29 Free Writing Contests: Legitimate Competitions With Cash Prizes

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When I was about 12, I saw an ad in a magazine for a poetry contest that sounded fancy and impressive, something like “International Library of Poetry.” I bled poetry at that age, so I crossed my fingers and sent in a poem I’d been slaving over for weeks.

And, lo and behold, the people behind the contest quickly wrote back to tell me my poem had been selected as a winner!

I was speechless with honor. Of the thousands of poets who must have submitted to the contest — no doubt many of them adults much wiser and more skilled than me — my poem had been chosen to be featured in an exclusive, hardcover anthology! And honored on a something-karat-gold plaque!

Of course, I had to pay $50 if I wanted to see my work in print in the anthology, and I had to pay another $100 if I wanted the plaque. Those were the only “prizes.”

Even as a pre-teen, I sensed a scam.

Sadly, not much has changed when it comes to companies trying to take advantage of writers who want a chance at recognition and maybe a little bit of money. Google the term “writing contests,” and you’ll come up with approximately 7.9 million results. It can be hard for a writer to know where to start looking for competitions, and how to tell if they’re legitimate or not.

So I’ve done the legwork for you.

Here are 29 reputable, well-reviewed, free writing contests for poets, fiction writers, essayists and more. Some legitimate contests do charge a small entry or “reading” fee, but often a fee can be a red flag for a scam, so you may want to stick to free writing contests — and there are certainly enough of them.

Fiction and nonfiction writing contests

Ready to share your novel or personal essay with the world? Whether you’re a newbie or more established writer, you’re likely eligible for a few of these contests.

1. L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest

Whatever your feelings about L. Ron Hubbard’s work and philosophy, the prizes for this regular contest are nothing to sneeze at. Every three months, winners earn $1,000, $750 and $500, or an additional annual grand prize worth $5,000.

Submissions must be short stories or novelettes (up to 17,000 words) in the genre of science fiction or fantasy, and new and amateur writers are welcome to apply.

Deadlines: Quarterly on January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1.

2. Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize

Awarded to “the most promising and innovative literary nonfiction project by a writer not yet established in the genre,” this prize provides a $12,000 advance and publication by Graywolf Press.

If you live in the U.S. and have published at least one book (in any genre), you’re eligible to submit a current manuscript in progress for consideration. The judges look for winners who push the boundaries of traditional literary nonfiction.

Deadline: Annually; the 2016 deadline was January 31.

3. Drue Heinz Literature Prize

You can win $15,000 and publication by the University of Pittsburgh Press with this prize, awarded for a collection of short fiction.

You may submit an unpublished manuscript of short stories, two or more novellas or a combination of novellas and short stories. Your total word count should be between 150 and 300 typed pages.

Deadline: Annual submission window is May 1 through June 30.

4. Tony Hillerman Prize

Presented by St. Martin’s Press and WORDHARVEST, this prize awards the best first mystery novel set in the Southwest with $10,000 and publication by St. Martin’s Press.

It’s open to professional or non-professional writers who have not yet had a mystery published, and there are specific guidelines for the structure of your story: “Murder or another serious crime or crimes must be at the heart of the story, with emphasis on the solution rather than the details of the crime.”

Deadline: Annually on June 1.

5. St. Francis College Literary Prize

This biannual prize honors mid-career writers who have recently published their third, fourth or fifth work of fiction. The winner receives $50,000 but must be able to appear at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY to deliver a talk on their work and teach a mini-workshop in fiction to St. Francis students.

Deadline: Biannually; the deadline for work published between June 2015 and May 2017 has not been announced.

6. Young Lions Fiction Award

This $10,000 award recognizes “young authors,” which the rules define as any author aged 35 or younger. Submit any novel or short story published or scheduled to be published in the calendar year. Works must be written for adults; children’s or YA pieces are ineligible.

Deadline: Annually in August.

7. Real Simple’s Life Lessons Essay Contest

Have you ever had a “eureka” moment? If you have, and you can write a compelling personal essay about it in no more than 1,500 words, you may be able to win $3,000 in Real Simple’s annual essay contest.

Deadline: Annually; 2016 deadline has not yet been announced.

8. New Voices Award

Presented by Lee & Low Books, an award-winning children’s book publisher, this award is given for a previously unpublished children’s picture book manuscript (of no more than 1,500 words) written by a writer of color.

The winner receives $1,000 cash and a standard publication contract. You may submit up to two manuscripts.

Deadline: Submissions must be postmarked by September 30 each year.

9. Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence

This contest aims to provide visibility for emerging African American fiction writers and to enable them to focus on their writing by awarding a $10,000 cash prize. Eligible authors should submit a work of fiction, such as a novel or short story collection, published in the calendar year.

Deadline: Annually; 2016 deadline has not yet been announced.

10. PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Honoring the best work of fiction published by an American author in a single calendar year, this award has been given to the likes of John Updike, Philip Roth and Ann Patchett.

The winner receives $15,000 and an invitation to read at the award ceremony in Washington, DC. Four finalists also each receive a $5,000 award.

Deadline: Annually on October 31 for books published that calendar year.

free writing contests

11. Brooklyn Non-Fiction Prize

Presented by the Brooklyn Film & Arts Festival, this annual prize awards $500 cash for “the best Brooklyn-focused non-fiction essay which is set in Brooklyn and is about Brooklyn and/or Brooklyn people/characters.” (So it’s Brooklyn-centric, if you haven’t picked up on that yet.)

Submissions should be four to 10 pages (up to 2,500 words), and five authors will be chosen to read and discuss their submissions at the annual December event.

Deadline: Annually in mid-November.

12. Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards

Fiction and nonfiction writers who have recently published a book that “contributes to our understanding of racism and our appreciation of the rich diversity of human cultures” are eligible for this award, which offers $10,000 cash as well media and publicity opportunities.

Submissions must be published in the prior year (so books published in 2015 are eligible for the 2016 award).

Deadline: Annual submission window is September 1 through December 31.

13. Marfield Prize (a.k.a. National Award for Arts Writing)

Presented by the Arts Club of Washington, this award seeks to honor nonfiction books that deal with “any artistic discipline (visual, literary, performing, or media arts, as well as cross-disciplinary works).” This may include criticism, art history, memoirs and biographies, and essays.

Deadline: Annually in the last quarter of the year; the 2016 deadline has not yet been announced.

14. W.Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Military Fiction

If you’re a war buff, this competition is for you. It awards $5,000 to the best piece of fiction set during a period when the U.S. was at war (war may either be the main plot of the piece or simply provide the setting). Submissions may be adult or YA novels.

Deadline: Annually on December 1.

15. Friends of American Writers Chicago Awards

FAW presents two annual awards: an Adult Literature Award for literary fiction or nonfiction, and a Juvenile Literature Award for a children’s/YA book.

Authors must reside in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota or Wisconsin — or they must set their book in one of those locations. Prize amounts vary from year to year but are typically between $500 and $2,000.

Deadline: Annually at the end of the year; 2016 deadline has not yet been announced.

16. Hektoen Grand Prix Essay Contest

Hektoen International, an online journal dedicated to medical humanities, offers two prizes annually for essays of no more than 1,600 words in two categories.

The Grand Prize of $1,200 is given for an essay suited for their Famous Hospitals section, while a Silver Prize of $1,000 is given to the best essay suited for the sections of Art Flashes, Literary Vignettes, Moments in History or Physicians of Note.

Deadline: Annually; 2016 deadline is March 31.

17. Nelson Algren Short Story Award

Presented by the Chicago Tribune, this award presents $3,500 to one grand prize winner, $1,000 to four finalists and $500 to five runners-up for a short fiction story of less than 8,000 words.

You may submit up to two short stories, but note that your name must not appear anywhere on your submission as the process is anonymous.

Deadline: Annually; the 2016 deadline was January 31.

18. Minotaur Books / Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition

Writers 18 and older who have never had a novel published (in any genre) are eligible for this prize, awarded for an original book-length manuscript where “murder or another serious crime or crimes is at the heart of the story.” The winner receives a publication contract with Minotaur Books and an advance of $10,000 against future royalties.

Deadline: Annually in the last quarter of the year. The deadline for 2016 awards has passed; the deadline for 2017 awards has not yet been announced.

19. Stowe Prize

This biennial prize of $10,000 honors an American author whose work has had an impact on a critical social justice issue (as did Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin).

In addition to submitting a copy of your book or written work, you must also complete a 250-word statement that describes the tangible impact your piece has made in the world and outlining any social justice work you perform outside of your writing.

Deadline: Biennially in odd-numbered years. The deadline for 2017 awards has not yet been announced.

20. Amy Writing Awards

Christian writers are eligible for this award, which honors “Creative, skillful journalism that applies biblical principles to stories about issues and lives.”

Submissions must have been previously published in a newspaper, local or national magazine, or on a news website and must contain at least one quote from the Bible. Columns and opinion pieces will be considered, but preference is given to news or feature article with original reporting.

Prizes are given for winners of first through fifth prizes (in amounts ranging from $10,000 to $2,000), plus 10 “outstanding merit” awards of $1,000 each.

Deadline: Annually; 2016 deadline was January 15.

21. The Diana Woods Memorial Award in Creative Non-Fiction

Creative nonfiction essays of no more than 5,000 words on any subject, are eligible for consideration for this award, whose winner receives $250 and publication in Lunch Ticket, the literary and art journal produced by the MFA community of Antioch University Los Angeles. Works must not have been published elsewhere. Award winners are required to submit a 100-word biography, recent photo and a short note thanking the Woods family for their generosity and support.

Deadlines: Biannual reading periods are the month of February for the Summer/Fall issue and the month of August for the Winter/Spring issue.

Poetry contests

Curious about opportunities for poets? Your stanzas — rhyming or not — could be worth a fair amount of money in these competitions.

22. Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award

Open to African American poets, previously published or not, this award provides a $500 prize and publication by Boardside Lotus Press for the best book-length collection of poems (approximately 60 to 90 pages).

Deadline: Annually on March 1.

23. James Laughlin Award

If you’re already a published poet, this is the award for you; it’s given for a second book of poetry due to come out in the forthcoming year. The winner receives $5,000 and an all-expenses-paid week-long residency. In addition, copies of her book are distributed to the 1,000 members of the Academy of American Poets.

Deadline: Annual submission window is January 1 through May 15.

24. African Poetry Book Fund Prizes

The APBF awards three prizes annually for African Poetry. The Glenna Luschei Prize for Afican Poetry gives $5,000 for a book of original African poetry published in the prior year.

The Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets gives $1,000 and a publication contract for an unpublished book-length collection of poetry by an African author.

The Brunel University African Poetry Prize is a new prize that grants £3,000 to a poet who was born in Africa, is a national of an African country or has African parents, who has not yet had a full-length book of poetry published. (U.S. citizens qualify.) To submit, you’ll need 10 poems.

Deadlines: See individual prize pages.

25. Tufts Poetry Awards

Claremont Graduate University presents two awards each year to poets they deem to be “outstanding.” The Kate Tufts Poetry Award grants $10,000 for a published first book of poetry that shows promise.

The Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award grants a mammoth $100,000 for a published book of poetry by an an established or mid-career poet.

Deadline: Books published between September 1 and June 30 of each year are eligible for the following year’s prize. The deadline for 2016 awards has not yet been announced.

Writing contests with multiple categories

Some contests accept submissions in multiple categories, so you could submit a novella as well as a poem or other work.

26. Binghamton University Book Awards

Sponsored by the Binghamton Center for Writers — State University of New York, this competition offers a $1,000 prize for work published in the previous year in two separate categories. The John Gardner Fiction Book Award goes to the best novel or collection of fiction, while the Milt Kessler Poetry Book award goes to the best book of poems.

Deadline: Annually on March 1.

27. Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition

(Editor’s note: We were so excited to include this competition that we overlooked its entry fees. We’ll leave it in the post for those interested in submitting their work, but please note that this contest is not free.)

One of the longest-running writing competitions — it’s now in its 83rd year — this contest spotlights up and coming writers in a number of categories, including Memoirs/Personal Essay, Magazine Feature Article and Genre Short story.

The Grand Prize winner gets $5,000, a feature in Writer’s Digest magazine, a paid trip to a writing conference and more. Runners-up earn prizes in first through tenth places.

Deadline: Annually; May 6, 2016.  

28. Prose’s $100 Challenge of the Week

Flex your creative muscles and try out different forms with this weekly challenge based on a wide variety of prompts. (At the time of writing, the weekly prompt is to write a haiku or tanka about the supernatural.) The winning submission is selected based on factors like “fire, form, and creative edge” and the winner receives $100.

Deadline: Weekly.

Beyond writing…

29. Publish or Perish Writing Contest

Writing a great book is only half the battle; you also need a fantastic marketing plan to make sure it gets in front of the right eyes. This contest sponsored by Brigantine Media awards writers who submit a well-edited manuscript (for a book in any genre) along with a detailed promotional strategy. The winner receives a publishing contract with Brigantine as well as a $2,000 advance.

Deadline: Last year’s deadline has passed; stay tuned for updates on this year’s contest, which starts in April 2016.

Where to find more legitimate, free writing contests

Looking for more opportunities to submit your work to writing contests? Here are a few great sites to keep an eye on.

Winning Writers

A number of the contests found on our list came highly recommended by this site, which compiles some of the best free literary contests out there. You can sort contests by recommendation level (Highly Recommended, Recommended or Neutral), view plenty of info on requirements and even see which contests are better for beginners, intermediate writers and pros.

They also offer a handful of contests themselves, including the Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest (which sounds delightful).

Poets & Writers

Another fantastic source for legitimate writing contests I consulted when compiling this list, Poets & Writers vets competitions, contests, awards and grants to make sure they’re following legitimate practises and policies. It’s worth checking out regularly as it features both annual and one-time contests.

Cathy’s Comps and Calls

Writer, poet and editor Cathy Bryant sources legitimate, free-to-enter writing contests and calls for submission. She releases a new list of contests and calls each month, so check back monthly for new opportunities.

Are you planning to enter any writing contests this year? Which ones?

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Kelly Gurnett runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits and is growing her own freelance writing, editing and blogging empire day by day. You can follow her on Twitter and .

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Kelly Gurnett
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Comments

  1. What a brilliant list! Thank you. Thank you too for the mention of Comps and Calls – I love finding free writing competitions, and some of them have very impressive prizes. I’m one of those old-fashioned writers who think that we should be paid for our work – and free comps are a great way of achieving that.

    • I’m with you on that “old-fashioned” notion. 🙂

    • Our university just launched a new competition (no entry fee, no gimmicks) called FutureScapes. We’re an innovation office, and we’re looking for help from writers to help us envision cities of the future. Hugo-Award winning author Mary Robinette Kowal will be our judge this inaugural year. $2,000 for first place.

      http://www.futurescapescontest.com/

    • Old fashioned notions were/are just once legitimate notions of claims for money or what else, when in a time there were hardly or very little amount of writing gigs to get; let alone having someone getting paid for it. Now it is like there are too many people as working in the business here of transposing things across for a living. That really the only thing these vetted competitions do now is, just bunch up a bunch of people who cannot write, among judges judging as judges cannot much write either, and they sit around give a small vagabond gift amount of money in discovery for those who suck less at it. As really a sign should go up before hand about how real writers we really need not to apply here anymore. As none of the spirit of writing is left of writing. Everyone writes politically correct as only to affirm the lack for want of any real creativity getting dispersed.

  2. Here’s another competition for your list, this one for women only, memoir and contemporary/historical fiction: http://www.storycircle.org/SartonLiteraryAward/

    For guidelines for this year’s competition: http://www.storycircle.org/SartonLiteraryAward/guidelines.php

    Susan Wittig Albert
    Sarton Award Coordinator

  3. Thanks for this excellent list, Kelly!

    I’ll be adding a direct link to it to my recent post over at The Kill Zone called “Indie Book Contests 2015” http://killzoneblog.com/2015/02/indie-book-contests-2015.html

    and I’ll also add a link on my ongoing, continually updated list of Writers’ Conferences & Book Festivals in North America:

    http://jodierennerediting.blogspot.ca/2014/08/writers-conferences-book-festivals-sept.html

  4. Apologies for the n00b question but out of interest – when they say ‘unpublished’ – do they mean unpublished which would include self published ebooks?

    And if you were to submit something previously published on Kindle or Smashwords or the like – could you take it down for a period and still be considered?

    Cheers Dave

    • I’d check the specific guidelines for each contest. Some specify whether situations like self-publication are acceptable or not. If the guidelines don’t go into any detail on that, you could always try contacting the organization sponsoring the contest.

      I’m not sure about pulling down something that HAS previously been published, however. That feels like a risky gamble that might get you in trouble.

  5. Thanks for posting this list. When it comes to short stories, I never think about competitions and always look for publications instead.

    This is a great reminder of another valid option.

  6. Francis H. Geis says:

    Thanks, Kelly, for this interesting article and list. One does have to watch out for scams and ineffective ways of publishing your work. And entering legitimate writing contests sounds a lot more challenging and rewarding.

    When I was a college student, I had written some poems and essays, and was encouraged by friends to get them published. Being the babe in the woods I was at the time, I got about 30 to 40 copies published through a local “vanity press,” which cost me about $80 at the time. Learned my lesson to avoid being so vain.

  7. Hello Kelly! Thank you for providing us with this awesome list! 😀

  8. Good compilation, will be of great help to me.
    Thanks for sharing.

  9. Correction: the Writer’s Digest contests are NOT free to enter. There are different fees listed on the site, as follows:

    “Early-Bird Entry fees are $25 for the first manuscript; $20 for each additional entry submitted during the same transaction. Poems are $15 for the first entry; $10 for each additional poem submitted submitted during the same transaction. Entries submitted after the May 4, 2015 Early-Bird deadline are $30 for the first manuscript; $25 for each additional entry submitted during the same transaction. Poems are $20 for the first entry; $15 for each additional poem submitted submitted during the same transaction.”

  10. This was a lot of work, but such a great resource for writers. Thanks for sharing this!

  11. I’m just so stunned that the horrid poetry-competition people had so little concern for such a young aspirant poet, what a sick twisted lot they are, and you’re right, this kind of dream-baiting continues. Sharks and charlatans all, but the good thing is that you didn’t give up on your dream of writing, so you go girl -go for gold and more power to you!

    • Sadly, there are all sorts of ways writers and wannabe writers can fall into the wrong hands, from scam competitions to content mills that pay pennies per word. It’s all about knowing where to look for the legitimate resources. (This site is a great place to start.) 🙂

      • I wrote a piece to this site called the Eber & Wein publishing.
        how well do you know about them? is this site scam? I never
        sent in any money I was told I could win cash, and prizes, and
        my name can be in this analogy. then you have to buy that.

    • Thanks for the list. Please can you give more lists for contests for African writers?

  12. Great list of resources for free contests. I quite often scour Poets & Writers for possibilities and have heard of some of the others, like Story Circle Network, but some of these were quite new to me. Appreciate the time it takes to curate such a list and so glad you shared it with us. I’ll be passing it along to some of my friends and followers.

  13. Sucharita Mukherjee says:

    Can I join this Writing Contests ? I live in India.
    Kindly respond me.

    Thanks.

    Date..19/02/2015.
    Sucharita Mukherjee

    prithakaur19@gmail.com

  14. Ian Kalman says:

    This is a great list but is this just for writers in the US. I am in the UK.

  15. Thank you so much. I’m so inspired seeing these all lined up in one place. Cheers!

  16. Jessica Jacob says:

    This is well time for me and I am excited. I’m looking for ways to gain money for my Master’s and get recognized for the love of my heart: writing. I’m applying to some now and even composing new pieces. I’ve even set aside a certain amount of money that I’m writing to give to enter.

  17. Appreciate this list, my writing goal for this year- well, one of them, is to seek new writing and publishing opportunities and challenges. Thank you.

  18. We provide a contest where you get paid either way, so long as you make the cut. It’s a bit different from the average writing contest, in that it is a public head to head battle. Check out thewritersarena.com for more info.

  19. Here’s another one that’s totally free to enter: http://culturedvultures.com/poem-week/

  20. Thanks for sharing, posted your site on my blog: hoyeocmova.com

  21. At FanStory.com we have a membership fee $6.95 per month (or $48 for one year or $67 for two years). With the membership fee you can enter all of our contests at no charge. That’s over 50 contests every month. Some have a cash prize ($100) and others are just for the fun of the competition.

  22. Wish to get info on free contests for poets in Nigeria.

  23. Thanks! Really helpful 🙂

  24. Salvatore Valentine says:

    Hey Ms. Kelly,
    I really need advice. I’m a produced playwright who recently
    completed a minute guide to better grooming, etiquette and something I call. “The Man Rules.” My manuscript owes much of its existence and tone to Giovanni Della Casa’s sixteenth century classic “Galateo” or the Rules of Polite Behavior. Published posthumously in 1558 it was written primarily to his nephew Annibale as a sort of road map of life from a loving uncle.
    Where do I go with a book of this nature?

  25. I have been searching for a list of poetry competitions that cater to international poets, you have given me a blessing. i deeply appreciate this. i intend to post some of your lists here on my blog, Poetry, My Love. i will also link my post back to this site. Thanks once again.

  26. Hello Kelly,
    Great list of contests. I’ve entered one and hope the submission does well. I have been watching for the 2015 Real Simple Essay contest. I cannot find anything on this year’s contest. I think it starts in May each year. Do you have any information about it? Thank you – Jim
    PS – The NFB Writers Division has an annual contest for blind or visully impaired writers. You may want to look at that too.

  27. Shelley says:

    Please do not consider the L.Ron Hubbard Sci-Fi contest either ethical or “legitmate.” As a fourth year English student at SFU, I submitted a story I was writing for one of my creative writing classes. These were the early 80’s-days before word processors and the internet. My paper had been typed by hand- and a copy had been submitted and assessed by the (then) head of the SFU English Dep’t, the late Prof. Temple Maynard.
    Other than a “please subscribe to Church of Scientology” mail-outs I never heard from this organization in regard to the contest. The Scientology propaganda continued for years. I DO NOT recommend this contest for legitimate writers of Sci-Fi.

    • I’m sorry you had such a bad experience, but respectfully, you might want to get more current insight before discrediting a competition that you entered 30 years ago. I’ve submitted to the Writers of the Future Contest a number of times over the past five years and I’ve never received one word from them on scientology, or anything not related to the contest. It’s a legitimate and well-respected award and anthology within the scifi community; you discredit not only the contest itself but those who’ve worked hard to place in it. I recommend picking up one of their recent anthologies when you have time, it will give you an idea of what the contest is about these days.

  28. Molly B. says:

    Okay, I have a question. I entered a contest a while back, somewhere in April I think, and a few weeks ago I got a letter saying that my poem is going to be in a book in September, and more prizes will be awarded in the future. The contest is being held by The American Library of Poetry, and I was wondering if you knew anything about it before I pay for the book. It doesn’t say I have to pay to see my work in print, and it doesn’t say I really have to buy the book at all (though they do recommend it). I just want your opinion before sign anything. Thanks!

    • Do not pay for this book. They’ve been doing this scam for years. I paid for the so-called book when I was in high school and never received it.

  29. Thank you for a great list!! I just have a comment about Real Simple’s contest. The theme you note in your bullet above is actually an expired theme. They change the theme each year. I thought I’d point it out in case you want to change your wording to a more generic type?

  30. Anonymous says:

    Do you have an updated list of upcoming contests? I’m just now re-learning about writing contests and entry requirements but some of the deadlines have already passed or contests are closed. Any updates would be greatly appreciated.

    • We’ll refresh this post over the winter to make sure the contests we included are still active, and update any rule/date changes. For now, please be sure to check the submission dates of the contests you’re interested in!

      Lisa
      TWL Team

  31. Thanks for putting together this list. As social media manager for the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild, I have begun looking for information about contests and conferences to add to the guild’s website. I have mentioned your list, included your name and the link to the list of the site. Your list is a great beginning for providing information to our members.

  32. I appreciate all the information guys but does anyone happen to know any fiction contests with no entry fee?

  33. What a helpful article! For those of you who are looking for ongoing writing competitions on a new innovative platform, come check us out at http://www.theprose.com

  34. Juliana Herrera says:

    i would like to join the contest

  35. I am amazed to see English poetry contest is only for American/ African writers.
    I am an Indian can I participate any contest???????????

    • M.J.,

      Each contest has its own rules, and since we’re based in the U.S. we tend to focus on “local” competitions and opportunities. But we’re always looking at ways to include more international content!

      Lisa
      TWL Team

  36. As a creative writer I have been through the ups and downs of writing. The major downside being a lack of financial opportunities. This can be very discouraging for the writer and may cause them to divert in other paths of life just to satisfy a deficit in income. I created a website for creative writers (shorty story and poetry enthusiasts) to give them an extra incentive to continue writing.

    Whether they are jobless, going to school, ex-writers who desperately need to reengage in the art, or writers with jobs who need extra money, our goal is to show these writers that we are willing to help. We host contests weekly and generate new topics to spark their originality and creativity and pay cash prizes to the first and second prize winners. We are a fairly new site and can only issue so much but we are hoping that along the way of our growth the prize purse for each contest would increase.

    We are an easy to use, ad-free, writing website that offers a multitude of resources for creative writers. From blogs on writing tips to writing contests we wish to expand our network and branch out to every single creative writer who is looking for some extra cash. If you wish to extend a helping hand to writers in dire need of other opportunities and are an advocate for the fine art of creative writing, we ask that you please help us spread the word of our website. http://www.chatterboxchapel.com/Writing_Contest.html

    We thank you all who are actively involved in encouraging writers to continue honing their creativity with this wonderful and rewarding craft.

    Thank you,
    G.C. Gobin

  37. Thank you for all the info. Been out of writting for awhile in the working world. Thought since I have some free time again I would like to get back into it. Have really missed the freedom of writting.

  38. Great resource!

    Free entry available over here at Cultured Vultures: http://culturedvultures.com/poem-week/

    • As the founder, writer and editor of Chatterboxchapel.com, I can assure you and many who are skeptical about contests requiring a fee, that our website contests are legitimate and have strictly enforced rules determining eligibility.

      We do understand that there are “scammy contests” as you say, that will actually accept any entrance fee regardless of the laws in specific states. What makes us different Mr. Donnellan is that we actually abide by all of the laws and had to void our contests in certain areas due to strict state laws rather than just accept money from all participants whether valid or invalid.

      There have actually been a list of participants that I personally have had to refund money to based on ineligibility according to their state’s laws.

      It is common for contests to charge entrance fees for many reasons and we do understand feelings of resent and animosity that may derive from those websites trying to stay afloat add provide opportunities. We understand your position and feelings, we are aware that it can be tedious for outsiders to try and understand the end goal of every website, foundation, organization, or business. For an outsider it is overwhelming to try to analyze their behind the scenes operation without even having the slightest clue of all of the leg work, and effort it entails to manage and run.

      We are aware that there are many scams who just enjoy collecting money by promoting dreams and empty promises to gullible candidates, and it is unfortunate that their immoral means of business practices have to indirectly sabotage the names of upcoming businesses that have the potential to become part of the list of legitimate and reputable resources. All we can ask is that you not allow one rotten apple to be a representative for the entire apple family.

      Thank you kindly in advance for your reevaluation on the subject.

      Sincerely,

      G.C.Gobin

      • Gregory, I believe Jimmy’s only sin in this thread was posting a link to his own website twice — I don’t think he even commented about the website you run. This might be a case of, “Be curious, not furious!”

        Lisa
        TWL Editor

  39. This listing has really directed towards becoming the writer that I would like to be. I greatly appreciate you taking the time to create this list and really think your an amazing individual or organization.

    Thanks!!
    Nick

  40. Eric Gibson says:

    I have a book that I think that you would like and I really think that It could go far.

  41. On your last list, there was a place that you had listed, called “the mix” I sent them 2 samples of my work a month ago. I haven’t heard anything yet. Will they get back with me? And if I were to be lucky enough for them to use one or both of my stories, would there be a problem if I were to add these stories to my blog?
    Thank you!

    • Donna, I’ve heard of writers waiting for several weeks before finding out whether they’ve been invited to participate in The Mix. If they invite you to participate, you’ll have to follow the rules they outline re: reposting on their blog.

      Good luck!

      Lisa
      TWL Editor

  42. How neat! I’ll have to check some of these out.

  43. GLORY MUSHI says:

    I am so impressed with this site,i write poems and i hope this will help me through my passion.

  44. Christina says:

    Thank you so much for putting this list together!

  45. Hey! We are just launching a writing contest, we are a small team in Vancouver and we are offering fair contests with $20 entry fees and an accumulative Payout, depending on the amount of entries.

    Checkout our new web site: diocane.ca

  46. Alexander Weaver says:

    You know that your literature is fresh when your cat meows at every paragraph.

  47. Thanks for this. Finding them for us.

  48. Lmao “Anisfield”

  49. Osime Manchester says:

    This is a great work you have put out here Kelly. Please keep the Flag flying.

  50. Wow- these look promising, checking them out right now. Also, for kids is a great one in the US: http://www.poeticpower.com
    It has a poetry and essay contest for kids.

  51. Great article Kelly! Thanks for posting and Heather for editing.

    We work with authors and other types of creators and hear so many stories about people paying these entry fees blindly; paradoxically we have had several folks tell us that they look for the highest entry fees because they think it’s a signal of legitimacy.

    I work at Neoglyphic Entertainment and I’d like to throw our hat in the ring – our Neoverse Short Story Writing Competition is free to enter, has $3,500 in total prizes ($2,000 for 1st place) and all winners are published in an anthology in print and digital. http://neoglyphic.com/contest

    We just launched it but have been receiving some great entries so far. The aim is to make this a regular contest (much more frequent than annual), but depends on how many quality entries we get. We believe there are so many great undiscovered stories out there and giving visibility and some cash reward is the least we can do to support writers.

    • I was wondering, if my story was published, do you supply something that I could use to prove that I am “published” – I see a lot of contests that require you to have been previously published before entering, and wondering if this type of publication would count for that requirement. This is all new to me, so I apologize if the question is mundane

      Thank you,
      Diana

      • Diana – I can only speak for our contest, but we have said that for those winners interested we can provide a digital “sticker” that they could put on their own website or cover art. Also as we will be publishing the winners anthology, that can always be found by online search if a future contest you enter has such a requirement.

  52. The Neoverse short story contest will publish the top 20 entries but only pay anything to the top 10 — and it reserves the right to pay fewer than 10. And the contest only started this year. Sounds like a scam to me.

    • Monica – thanks for your comment.

      I can assure we are not a scam – anything but. We do not have any profit motive at all for the Neoverse contest. Our mission is to give visibility to authors and help them achieve their potential.

      We could have published just the cash prize winners (top 10) but we wanted to give all those shortlisted the chance to say they had been published. The reason for the clause giving us freedom to award less than the full amount of awards is because when we launched the contest we had no idea of the volume or quality of submissions we would receive. I can tell you now that we have been humbled and overwhelmed with the number and quality of submissions and look forward to publishing the whole shortlist.

      In addition to the prize money, and publishing, we also are free to enter and let the author retain all ownership rights. On our side we need a license in order to publish, which is in the rules, and also ask that if you do sell the rights in the future you tell us so we have the opportunity to buy them from you at no less than what your other offer is.

      Hope that clarifies!
      Cheers!

  53. This is a very useful article. And this is so true that scam website has caused many mind to get diverted to evade writing. Thank you for such a great article that brings up so many true sites. I am from India and wont be able to get entry in any one of the above. Is there any international stage eligibility in any place? I am eager to share my poems.

  54. Should I need to pay $50 here if I am going to entry my poem? I thought,it was just free!

  55. Thank you for this!

  56. There are so many options. How do i know which one to pick.

  57. Hi,
    Thanks for compiling this list! I looked into a few of the contests listed above but it seems like it is more for adults. My daughter is currently in the sixth grade so I’d like to know if there are any legitimate contests for younger writers or if there is anything you recommend that I do for her. I really want to help her out with her dreams of becoming a writer but don’t know where to start. I greatly appreciate your time!
    Lisa

  58. Uh, I looked at the official rules for the Nelson Algren Awards (click the link on the bottom of the contest’s submissions page to see them). The submission deadline is actually January 31. Please correct it. I was planning on working on something for it.

  59. Few poetry contests. I’m from Myanmar and I’ve written 3 poems in English under the topics of hardships and life. I’m 23 years old. I wish someone would suggest me to get my poems involved somewhere internationally and have been read. This country doesn’t give us any chance.

  60. #7’s deadline was 2 years ago, it says that it was September of 2014

    • We’re actually working on an update to this post as I type. Stay tuned for updated deadlines and maybe even a few new contests to check out!
      Thanks for reading,
      Lisa Rowan
      Editor

  61. You have done a great service to the creative community by putting this information together. Thank you!

  62. Hi Guys,
    We’re accepting submissions for the Second Annual Ann & Dan Very Short Story Contest (February 2016). Free entry, $25 first prize, $15 second prize, $10 third prize.

    Go see:
    https://annanddanveryshortcontest.wordpress.com/

  63. David Weinstein says:

    Here’s a website, Write the World, that offers monthly writing contests for teen writers on a variety of topics: http://www.writetheworld.com

  64. You have done a great job and impact many lives positively through the combine lists you give us free. I’m from Nigeria written more than 40 books, but I’m desiring to contest for writing competition.

  65. Another resource: THE PRACTICING WRITER, a free newsletter that I have published since 2004. It features ONLY no-fee contests that offer cash prizes (and ONLY no-fee-to-submit calls from publishers and publications that pay writers for their work). See http://www.erikadreifus.com/newsletter/current/ for the current issue, and check with the Practicing Writing blog for between-newsletter “Monday Markets” posts for more of the same: http://www.erikadreifus.com/blogs/practicing-writing/.

  66. Great list! Thank you.

    You said you are based in the US; so you know more of the competitions there. However, your website is accessible worldwide, and I am sure you have many subscribers from all over the world. Could you please compile a worldwide list? Thanks in advance.

  67. Sheila Zimmerman says:

    Yet another GREAT article, for it reads like my response when I sent my poetry in to the Nat. Library of Poetry. I also paid $40 for the anthology in the mid-nineties. However, I did not see Glimmer Train listed and was just about to submit a short story, and was delayed in writing by a sinus issue. Perhaps it was not coincidental. This was a TWL article referral. I appreciate you Lisa for your updates. Thanks Kelly for the list!

  68. Thank you for the info. I entered a contest today at Endever Publishing Studios. This is a new publishing company. Entry fee is $10. Short stories only. 500 words or less. Deadline is THIS Thursday February 25, 2016. If you are interested here’s the link:

    https://adoptingjames.wordpress.com/2016/01/25/writing-contest-and-publishing-company-reveal/

  69. Wow, thanks! I like exploring various forms of writing and these are great opportunities!

  70. Hi Kelly,

    Here’s another free writing contest for your list. New York Sports Connection is accepting essays on sportsmanship for its second-annual teen essay contest. There is no fee to enter, and the best essays in several age groups will win prizes valued at up to $500 for the the best original, never-before-published essays that promote sportsmanship and fair play. Essays should be between 400 and 500 words long. More details are available at https://www.newyorksportsconnection.com/nysc-essay-contest/. The contest is open to young writers age 12-18 who are residents of New York City (Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens or Staten Island). The deadline is April 30, 2016.

  71. Emily Shore says:

    Aren’t there any free contests geared towards unpublished authors of young adult fiction novels?

  72. My daughter is 12 and an avid writer. She’s just self-published an ebook ‘Diced’ through Lulu.com. She wants to enter writer’s competitions, but has only ever found one that fits her age group…and now she’s too old for that one. Any ideas? She writes poetry, short stories, and her recent ebook is a 20,000 word novella (Urban fiction).

  73. thanks for the great help Kelly.

  74. Thanks a lot Kelly for this priceless help.

  75. Can you recommend any of these competitions for me . I live outside of the US in the Caribbean ? Which ones can i enter . I would appreciate any input. Thank you.

  76. placide bienaime says:

    Great! Good job!

  77. I can’t explain how it happened but when I felt the need to write I let my motivation took part of what I had to do. My elementary school teacher believed that I could of had the best of my experience. And I got older, I didn’t think. I decided to experience the most wild and exciting time of writing poetry. Learning and motivation.

  78. I really love poems and they keep me busy,
    So I would like to join this community and write and get published.
    Poems can reduce stress and can make you feel happy or bad.

  79. Veronique Jackson says:

    THANK YOU !!!! thank you so much for this list!!

  80. I am writing to you on behalf of Words and Brushes, a project that brings together writers and artists. We are currently working on our second collaboration in which writers will write a short story based on a chosen artwork and use their imagination to create a story inspired by that piece.

    This is an international competition open to all published and unpublished writers. They can select one or more paintings from the image gallery to write a story about. Please visit at wordsandbrushes.com for complete details.

  81. Leighanne says:

    There aren’t enough writing contests for young adults. I am 17 and
    I can’t seem to find any!

  82. It is regrettable that I have only discovered the writing competitions when the one I would have liked to enter has its deadline round the corner which means I do not have enough time to work on it. Thank you for posting the various competitions which can serve as training for those like me who have not yet published anything.
    The one I am particularly interested in is the Writers Digest Annual Writing Competition. Hopefully I will be able to enter it for next year.
    The post has been an eye opener.

  83. Afolau Akindele Anthony says:

    Tank so you much…this will go a long way.

  84. It’s a shame that these contests can’t be open to everyone regardless of race, age or gender. Pure discrimination, in my opinion.

  85. Jude Bame says:

    Thanks a million for this list. I think I will try some of them out.

  86. Kimberlydawn says:

    I think I got my poem published in that exact same big thick hardcover book (available at Barnes and Noble) you mention at the start of this article, and no…I did not purchase it….I did not even go into the store to look at it! Stage of Life features free writing contests. The prizes do not involve cash; however, they are legit….$50 gift cards….I have won twice, so I know!

  87. Brit Hagin says:

    I wish there were more short story submission websites for caucasian writers. I couldn’t even look at half of them because they were either poetry only or african american only. 🙁

  88. Thank you for the list, it will surely prove useful. I do want to voice a concern, for whatever worth it may be: there are several contests limited to who may submit, based on race and gender, and while I understand this limitation to some degree, I also think it a bit silly with how progressive we attempt to be as a global community. I don’t have to be of one sex or a specific race to write about any one thing or another, even the opposite sex or a race other than my own. I’ve found the best realization to date, in that it doesn’t matter who says a particular thing, it matters what particular thing was said. A good thinker is a good thinker regardless of the boxes that line the form that are often optional (i.e., race, sex, religion, etc.), and a good thinker who can write well and is worth reading is far more exceptional. For what it’s worth.

  89. Thank you so much for this info’s Ms. Kelly 🙂 so helpful.
    I’m planning to write a story with a genre of fantasy and romance. I’m an amateur and has no experience of publishing any of my works (since I’m a Filipina, so my works are Tagalog). Can you recommend some site for this?

  90. Thanks for the brilliant list! Unfortunately, as a permanent resident in Canada, I cannot participate in most of these competitions 🙁
    Would you happen to know any trustworthy (if possible free) Canadian based competitions?
    Many thanks in advance!
    Paula x

  91. Eugenia Rodgers says:

    Thank you for the work you have done to compile this list of competitions for us. Just about all of these are for boosk already written or short stories. Are there any competitions for essay writing? Currently I am involved in Creative writing through Family & Community Education formally named Home Demonstration Club. The only money involved is an annual membership fee of $10.00. I look forward to your response.
    Eugenia Rodgers

  92. Thanks for sharing this with us keep post….

  93. Thanks for sharing this article I will have to follow the rules they outline If i was invited you to participate.

  94. Hello! I was really interested in the L. Ron Hubbard Writer of the Future Contest. The entry dates were Jan 1st, April 1st, July 1st, and October 1st. Are these all annual? Like they do it once a year on all these dates? Thanks for the great list ma’am. My name is Jessie, and I’m fourteen. 🙂

  95. My daughter Ann really writes good articles.We are Kenyans can she participate?

  96. Does anyone know if ex pats can apply to these as well?

Trackbacks

  1. […] From The Write Life, a roundup of 27 free and legitimate writing contests. […]

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  6. […] 27 Free Writing Contests: Legitimate Competitions With Cash Prizes by Kelly Gurnett (NOTE: Do your own research about any contest you enter.) […]

  7. […] But never fear – help is near. There are a huge amount of free (yes, you heard right – free) competitions that you can enter. And, best of all, some of them pay big bucks. You’ll never know if you […]

  8. […] 7 Important Awards for Writing. The Write List has also compiled this (more recent) handy list of 27 Free Writing Contests: Legitimate Competitions with Cash Prizes. […]

  9. […] Again, you’ll have to deal with some rejection. Not every editor or judge will consider your brilliant writing, well, brilliant. Not to worry, however. If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Here’s a wonderful list of free, reputable writing competitions to get your creative juices flowing: 27 Free Writing Contests: Legitimate Competitions with Cash Prizes. […]

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  11. […] non-stop for an hour. Try flash fiction or writing with photo prompts. Enter contests. Write 1000 words and include 10 words you don’t normally use (consult a thesaurus). Take […]

  12. […] If you like entering writing contests, here’s a list of free contests from the Write Life: 27 Free Writing Contests: Legitimate Competitions With Cash Prizes […]

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  14. […] The Write Life shared a list of free writing contests you can enter for fiction/non-fiction and poetry. Spent the afternoon researching the entry requirements. […]

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