35 Writing Contests in October 2021 — No entry fees

This October there are nearly three dozen contests for short fiction, novels, poetry, CNF, nonfiction, and short plays. Prizes range from $60,500 to publication. None charge entry fees.

Some of these contests have age and geographical restrictions, so read the instructions carefully.

If you want to get a jump on next month’s contests go to Free Contests. Most of these contests are offered annually, so even if the deadline is past, you can prepare for next year.

Good luck!


Non-Binary Stars. Genre: Speculative fiction stories containing a character or characters that are representational of oppressed/under-represented groups, whether that be due to issues of gender, orientation, mental/physical health, body size, skin color, etc. Prize: $100, $50, $25. Deadline: October 1, 2021.

No Tokens: Young Writers’ Prize. Restrictions: Open to writers ages eighteen and under. Genre: Fiction, nonfiction and hybrid works. Prize: $300, $200, $100. Deadline: October 1, 2021.

The Furious Gazelle’s 2021 Halloween Writing Contest. Genre: Halloween-themed poetry, fiction, short plays and creative non-fiction. Prize: $50. Deadline: October 1, 2021.

International Booker Prize. The International Booker Prize for fiction translated into English is awarded annually by the Booker Prize Foundation to the author of the best (in the opinion of the judges) eligible novel or collection of short stories. The work must be published by a UK or Ireland publishing house. Authors are not permitted to enter their own works. Prize: £50,000 divided equally between the author and the translator. There will be a prize of £2,000 each of the shortlisted titles divided equally between the author and the translator. Deadline: October 1, 2021.

Furious Fiction. Genre: Flash fiction, 500 words max. Contestants have 55 hours to write a 500-word story based on the prompt. Prize: $500. Deadline: Opens October 1, closes October 3, 2021.

Women’s Prize for Fiction. Genre: Full-length novels (no short story collections or novellas) by women, first published in the UK. Prize: 30,000 pounds. Deadline: October 4, 2021.

PassOrPages Query Contest. Participating agents give brief feedback on a handful of entries, explaining why they’re passing … or requesting pages! The queries and accompanying feedback are posted on our blog anonymously, which helps querying authors get a peek into agents’ minds as they go through their slush piles. Genre: Genre reveal September 21. Deadline: October 4–8, 2021.

American Antiquarian Society Fellowships for Creative Writers is calling for applications for visiting fellowships for historical research by creative and performing artists, writers, film makers, journalists, and other persons whose goals are to produce imaginative, non-formulaic works dealing with pre-twentieth-century American history. Successful applicants are those whose work is for the general public rather than for academic or educational audiences. The Society’s goal in sponsoring this program is to multiply and improve the ways in which an understanding of history is communicated to the American people. Prize: A stipend of $1,150 to $1,350 and on-campus housing is provided; fellows residing off-campus receive $1,850. Deadline: October 5, 2021.

Dream Foundry. Restrictions: Conditions: You have published a total of less than 4,000 words of paid or income-earning speculative fiction in English. You have earned a total of less than USD 320 from those words. You have never been nominated for any award listed here as a major award in speculative fiction. Genre: Short speculative fiction, up to 10,000 words. Prize: $1,000. Deadline: October 11, 2021.

The Lancaster Playwriting Prize. Restrictions: Open to anyone from the North West of England who identifies as LGBTQAI+ aged 16 and up to and including the age of 30. Genre: Script (for a play). Scripts must be a minimum of 30 minutes long. Prize: £1500. Deadline: October 11, 2021.

Adina Talve-Goodman Fellowship. Restrictions: Open to fiction writers aged 21+ who have not yet published a book and have never been enrolled in an MFA program. Writer must not have a book under contract with an agent and/or publisher at time of application, and writer cannot have been published by One Story (or have a forthcoming publication with One Story). Genre: Short fiction that “speaks to issues and experiences related to inhabiting bodies of difference.” Prize: Free tuition for all of One Story’s online classes and programming, a travel stipend of $2,000 and tuition to attend week-long summer writers’ conference in Brooklyn, and a full manuscript review/consultation of a story collection or novel in progress with an executive editor. Deadline: October 11, 2021.

Tales from the Moonlit Path. Genre: Short story on theme of Halloween; 2000 words max. Prize: $50. Deadline: October 14, 2021.

Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship. Restrictions: Poet must be born in the United States. Genre: Poetry. The sample must not exceed either (1) 40 typed pages or (2) one printed volume plus no more than 20 typed pages of your most recent work. There is no minimum page requirement. Prize: $60,500 for a year of travel and study abroad. Deadline: October 15, 2021.

North Carolina State Fiction Contest. Restrictions: Open to residents of North Carolina with no published fiction books. Genre: Short stories. Prize: $500 for fiction (up to 5,000 words) and $250 for shorter fiction (up to 1,200 words). Deadline: October 15, 2021.

Apparition Lit. Genre: Speculative fiction; under 1,000 words. Prize: $30. Deadline: October 15, 2021. Opens October 1.

John Pollard Foundation International Poetry Prize. Genre: Published book of poems. Publishers may submit four copies of a debut full-length poetry collection (or bound galleys) published originally in the English language between October 1st 2020 and October 18th 2021. Prize: €10,000 (approximately $11,400) Deadline: October 18, 2021.

Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction. Restrictions: Open to residents of UK. Genre: Short stories between 2000–6000 words on the theme “Crime.” Prize: £500 and 10 shortlisted authors will be published in an ebook anthology. Deadline: October 29, 2021.

The Funny Pearls Short Story Competition. Restrictions: Open to women of all nationalities. Genre: Humor. “Please send us your farce, satire, screwball, or any other subgenre that qualifies as comedy. We need the laughs.” Length: 1,000–2500 words. Prize: Amazon gift card to the value of £200. Deadline: October 30, 2021.

Preservation Foundation Essay Contest for Unpublished Writers. Restrictions: The contest is open to writers whose creative writing has never produced revenues of over $750 in any single year. Genre: Travel Nonfiction. Prize: First prize is $200. Runners-up will receive $100. Finalists will receive $50. Deadline: October 31, 2021.

The John Byrne Award. Restrictions: Open to residents of Scotland. Genre: A piece of creative work on a chosen theme or value (written work must be no more than 15,000 words in length). Prize: £7500. Deadline: October 31, 2021.

The Barbellion Prize. Genre: Fiction, memoir, biography, poetry, or critical non-fiction. “The Barbellion Prize is dedicated to the furtherance of ill and disabled voices in writing. The prize is awarded annually to an author whose work has best spoken of the experience of chronic illness and/or disability.” Prize: £600. Deadline: October 31, 2021.

PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction is the most prestigious literary award in the US. Restrictions: Authors must be living American citizens. Self-published works not accepted. Genres: Novels, novellas, and collections of short stories. Prize: $15,000. Deadline: October 31, 2021.

The Eric Gregory Awards. Restrictions: Applicants must be under 30 and a British subject by birth and must ordinarily be resident in the United Kingdom or Northern Ireland. Genre: Poetry collection. Previously published work accepted. Prize: £4,000.00. Deadline: October 31, 2021.

The Young Walter Scott Prize. Restrictions: Open to UK authors aged 11–19. Genre: Historical fiction between 800 and 2000 words. Prizes: £500 travel and research grant to further explore historical places in the UK, and an invitation to the Borders Book Festival in Melrose, Scotland. Two runners-up in each category receive a £100 book token, and all four winning stories are published in a special YWSP anthology book. Deadline: October 31, 2021.

Tom-Gallon Trust Award. Restrictions: Open to citizens of the United Kingdom, Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland with at least one short story published or accepted for publication. Genre: Short story, maximum 5,000 words. May be unpublished. Prize: £1,000.00. Deadline: October 31, 2021.

Lex:lead Essay Competition. Restrictions: Candidates must show citizenship in an eligible country and be enrolled in studies with at least one law class in an eligible country at the time of the award. Genre: Essay: How can laws promoting gender and disability rights support economic development? Prize: $500 scholarship. Deadline: October 31, 2021.

The Benjamin Franklin House Literary Prize. Restrictions: Entrants must be aged 18–25 years and living in the UK. Genre: Fiction and nonfiction. Each year a question or quote exploring Franklin’s relevance in our time is open for interpretation in 1000–1500 words. Prize: First prize of £750, second prize of £500. Winning entries will be posted on the website and also published online by The Telegraph. Deadline: October 31, 2021.

McKitterick Prize. Restrictions: Open to authors over age 40 on December 31, 2021. Genre: First novel. The work must have been first published in the UK in the year in which the deadline falls (and not first published abroad), or be unpublished. Prize: £4,000.00. Deadline: October 31, 2021.

Otherwise Award. Genre: Work that is changing the way we think about gender through speculative narrative. Prize: $500. Deadline: October 31, 2021.

The Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry, sponsored by the African Poetry Book Fund and in partnership with the literary journal, Prairie Schooner, is the only one of its kind in the world and was established to promote African poetry written in English or in translation and to recognize a significant book published each year by an African poet. A standard edition is 48 pages or more in length. Genre: Open to any book of original poetry, in English, published during 2015 in a standard edition by a full-length collection of poetry. Restrictions: African nationals, African residents, or poet of African parentage with roots from any country, living anywhere in the world. Prize: USD $5,000. Deadline: October 31, 2021.

Smokelong Comedy Prize. Genre: Comedy flash fiction and nonfiction up to 782 words. Prize: $400. Deadline: October 31, 2021. Entry fee waived for writers who are financially unable to pay an entry fee.

ECW Press Best New Speculative Novel Contest. Restrictions: Open to Canadians. Genre: Speculative Novel. Prize: $3000 prize and a publishing contract. Deadline: October 31, 2021.

The Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest is sponsored by Hollins University. Restrictions: Open to young women who are sophomores or juniors in high school or preparatory school. Genre: Poetry. Prize: Up to $5,000 renewable annual Creative Talent Scholarship in creative writing if winner enrolls at Hollins. Free tuition and housing for the university’s Hollins summer creative writing program. $200 cash prize. Publication in Cargoes, Hollins’ award-winning student literary magazine. Ten copies of Cargoes. Deadline: October 31, 2021.
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Rune Bear Quarterly. Genre: Drabble of exactly 100 words on theme of “Last Bus to Station 9.” Prize: $10. Deadline: October 31, 2021.

Storyhouse. Genre: Nonfiction. Stories must be true, not semi-fictional accounts. 1000–10,000 words in length. Stories must be suitable for children. See themes. Prize: $200. Deadline: October 31, 2021.