25 Writing Competitions You Should Enter

By Mark Nichol

Have you completed one or more short stories, poems, or nonfiction pieces? Perhaps you’d like some motivation — or to take the next step with them. This post lists writing competitions for 2011 that feature cash prizes of $1,000 or more and, often, publication deals for the winner (plus, for many contests, additional prizes for winners and other contestants).

Note, however, that such competitions often require an entry fee (generally $15-$20 per entry), and some require the submitted material to be previously unpublished. Go to the contest Web site for information about costs and other details.

The competition can be fierce, but even if you don’t win, the benefits are valuable:

  • Completing and submitting an entry helps you develop word-count precision and deadline discipline.
  • You may not earn a four-figure cash prize, but you could win some honorable-mention mad money or other prizes.
  • You have a completed manuscript you can submit to other competitions or to agents.

Good luck!

Poetry

1. The Pinch Journal Poetry Contest
Deadline: March 1
Type of submission: online or offline
Length of submission: 1-3 poems
Prizes: $1,000 and publication

2. Normal Prize in Poetry
Deadline: March 4
Type of submission: online
Length of submission: 5 pages or 5 poems
Prizes: $1,000 and publication

3. Boston Review Fourteenth Annual Poetry Contest
Deadline: June 1
Type of submission: offline
Length of submission: up to 10 pages
Prize: $1,500 and publication

4. Bellevue Literary Review’s Marica and Jan Vilcek Prize in Poetry
Deadline: July 1
Type of submission: online
Length of submission: up to 3 poems (maximum 5 pages)
Prizes: $1,000 and publication

5. Lulu Poetry Contest
Deadline: continuous entry
Type of submission: online
Length of submission: not specified
Prizes: annual $5,000; monthly $250; daily $25

Short Fiction

6. The Pinch Journal Fiction Contest
Deadline: March 1
Type of submission: offline
Length of submission: up to 5,000 words
Prizes: $1,500 and publication

7. Sycamore Review’s Wabash Prize for Fiction

Deadline: March 1
Type of submission: offline
Length of submission: up to 10,000 words
Prize: $1,000 and publication for winner

8. Potomac Review Annual Contest
Deadline: March 1
Type of submission: online or offline
Length of submission: 2 stories of up to 2,000 words
Prize: $1,000 and publication for winner

9. Normal Prize in Fiction
Deadline: March 4
Type of submission: online
Length of submission: up to 10,000 words
Prizes: $1,000 and publication for winner

10. Colorado Review’s Nelligan Prize
Deadline: postmarked March 11
Type of submission: online or offline
Length of submission: under 50 pages
Prizes: $1,500 and publication for winner

11. New Rivers Press American Fiction Prize
Deadline: May 1
Type of submission: online or offline
Length of submission: up to 7,500 words
Prizes: $1,000, $500, $250; publication for winners

12. Drue Heinz Literature Prize
Deadline: postmarked May 1-June 30
Type of submission: offline
Length of submission: not specified
Prize: $15,000 and publication

13. Carve Magazine’s Raymond Carver Short Story Contest
Deadline: May 15-June 30
Type of submission: offline
Length of submission: up 6,000 words
Prizes: $1,000, $750, $500, $250; considered by literary agencies

14. Howard Frank Mosher Short Fiction Prize
Deadline: postmarked June 30
Type of submission: online or offline
Length of submission: up to 10,000 words
Prizes: $1,000 and publication, $100

15. Bellevue Literary Review’s Goldenberg Prize in Fiction
Deadline: July 1
Type of submission: online
Length of submission: up to 5,000 words
Prizes: $1,000 and publication

Nonfiction

16. Michael Steinberg Essay Prize
Deadline: February 28
Type of submission: offline
Length of submission: up to 6,000 words
Prizes: $1,000 and publication; publication consideration for runner-up

17. Normal Prize in Nonfiction
Deadline: March 4
Type of submission: online
Length of submission: up to 10,000 words
Prizes: $1,000 and publication

18. Creative Nonfiction Anger & Revenge Contest
Deadline: March 16
Type of submission: offline
Length of submission: up to 4,000 words
Prizes: $1,000, $500

19. Writers @ Work Writing Competition
Deadline: March 20
Type of submission: offline
Length of submission: up to 7,500 words
Prizes: $1,000, $350, $100; publication consideration for each winner

20. Bellevue Literary Review’s Burns Archive Prize in Nonfiction
Deadline: July 1
Type of submission: online
Length of submission: up to 5,000 words
Prizes: $1,000 and publication

Multiple Awards

21. Glimmer Train’s Very Short Fiction Award
Deadline: January 1-31, July 1-31
Type of submission: offline
Length of submission: up to 3,000 words
Prizes: $1,200, publication, and 20 copies; $500; $300

22. Glimmer Train’s Fiction Open
Deadline: March 1-31, June 1-30, August 1-30, December 1-31
Type of submission: offline
Length of submission: 2,000-20,000 words
Prizes: $2,000, publication, and 20 copies; $1,000; $600

23. Glimmer Train’s Short-Story Award for New Writers
Deadline: postmarked March 31, postmarked September 30
Type of submission: offline
Length of submission: 3,000-12,000 words
Prizes: $1,200, publication, and 20 copies; $500; $300

24. Glimmer Train’s Family Matters
Deadline: April 1-30, October 1-31
Type of submission: offline
Length of submission: 3,000-12,000 words
Prizes: $1,200, publication, and 20 copies; $500; $300

Miscellaneous

And, of course, no self-respecting list of writing competitions would be complete without this one:

25. Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest
Deadline: April 15
Type of submission: online or offline
Length of submission: up to about 50-60 words
Prize: “a pittance”

This whimsical contest is devoted to parodying the purple prose of Edward George “It Was a Dark and Stormy Night” Bulwer-Lytton and his ilk by crafting, as it were, the most absurdly inept opening line from a (fortunately) nonexistent novel. For more information, go to the slightly disheveled Web site and search for “The rules to the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.”

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20 Responses to “25 Writing Competitions You Should Enter”

  • Rebecca

    It’s been a few years since I’ve entered a contest. I used to enter Half Price Books contest but they no longer offer it. It’s been awhile since I’ve entered the Tom Howard/John H. Reid Poetry Contest from Winning Writers.

    Thank you for the list!

  • Lesley Joan Lupo

    I am a big fan and appreciate all your tips for polishing my craft, but how about the top 25 competitions for unpublished children’s books and short stories?
    Most competitions do not consider these when they judge.
    Perhaps it’s a long shot, but I’m a Chicago Cubs fan, which ranks me off the Richter scale for Optimism.

    Thanks for your time,
    Lesley Joan Lupo

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Lesley, I am not sure there would be 25 competitions for such a niche. You can use your unpublished children’s short stories on several of the mentioned competitions though.

  • Jessica

    I know there are probably more contests than you can list here, but you didn’t mention the Writers of the Future contest. They have a quarterly contest for amateur sci-fi writers with a first place prize of $1000, and the winners compete for a $5000 prize at the end of the year. All of the winners are published in a yearly collection. Finalists are invited to a writers workshop with some of the biggest names in sci-fi. All with no entry fee.

  • Mark Nichol

    Lesley and Jessica:

    Stay tuned. I’ll be posting more competition listings, some general like this one and others focused on specific genres and other niches.

  • Carolyn

    What about the Writer’s Digest 80th annual competition or The Writer Magazine competition?

  • adeyinka

    is it just about writing anything especially from an African point of view? The writing competition is not really specific.

  • Karabo

    i have nothing much to say know to im a writer a very good one and i write whats on my mind,my feelings and what happends to people in everyday like contact me soon and i will give you my stories

  • john

    do you consider short stories with african plots for your competitions?

  • itah patience mbethki

    are africans legible to compete in these competitions? i love thhe fact that there are many opportunities out there for artists to develop their art and so few down here. it gets quite frustrating especially for upcoming writers like me.

  • Stephen Thorn

    Thank you, Mark, for a good list of competitions. I’m anxious for your niche-genre competitions listing.

    A suggestion: I’d venture that many of the readers to this site have never entered a professional contest. A brief article about what a neophyte contestant should look for in “the small print” of competitions might be useful. Tips about such pitfalls as republication rights, copyright ownership, and so on might be very valuable to your readers.

  • Mark Nichol

    Stephen:

    Good idea. I’ll get on it.

  • Parul

    Hi,

    Any way that the “Lulu Poetry Contest” has moved it’s url?
    I am not able to navigate to the page.
    Also, is there any other poetry contest that is going at this time of the year where I could participate?
    The ones mentioned here, besides Lulu, have their deadlines in the past.

    Thanks & Warm Regards,
    Parul

  • Ashley

    My inquiry is the same as Parul’s…

    it seems a few of the urls have moved… I can’t find them either…

  • Catherine

    Perhaps you could follow this article up with contests to stay away from? There are several poetry contests that serious writers might want to stay away from. I’m talking about vanity anthologies that hide behind a ‘contest’. These people run a contest and while they are not technically a scam, in that they deliver what they promise, it does take advantage of new, unpublished writers by dangling prize money and publishing credit in front of them. The main problem is that the author has to buy the book in order to see their work in print, they have to pay extra for a blurb about the author to appear and the only people that will ever see the anthology are the poets and their friends and family. Plus, nearly everyone who enters becomes a semi-finalist and is published in the book, so it’s not much of a pat on the back. If you put that credit to your name on a future cover letter, an editor/publisher is likely to laugh themselves right off their chair! It basically amounts to self publishing for poets. World Poetry Movement is one such contest/anthology.

    My point is, exercise caution when entering contests to make sure that it is worthwhile, especially if there is an entry fee you’d wish you hadn’t paid if it turns out the contest isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be.

  • Greg

    I agree with everything Catherine had to say and would offer these tips I picked up along the way.

    Avoid contests that:
    Take all rights to entries, even free contests
    Don’t pay cash prizes
    Have high entry fees but cheap prizes
    Have high entry fees and that brag in their marketing literature about having thousands of entrants
    Advertise using spam

    Enter contests that:
    Are held by reputable organizations that offer fair rules
    Are free or very inexpensive and don’t take rights away from entrants, whether winners or not.

    Before sending any entry fees, check out the organization online. Ask questions and post inquiries to writing forums. Somebody undoubtedly has something good or bad to say about the company. A good rule of thumb is to only pay to enter a contest that has respectable cash prizes (pays more than $100 each to the top winners) and one that has an entry fee of less than $10.

  • Michael Lewis

    Can anyone give me information concerning competitions for very short stories and/or memoir? I mean competitions for stories between 400-600 words.
    Thank you,
    The Bald Scotsman

  • Daria Koudriacheva

    Hello,

    I published a book in August 2011. Its genre is fiction. I am over 30 years old and seeking opportunities to enter competetions preferably in massachusetts. Is it possible to obtain a list
    Thank you
    Daria

  • Muhammad Jawad Khan

    I want to participate in all types of poems, essay, poetry, short-essays, stories and some Islamic and social topics competitions.

    But i want you tell me process to enter these types of competitions

  • Ashwin jp

    Doesn’t participating in a competition limits the writers creative license ? Especially in mediums like poetry where ‘freedom of spirit’ (whatever that may mean) is touted to be decisive factor for acclaim ?

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