Writing Contests

Writing contests are one of the ways the Book Smuggler’s Den encourages writers to gain confidence and get your work in front of as many readers as possible. Contests are also a way of building a report and can help you attract the attention of an editor. Plus, contests are a blast! Below are some upcoming contests that we encourage you to submit to.

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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. 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. Deadline: February and August of each year Fee: None Prize: $250 and publication in Lunch Ticket

Flash Fiction – True Story For this contest your challenge is to write a flash fiction story – that is a true story. Share your humorous, serious, embarrassing, life-changing or any true story for this flash fiction writing contest. Cash prize to the winner! Deadline: 11/05/2019 Fee: $9.95 Prize: $100

Erma Bombeck Writing Competition The Erma Bombeck Writing Competition, sponsored biennially by the Washington-Centerville Public in conjunction with the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, pays tribute to Erma Bombeck, one of the greatest humorists of our times. Previously unpublished personal essays of 450 words or less that capture the essence of Erma’s writings will be accepted in the humor and human interest categories. Entries are accepted from anywhere in the world, and all will be blind judged by a panel of accomplished authors, columnists, screenwriters, stand-up comedians and writing teachers. Bill Bryson, best known for his humorous books on travel as well as a variety of other genres, including the English language, science, history, and non-fiction, will serve as the finalist judge for the humor essays. Jess Montgomery, a columnist and author of historical mysteries, will serve as the finalist judge for the human interest essays. Deadline: 01/06/2020 Fee: $15. Prize: Four winners will receive $1,000 and free registration to the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

Non-Fiction Writing Contest Share your non-fiction writing to enter this contest. Share your writing on any topic. Can be a funny piece, serious, true story or informational. Any type of non-fiction is welcomed. Deadline: 02/21/2020 Fee: $9.95 Prize: $100


100 Word Flash Fiction Writing Contest Can you share a complete story with only 100 words? That is the challenge of this writing contest. Enter a story but use only 100 words. Cash prize to the winner. Deadline: 02/28/2020 Fee: $9.95 Prize $100

2019 Accenti Writing Contest The contest is open to prose works. Entries can be fiction, non-fiction or creative non-fiction. Entries must be previously unpublished and not under consideration by any other publication. Entries must be original and not a translation of a previously published work. Deadline: 02/03/2020 Fee: $30.00 Prize: $1000.00 (CDN) and publication in Accenti

2020 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award Since 2008, the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Awards have recognized the best stories from the previous year told through various media utilizing the elements of mystery, thriller, and/or suspense. Judges are professional writers, book reviewers, librarians, academics, and—in specialized cases—specific industry peers. Focus is on quality, not popularity. Deadline: 06/01/2020 Fee: None Prize: $250

Arizona Mystery Writers Mary Ann Hutchison Memorial Story Contest for Youths All writers 9-16 years of age (at time of entry) can enter – and anyone can win! Send in your short story in mystery, suspense, or thriller style. Entries may be up to 2500 words (about 10 double-spaced pages). It’s loads of fun and a good exercise of your writing skills. You can submit more than one story if you like. Entries are judged “blind,” that is, without the judges knowing who wrote the stories. Everybody is equal before the panel of judges! Therefore DO NOT PUT YOUR NAME OR ANY IDENTIFYING INFORMATION ON THE STORY. If you’re too old for this contest, give the information to your children or grandchildren. Deadline: 02/01/2020 Fee: None Prize: 1st Place – $50

Annual Barren Flash Fiction Prize Our first annual flash fiction contest. Rules and instructions are listed on our website. Deadline: 10/30/2019 Fee: $5 Prize: 1st Place Prize: 40% of total entry fees

Chicago Tribune’s Nelson Algren Literary Awards A nationally recognized contest for original short fiction, named in honor of the Chicago literary great Nelson Algren. The contest has been held annually since 1981. The award has been presented to a number of distinguished authors, including Louise Erdrich and Stuart Dybek. Deadline: 01/31/2019 Fee: None Prize: $3,500

Daisy Pettles Women Writers Writing Contest The Daisy Pettles Women Writers Writing Contest is open to women writers, age 40+, published or unpublished. Fiction or Non-Fiction writing projects are eligible. Poetry is excluded. Deadline: 02/15/2020 Fee: $45 Prize: Grand Prize $1,000

Dream Quest One Poetry & Writing Contest Open to anyone who enjoys expressing innermost thoughts and feelings into the beautiful literary art of writing a story that’s worth telling everyone! Welcome to all, having the ability to dream. Write a short story, 5 pages maximum length, on any subject or theme, fiction or non-fiction (including essay compositions, diary, journal entries, short screenplays, and screenwriting). Also, all entries must be either typed or legibly hand-printed. Deadline: 12/28/2019 Fee: $10 per short story Prize: $500

fresh.ink (that’s an intentional lowercase), a new platform that connects writers with beta readers. Submissions will be judged by readers on the fresh.ink mobile app, based on how many people finish reading your work and how they rate it. Deadline: 12/01/2019 Fee: None Prize: Up to $3,000

The Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans This creative writing contest for U.S. military veterans and active-duty personnel is hosted by The Iowa Review and made possible by a gift from the family of Jeff Sharlet (1942–69), a Vietnam veteran and antiwar writer and activist. The contest is open to veterans and active-duty personnel writing in any genre and about any subject matter. Deadline: 05/31/2020 Fee: None Prize: $1,000 plus publication in an issue of The Iowa Review

L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest is an opportunity for new writers of science fiction and fantasy to have their work judged by some of the masters in the field and discovered by a wide audience. 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. Deadline: 12/31/2019 Fee: None Prize: $1000

“Motion” International Call – Art & Literature Journal Moving or being moved. Shifting, stirring, changing places. The rise and fall. Progress, flow and change in self and society. Dance, sports, adrenalin. Pushing limits, breaking boundaries. Motion is all around us and lives through us. Share your vision of MOTION. Deadline: 10/31/2019 Fee: $15 + Prize: $500 for first place; $250 for second and third place

New Voices Award 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 2019 deadline has passed, please check back for updates Fee: None Prize: $1,000 cash and a standard publication contract

Halloween Flash Fiction Share a Halloween Horror story for this writing contest. But the catch is you only have 500 words (or less) to do it. Share your horror story by Halloween to enter this flash fiction writing contest. Deadline: 10/31/2019 Fee: $9.95 Prize: $100

Scribble Short Story Contest for Beginning and Emerging Writers The Editors of Scribble welcome those who have never been published and those who’ve had short fiction published up to several times to submit for the chance to win a cash prize and publication in Scribble’s January 2020 edition. Deadline: 12/01/2019 Fee: $12.00 Prize: $200

ServiceScape Short Story Award For this award, any genre or theme of short story is accepted. All applicants should submit their original unpublished work of short fiction or nonfiction, 5,000 words or fewer, to be considered. Deadline: 11/29/2019 Fee: None Prize: $1,000.00 USD, and the winner will have his or her short story featured on the blog

The Cosmos Prize First Fandom Experience is a cooperative publishing project whose goal is to honor, preserve, and bring to life the story of the “first fans” — the pioneers who were instrumental in defining, driving, and growing science fiction and fantasy in the 1930s and beyond. First Fandom Experience is so-named because we hope to capture — or even recreate — the sense of what it was like to participate in the inception and early growth of organized science fiction fandom. To this end, we’re pleased to announce our first writing contest: The Cosmos Prize. Deadline: 01/15/2020 Fee: None Prize:
$500 cash prize pool as well as copies of publications

The Writer 2019 Fall Short Story Contest Submit your very best fictional short story in 2,000 words or less. Any theme, subject, or genre is fair game, as long as it falls under 2,000 words. Deadline: 12/02/2019 Fee: $25 Prize: $1,000

This Story Starts With This Sentence Write a story with the sentence: We heard something. You can write about anything – just start the story with the provided sentence. Cash prize to the winner. Deadline: 01/07/2020 Fee: $9.95 Prize: $100

Virginia B. Ball Creative Writing Competition The contest is open to students who are in grades 8–11 during the 2019-20 school year. Students must submit writing samples in at least two of the following genres: fiction, poetry, personal essay/memoir, screenwriting, playwriting, and hybrid genre. You should submit no more than 5 pieces total. Deadline: 12/06/2019 Fee: None Prize: The first-prize scholarship will cover full tuition to attend Interlochen Arts Academy

Writer’s Digest Competitions One of the longest-running writing competitions, this contest spotlights up and coming writers in a number of categories, including Memoirs/Personal Essay, Print or Online Article and Genre Short Story. Deadline: See link for multiple deadline Fee: start at $20 Prize: The Grand Prize winner gets $5,000, a feature in Writer’s Digest magazine, a paid trip to a writing conference and more

Write the World Each month Write the World holds a new competition, developed around a particular idea or genre of writing, such as poetry, fantasy, sports journalism, or flash fiction. Competitions encourage you to dig deeper into the writing process, try out new genres and share your work with a sea of eager readers. Deadline: Monthly Fee: None Prize: The winning entrant receives $100, and the runner-up and best peer-reviewer receive $50. All three winners will be featured on our blog, with commentary from our guest judge

Young Lions Fiction Award This 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: 2020 date TBA Fee: None Prize: $10,000


15 Syllable Writing Contest Write a poem that only has 15 syllables to enter this poetry contest. You can write about anything. You can write a poem of any type. The only requirement is that the total number of syllables in your poem is 15. What can you write when you only have 15 syllables to work with? Deadline: 02/10/2020 Fee: $9.95 Prize: $100

2020 Sonia Sanchez-Langston Hughes Poetry Contest
Each year, Split This Rock sponsors a national poetry contest which serves to raise the visibility and prestige of poetry of provocation and witness. Formerly known as Split This Rock’s Annual Poetry Contest, the contest was renamed in 2017 as the Sonia Sanchez-Langston Hughes Poetry Contest. The new name honors two poets significant to Split This Rock: Langston Hughes who penned the poem “Big Buddy” from which Split This Rock takes its name and Sonia Sanchez who opened the very first Split This Rock Poetry Festival in 2008 and served as guest judge for the 2018 contest. Contest winning poems are published on Split This Rock’s website and in The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database. Deadline: 11/01/2019 Fee: $20 Prize 

3 Line Poetry Contest Share a poem that only has three lines to enter this poetry contest. The syllable count for your poem should be 5-7-5 or 5-7-7. So the first line has five syllables, the second line has seven syllables. The final line either has five or seven syllables. The topic is open – so write about anything. Cash prize to the winner. Deadline: 01/23/2020 Fee: $9.95 Prize: $100

The Brunel University African Poetry Prize The prize is open to African poets who have not yet had a full-length poetry book published. Self-published poetry books, chapbooks and pamphlets are exempt from this stipulation. Only poems written in English are accepted. Poems translated into English are also accepted with a percentage of the prize going to the translator. Each entrant must submit 10 poems to be eligible, no more and no less. There is no stipulation as to the content of submitted poems but no poem should exceed 30 lines in length. Deadline: 11/30/2019 Fee: None Prize: £3,000

Faith Poetry Contest Share a poem of faith. How does your faith impact you? Your lifestyle? Write a poem of any type. Deadline: 01/10/2020 Fee: $9.95 Prize: $100

Halloween Poetry Contest Share your Halloween Poem for this poetry contest. Write a poem of any type – but keep in mind the theme. Cash prize to the winner. Deadline: 10/31/2019 Fee: $9.95 Prize: $100

James Laughlin Award Offered since 1954, the James Laughlin Award is given to recognize and support a second book of poetry forthcoming in the next calendar year. Deadline: Submissions are accepted January 1 through May 15 each year. Fee: None Prize of $5,000

Lune Poetry Contest
To enter this poetry contest write a Lune. A Lune is a poem that follows the 5-3-5 syllable count. So the first line will have 5 syllables. The second line will have 3. And the final will have 5 syllables again. Cash prize! Deadline: 11/03/2019 Fee: $9.95 Prize: $100

Love Poem Poetry Contest Share a love poem to enter this poetry contest. Your poem can be about anyone (or even a special pet). Write it any way you choose. Deadline: 03/25/2020 Fee: $9.95 Prize: $100

Scary – Photo Flora 2019-02
We invite you to create a very short story (350 words or less) based on the picture prompt on the contest page. Use your imagination, and see what stories you see in this picture, entitled “Scary”! Deadline: 11/06/2019 Fee: None Prize: $50

Tanka Poetry Contest What’s a Tanka? A Tanka is a poem that only has five lines. Each line has a specific syllable count. That count is 5-7-5-7-7. So the first line of your poem will have five syllables. The second line will have seven. The third line will have five again. The fourth and fifth line will have seven syllables. Cash prize to the winner of this poetry contest. Deadline: 02/02/2020 Fee: $9.95 Prize: $100

The Tufts Poetry Awards Based at Claremont Graduate University and given for poetry volumes published in the preceding year – are not only two of the most prestigious prizes a contemporary poet can receive, they also come with hefty purses: $100,000 for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and $10,000 for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. This makes the Kingsley Tufts award the world’s largest monetary prize for a single collection of poetry. Deadline: The 2019 deadline has passed, please check back for updates Fee: None Prize: $100,000

Two Line Poem Our two line poem is fun and a bit of a challenge. Write a poem that only has two lines. The twist is that there should be an internal rhyme and an end rhyme. See an example in the contest announcement. Deadline: 12/02/2019 Fee: $9.95 Prize: $100

Wingless Dreamer Poetry Contest This is an open letter to all the aspiring writers around the globe to participate in our Wingless Dreamer Literary Contest 2019. After a huge success of our first edition, “Passionate Penholders” we are happy to announce that we are seeking submissions for the second edition of Wingless Dreamer. We give emerging writers a platform to gain recognition through their Literary submissions disregard of their nationality, gender, age, disability or race differences. Deadline: 11/01/2019 Fee: $5 Prize: $500

Dream Quest One Poetry & Writing Contest Open to anyone who enjoys expressing innermost thoughts and feelings into the beautiful literary art of poetry. Welcome to all, having the ability to dream. Write a poem, 30 lines or fewer on any subject, style, or form, typed or neatly hand printed. Also, all entries must be either typed or legibly hand-printed. Deadline: 12/28/2019 Fee: $5 per poem Prize: Poetry First Prize is $250


The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards recognizes outstanding works that contribute to our understanding of racism and our appreciation of cultural diversity. Awards are given for fiction, poetry and nonfiction. Books must be written in English and published and copyrighted in 2019 to be eligible for the 2020 prize. Deadline: 12/31/2019 Fee: None Prize: $10,000

Cabell First Novelist Award Seeks to honor first-time novelists “who have navigated their way through the maze of imagination and delivered a great read.” Novels published the previous year are accepted. Deadline: 12/31/2019 Fee: None Prize: $5000

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. Deadline: 01/03/2020 Fee: None Prize: a publication contract with Minotaur Books and an advance of $10,000 against future royalties

Friends of American Writers Chicago Awards Each year FAW recognizes new emerging Midwestern authors or those whose novels or non-fiction writing are set in the Midwest. Each year the Literature Awards Committee reads and reviews dozens of books for selection of the current year award winners. The author must be a resident (or previously have been a resident for approximately five years) of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota or Wisconsin; or the locale of the book must be in a region identified above. The books can be fiction or creative non-fiction. Self-published (vanity press) and e-Books are not eligible. Deadline: 12/10/2019 Fee: None Prize: Varies from year to year

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 2019 deadline has passed, please check back for updates Fee: None Prize: $15,000 and an invitation to read at the award ceremony in Washington, DC.

The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing Looking for extraordinary unpublished submissions from emerging writers of sharp, culture-straddling writing that addresses identity in a global age. Each year, a distinguished panel of judges will select a winning manuscript to be published by Restless Books. We can’t wait to read and share what the new voices of the world have to say. Fiction manuscripts must be complete. Nonfiction submissions must consist of either a complete manuscript, or a sample of at least 25,000 words and a detailed proposal that includes a synopsis and an annotated table of contents. All submissions must be in English (translations welcome).  Deadline: 03/31/2020 Fee: None Prize: $10,000 advance and publication by Restless Books in print and digital editions

Tony Hillerman Prize for Best First Mystery Set in the Southwest Competition Each potential entrant must not be the author of a published mystery novel and must not be a party to any agreement with a publisher pursuant to which a mystery novel written by the entrant may be published. For purposes of these Official Rules, “mystery novel” means a book of fiction in which murder or another serious crime or crimes is at the heart of the story, and emphasis is on the solution rather than the details of the crime.of at least 40,000 words and “published” means a work that has been published or made publicly available, in whole or part, as a print book, e-book or in any other media. Deadline: 01/02/2020 Fee: None Prize: $10,000

W.Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Military Fiction This award honors the best fiction set in a period when the United States was at war. It recognizes the service of American veterans and military personnel and encourages the writing and publishing of outstanding war-related fiction. Submissions may be adult or YA novels. Deadline: Annually Fee: None Prize: $5,000


BlueCat Screenplay Competition The BlueCat Screenplay Competition, now in its 22nd year, is open for submissions for its 2020 competition. BlueCat remains committed to the undiscovered writer and continues its tradition of providing written analysis on every script submitted. BlueCat accepts features, shorts, and pilots and awards over $40,000 in cash prizes each year, including the Fellini Award, which gives $2,500 to the best script written by an international writer. Deadline: 11/11/2019 Fee: Feature Screenplay $70, Pilot $65, Short Script $55 Prize: Grand Prize Winner $10,000.

Contact us today if you have a writing contest you’d like to feature here!