34 Free Writing Contests and Fellowships for January 2023

These are contests and fellowships for fiction, nonfiction, poetry, playwriting, and journalism, with prizes up to $100,000. The contests are, very loosely, divided geographically. A couple of the deadlines are in December. – S. Kalekar

Defenestration.net Lengthy Poem Contest
They are reading entries for a lengthy poem, of at least three 120 lines, or roughly chapbook-length (see guidelines). Poem cycles are accepted. They do not want prose poems. It is best to divide it into parts or sections, though this is not a strict requirement.
Value: $300
Deadline: 1 January 2022
Open for: Unspecified
Details here

Table//Feast Literary Magazine: Blossom Contest
This contest is only for those who are Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC). Entrants may submit up to three poems (2 pages each) in the Poetry Category or one piece of fiction or creative nonfiction (up to 3,000 words) to the Prose Category.
Deadline: 1 January 2023
Value: $200 for poetry, $200 for prose
Open for: BIPOC writers
Details here.

The European Society of Literature – The European Writing Prize: Anxiety
This is a prize for writers all over the world. They want a piece of 1,500-3,500 words, and the theme is Anxiety. Apart from a cash prize for the winner, there will be potential talks with literary agents — they may scout the shortlist and winners.
Value: €50
Deadline: 1 January 2023
Open for: All writers
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. Applications in poetry will not be accepted. One of the application requirements is a writing sample of up to 25 pages.
Value: $15,000, residency at San José State University
Deadline: 3 January 2023
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. They 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 2023
Open for: Writers working on biographies
Details here

Colgate University: Olive B. O’Connor Creative Writing Fellowship
For the current application period, they offer one fellowship for non-fiction, and one for poetry. One of the application requirements is a writing sample – up to 20 pages for poetry, and up to 30 pages for prose. Writers who have recently completed an MFA, MA, or PhD in creative writing, and who need a year to complete their first book, are encouraged to apply. It also includes residency at Colgate University. There are teaching duties attached. “All applications should speak directly to the candidate’s ability to work effectively with students across a wide range of identities and backgrounds.”
Value: $43,750 + other benefits, residency
Deadline: 6 January 2023
Open for: Unspecified
Details here.

Fourteen Hills: Stacey Doris Memorial Poetry Award
This is a poetry contest – send one poem of 3 to 10 pages. Their guidelines say, “Stacy Doris was a poet, translator, and an Associate Professor in San Francisco State University’s Department of Creative Writing, where she taught for ten years. … Doris created new worlds with her unexpected poetics. Following upon her spirit of creative invention, engaging wit and ingenious playfulness, discovery in construction, and radical appropriations based on classical forms, pastiche, etc., and love, the Stacy Doris Memorial Poetry Award is given to a poet with a truly inventive spirit.” Works that don’t win will be considered for publication in Fourteen Hills.
Value: $500
Deadline: 15 January 2023
Open for: Unspecified
Details here

Walter Muir Whitehill Prize in Early American History
This prize is for an essay on early American history (up to 1825), not previously published, with preference being given to New England subjects. Essays should be 40-60 pages, and can be emailed (as both PDF and Word attachments – see here) or mailed.
Value: $2,500
Deadline: 15 January 2023 (postmarked)
Open for: Unspecified
Details here, here, and here.


The Hillman Prize for Journalism
This is for journalists who pursue investigative reporting and deep storytelling in service of the common good. Recipients exemplify reportorial excellence, storytelling skill, and social justice impact. The categories are: Book (bound volumes and ebooks), Newspaper Journalism (story or series/in print or online), Magazine Journalism (story or series/in print or online), Broadcast Journalism (story/series/documentary that has aired on television or radio), Web Journalism (story/series or multimedia that did not appear in print), and Opinion & Analysis Journalism (any medium) – includes all types of advocacy, opinion, commentary and analysis, normally short-form and/or frequent, regardless of medium; open to newspaper and magazine columnists, TV and radio presenters, podcasters, blogs, and bloggers. The US prize is open to all journalists and subjects globally but the work must have been primarily accessible to a US audience; the Canadian prize, too, is open to all journalists and subjects globally but the work must have been primarily accessible to a Canadian audience, and must have been published in Canada.
Value: $5,000 each
Deadline: 15 January for Canadian, 30 January 2023 for US entries
Open for: Journalists
Details here and here
(They also have Labor and Workforce Reporting Grants – they accept pitches on a rolling basis, and grants are up to $5,000.
— And, the International Journalists’ Network has a list of many opportunities and resources for journalists.)

The Nine Dots Prize
This is a prize for creative thinking that tackles contemporary societal issues. For this cycle, the question is: ‘Why has the rule of law become so fragile?’ Entrants have to respond to a question in 3,000 words, and provide an outline showing how they would expand their response into a short book of 25,000-40,000 words, backed up with relevant research and evidence. The winner will receive editorial support from Cambridge University Press, and the opportunity to spend a term at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), at Cambridge University, to help develop their ideas and focus on their writing. “The aim of the Prize is to promote, encourage and engage innovative thinking to address problems facing the modern world. The name of the Prize references the nine dots puzzle – a lateral thinking puzzle which can only be solved by thinking outside the box.” They want submissions from both established names and emerging talent, including those who may not have been published before.
Value: $100,000, residency, publication
Deadline: 23 January 2023
Open for: All writers
Details here and here.

AKO Caine Prize for African Writing
This is for a published short story by an African writer (someone who is a national of an African country, or who has a parent who is African by birth or nationality), of 3,000-10,000 words. The story must have been published in the five years preceding the submissions deadline. Submissions have to be made by publishers only. Works published in translation are also eligible (see ‘Rules of Entry’ for details).
Value: £10,000, and £500 for four short-listed candidates
Deadline: 26 January 2023
Open for: African writers
Details here and here.

Speculative Literature Foundation: A. C. Bose Grant
This grant supports South Asian or South Asian diaspora writers developing speculative fiction. Work that is accessible to older children and teens will be given preference. “This grant, as with all SLF grants, is intended to help writers working with speculative literature. Speculative literature spans the breadth of fantastic writing, encompassing literature ranging from hard science fiction to epic fantasy, including ghost stories, horror, folk and fairy tales, slipstream, magical realism, and more. Any piece of literature containing a fabulist or speculative element would fall under our aegis.” A writing sample of up to 5,000 words is part of the application. Applicants need not have prior publishing credits to apply.
Value: $1,000
Reading period: 1-31 January 2023
Open for: South Asian/South Asian diaspora writers
Details here; the schedule for their other upcoming grants is here.

Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest
The magazine runs a short story contest thrice a year. Readers of this magazine are interested in music, social history, literature, politics, art, film and theater, particularly that of the counter-culture of mid-twentieth century America. While the writing should appeal to a reader with these interests, stories can be on any theme. Stories should be up to 3,000 words, but up to 4,000 words will be considered.
Value: $150
Deadline: 31 January 2023
Open for: All writers
Details 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 and for Category B, 30-60 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: 31 January 2023
Open for: All playwrights
Details here

The TRACE Prize for Investigative Reporting
TRACE is a non-profit international business association dedicated to anti-bribery, compliance and good governance; you can read more about it here. This prize recognizes journalism that uncovers business-related bribery and financial crime with the goal of increasing commercial transparency and good governance. Nominees may be print, broadcast or online reporters from any country who have investigated commercial bribery schemes, business activities that create serious conflicts of interest or similar commercial misconduct. Team entries and multiple submissions per author are permitted. Book-length entries are not accepted. A panel of independent judges will review the submissions and select up to two winners, who will each receive a cash prize of US$10,000. Reporter(s) will be invited to an award ceremony hosted by TRACE. The judges may also name up to two honorable mentions, who will each receive US$1,000.
Value: Up to two cash prizes of $10,000 each, up to two honorable mentions of $1,000 each
Deadline: 31 January 2023
Open for: All financial investigative journalists
Details here.

Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contest
This is a short fiction contest run by the Little Tokyo Historical Society in Los Angeles. Stories must take place in Little Tokyo, and can be set in the past, present, or future. Stories can be in Japanese (5,000 ji or fewer) or English (up to 2,500 words). There are three categories: Youth (under 18s), Japanese, and English. Contest winners will be invited and encouraged to attend an awards ceremony in Little Tokyo to be held in spring 2023.
Value: $1,000 in each category
Deadline: 31 January 2022
Open for: Unspecified
Details here (download the guidelines and agreement form).

Deep Wild Graduate Student Poetry Contest
This is an international contest from Deep Wild: Writing from the Backcountry magazine – they want students currently enrolled in graduate studies to submit work for their 2023 Graduate Student Poetry Contest. “We seek work that conjures the experiences, observations, and insights of backcountry journeys. By “backcountry,” we mean away from roads, on journeys undertaken by foot, skis, snowshoes, kayak, canoe, horse, or any other non-motorized means of conveyance.” Writers can send up to 3 poems (see guidelines).
Value: $300, $200, $100
Deadline: 1 February 2023
Open for: Students enrolled in graduate studies
Details here and here.

Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award
They want a short story, of up to 8,000 words, that shows the near future (no more than about 50-60 years out) of manned space exploration. They want to see Moon bases, Mars colonies, orbital habitats, space elevators, asteroid mining, artificial intelligence, nano-technology, realistic spacecraft, heroics, sacrifice, adventure. They do not want stories that show technology or space travel as evil or bad, galactic empires, paranormal elements, UFO abductions, zombie stories, thinly veiled copies of previous winners, non-standalone novel excerpts, or screenplays.
Value: 8c/word, and various non-cash awards
Deadline: 1 February 2023
Open for: All writers
Details here.
(They also have a fantasy short story contest, the Baen Fantasy Adventure Award, which pays $0.08/word for stories of up to 8,000 words in all fantasy genres, and will open for submissions from 1st  February to 30th April 2023.)

Biographers International Organization: The Frances “Frank” Rollin Fellowship
They offer two fellowships, open to all biographers anywhere in the world who are writing in English, who are working on a biography of an African American figure or figures whose story provides a significant contribution to our understanding of the Black experience, and who are at any stage in the writing of a book-length biography. A publishing contract is not required for eligibility. Memoirs are not eligible. The application includes an excerpt of up to 20 pages. The Biographers International Organization also has other awards, some of which are open for all writers, as well as other resources. 
Value: Two fellowships of $5,000 each
Deadline: 1 February 2023
Open for: See above
Details here.

St. Gallen Symposium Global Essay Competition
This is a contest for young writers, they want a themed essay of 2,100 words, on the best or worst legacy from previous generations: How to preserve or replace it? – see guidelines for details of the two themes writers can submit essays on. To be eligible, writers must be enrolled in a graduate or postgraduate programme (master level or higher) in any field of study at a regular university, and be born in 1993 or later.
Value: CHF20,000, split between three winners; they’ll also cover travel, accommodation, and admission to the symposium in Switzerland.
Deadline: 1 February 2023
Open for: Young writers (see above)
Details here.

(A couple of contests with later deadlines are:
BBC International Radio Playwriting Competition for those outside the UK – they want a radio play of approximately 53 minutes (9,000-10,000 words) – see guidelines for other requirements; you can enter singly or in a group. Prizes are £2,500, and other non-cash prizes. There are two categories – English as a First Language, and English as a Second Language. The deadline is 12 February 2022, details here and here.

The Welkin Writing Prize is for a piece of narrative prose of up to 400 words. “The competition is open to all forms of narrative prose, be that flash fiction, short-short, vignette, haibun, hermit crab, prose poem or work that sits outside such labels.” The prizes are £150, £75, and £50; there are other prizes of £25 each – for a writer with a disability or chronic health condition, LGBTQ+ writer, working class writer, writer whose first (or home) language isn’t English, carer for an adult dependent, new writer, as well as for historical fiction, speculative fiction, and humorous prose. The deadline is 28 February 2022, details here.

National Endowment for the Arts’ Creative Writing Fellowships for US writers – they are accepting applications for prose (fiction and creative non-fiction) this year, awards are up to $25,000, and the deadline is 8 March 2023, details here.)

(Also see the
Walter Muir Whitehill Prize in Early American History, Hillman Prize for Journalism, Imagine Little Tokyo contest, Olive B. O’Connor Fellowship, Frances “Frank” Rollin Fellowship, and National Endowment for the Arts’ Creative Writing Fellowships, in the section above)

Livingston Press: Tartts Fiction Award
This is for a debut short story manuscript, of 160-275 pages, by a writer who is an American citizen. The writer may have had other kinds of work published before, including novels, but not a short story collection.
Value: $1,000, publication
Deadline: 31 December 2022
Open for: US writers
Details here.

The Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Essay Contest
This contest is for registered undergraduate full-time Juniors or Seniors at accredited four-year colleges or universities in the US. Students are invited to write an essay about an ethical issue they have encountered, and analyze what it has taught them about ethics, and themselves. See guidelines for potential topics and issues.
Value: $10,000, $5,000, $3,000, two prizes of $1,000 each
Deadline: 31 December 2022
Open for: Students in the US (see guidelines)
Details 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 a short-term emergency situation; there are other eligibility requirements, too. This grant is not for subsidizing writing-related expenses. Writers do not have to be PEN members to apply. Various deadlines are listed (subject to change): in January, April, July, and October 2023.
Value: Unspecified
Deadline: 1 January 2023
Open for: US writers
Details here.

Jack Hazard Fellowship
This is for U.S. based high school teachers working on an ongoing fiction, creative non-fiction, or memoir project, to enable them to focus on their creative project during summer. Full-time instructors at accredited U.S. high schools teaching in the 2022–23 academic year who are contracted to return to their schools in fall 2023 are eligible; writers must have three years of full-time teaching experience, and have no summer all-consuming work responsibilities, such as teaching summer school (see guidelines). One of the application requirements is a writing sample of up to 5,000 words. “Published writers are certainly encouraged to apply, but so are unpublished and yet to be published writers.”
Value: $5,000
Deadline: 4 January 2023
Open for: U.S. high school teachers
Details here and here.

National Endowment for the Arts: Translation Project Fellowship
These are for published translators. The fellowship is for the translation of works of prose, poetry, or drama from other languages into English. They encourage translations of writers and of work that are not well represented in English translation. The proposed projects must be for creative translations of literary material into English.
Value: Up to $25,000 (see here)
Deadline: 12 January 2023
Open for: Published translators who are citizens or permanent residents of the US
Details here and here.
(They also have Creative Writing Fellowships for prose, deadline 8 March 2023, details here.)

The John F Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest
This is for US high school students in grades 9 through 12. Essays must describe an act of political courage by a US elected official who served during or after 1917, the year John F Kennedy was born. The official may have addressed an issue at the local, state, or national level. Essays should be 700-1,000 words and must quote at least five sources.
Value: $10,000, $3,000, $1,000 each for finalists, $100 each for semi-finalists
Deadline: 13 January 2023
Open for: US high school students
Details here (also click on tabs on the page for various details)


Milkweed Editions: Ballard Spahr Prize for Poetry

This is for a poetry manuscript, of 48 or more pages, for poets in the US upper Midwest region (Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, or Michigan). The submitted manuscript must be previously unpublished, though individual poems included may have been previously published in periodicals, chapbooks or anthologies. This is not a first book contest; poets may be at any stage in their career.
Value: $10,000, royalty contract, publication
Deadline: 15 January 2023
Open for: Poets in the US upper Midwest
Details here

RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers
This is for Canadian writers who have published work in literary magazines, but not in book form. For this cycle, writers should submit up to 10 pages (up to 2,500 words, for fiction) of either unpublished short fiction or unpublished poetry. There is no age bar; and a self-published book or chapbook will not disqualify you.
Value: CAD10,000; CAD2,500 for finalists
Deadline: 16 January 2022
Open for: Canadian writers
Details here (overview), here (fiction guidelines), and here (poetry guidelines).

Zócalo Public Square Poetry Prize
They want poetry from US poets whose poem best evokes a connection to place. “The prize interprets “place” in many ways: A place may possess historical, cultural, political, or personal importance, and may be literal, imaginary, or metaphorical.” Please read the conditions at the bottom of the page carefully.
Value: $1,000
Deadline: 23 January 2023
Open for: US poets
Details here.

Harlequin: Romance Includes You Mentorship
This is an opportunity for a US/Canada based writer who is looking to publish their debut romance book, and is unrepresented by an agent; they are particularly interested in writers from an underrepresented community (including but not limited to: writers who identify as Black, Indigenous, People of Color, biracial and multiracial; writers in LGBTQ+ communities; members of marginalized ethnic and religious cultures; writers with disabilities; and writers identifying as neurodiverse). “We are looking to work with a writer with an interest in writing category romance whose story can be published in one of Harlequin’s 11 romance lines (excluding Carina Press and Carina Adores).” Some of the submission requirements are the first 5,000 words of the novel and a synopsis; also, “these novels are typically 50,000 to 70,000 words in length and are trope-based … Your story may include characters that share your background, community or culture but this is not a requirement. We are open to romance stories with all gender and identity pairings.” They will begin accepting submissions for this mentorship from 1st January 2023, which is also when the Submittable portal for this category will open on the Harlequin website; upload your submission to the “Romance Includes You Mentorship” category when it opens up here.
Value: $5,000, mentorship, and publication
Reading period: 1-31 January 2023 (see FAQ).
Open for: US/Canada based writers (see guidelines)
Details here.

Bucknell University: Philip Roth Residence in Creative Writing
This residency is offered by Bucknell University, and provides writing time of up to four months. It’s for writers of any literary genre: fiction, creative non-fiction, or poetry. Writers should be working on a first or second book of fiction or creative non-fiction. There are two residencies, in fall and spring semesters. Some record of publication is desirable.
Value: $5,000 and residency
Deadline: 1 February 2023
Open for: US writers
Details here.
(See the full list of their programs and residencies here.)


Penguin WriteNow
This is for UK/Ireland-based writers, for people from a background or community that is currently under-represented in UK and Irish publishing . “This year we are looking exclusively for commercial fiction for adults. This means books with a fast-moving plot and a gripping hook that reels the reader in — fiction novels that will engross and captivate readers. In particular we’re interested in reading compelling love stories, family drama, crime, thriller, and comedy novels.” Part of the application is writing 1,000 words, and synopsis of the proposed novel. This year, for the first time, they are also partnering with BBC Studios – you can read about what that entails here.
Value: $1,000, other non-cash prizes
Deadline: 8 January 2023
Open for: UK/Ireland-based writers
Details here (scroll down for shortlisting phases) and here.

Discoveries 2023
This prize is run by The Women’s Prize Trust, Audible, Curtis Brown Literary Agency, and Curtis Brown Creative writing school. It is for UK- and Ireland-based women writers, for a novel-in-progress (adult fiction) – send the first 10,000 words and a synopsis. Apart from a cash prize, the winner also gets literary representation. There are also non-cash prizes for shortlisted and longlisted writers.
Value: £5,000
Deadline: 15 January 2023
Open for: UK- and Ireland-based women writers
Details here.

The John Bryne Award
This is an award for Scotland-based creatives. While the award is for creative work in all disciplines, and on any topic, they are keen on “artistic work which examines societal or personal values, ideals or beliefs and has the potential to create an interesting real-life debate or discussion.
Your work should not only be of high quality, but it should also have an accompanying rationale which clearly articulates how your submission is relevant to these aims.” Written work is to be up to 5,000 words, and audio/video, up to 15 minutes. Works must have a written rationale explaining how it meets the John Byrne Award criteria; i.e. what ideas your work communicates, and why these are important.  There will be monthly winners chosen through the year, with an overall winner chosen annually. Please note, all entries will be posted online – read their terms and conditions carefully.
Value: Annual award of £2,500; monthly awards of £250
Deadline: 31 January 2023 for the annual award
Open for: Scotland-based writers
Details here.

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


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