2016 1st Quarter External Writing Contests

2016 1st Quarter External Writing Contests
December 28, 2015 No Comments » For Authors, Submissions Stephanie Ayers

This is a resource page to external writing contests that are open for submissions*. Information is given where it applies, any applicable entry fees are noted, and deadlines are posted by month. Please check each contest’s guidelines before submitting. Most are paid prizes, but a few are publication. Be sure to read thoroughly. Best of luck to all who enter!



  1. The Steinbeck Fellow Program is currently open for submissions. They’re offering one-year fellowships that include residency at San José State University and a $10,000 stipend. Writers can submit fiction, drama, creative nonfiction, and biography. Recipients must reside in the San José area during the academic year. Deadline is January 2, 2016. To learn more, read their submission guidelines.
  2. Win $1,000 for a poem of any style, subject or length. This year’s winning poem by Gene Fendt celebrates the erotic nature of water: “I want to be the shower under which you, naked wash the world away . . .” Read any of the 30 previous winners/finalists to see what we like. Second prize: $100. Four honorable mentions: $25 each. Entry fee only $5 per batch of three poems. All entries are read blind so everyone gets an equal chance. Winning poems will be published online in the March 2016 issue of Gemini. www.gemini-magazine.com/poetryopen.html. Deadline is January 2, 2016.
  3. Cloudbank Books is sponsoring the Vern Rutsala Poetry Prize for a full-length poetry and/or flash fiction manuscript. The winner receives $1,000 and publication of the book. Due date for manuscripts is Jan. 2, 2016. Submissions can be made by mail or Submittable. Complete guidelines are available at cloudbankbooks.com.
  4. We invite you to enter Ruminate‘s 2015/2016 VanderMey Nonfiction Prize. The deadline is January 7th at midnight. The entry fee is $20 per submission. $1500 and publication in the Fall 2016 issue will be awarded to the winner. The runner-up will receive $200 and publication in the Fall 2016 Issue. All submissions must be submitted via our online submission form manager. We will not accept mail or email submissions. We do not accept previously published entries. Please submit at ruminatemagazine.submittable.com/submit/8442.
  5. Glass Mountain, the award-winning national undergraduate literary journal at University of Houston, announces our annual Poetry and Prose Contest. Deadline January 9, 2016. Submit your fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. $100 award plus a free Boldface Conference 2016 registration in each category!! Prose judge is Peter Turchi. Poetry judge is Roberto Tejada. $5 fee per submission. Participants must not be enrolled in a creative writing MFA or Ph.D program, nor have a graduate degree in creative writing. Winners and runners-up published in Glass Mountain Spring volume #16. For information on guidelines and how to submit, go to glassmountain.submittable.com/submit.
  6. 2016 Colorado Prize for Poetry: $2,000 honorarium and book publication: Submit book-length collection of poems to the Colorado Prize for Poetry by January 14, 2016. $25 reading fee (add $3 to submit online) includes subscription to Colorado Review. Final judge is Tyrone Williams; friends and students (current or former) of the judge are not eligible to compete, nor are Colorado State University employees, students, or alumni. Complete guidelines at coloradoprize.colostate.edu
  7. The Monadnock Essay Collection Prize will be awarded for a book-length collection of nonfiction essays. These essays can take any form: personal essays, memoir in essay form, narrative nonfiction, commentary, travel, historical account etc., as long as they have not been previously published as a collection. The winner will receive $1,000, publication, 100 copies of the published book along with distribution with our fall titles. Our judge will be Alice B. Fogel, the current New Hampshire Poet Laureate and award-winning author, poet, and teacher. Submission guidelines are available on our website: www.bauhanpublishing.com/essay-contest/ or submit your manuscript through Submittable: bauhanpublishing.submittable.com/submit. Deadline is January 15, 2016.
  8. The 4th Annual Women’s National Book Association National Writing Contest is accepting submissions through January 15th! A dynamic organization of women and men in all fields of the literary world, the WNBA is celebrating emerging writers. Accepting poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction/memoir. Awards: 1st place winners receive $250 cash award; 1, 2, 3 and Honorable Mention winners published in The Bookwoman, the WNBA’s National newsletter. Visit our site to see judges’ bios and submission guidelines: www.wnba-books.org/contest.
  9. TransitionsAbroad.com is inviting writers to enter their 2016 Narrative Travel Writing Contest. Writers are to submit articles that describe “a slower form of immersion travel” and how this type of travel deepens the connection between the traveler and the destination. Essays should be unpublished and fall within the 1,000 to 5,000 word range. First place receives $500, second place receives $150, third place receives $100, and runners-up receive $50. All winning essays will be published on TransitionsAbroad.com. Deadline is January 15, 2016. To learn more, read their contest submission guidelines.
  10. Brilliant Flash Fiction Science Fiction Writing Contest. No Entry Fee. Word limit: 750. Deadline: January 15, 2016. Submissions can be emailed to brilliantflashfiction@gmail.com. Prizes: 50 euro first prize (or equivalent amount in your currency); 25 euro second prize; 15 euro third prize. Judge: Dr. Erin Macdonald. 
  11. Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition ends on January 15, 2016. 1500 words or fewer. http://www.writersdigest.com/writers-digest-competitions/short-short-story-competition
  12. The Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative and the College for Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University is accepting submissions for the 2016 Climate Fiction Short Story Contest. The contest will be judged by science fiction legend Kim Stanley Robinson. The grand-prize winner will be awarded $1000, with three additional finalists receiving book bundles signed by award-winning climate fiction author Paolo Bacigalupi. A collection of the best submissions will be published in a forthcoming online anthology, and considered for publication in the journal Issues in Science and Technology. Deadline: January 15, 2016. More information at climateimagination.asu.edu/clificontest/.
  13. Bethesda Magazine and the Bethesda Urban Partnership are co-sponsoring an essay contest that’s open to residents of Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Entries should be no longer than 500 words, and there is no restraint on topic.First place receives $500, second place receives $250, third place receives $150, and an honorable mention will receive $75. All winning essays will be published on the Bethesda Magazine and Bethesda Urban Partnership’s sites and will also be honored during the Bethesda Literary Festival. Deadline is January 22, 2016. For more information, read their contest submission guidelines.
  14. Submissions are now being accepted for the seventh William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. This award, given by Stanford University Libraries in partnership with the William Saroyan Foundation, recognizes newly published works of fiction and nonfiction with a $5,000 award for the winner in each category. The prize is designed to encourage new or emerging writers and honor the Saroyan literary legacy of originality, vitality, and stylistic innovation. Entries must be received by January 29, 2016. For entry forms and more information on the prize, visit the Saroyan Prize website: library.stanford.edu/saroyan
  15. From January 1 to January 31, Crazyhorse will be accepting entries for prizes in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry. Winners receive $2,000 and publication. All manuscripts entered will be considered for publication. The $20 entry fee includes a one-year subscription to Crazyhorse. This year, Joan Silber will judge fiction, Brenda Miller will judge nonfiction, and Khaled Mattawa will judge poetry. For more information, please visit our website: crazyhorse.cofc.edu.
  16. Two prizes of $1,000 and publication in The Chattahoochee Review are awarded to a winning story and essay in the Lamar York Prizes for Fiction and Nonfiction. Submit October 1-January 31. Early submissions are encouraged. An entry fee of $15 includes a subscription. For complete guidelines, visitthechattahoocheereview.gpc.edu.
  17. The Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University is hosting the John Bartlow Martin Award for Public Interest Magazine Journalism. They’re accepting submissions in the form of essays that have been published in 2015. Essays published in print and digital magazines are eligible, but essays published in newsletters are not. A cash prize of $4,000 will be awarded to the winning author or team. The winner(s) will also be honored at a ceremony in Chicago on May 12, 2016. Deadline is January 31, 2016. To learn more, read their contest submission guidelines.
  18. The Nelson Algren Literary Awards is an annual short story contest open to all residents of the United States. It is hosted by the Chicago Tribune. Stories should be 8,000 words or less. The grand prize is $3,500. Four finalists receive $1,000. Five runners-up will win $500. The total prizes are worth $10,000. Not bad! Writers are allowed to submit a maximum of 2 entries. There is no submission fee. The deadline for submission is January 31st, 2016. To learn more, and to submit, visit their Submittable page.


  1. While this isn’t technically a contest, it is competitive: Cal Humanities is currently accepting submissions for their Community Stories grants program. Entrants are to submit proposal narratives for “genuine and compelling stories from our diverse [California] communities.”Writers can request up to $10,000. It’s important to note that grant recipients must match the grant amount with non-federal cash or in-kind sources.Deadline is February 1, 2016. To learn more, read their grant submission guidelines. (The guidelines are available for download on that page.)
  2. Creative Nonfiction and the Biomimicry Center at Arizona State University are seeking essays on the topic “Learning From Nature.” They’re looking for “well-crafted narratives that will illuminate the relationship between humans and the environment, particularly as we face the challenges of climate change.” Essays should be no longer than 4,000 words.First place receives $5,000, and one runner-up will receive $1,000. All essays will be considered for publication in the fall 2016 issue of Creative Nonfiction. Deadline is February 1, 2016.We do not suggest submitting online since there is a $3 submission fee. However, you can snail mail your essay in without a fee. To learn more, read their contest submission guidelines.
  3. Arc Poetry Magazine‘s 20th annual Poem-of-the-Year contest is open to submissions from all countries. $5,000 first prize, plus $500 runner-up and $250 readers’ choice award. Entry fee $35 – includes 1yr subscription to Arc. Submissions online or via mail. Deadline February 1, 2016. For full contest details visit www.arcpoetry.ca.
  4. The 2016 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award is looking for full-length collections (48-84 pages). Deadline is February 1 (postmark) for a Fall 2016 release. Prize: $1200 + 50 copies of winning book. Reading fee: $25. This is the 15th year for this contest. Past winners include Jim Ferris, Jennifer Sweeney, Leslie McGrath, Yehoshua November, Colin D. Halloran. One winner selected, but as many as 15 runners up/finalists offered publication. Manuscripts can be mailed or submitted via email. Guideline details, mailing and emailing addresses, and instructions for electronic file preparation are available on our website: www.MainStreetRag.com.
  5. Creative Nonfiction magazine is seeking new essays for an upcoming issue dedicated to Learning from Nature. The natural world has long been a source of inspiration. We’re interested in stories about how we learn from nature—whether it’s airlines developing boarding methods based on movement in ant colonies or aviation engineers studying eagles’ wings in order to build more aerodynamic planes; new-age fabric inspired by pine cones or energy-efficient skyscrapers modeled after termite mounds. We’re looking for well-crafted narratives that will illuminate the relationship between humans and the environment, particularly as we face the challenges of climate change. Submissions must be 4,000 words or fewer. $5,000 for best essay; $1,000 for runner-up. Guidelines atwww.creativenonfiction.org/submissions/learning-nature. Deadline February 1, 2016.
  6. The Leyla Beban Young Authors Foundation is sponsoring the $1000 for 1000 Words Creative Writing Contest which will award two prizes of $1,000 to a student author in grades 6-8 and another student in grades 9-12. Additionally, the Foundation will award $100 cash prizes to other top picks, one prize per grade level. Submission deadline is February 1, 2016http://www.bluefire.org/
  7. KYSO Flash (Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature) announces writing-prompt challenge of three words: fierce, flicker, and fool. Accepted from writers worldwide: micro-fiction, prose poetry, haibun stories and tanka tales, and lineated poetry, both free and formal verse. Innovative works welcomed. Cash prizes: first place $300 USD, second place $200, third place $100, and 3-5 honorable mentions, $50 each. Winners and finalists published online in spring and in our print anthology next fall; contributors also receive complimentary copy. $5 entry fee per submission, no limit. Contest guidelines: www.kysoflash.com/Classifieds.aspx. Deadline February 7, 2016.
  8. New American Press poetry contest. Manuscripts should be at least 48 pages, and may contain one or several individual poems published previously in magazines or journals. Manuscripts without previously published poems are also welcome. Poems may be of any style, length, or form. Final judge this year is Gabriel Gudding, 1998 recipient of The Nation Discovery Award and a 2001 Constance Saltonstall Individual Artist’s Grant. Deadline February 15, 2016newamericanpress.submittable.com/submit/47596
  9. The Orison Prizes in Poetry & Fiction offer $1,500 and publication by Orison Books for a full-length manuscript in each genre. Judges: Hadara Bar-Nadav (poetry) & Peter Orner (fiction). $25 entry fee. Entry period: Nov. 15, 2015 – Feb. 15, 2016. For complete guidelines visit www.orisonbooks.com/submission-guidelines.
  10. The Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU is hosting the Matthew Power Literary Reporting Award. $12,500 will be given “to support the work of a promising early-career nonfiction writer on a story that uncovers truths about the human condition.” The Institute expects that most of the award will go toward travel expenses. Deadline is February 16, 2016. To learn more, read their submission guidelines.
  11. Central PA Magazine Writing Contest, sponsored by WITF and funded by York College of Pennsylvania, is accepting submissions of short stories on any theme. The writer of the best story wins $500, plus publication. Second-place winner receives $200. Only submit first-hand, unpublished fiction stories of up to 1,500 words. Do not send poetry or non-fiction. Submission deadline is February 26, 2016. http://www.witf.org/contests/2015/10/enter-the-2016-central-pa-writing-contest.php


  1. Hunger Mountain’s annual Katherine Patterson Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Literature. Contest opened October 1 and ends March 1, 2016. Grand prize is $1,000 and publication in Hunger Mountain, and 3 $100 prizes with publication will also be awarded. Follow submission instructions here: http://hungermtn.org/contests/katherine-paterson-prize/
  2. Room‘s Annual Creative Non-Fiction Contest is open from October 15, 2015 to March 8, 2016. Judged by Kate Braid, the first prize is $500 + publication in Room Magazine, 2nd prize is $250 + publication in Room Magazine, and honourable mention receives $50 publication on Room website. http://www.roommagazine.com/contests
  3. The Writer’s Center’s McLaughlin-Esstman-Stearns First Novel Prize awards $500 to the author of an exceptional first novel published in the previous calendar year. The winner will receive $500 and will be featured in the Winter/Spring 2017 issue of The Workshop & Event Guide and our blog, First Person Plural. In addition, if feasible, they will be invited to read at The Writer’s Center during a reception to honor their work. Submission must be postmarked by March 11, 2016http://www.writer.org/get-involved/apply-for-fellowships-writing-contests
  4. Nelligan Prize for Short Fiction is offered each year by Colorado State University’s Center for Literary Publishing. The winner receives a US $2000 honorarium and the story is published in the fall/winter issue of Colorado Review. There are no theme restrictions, but stories must be at least 10 pages (or 2,500 words) but no more than 50 pages (12,500 words). Deadline is March 14, 2016.
  5. The Critical Pass Review is now accepting submissions online for its Critical Junior Poet’s Award Contest, an editor’s choice award for exceptional promise in the art of poetry. Applicants between the ages of 13 and 18 can enter for free. The winner will receive (per the guidelines on The Critical Pass Review‘s official website,www.criticalpassreview.com) a $100 cash prize, a $20 iTunes card, a CD of master poets reading their poetry, publication of his/her winning work in The Critical Pass Review‘s Summer 2016 issue, and more. To learn more, visitwww.criticalpassreview.com/submit/junior-poet-contest/. Deadline March 15, 2016
  6. Able Muse Write Prize for poetry and  flash fiction offers a $500 prize for the best poem as well as a $500 prize for the best short story (flash), as well as publication in Able Muse print journal. Deadline is March 15, 2016. Read submission guidelines here:
  7. The Denise Levertov Memorial Poetry Prize was created to champion writers whose poetry explores and challenges the notion of human being in the twenty-first century. The award will be given to those writers whose poetry strips away the conceits of being human in an attempt to clear the way for human being, to poets who have something to say and say it well. Open: November 11, 2015. Deadline: March 21, 2016. Fee: $8.00 entry. Entries judged by RSR Poetry Editors. The winner will be announced and published in RSR’s spring issue (2016). Date to be determined. Prize: $250. www.redsavinareview.org/the-denise-levertov-memorial-poetry-prize/
  8. Cloudbank Books is sponsoring the Cloudbank 10 Contest for one poem or flash fiction to be chosen for publication within Cloudbank 10, our upcoming issue. A $200 prize is awarded; submissions are due by March 31, 2016. Submissions can be made by mail or Submittable. Complete guidelines are available at cloudbankbooks.com.
  9. Narrative Winter 2016 Story Contest is open to all fiction and nonfiction writers. We’re looking for short shorts, short stories, essays, memoirs, photo essays, graphic stories, all forms of literary nonfiction, and excerpts from longer works of both fiction and nonfiction. Entries must be previously unpublished, no longer than 15,000 words, and must not have been previously chosen as a winner, finalist, or honorable mention in another contest. First prize is $2,500, Second prize is $1,000, 3rd prize is $500, and 10 finalists will receive $100 each.  All entries will be considered for publication. $24 entry fee required. All contest entries are eligible for the $4,000 Narrative Prize (June 15) for 2016 and for acceptance as a Story of the Week. The contest deadline is midnight, March 31, 2016, PST. http://www.narrativemagazine.com/winter-2016-story-contest
  10. Authors who have written a book set in the south are invited to enter this year’s Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction. The setting of the book must take in one of the primary eleven states in the Confederacy: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. The book must be a classic novel, above 50,000 words in length. The prize-winner will receive $2,500, and an expense paid trip to New York City to accept the award, participate in a luncheon with the contest judges and a celebration in his/her honor. The author will also be able to sign copies of his or her book. Short stories are not allowed. Deadline is March 31,2016. Click link above for details.
  11. North East Texas Writers Organization is hosting the Jory Sherman Contest with prizes equal to $250. Submissions begin acceptance via mail and email January 1, and end March 31, 2016. Winners will be announced at the April 23, 2016 convention (presence not required). $10 Entry fee. For more information: http://www.netwo.org/#!2016-writing-contest/cnit

For more contests, keep your eye on the Big List of Writing Contests. A curated list of the best contests can be found on Dystopian Stories. There are many more to be found around the web.

*Our Write Side does not sponsor these contests. This is for informational purposes only.

Stephanie Ayers A published author with a knack for twisted tales, Stephanie Ayers is the Executive Creative Director of OWS Ink, LLC, a community for writers and readers alike. She loves a good thriller, fairies, things that go bump in the night, and sappy stories. When she is not writing, she can be found in Creative Cloud designing book covers and promotional graphics for authors.

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