21 Free Writing Contests with Cash Prizes

A list of twenty-one upcoming FREE contests for writers of fiction, essays and poetry, and for playwrights.

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 in the Fall 2017 Semester. 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: $5,000, $2,500, $1,500, two prizes of $500 each
Deadline: 11 December 2017
Open for: US Students
Details
here and here.

J Anthony Lucas Work-in-progress Award

This award is for writers already under contract by a publisher for a nonfiction work, on a topic of American political or social concern.

Value: $25,000
Deadline: 11 December 2017
Open for: Contracted writers of a nonfiction work
Details
here.

Cove Park Literature Residencies

Cove Park will award a minimum of three funded Literature Residencies for writers established in their field of between one to three months each, for UK and international writers. For the Literature Residencies applications are invited from established writers in any of the following genres: adult fiction, memoir, poetry, biography. Writers should have published at least one book. See guidelines for details about the Scottish emerging writer and translator residencies.

Value: £400 per week, residency at Cove Park, Scotland
Deadline: 11 December 2017
Open for: All writers who have published a book
Details
here and here.

Exile Writers Ink Free Poetry Competition

This competition is for UK refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants by Exiled Writers Ink, an organisation that brings together writers from repressive regimes and war-torn situations; it equally embraces migrants and exiles. Send up to three poems of up to 40 lines each.

Value: £400 plus The Literary Consultancy’s detailed report on the winner’s poetry collection; £200 plus a free course at Poetry School; £100; all winners get a free one-year membership to Exiled Writers Ink
Deadline: 15 December 2017
Open for: UK refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants
Details
here.

2018 Spring-Summer Emergency Residency for Artists from Puerto Rico

The Studios at MASS MoCA invites artists in Puerto Rico who have been affected by Hurricane Maria, including artists displaced from the island by the hurricane, to apply for residencies up to 6 weeks. They expect to select at least 2 artists from Puerto Rico. The normal residency fee will be waived for these artists, and additional support will be provided for travel and meals.

Value: Travel reimbursement up to $800; stipend of $100 per week

Open for: Artists in Puerto Rico at all career stages, income levels, and disciplines (including writers) whose practice has been made more difficult by the impacts of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, including artists who have been displaced from the island by the disaster.

Details here.

Deadline: December 18th, 2017

Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards

These awards are for published works that contribute to our understanding of racism and our appreciation of cultural diversity. According to their website, “Today it remains the only American book prize focusing on works that address racism and diversity.” There are two awards, one for a work of fiction or poetry and one for a work of nonfiction, biography or scholarly research.

Value: $10,000
Deadline: 31 December 2017
Open for: Writers of published works
Details
here.

Griffin Poetry Prize

The prize is for the best collection of poetry, in English, published during the preceding year. One prize goes to a living Canadian poet or translator, the other to a living poet or translator from any country, which may include Canada. Submissions must come from publishers. For works published between 1 July and 31 December, the deadline is in December.

Value: $65,000 each
Deadline: 31 December 2017
Open for: Poets with published books
Details
here.

Ron Hubbard’s Writers & Illustrators of the Future

This contest is for new and amateur writers of new short stories or novelettes of science fiction or fantasy. Send stories of up to 17,000 words in length. This is a quarterly contest.

Value: $1,000, $750, $500 quarterly; one annual prize of $5,000
Deadline: 31 December 2017
Open for: Those who have not professionally published a novel or short novel, or more than one novelette, or more than three short stories, in any medium.
Details
here.

Inaugural Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards

There are three awards; two for published or contracted books, and one for playwrights. The book awards are for speculative fiction, and debut speculative fiction. Books published from 1 June 2015 are eligible. Playwrights have to write to a prompt: What does it mean to be a human in a computerized world?

Value: Three awards of $5,000 each
Deadline: 31 December 2017
Open for: All writers with published speculative fiction works, and playwrights
Details
here and here.

The Society of Classical Poets Competition

Send 3-5 poems on any of these themes: The Issues of Our Age (at least one poem has to be on this theme – see guidelines for specific issues), Beautiful & Sublime, Great Culture, Humor & Riddles.

Value: $500; three prizes of $100 each – for High School poets, translators, and poets of Hudson Valley, New York
Deadline: 31 December 2017
Open for: All poets
Details
here.

The Womaninc Sakhi Awards

This is a poetry award for feminist voices. Their website says, “The award shall be the meeting ground between oppression and expression – an isthmus defining the very real struggles of women across the globe for identity and dignity.” Submit one unpublished poem.

Value: $300, $150, $50
Deadline: 31 December 2017
Open for: All poets
Details
here.

Ouen Press Short Story Competition

The theme is ‘Taste’. Stories must be 3,000-10,000 words.

Value: £300, and £100 each for two runners-up
Deadline: 31 December 2017
Open for: All writers
Details
here.

Steinbeck Fellowship

The Steinbeck Fellows Program of San José State University (SJSU) offers emerging writers of any age and background the opportunity to pursue a significant writing project – of fiction, drama, creative nonfiction, and biography – while in residence at SJSU. The emphasis of the program is on helping writers who have had some success, but not published extensively, and whose promising work would be aided by the financial support and sponsorship of the Center and the University’s creative writing program. See guidelines for writing sample and other requirements.

Value: $10,000
Deadline: 2 January 2017
Open for: All writers
Details
here and here.

U.S. Naval Institute General Prize Essay Contest

The organizers invite you to “dare to write in order to advance the professional, literary, and scientific understanding of sea power and other issues critical to national defense.” Authors must discuss the most compelling issues, ideas, and solutions. There is no restriction on topic. All essays are judged in the blind by the Naval Institute’s Editorial Board composed of serving Sea Service professionals.

Value: $6,000, $3,000, $2,000
Deadline: 31 December 2017
Open for: Unspecified
Details
here.

The Christopher Doheny Award 2017

The award is for unpublished manuscripts in fiction or creative nonfiction on the topic of serious physical illness. The winner of the award must demonstrate both high literary standards and a broad audience appeal while exploring the impact of illness on the patient, family and friends, and others. The award includes a cash prize and production and promotion of the book in an audio edition, with the option to pursue print publication with the assistance of Audible, Inc.

Value: $10,000
Deadline: 2 January 2018
Open for: Published writers (including in literary magazines)
Details
here.

St Martin’s Minotaur/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition

This is for unpublished manuscripts. Murder or a serious crime or crimes has to be at the heart of the story. The manuscript must be at least 220 typewritten pages or 60,000 words.

Value: $10,000 as advance against royalties
Deadline: 12 January 2018
Open for: All writers who have never published a novel in any genre
Details
here.

The Robert Chesley/Victor Bumbalo Playwriting Award

This is an annual contest for playwrights of LGBTQ-themed work that makes a substantial contribution to the theatrical repertoire and community. The award includes a residency and stipend. Hard copy submissions only.

Value: Three-month residency at the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, New Mexico and $1,500 stipend
Deadline: 14 January 2018
Open for: Playwrights of LGBTQ plays
Details
here.

The Keats-Shelly Prize and the Young Romantics Prize

This is a contest for poems and essays on Romantic themes. For the Keats-Shelly Prize, adult writers should respond creatively to the work of the Romantics; this year, the theme is ‘Liberty: a celebration of Shelly’s Prometheus Unbound’. Write your own poem on Liberty, or an essay, which can be on any aspect of the work or lives of the Romantics and their circles. For the Young Romantics Prize, writers aged 16-18 should make poetry/essay submissions on the same theme.

Value: Prizes of £3,000 for the adult, and £2,000 for the Young Romantics category
Deadline: 15 January 2018
Open for: All poets and writers
Details
here and here.

The Hope Prize

This is for Australian writers, for a short story. The stories can be fiction or fact, and must convey the experience of people facing hardship in their lives. There is also a category for writers under 18.

Value: AUD10,000, AUD4,000, AUD2,000, AUD500, AUD250; two women’s writing career development scholarships of AUD5,000 each
Deadline: 31 January 2018
Open for: Australian writers
Details
here.

BBC International Radio Playwriting Competition

This is for playwrights living outside the UK. There are two prizes, for those with English as their first language and those with English as their second language. Plays must be about 53 minutes long (9,000-10,000 words), and have 6 central characters. There is also the Georgi Markov prize for the most promising script, which gives the winner a chance to come to London for two weeks and work alongside BBC Radio Drama and with BBC World Service journalists.

Value: Two prizes of £2,200 each and a trip to London; one prize for the most promising script
Deadline: 31 January 2018
Open for: All writers living outside the UK (see guidelines)
Details
here.