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Literary competitions, prizes and awards

This is the website of The Writers’ Guide, offering essential advice for the creative writer.

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Competitions 2017-2018

Prizes - Surprise

If you’d like your competition or award added to the list, please contact me via my mailing list or get in touch via Twitter @SJArnott. I no longer use a direct email address for queries and requests because of the huge amounts of spam it generated.

The following competitions have been categorised by type of writing:

• Short stories and flash fiction
• Novels and novellas
• Poetry
• Young writers/readers
• Theatre

Competitions covering more than one type of writing have multiple entries.

Most of the competitions listed below are UK-based, but many are open to entrants from other countries.

Be warned, some competitions are better than others. You can find some useful information on how to spot the bad eggs on this page from the Winning Writers website.

This page was fully revised and updated in January 2018.

Short stories and ‘flash fiction’

Short stories are usually categorised as those less than 8,000 words long, but definitions can vary widely. ‘Flash fiction’ aims to capture a complete story in a tiny number of words: a common maximum is 350, but again this can vary. See also Short stories.

Aeon Award (Ireland). An annual international competition for speculative fiction. Cash prize and publication.

Aesthetica Magazine. International poetry and short fiction competitions. Cash prizes and publication.

Almond Press. A biannual dystopian short story contest.

Artificium Short Stories & Poetry prizes.Prizes for short stories, flash fiction and poetry. Fees.

The Asham Award. A biannual short story competition open to women over 18 of any nationality (but resident in the UK) who have not previously had a novel or a book of short stories published. The prize money totals over 3,000.

Atlantis Short Story Competition (USA). An international contest with cash prizes and feedback.

Aurora Poetry and Short Fiction Open Competition. A poetry and short-story competition with a special ‘Stonewood Press Regional Prize’ for writers from the East Midlands. Cash prizes. Entry fee.

BBC National Short Story Award. Open to UK residents or nationals, 18 or over, with “a history of publication in creative writing”. Cash prizes and broadcast.

The Bath Short Story Award. A short story contest from the City of Bath. Cash prize.

Book a Break Short Story Competition. Win a short holiday in Provence and meet up with an indie writer.

Bridport Prize. International short story, flash fiction and poetry competitions. Total prizes of 15,000. There is a special award for writers from Dorset.

Bristol Short Story Prize. An annual international writing competition open to all published and unpublished writers. Cash prize and publication.

British Czech and Slovak Association. Cash prizes awarded to the best original writing, in English, on the links between Britain and the Czech/Slovak Republics, or describing the Republics since 1989.

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (USA). International contest for the opening sentence of the worst novel you never wrote. The prize is publication on the website and undying fame.

Chip Lit Fest. International short story contest for writers over 16. Cash prize.

Chorley & District Writers’ Circle. An annual national short story competition with prizes totalling 180 and publication in an anthology. 5 entry fee.

Cinnamon Press. Cash prizes for poems, flash fiction, short stories, novels and novellas. Entry fees.

Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Open to writers from Commonwealth countries, the cash prize is awarded for the best piece of unpublished short fiction. Regional winners receive 2,500 and the Overall Winner receives 5,000. Translators receive additional prize money where stories are not submitted in English.

Complaint Letter. A site devoted to complaining! They have a monthly letter competition open to UK citizens that offers a 30 prize.

Crime Writers’ Association Margery Allingham Short Story Competition. An international competition for an unpublished mystery story.

Doris Gooderson Short Story Competition - Wrekin Writers Cash prizes for stories less than 1,200 words.

Dream Quest One. An international annual poetry and prose competition that offers cash prizes totalling $1,275. Entry fees.

Evesham Festival of Words Short Story Contest. International shorty story contest with adult and junior categories.

Exeter Writers. International novel and short story contests. Cash prizes, with extra awards for writers living in Devon.

Fabula Press Short Story Competition. (US). Short stories between 1,500 and 7,000 words. Cash prizes and publication.

Fairfield Scribes. Submissions to the 'When to Now' time travel anthology, 2,000 to 10,000 words.

The Fiction Desk Ghost Story Competition. International short ghost-story contest.

First Writer - International Short Story Contest. Open to fiction in any style and on any subject, up to 3,000 words long.

Fish Publishing (Ireland). International short story, flash fiction, poetry and memoir contests. Cash prizes, publication and more.

Flash 500. International competitions in flash fiction (quarterly), humorous verse (quarterly) and novel first chapter and synopsis (annual). Cash prizes and publication (for short story and verse). Entry fees.

FLY Festival (Festival of Literature for Young People). Take the opening of a story and finish it in less than 500 words. Two categories: 11 to 14; and 15 to 18.

Frome Festival. International short story contest. Cash prizes and critiques. Additional prizes for local authors.

The Henshaw Short Story Competition. International short story contest. Up to 2,000 words on any theme. Cash prize and publication. Fees.

Highlands and Islands Short Story Association. International annual short story competition. Cash prizes and more.

InkTears Short Story Competition. International annual short fiction and flash fiction competitions. Cash prizes and publication.

James White Award (BSFA). Annual international science fiction short-story award for non-professional authors. Cash prize and publication in Interzone magazine.

Jane Austen 200. Themed short-story contest for adults, with letter writing contests for children aged 7-11 and 12-16. Cash prizes.

Jeremy Mogford Prize for Food and Drink Writing. An international competition held by the FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival. The short story can be in any genre or theme but must involve food and/or drink in some way. Cash prize of 7,500.

Lancashire Authors’ Association. Cash prize for a short story of exactly 100 words (excluding the title) on any theme or subject.

Limnisa Greece. Short story and poetry competition. Prize is a writing holiday in Greece.

The London Magazine. International short story and poetry competitions. You are advised to read the magazine before submitting to gauge the writing style being sought. Cash prizes and publication.

Malahat Review (Canada). International short fiction, novella, and long poem competitions. Cash prize and publication.

Manchester Writing Competition. International competitions for short stories, poetry and children’s writing. Cash prizes up to 10,000.

The Somerset Maugham Awards. Awards given for a published work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry. Applicants must be ordinarily resident in the UK and under the age of 35.

Michael Terence Publishing. International short story contest. Up to 3,000 words on any theme, including non-fiction. Cash prizes and publication.

Momaya Press (USA/UK). International short story contest. Cash prizes and publication.

Moth Magazine (Ireland). International short story and poetry competitions. Cash prizes, publication and more.

Mslexia Magazine. International women’s short story, flash fiction, novel and poetry competitions. Cash prize and publication.

Needle In The Hay (Australia). International weekly and monthly short fiction competitions, most on specific themes or prompts. Cash prizes and publication.

Norwich Writers’ Circle. Various competitions, but most for members only.

Nottingham Writers’ Club. Annual themed short story contest. Cash prizes.

Prairie Fire Magazine (Canada). Annual poetry, short fiction and creative non-fiction contests. Paper submissions only and fees by cheque or money order. Cash prizes and publication.

Prism International (Canada). International annual competitions in creative non-fiction, short fiction, and poetry. Cash prizes and publication.

The Royal Society of Literature V.S. Pritchett Memorial Prize. An annual prize for the best unpublished short story of the year. Entrants must be citizens of the UK, the Republic of Ireland and Commonwealth countries or have been resident in one these countries for the past three years. Award of 1,000 and publication in the RSL journal.

Rubery Book Awards. International annual competitions for self-published novels (including ebooks) and short stories. Cash prizes, publication of short story, and more.

Scribble Magazine. Annual and quarterly short story and article contests. Cash prizes and publication. Entry fees, but free to subscribers.

Sean O’Faolain International Short Story Competition (Ireland). An international short story award. Cash prizes, publication and more.

Sentinel Literary Quarterly Magazine. International quarterly poetry and short story competitions. Cash prizes and publication.

Short Fiction Journal. Annual international short fiction competition. Cash prizes and publication.

Short Grain Writing Contest (Canada). International poetry and short fiction contest. Cash prizes.

The Short Story. An international annual short story contest. Cash prize and publication on website.

Sixfold Magazine (USA). International quarterly short fiction and poetry competitions. Judging is by peer review. Cash prizes and publication.

Solution Loans Short Story Competition. Cash prizes for short fiction (1500 to 2500 words) with a loan/finance theme.

Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award. The world’s richest short story prize. The winner gets 30,000 but the contest is open only to published authors. International.

Tethered by Letters - F(r)iction (USA). A range of contests for short fiction, poetry, non-fiction and novels. Cash prizes and online publication for some winners.

Thresholds International Short Fiction Feature Writing Competition. Essay contest on the short story form. Cash prizes and publication.

The Tom-Gallon Trust Award. A 1,000 award made to a traditional fiction writer who has had at least one short story accepted for publication.

Txt Lit. Monthly themed flash fiction contests to create a story in 160 characters or less. Cash prize and publication on website.

The Vancouver Writers Fest (Canada). Annual international short story and poetry competitions. Cash prizes and publication.

Wasafiri New Writing Prize. International annual contests for unpublished authors in poetry, short fiction and ’life writing’. Cash prizes and publication.

Wells Festival of Literature. Annual international competitions for poetry, short stories and crime novels (opening chapter and synopsis). Cash prizes and more.

Words with Jam Ezine. Award for the first page (400 words) of a story. Cash prizes.

Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook Short Story Competition. Annual international short story competition. Cash prize, publication on website and free residential writing course.

The Writers Bureau. Annual international short story and poetry competitions. Cash prizes and publication.

Writers’ Forum. Regular international short story and poetry competitions. Cash prizes and publication.

Writers Online. Monthly international short story and poetry competitions. There is also an annual self-published novel competition. Some contests are open only to Writing Magazine or Writers’ News subscribers. Cash prizes and publication.

Writer's Retreat UK. A short story competition with cash prizes and a free place at a Lake District writers' retreat.

Writers’ Union of Canada (Canada). Short fiction contests for Canadians or Canadian residents. Cash prizes.

Wundor Short Fiction Contest. Cash prize and web publication for short stories and novellas up to 45,000 words.

The Yeovil Literary Prize. Annual international competitions for novels (first chapters and synopsis), short stories and poetry. Additional awards for authors in Somerset or Devon. Cash prizes.

Zeotrope All-Story (USA). Annual international competition for short fiction. Cash prizes and online publication. Entry fees.

Novels and novellas

Most novels are at least 80,000 words long. A novella is harder to define: some put the lower limit at 10,000 words (a long short-story), while the upper can be as high as 70,000. Most put the average at around 40,000 words. Read the guidelines to see where your book fits in.

The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. Annual book awards for fiction written by a woman. Novels must have been published in the UK within the previous year.

Booktrust. Prizes and awards that cover a wide range of genres and themes for both children and adults.

Crime Writers’ Association ‘Debut Dagger’ Competition. An international competition for a debut crime novel. Submit the opening of a crime novel (not exceeding 3,000 words) and a synopsis of 500-1000 words.

Peggy Chapman-Andrews First Novel Award . Open to unpublished authors resident in the UK or Ireland with a part-written or completed novel in any adult fiction genre. Cash prizes and mentoring.

Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize. Award for unpublished female authors, aged 21 and over.

Cinnamon Press. Cash prizes for poems, flash fiction, short stories, novels and novellas. Entry fees.

Costa Book Awards Annual competitions for UK and Ireland-based authors. Short story award and five fiction and non-fiction book categories: First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book. One of the five winners chosen as Book of the Year.

Exeter Writers. International novel and short story contests. Cash prizes, with extra awards for writers living in Devon.

Flash 500. International competitions in flash fiction (quarterly), humorous verse (quarterly) and novel first chapter and synopsis (annual). Cash prizes and publication (for short story and verse). Entry fees.

The Impress Prize. An international prize open to any previously unpublished author. Submit a novel proposal/synopsis and sample chapter for a chance of publication. Entry fee.

Malahat Review (Canada). International short fiction, novella, and long poem competitions. Cash prize and publication.

The Somerset Maugham Awards. Awards given for a published work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry. Applicants must be ordinarily resident in the UK and under the age of 35.

McKitterick Prize. Given annually to an author over the age of 40 for a first novel, published or unpublished.

Mslexia Magazine. International women’s short story, flash fiction, novel and poetry competitions. Cash prize and publication.

Rubery Book Awards. International annual competitions for self-published novels (including ebooks) and short stories. Cash prizes, publication of short story, and more.

Tethered by Letters (USA). A range of contests for short fiction, poetry, non-fiction and novels. Cash prizes and online publication for some winners.

The Betty Trask Prize and The Betty Trask Awards. Prizes for first novels written by authors under the age of 35 in a traditional or romantic style.

Wells Festival of Literature. Annual international competitions for poetry, short stories and crime novels (opening chapter and synopsis). Cash prizes and more.

Words with Jam Ezine. Award for the first page (400 words) of a story or novel. Cash prizes.

Writers Online. Monthly international short story and poetry competitions. There is also an annual self-published novel competition. Some contests are open only to Writing Magazine or Writers’ News subscribers. Cash prizes and publication.

Wundor Short Fiction Contest. Cash prize and web publication for short stories and novellas up to 45,000 words.

The Yeovil Literary Prize. Annual international competitions for novels (first chapters and synopsis), short stories and poetry. Additional awards for authors in Somerset or Devon. Cash prizes.

Poetry

Whatever the styles of poetry you enjoy reading and writing, you’re bound to find something for you in the list below. See also Poetry.

Aesthetica Magazine. Annual international short story and poetry competitions. Cash prizes and publication.

Artificium Short Stories & Poetry prizes.Prizes for short stories, flash fiction and poetry. Fees.

Aurora Poetry and Short Fiction Open Competition. A poetry and short-story competition with a special ‘Stonewood Press Regional Prize’ for writers from the East Midlands. Cash prizes. Entry fee.

Bridport Prize. International poetry competition. Total prizes of 15,000. There is a special award for writers from Dorset.

Buxton Poetry Competition. International poetry competition with a special category for young writers. Cash prizes and publication in festival literature.

Cafe Writers Open Poetry Competition. Cash prizes for short poems (up to 40 lines) with a special category for Norfolk residents.

Christopher Tower Poetry Competition. An annual themed contest open to young writers (16-19) in full or part-time education at a school, college or other educational institution (but not higher education) in the UK.

Cinnamon Press. Cash prizes for poems, flash fiction, short stories, novels and novellas. Entry fees.

Costa Book Awards Annual competitions for UK and Ireland-based authors. Short story award and five fiction and non-fiction book categories: First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book. One of the five winners chosen as Book of the Year.

David Burland Poetry Prize. International themed competition for poetry in English and French.

Dream Quest One. An international annual poetry and prose competition that offers cash prizes totalling $1,275. Entry fees.

Fish Publishing (Ireland). International short story, flash fiction , poetry and memoir contests. Cash prizes, publication and more.

Flash 500. International competitions in flash fiction (quarterly), humorous verse (quarterly) and novel first chapter and synopsis (annual). Cash prizes and publication (for short story and verse). Entry fees.

The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award. Poetry competition for young writers aged 11-17. Prizes include mentoring, a writing course, Poetry Society membership and books.

The Eric Gregory Awards. Awards to poets under the age of 30.

Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine. Annual contest for poetry on a medical theme. There are three categories: Open (international), NHS (open to NHS staff, students and others), and Young (14-18). Over 10,000 in prizes.

Betjeman Poetry Prize. Themed contest for young people, aged 10 -13, living in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland. Cash prizes and more.

Kent & Sussex Poetry Society. International poetry contest with cash prizes.

Malahat Review (Canada). International short fiction, novella, and long poem competitions. Cash prize and publication.

Manchester Writing Competition. International competitions for short stories, poetry and children’s writing. Cash prizes up to 10,000.

The Somerset Maugham Awards. Awards given for a published work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry. Applicants must be ordinarily resident in the UK and under the age of 35.

Michael Murphy Memorial Prize. A biennial prize of 500 for a distinctive first book of poetry in English published in Britain or Ireland.

Moth Magazine Ballymaloe Poetry Prize (Ireland). International poetry competition. Cash prizes and publication.

National Poetry Competition. Run by the Poetry Society, this is one of the world’s biggest single poem competitions. Entry fees. Cash prizes.

Mslexia Magazine. International women’s short story, flash fiction, novel and poetry competitions. Cash prize and publication.

The Poetry Business Poetry Book & Pamphlet Competition International annual competition. Entrants submit a collection of 20-24 pages of poems. Cash prizes and the chance of publication. This contest incorporates the The Wordsworth Trust Single Poem Prize.

The Poetry Society. A list of the Society’s poetry competitions. Most are only open to members.

Prairie Fire Magazine Banff Centre Bliss Carman Poetry Award (Canada). Annual poetry competition. Paper submissions only and fees by cheque or money order. Cash prizes and publication.

Prism International (Canada). International annual competitions in creative non-fiction, short fiction, and poetry. Cash prizes and publication.

Sentinel Literary Quarterly Magazine. International quarterly poetry and short story competitions. Cash prizes and publication.

Sixfold Magazine (USA). International quarterly short fiction and poetry competitions. Judging is by peer review. Cash prizes and publication.

Slipstream Poets. Annual poetry competition with cash prize. Additional prize for West Sussex entrants.

Strokestown International Poetry Festival. Annual international poetry contest with cash prizes. The Festival also awards the Percy French Prize for Comic Verse.

Tethered by Letters - F(r)iction (USA). A range of contests for short fiction, poetry, non-fiction and novels. Cash prizes and online publication for some winners.

The Vancouver Writers Fest (Canada). Annual international short story and poetry competitions. Cash prizes and publication.

Wasafiri New Writing Prize. International annual contests for unpublished authors in poetry, short fiction and ’life writing’. Cash prizes and publication.

Wigtown Poetry Competition. Scotland’s international poetry prize, awarded in association with The Scottish Poetry Library. Dedicated categories for Scots Language and Gaelic. Cash prizes.

Writers’ Forum. Regular international short story and poetry competitions. Cash prizes and publication.

Writers Online. Monthly international short story and poetry competitions. There is also an annual self-published novel competition. Some contests are open only to Writing Magazine or Writers’ News subscribers. Cash prizes and publication.

The Yeovil Literary Prize. Annual international competitions for novels (first chapters and synopsis), short stories and poetry. Additional awards for authors in Somerset or Devon. Cash prizes.

Young writers/readers

Writing awards for young writers, or for work aimed at younger readers.

Booktrust. Prizes and awards that cover a wide range of genres and themes for both children and adults.

Buxton Poetry Competition. International poetry competition with a special category for young writers. Cash prizes and publication in festival literature.

Christopher Tower Poetry Competition. An annual themed contest open to young writers (16-19) in full or part-time education at a school, college or other educational institution (but not higher education) in the UK.

Costa Book Awards Annual competitions for UK and Ireland-based authors. Short story award and five fiction and non-fiction book categories: First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book. One of the five winners chosen as Book of the Year.

Evesham Festival of Words Short Story Contest. International shorty story contest with adult and junior categories.

FLY Festival (Festival of Literature for Young People). Take the opening of a story and finish it in less than 500 words. Two categories: 11 to 14; and 15 to 18.

The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award. Poetry competition for young writers aged 11-17. Prizes include mentoring, a writing course, Poetry Society membership and books.

The Eric Gregory Awards. Awards to poets under the age of 30.

Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine. Annual contest for poetry on a medical theme. There are three categories: Open (international), NHS (open to NHS staff, students and others) and Young (14-18). Over 10,000 in prizes.

Jane Austen 200. Themed short-story contest for adults, with letter writing contests for children aged 7-11 and 12-16. Cash prizes.

Betjeman Poetry Prize. Themed contest for young people, aged 10 -13, living in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland. Cash prizes and more.

The Print Express Children’s Short Story Competition. Prizes for short-stories up to 500 words. There are two age groups: 5 to 9, and 10 to 13.

The Sunday Times/ Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award. 5,000 awarded for a full-length published or self-published (in book or ebook formats) work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry, by a British or Irish author aged 18-35 years.

Theatre/Drama

A selection of competitions aimed at playwrights. See also Stage plays.

The Beverly Hills Theatre Guild - Competition for Youth Theatre. (US). Open to grades 6-8 and 9-12 for plays 45 to 75 minutes long. US citizens or residents only.

The Beverly Hills Theatre Guild - Julie Harris Playwright Awards. (US). Award for original, full-length plays (minimum of 75/80 minutes playing time) that have not been previously published or produced. US citizens or residents only. Fees.

The Bruntwood Prize. A triennial (more or less) prize for playwrights with a main or primary address within the UK or Ireland, awarded in association with the Royal Exchange Theatre.

The Imison Award. Annual award for any audio drama first broadcast or made available online within the UK by a UK-based producer by a writer or writers new to audio drama.

Little Pieces of Gold. Contest for short plays (10 minutes and maximum of four actors) by UK writers. Winners are showcased at the Southwark Playhouse.

The Tinniswood Award Any audio drama script first broadcast or made available online within the UK by a UK-based producer during the last competition period. The work must be an original piece for audio as broadcast and may also include the first episode from an original series or serial.

Main image: Everett Collection c/o Shutterstock


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