be a new and original piece of work. Writers of any age or nationality can enter the contest.
Value: €2,400 for Category A, €1,000 for Category B; €400 for Category C + other prizes
Deadline: 20 December 2021
Open for: All playwrights
Details here

Omega Sci-Fi Awards: The Roswell Award
The Roswell Award
is an international short science fiction story competition for emerging writers age 16 and older; send a story of 500-1,500 words. (The “Women Hold Up Half the Sky Award” for feminist sci-fi is co-presented by Artemis literary journal. This is an additional special prize category for a feminist themed sci-fi story. The winner will be published by Artemis literary journal with more prizes to be announced.) Also see their award for Los Angeles County high school students.
Value: $500, $250, $100 for the Roswell Award
Deadline: 21 December 2021 for the Roswell Award
Open for: All writers
Details here

Green Stories Writing Competitions: Orna Ross Green Stories Novel Prize
This is for novels (completed or in progress) which showcases positive visions of a more sustainable society or incorporating green solutions into the context of an otherwise mainstream story. One of the entry requirements is an excerpt of 4,000-10,000 words (see guidelines). Also, “entrants must show they have read at least one chapter from successfully published pieces from the Green Stories project that provide an example of entertaining mainstream fiction that meets the criteria of showing green solutions (not just problems) that readers can engage with.” (They provide a free excerpt).
Value: £1000; £500; other non-cash prizes
Deadline: 30 December 2021
Open for: All writers
Details here

Poetry Society of America: The Four Quartets Prize
This is for a unified and complete sequence of poems published in America in a print or online journal, chapbook, or book in 2021. Poems in the sequence may have been published in different journals provided that they were published in 2019 and that brought together, they form a complete sequence. The minimum requirement is 14 pages of published poems unified by subject, form, and style. Entire books composed of a unified sequence, however long, are also welcome. Submissions will have to be mailed. Self-published work is not eligible.  They have other upcoming awards also, though these have an entry fee.
Value: $20,000; $1,000 to finalists
Deadline: 31 December 2021 (postmarked)
Open for: Unspecified
Details here

Center Field of Gravity Award
They want previously unpublished science-fiction, fantasy, and horror short stories or long-form poems up to 17,000 words.
Value: $200; $25 for runners-up
Deadline: 31 December 2021
Open for: All writers
Details here

Lilith Magazine Fiction Contest
This magazine publishes work of interest to Jewish women. They like work with both feminist and Jewish content. Submit up to 3,000 words.
Value: $250
Deadline: 31 December 2021
Open for: All writers
Details here

Blue Mountain Arts: Poetry Card Contest
This biannual contest is for poetry for the greeting card company. Poems can be rhyming or non-rhyming, though they find non-rhyming poetry reads better. Poets can enter the contest as often as they like.
Value: $350, $200, $100
Deadline: 31 December 2021
Open for: All poets
Details here

Story Unlikely Short Story Contest
This is for short stories, and also other genres, of up to 2,250 words – “There are no restrictions on genre: fantasy, sci fi, memoir, fiction/nonfiction, etc – we don’t care as long as it’s a good story.” Read the terms carefully – writers have to subscribe to their newsletter, otherwise they will be disqualified.
Value: $500; $25 for runners-up
Deadline: 31 December 2021
Open for: All writers
Details here

The Society of Classical Poets: 2022 Poetry Translation Competition This is for poetry translations, which should not exceed 108 lines. Translated poetry should be from the Romantic period or earlier. Translations should be metered. Include the poem in its original language. Rhyme and other traditional techniques are encouraged as well, but not required. They have other classical poetry contests, including one for students, which have entry fees.
Value: $100
Deadline: 31 December 2021
Open for: Unspecified
Details here

Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies: Steinbeck Fellowships
These are fellowships to help writers complete a book project. Up to six Steinbeck Fellows are selected each year from disciplines including fiction, creative non-fiction, biography, drama, and Steinbeck studies (no poetry). Also, “In awarding fellowships, the selection committee considers the quality of the candidate’s proposal and any factors that would lead to expectations of future publication and other achievement. The creative writing fellowship does not require that there be any direct connection between Steinbeck’s works and that of the applicant.“
Value: $15,000, residency at San José State University
Deadline: 3 January 2022
Open for: Unspecified
Details here

The Leon Levy Centre for Biography: Biography Fellowships
These are four resident fellowships at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City, to nonfiction writers working on biographies. preference in the award of fellowships is given to those who have not yet published a biography or received fellowships for the writing of a biography. We also welcome applications from published and accomplished writers who are undertaking their first biography. The Leon Levy Center for Biography does not award fellowships for memoirs, essays, plays, films, or fiction. One of the application requirements is a sample of the proposed biography, a maximum of 2,500 words. (Also see the Sloan Fellowship, given annually to a writer working on a biography of a figure in the field of science or technology.)
Value: $72,000, residency
Deadline: 4 January 2021
Open for: Writers working on biographies
Details here



US Writers Aid Initiative
This is intended to assist fiction and non-fiction authors, poets, playwrights, screenwriters, translators, and journalists. To be eligible, applicants must be based in the United States, be professional writers, and be able to demonstrate that this one-time grant will be meaningful in helping them to address an emergency situation. Writers do not have to be PEN members. The U.S. Writers Aid Initiative is not intended to subsidize writing-related expenses, such as equipment, printing, shipping, travel, or publicity services.  They have a few deadlines through the year, and the upcoming one is 1st December.
Value: Unspecified
Deadline: 1 December 2021
Open for: US-based writers
Details here
(Submissions are also open for PEN America’s fellowship for New York based writer activists: Writing as Activism Fellowship; the stipend is $2,000, and the deadline is 3 December 2021.)

Polar Expressions: Student Contest for Short Story
Polar Expressions has announced their annual short story contest for Canadian students, from kindergarten to grade 12. Stories should be up to 450 words, on any topic.
(The deadline for their poetry prize is earlier.)
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: 3 December 2021 for short stories
Open for: Canadian students
Details here

The Tratt Fiction Award
This is for US-based writers, for a debut short story manuscript – it must be the writer’s first collection of short fiction. Manuscript length has to be 160-275 pages. Apart from the cash prize, there is a standard royalty contract.
Value: $1,000
Deadline: 31 December 2021
Open for: US-based writers
Details here

The Lyric Magazine: College Poetry Contest
This is a contest open to undergraduates enrolled full time in an American or Canadian college or university. Poems must be original and unpublished, 39 lines or less, written in English in traditional forms, preferably with regular scansion and rhyme. Students can send up to three poems.
Value: $500, $150, $100
Open for: Undergraduates in an American or Canadian college or university
Details here

U.S. Naval Institute General Prize Essay Contest
This prize is for an essay of up to 3,000 words on US defence (see guidelines for details on the theme). The contest is open to “all contributors – active-duty military, reservists, veterans, and civilians”, according to their guidelines.
Value: $6,000, $3,000, $2,000
Deadline: 31 December 2021
Open for: “All contributors – active-duty military, reservists, veterans, and civilians”
Details here

Minotaur Books: The Tony Hillerman Prize for Best First Mystery Set in the Southwest
This is for US and Canadian writers, for a first novel (manuscript) of mystery – in which a serious crime or crimes is at the heart of the story, and the emphasis is on the solution rather than the details of the crime – of approximately 60,000 words. The story’s primary setting must be one or more of the following states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and/or Utah. Each manuscript will be assessed based on the following criteria, weighted as indicated: publishable quality of manuscript (60%); creativity (20%); and originality (20%). In the event of a tie, the tie will be broken based on the higher score in the “publishable quality of manuscript” category. Minotaur is an imprint of St Martin’s Press, which is part of Macmillan.
Value: $10,000 advance against royalties
Deadline: 1 January 2022
Open for: US and Canadian writers
Details here

Homebound Publications: The Prism Prize for Climate Literature
This is for a work of fiction, non-fiction, or poetry manuscript in the genre of climate literature. The final manuscript of up to 75,000 words (for fiction and non-fiction) and a market assessment and/or statement of marketing intentions are part of the submission requirement. The contest is for authors living in the US or UK.
Value: $1,000, publication contract
Deadline: 8 January 2022
Open for: US and UK authors
Details here and here

(Also see ‘Cove Park Residencies’ and ‘Homebound Publications: The Prism Prize for Climate Literature’ in the sections above)

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 The Observer. 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: 10 December  2021
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.


A couple of contests with later deadlines are:

Discoveries 2022, a prize for UK and Ireland based women writers for a novel – send the first 10,000 words and a synopsis; the prize is 5,000 pounds and literary representation; the deadline is 17 January 2022.

Submissions are also open for the Black Orchid Novella Award; submit a mystery novella in the tradition of Nero Wolfe, of 15,000-20,000 words – the prize is $1,000, publication in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and the deadline is 31 May 2022.

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.



We send you writing jobs.

Sign up and we'll send you 3 companies hiring writers now. Plus, we'll send more companies as we find and review them. All in our free email magazine.

We're the magazine for freelance writers.

We send you companies hiring writers.

Subscribe and we'll send you 3 companies hiring right now.

We'll also send you a guide that gets you started.

We're completely free.

Subscribe now. (It's free.)


About Us

We're dedicated to helping freelance writers succeed. We send you reviews of freelance writing companies, assignments, and articles to help build your writing career. You can view our privacy policy here, and our disclaimer. To get started, simply enter your email address in the form on this page.