32 Free Writing Contests with Cash Prizes (Up to $40,000)

These are contests for fiction, nonfiction, poetry, cross-genre work, playwriting, and journalism, with prizes up to $40,000. They are, very loosely, divided geographically. A couple of the deadlines are in March. – S. Kalekar


Tales to Terrify: Changing Seasons

For their 2023 contest, they want horror fiction of up to 1,500 words on the Changing Seasons theme, for their podcast. “The story must have horror elements and relate to the theme of changing seasons. How you choose to interpret that theme is up to you, but it must be central to the story. Simply setting your tale during a change in seasons or having a tale take place across seasons is not adequate. It must play a crucial role in the development of the narrative.” Please read their note about shortlisted stories.
Value: $50
Deadline: 1 April 2023
Open for: Unspecified
Details here.

The Marguerite and Lamar Smith Fellowship for Writers
These three-month fellowships are to afford writers uninterrupted time to focus on their work at an apartment in Carson McCuller’s childhood home in Columbus, Georgia. A spouse or companion is welcome. The application includes a writing sample of up to 20 pages.
Value: $5,000
Open for: Unspecified
Deadline: 1 April 2023
Details here (scroll down to Academic Opportunities and click on Fellowships).

Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest
This prize is for humor poetry. Submit a poem of up to 250 lines.
Value: $2,000 and a subscription to Duotrope; second prize of $500; 10 prizes of $100 each
Deadline: 1 April 2023
Open for: All poets
Details here.

The Mike Resnick Memorial Award
This award is sponsored by Galaxy’s Edge magazine and Dragon Con. They want a science fiction story by a new writer (who has not been paid a per-word rate of 6 cents a word or more or received a payment for any single work of fiction totaling more than $50). Send stories up to 7,499 words. Apart from the cash prize, the first-prize winner will have their story bought by Galaxy’s Edge magazine at their current prevailing rates. Writers do not need to be members of Dragon Con.
Value: $250, $100, $50
Deadline: 1 April 2023
Open for: New writers
Details here (scroll down), here, and here.

Green Stories Project: Superhero Competition
They want a short story (2,000 words) on superheroes saving the planet; this contest is open to writers ages 14+. They want writers to “create an uplifting short story of superheroes that respond to climate change. Imagine your target audience to be teens and young adults that enjoy watching superhero films.
Drawing on your own experiences of climate change, entries from adults that live /have lived in the following countries are especially welcome (but not essential): India, Pakistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, South Sudan, Mali, Niger, Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, or Brazil.” They have detailed guidelines/suggestions on the theme. You can add your own illustrations, but this is not necessary; apart from a cash prize, one of the scenes from the winning story will be turned into a 1-page comic strip, made by a professional artist.
Value: £500
Reading period: The submission link will open on their website on 1st April, and the deadline is 15 April 2023.
Open for: All writers (see above)
Details here.

The Sunlight Press: Flash Fiction Contest
They want a piece of flash fiction, of 1,000 words or fewer. The contest will open on 3rd April; it will close on 1st May, or when they receive 175 entries. (Do not send submissions before the start of contest entry date.) Shortlisted entries which are published will receive their standard rate ($40 for fiction).
Value: $750, $100
Submission period: 3 April-1 May 2023, or until filled
Open for: All writers
Details here

Invisible City Blurred Genres Contest

Invisible City is an online publication of the MFA in Writing Program at the University of San Francisco. For the contest, they want flash fiction/nonfiction, prose poetry, or a unique combination of the three, on the ‘Levity’ theme, of up to 750 words. (General magazine submissions are also open, and pay $20.)

Value: $750, $350, $150
Deadline: 7 April 2023
Open for: All writers
Details here.


If There’s Anyone Left micro fiction contest
This is a contest for marginalized writers only (people of color, the LGBTQ2S+ community, members of marginalized genders, and disabled and neurodiverse people). They want stories, of up to 500 words – science fiction or speculative fiction.
Value: $250, $100, $50
Deadline: 15 April 2023
Open for: Marginalized writers
Details here.
(They will open in spring for non-contest submissions.)


Brilliant Flash Fiction Writing Contest
They want a piece of flash fiction of up to 400 words. There is no theme. Apart from the three prizes, they pay $20 for the shortlisted entries which are published.
Value: $200, $100, $50
Deadline: 15 April 2023
Open for: All writers
Details here.

Bacopa Literary Review Writing Contest
This is an international contest, and writers can submit to one category. Apart from prizes in fiction, creative nonfiction, and humor, they have three poetry prizes: formal poetry, free verse poetry, and visual poetry. Please see the guidelines for submission requirements in the category you wish to submit.
Value: $200, $100 in each of the six categories
Deadline: 16 April 2023
Details here and here.

ALTA Travel Fellowship
Each year, fellowships are awarded to emerging translators (someone who does not yet have a book-length work of translation published or under contract) to help them pay for hotel and travel expenses to the annual American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) conference. Part of the application requirement is up to 10 pages of translated work (poetry or prose – see guidelines). Also see the Jansen Fellowship for an emerging translator of color or a translator working from an underrepresented diaspora or stateless language. Also see ALTA’s other awards for published works.
Value: $500-1,000 each
Deadline: 17 April 2023
Open for: Unspecified
Details here and here (scroll down).

Casa Africa micro-story contest
For this contest, they want micro-stories that are related to Africa in some way. Stories can be in Spanish, English, French or Portuguese, with a maximum length of 1500 characters (not words) including spaces and excluding the title.
Value: €750, €375, €225
Deadline: 21 April 2023
Open for: All writers
Details here.

Whiting Foundation: Creative Nonfiction Grant
Up to 10 grants will be awarded to writers of creative non-fiction books – projects must be under contract with a publisher in the US, UK, or Canada to be eligible. Contracts with self-publishing companies are not eligible. The subjects are history, cultural or political reportage, biography, memoir, the sciences, philosophy, criticism, food or travel writing, graphic nonfiction, and personal essays, among other categories. It is intended for multiyear book projects requiring large amounts of deep and focused research, thinking, and writing, after significant work has been accomplished. The work should be intended for general, not academic, audiences. One of the application requirements is sample chapters, up to 25,000 words.
Value: $40,000 each
Deadline: 25 April 2023
Open for: Nonfiction books contracted with a publisher in the US, UK, or Canada
Details here and here.


Wilbur & Niso Smith Foundation: Author of Tomorrow Award
This international contest is designed to find the adventure writers of the future. Writers must enter a piece of short fiction. The work must fall within what can be defined as adventure writing (see guidelines).  There are three categories: for writers ages 16-21, 12-15, and under 11.
Value: £1,000 in the 16-21 group, £100 in the 12-15 group, £100 in the under-11 group
Deadline: 30 April 2023
Open for: All writers ages 21 and under
Details here.

The Baen Fantasy Adventure Award
They want stories in all fantasy genres. “It must be a work of fantasy, though all fantasy genres are open, e.g. epic fantasy, heroic fantasy, sword and sorcery, contemporary fantasy, etc.” The winner gets $0.08/word for work up to 8,000 words. Second- and third-place winners get books. They would prefer for the winners to attend DragonCon at Atlanta, Georgia, in August 2023, but this is not required.
Value: $0.08/word
Deadline: 30 April 2023
Open for: All writers
Details here.

Terrain.org Editor’s Prize
This magazine focuses on place, climate, and justice. They publish nonfiction, fiction, and poetry by all writers, and pay a minimum of $50. Also, “All accepted submissions by writers of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, women, and/or other marginalized communities whose contributions explore place particularly in the context of social, environmental, or climate justice are considered for our annual Editor’s Prize of $500 per genre.”
Value: $500 each for fiction, non-fiction, poetry
Deadline: 30 April 2023
Open for: Underrepresented writers (see above)
Details here

Preservation Foundation Contest: Non-fictional Animal Stories
This is an international contest for unpublished writers (see guidelines). Their upcoming deadline is for the non-fiction animal stories category: “Stories should be factual and true accounts of an encounter or encounters by the author with a wild animal or animals. These include, but are not limited to, birds, fish, butterflies, snails, lions, bears, turtles, wombats, etc., as long as it is not a pet.” Entries should be 1,000-5,000 words. They want all entries, regardless of whether or not they win, to be on their website as long as the Foundation exists (see guidelines). Also see contests in other genres, which will have deadlines later in the year.
Value: $200, $100
Deadline: 30 April 2023
Open for: Unpublished writers
Details here.


New England Crime Bake: Al Blanchard Award
This is a short story award. Their guidelines say it must be a crime story, of up to 5,000 words, by a New England author or have a New England setting if the author is not from New England (the New England states are Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island). The story may include the following genres: mystery, thriller, suspense, caper, and horror. (No torture/killing of children or animals.) Apart from the cash award, the winner also gets publication in Level Best Books’ Crime Fiction anthology, and admission to the Crime Bake Conference (though conference attendance is not a requirement).
Value: $100
Deadline: 30 April 2023
Open for: All writers
Details here.

Waterston Desert Writing Prize
This prize is for a proposed book of literary non-fiction that illustrates artistic excellence, sensitivity to place, and desert literacy – with the desert both as subject and setting. Writing samples about deserts and natural settings are more likely to be reviewed favorably. Apart from the cash award, there is also a residency at PLAYA at Summer Lake and a reading and reception at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon.
Value: $3,000, residency
Deadline: 1 May 2023
Open for: All writers
Details here and here.

CINTAS Foundation: Fellowship in Creative Writing
This is a creative writing fellowship for writers having Cuban citizenship or direct lineage (having a Cuban parent or grandparent).  Applications can be in English or Spanish. Fellows who are not U.S. citizens and who are living abroad must provide a U.S. taxpayer identification number when they accept the fellowship to receive payment. The foundation also offers fellowships for other disciplines – architecture & design, music composition, photography, and visual arts (click the ‘Fellowships’ tab on the page).
Value: $20,000
Deadline: 1 May 2023
Open for: Writers having Cuban citizenship or direct lineage
Details here.

Queer Sci Fi: Rise
They want to see science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, or horror LGBTQIA stories of up to 300 words on the theme of Rise. They have detailed guidelines,  please read them carefully.
Value: $100, $75, $50
Deadline: 1 May 2023
Open for: All writers
Details here.

Parsec Ink Short Story Competition: Preserve or Purge
They want short speculative fiction (up to 3,500 words) on the theme Preserve or Purge. There is also a Youth category, for those aged up to 19 years, or currently enrolled in high school.
Value: $200, $100, $50; and $50 for the Youth category winner
Deadline: 1 May 2023 Open for: Non-professional writers (see guidelines)
Details here and here.

A couple of contests with later deadlines:

— ABA Journal / Ross Writing Contest for Legal Short Fiction: This is a fiction contest for US writers (see guidelines). The ABA Journal is the flagship magazine of the American Bar Association. Send a story of up to 5,000 words that illuminates the role of the law and/or lawyers in modern society. The prize is $5,000, and the deadline is 15 May 2023. Details here.

— The Fountain Essay Contest: How to focus in an era of distractions: They want an essay on the topic, ‘How to focus in an era of distractions’. See guidelines for details on the theme. Ideal length is 1,500-2,500 words. Also, “There is no age limit or a condition to fulfill for entry.” Read the FAQ carefully, any of the entries may be published, whether or not they win the prize. The prizes are $1,000, $500, $300, two prizes of $150 each. The deadline is 31 May 2023. Details here.

Drue Heinz Literature Prize: This is for previously published writers of short fiction (see guidelines), and the submission period is 1 May-30 June 2023. The prize is for a short story collection, or for two or more novellas, and the award is $15,000. Details here, here, and here.



(Also see the CINTAS Foundation: Fellowship in Creative Writing for Cuban writers, Whiting Foundation: Creative Nonfiction Grant, and the New England Crime Bake: Al Blanchard Award, in the international section above.)

Maya Angelou Book Award
This award is for a work that has demonstrated a commitment to social justice. It is for books published in 2022, or scheduled to be published until November 2023. The award alternates between poetry and fiction, and for this cycle, books of poetry are eligible. Entrants must be available for a two-week reading tour at partnering educational institutions in Missouri. Entries have to be made by publishers.
Value: $10,000
Deadline: 31 March 2023
Open for: US writers
Details here.

The Great American Think-Off
This is an essay contest for US-based writers. This year the theme is, “Which is more important to protect:
the environment or the economy?” Their website says, “The Great American Think-Off is an exhibition of civil disagreement between powerful ideas that connect to your life at the gut level. … People of all ages and backgrounds are encouraged to submit an essay of no more than 750 words for a chance to win one of four $500 cash prizes and participate in the live debate to ultimately answer the question, determined by audience vote. …  The debate is held each year on the second Saturday in June.
Writers are encouraged to ground their essays in personal experience rather than philosophical abstraction. Each year, four writers will be selected as finalists and invited to debate the question on the second Saturday in June in New York Mills, MN. Costs for winners’ travel, food, and lodging will be covered by the Cultural Center.”
Value: $500 for four writers, and other prizes – see above
Deadline: 1 April 2023
Open for: US-based writers
Details here and here.

PEN America: 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. Various deadlines are listed for 2023, and the next one is 1st April. Other deadlines are in July and October. Writers do not have to be PEN members to apply.
Value: Unspecified
Deadline: 1 April 2023
Open for: US writers
Details here.


Poetry Foundation: Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships
These are for US poets ages 21-31 years. One of the application requirements is a writing sample, up to 10 pages of poetry.
Value: $27,000
Deadline: 14 April 2023 (please register on the online portal by 10th April, and the deadline to apply for alternative formats is 3rd April – see guidelines).
Open for: US writers
Details here.

League of Canadian Poets: Jessamy Stursberg Poetry Prize
This is a poetry prize for Canadian youth; there are two categories, the Junior (grades 7-9) and Senior (grades 10-12), with three prizes in each category. Writers can submit one poem, up to one page long. Homeschooled students are welcome to submit.
Value: CAD400, CAD350, CAD300
Deadline: 30 April 2023
Open for: Canadian youth
Details here.

Fund for Investigative Journalism Grants
They are open for regular grants, and for expedited grants, as well (see guidelines). These are for articles by US journalists that break new ground and expose wrongdoing – such as corruption, malfeasance, or abuse of power – in the public and private sectors. FIJ encourages proposals written for ethnic media as well as those submitted by journalists of color. Also, “To be considered, foreign-based story proposals must come from US-based reporters or have a strong US angle involving American citizens, government, or business; all stories must be published in English, in a media outlet in the United States.”  (See FAQ).
Value: Up to $10,000
Deadline: 1 May 2023
Open for: US-based journalists and writers; and see guidelines for foreign-based proposals
Details here.



(Also see the Whiting Foundation: Creative Nonfiction Grant in the international section above.)

The Orwell Society/NUJ Young Journalist’s Award
This is an opportunity for young UK-based journalists/those studying journalism in the UK (your birth should be after 1993). Send “an arts review on a subject of your choice (e.g. book, film, play, art exhibition, etc) of no fewer than 600 and no more than 700 words. Your review should include a headline and an indication of the target audience/publication.
OR a column on a political subject of your choice of no fewer than 600 and no more than 700 words. Your column should include a headline and an indication of the target audience/publication.” Also send “a reflection of no fewer than 250 and no more than 300 words, on how your review or column is informed by Orwell’s influence.”
Value: £1,500 for winners, £500 for runners-up
Deadline: 30 March 2023
Open for: Young UK-based journalists
Details here.

The Big Finish Comedy Playhouse Script Writing Competition

They want “original and hilarious scripts which are suitable for a pilot episode of an audio production.” Scripts should be no more than 30 pages.
Value: £500; £350 for 5 runners-up
Deadline: 1 April 2023
Open for: UK writers
Details here.

Audio Drama North and BBC Writersroom: The Alfred Bradley Bursary Award
This is an opportunity for writers based in the North of England who are new to writing for audio. The winner gets a bursary, and the chance of a Radio 4 Drama commission. “Submit an original and complete Drama or Comedy/Drama script written for radio, TV, stage or film at a minimum length of 30 pages (excluding title or character pages). Please be mindful that scripts will be assessed on their suitability for Audio Drama.  Pure narrative comedy or sitcoms are not eligible.”
Value: £5,000 + chance for a Radio 4 Drama Commission
Deadline: 11 April 2023
Open for: Writers based in the North of England (see guidelines)
Details here.

Women’s Prize for Playwriting
This is for a play by UK/Ireland based writers who identify as women and nonbinary, and are aged 16 or older. Plays have to be written for the stage (not for radio or screen), can be co-written, and can be in any genre except musicals (though plays with music are accepted).
Value: £12,500
Deadline: 17 April 2023
Open for: UK/Ireland based women and nonbinary playwrights
Details here, here, and here.

Bio: S. Kalekar is the pseudonym of a regular contributor to this magazine. She can be reached here.






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