There are many free writing contests in May. All genres and forms are included, from poetry, to short fiction, to essays, to full length-works, both published and unpublished.
Some of these contests have age and regional restrictions, so be sure to read the full guidelines before submitting.
Note: I post a list of free upcoming contests the last week of every month. But if you want to get a jump on contests, be sure to check “Free Contests” for future as well as past contests — many are held annually.
Crucible: Poetry and Fiction Competition is sponsored by the Barton College Department of English. Genres: Fiction (limited to 8,000 words or less) and poetry (limited to five poems). Restrictions: All work must be original and unpublished. Prizes: $150.00 First Prize. $100.00 Second Prize. Publication in the Crucible. Deadline: May 1, 2016. Read guidelines HERE.
Whiting Foundation Creative Nonfiction Grant. Genre: Creative nonfiction. Writers must be completing a book of creative nonfiction that is currently under contract with a publisher. Writers who signed a contract before May 1, 2014, are eligible. Prize: $35,000. Deadline: May 1, 2016. Read guidelines HERE.
Split This Rock’s Arabic Poetry Translation Contest. Genre: English translation of an Arabic poem on the themes of social justice or freedom of expression. Prize: $500. Deadline: May 1, 2016. Read guidelines HERE.
Grant MacEwan Creative Writing Scholarship is sponsored by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. Genres: Poetry, Short Fiction & Creative Nonfiction, Drama, or Graphic Novel. Restrictions: Authors must be currently enrolled in an undergraduate creative writing program of study or mentorship. (Max age 25) Alberta residents only. Prize: $5000 (CAN). Deadline: May 1, 2016. Read guidelines HERE.
Polari First Book Prize. Genres: The prize is for a first book which explores the LGBT experience and is open to any work of poetry, prose, fiction or non-fiction published in English. Self-published works in both print and digital formats are eligible for submission. Restrictions: Writer must be born in UK or resident in the UK. Prize: £1,000.00. Deadline: May 1, 2016. Read guidelines HERE.
The Society for Humanistic Anthropology Fiction Competition. Genre: Stories that relate to the four fields of anthropology. Restrictions: Stories should not exceed 20 pages typed double-spaced. There is a limit of one story submission per applicant. Prize: The first place story will be published in the Society’s journal, Anthropology and Humanism. The first place winner(s) will receive a certificate and award of $100. Deadline: May 2, 2016. Read guidelines HERE. (Scroll down the page.)
Norman Mailer High School Creative Non-Fiction Writing Award Competition is open to students currently enrolled in a high school accredited by the US. Students may submit one or more pieces of writing as one file, maximum 10 single-spaced pages, endorsed by a teacher and released by a parent or guardian. One winner will receive a cash award of $2,500 at a special award ceremony. Submission accepted online only through May 2, 2016, Noon CST.
Norman Mailer Community College Creative Non-Fiction Writing Award Competition is open to full-time students enrolled in two-year colleges, junior colleges, and technical colleges. Maximum 15 single-spaced pages. One winner will receive a cash award of $2,500 at a special award ceremony. Submissions accepted online only through May 2, 2016, Noon CST.
Norman Mailer Four-year College Creative Non-Fiction Writing Award Competition is open to current full-time undergraduate students. Maximum 15 single-spaced pages. One winner will receive a cash award of $5,000 at a special award ceremony. Submissions accepted online only through May 2, 2016, Noon CST.
Norman Mailer College Poetry Writing Award is open to full time students enrolled in four-year colleges, two-year colleges, junior colleges, and technical colleges. Students may submit one or more poems, to a maximum of 10 pages. One winner will receive a cash award of $2,500 at a special award ceremony. Submissions accepted online only through May 2, 2016, Noon CST.
Loft Literary Center Minnesota Emerging Writers’ Grants. Grants of up to $8,000 each are given annually to poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers who have lived in the state of Minnesota for at least one year. Writers who have published no more than two books in any genre are eligible to apply. Submit 15 to 20 pages of poetry or 20 to 30 pages of prose, an artist proposal, a brief bio, a preliminary budget, and a résumé. Deadline: May 6, 2016.
Luminarts Creative Writing Program. The Creative Writing Competition awards five $5,000 grant awards and Luminarts Fellowships across categories of creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. Open to writers between the ages of 18 and 30 years old at the time of application; be enrolled in, or have graduated from, a degree program; and live within 150 miles of the Union League Club of Chicago. Genre: Poetry or prose, fiction and nonfiction. Prize: $5,000 and publication in Luminarts Review, a literary journal. Deadline: May 6, 2015.
The Loneliness Project. Genre: POEM or a short duologue ABOUT LONELINESS. You might be inspired to write about a character in Steinbeck’s novel. You may want to reflect on your own life or experience you’ve had, you may find inspiration from a friend or something you’ve seen on the news. Prize: Grand prize of £300. Judges will also choose a runner-up who will win £150. A third prize of £150 will be awarded to the poem or duologue that’s most popular with audiences online. Deadline: May 14, 2016. Read guidelines HERE.
The James Laughlin Award is sponsored by the Academy of American Poets. Genre: A second book of poetry forthcoming in the next calendar year. Must be under contract with US publisher. Restrictions: Open to US citizens and residents only. Prize: $5,000, an all-expenses-paid week long residency in Florida, and the Academy will purchase approximately 1,000 copies of the book for distribution to its members. Deadline: May 15, 2016. Read guidelines HERE.
Brevity Contest. Restrictions: Graduate and undergraduate writers. Genre: “We are looking for flash essays (750 words or fewer) that explore the lived experience of race, racialization, and racism, show the reader a new way to look at the familiar, or give voice to under-represented experiences.” Prize: $200 and publication. Deadline: May 15, 2016. Read guidelines HERE.
Expatriate and Work Abroad Writing Contest. Genre: Essay. “Professionals, freelancers, and aspiring writers are encouraged to write articles that describe their experience living, moving, and working abroad. Often your experience living abroad may be extended by working or studying in the host country, so living/working/studying/and traveling abroad are often inextricable — and we are interested in exploring these interconnections.” Prize: The first-place winner’s entry will receive $500, the second-place winning entry $150, and the third-place winner $100. Deadline: May 16, 2016. Read guidelines HERE.
Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Non-Fiction. Genre: Literary non-fiction. Restrictions: Titles must be published in Canada and written by Canadians. Prize: $60,000 will be awarded to a literary nonfiction book published between March 23, 2016 and May 24, 2016. Deadline: May 25, 2016. Read guidelines HERE.
Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. Genre: Fiction. Restrictions: Titles must be published in Canada and written by Canadians. No self-published works. Prize: $25,000 will be awarded to a novel or short-story collection published between March 23, 2016 and May 24, 2016. Prizes of $2,500 will be awarded to each of the finalists. Deadline: May 25, 2016. Read guidelines HERE.
The Victoria Book Prize. Genres: Published fiction, literary non-fiction, or poetry. (Not open to self-published works.) Book submitted must have been published between April 1, 2015 and March 31, 2016 and must be a new work, not a re-issue or a revision of a previous work. Restrictions: Author must be a resident of the Capital Region and a Canadian citizen or resident. Prize: $5,000. Deadline: May 25, 2016. Read guidelines HERE.
Claudia Ann Seaman Awards For Young Writers. Restrictions: High school students. Genre: Stories and poems. Prize: $200.00. Deadline: May 30, 2016. Read guidelines HERE.
bpNichol Poetry Chapbook Award. Genre: Published poetry chapbook. Restrictions: Canadian publishers only. Prize: The author receives $4,000 and the publisher receives $500. Deadline: May 31, 2016. Read guidelines HERE.
The Wolfe Pack Black Orchid Award. Genre: Mystery novellas in the style of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novellas. Manuscript length: 15K-20K words. Prize: $1,000, plus recognition and publication in a forthcoming issue of AAMM. Deadline: May 31, 2016. Read guidelines HERE.
Unicorn Press First Book Contest. Genre: Unpublished book-length poetry. Individual poems do not have to be unpublished. Prize: The winner will receive $250 and the winning manuscript will be published by Unicorn Press. Deadline: May 31, 2016. Read guidelines HERE.
Cromwell Article Prize. Genre: Articles published in 2015 in the field of American legal history. Restrictions: Open to early career scholars. Prize: $2,500. Deadline: May 31, 2016. Read guidelines HERE.
Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation Writing Competition. Genre: Play. Only full-length works (dramas, comedies, musicals, screenplays) will be considered. One entry per author. Scripts must be original. Must be in English. All must concern LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender) life and be based on, or directly inspired by, a historical person, culture, work of art, or event. Prize: First Prize, $3,000. Second Prize, $1,500. Honorable Mentions, $500. Deadline: May 31, 2016. Read guidelines HERE.
Jerry Jazz Musician Fiction Contest. Genre: Unpublished fiction approximately 1,000–5,000 words. Story should pertain to music, social history, literature, politics, art, film and theater, particularly that of the counter-culture of mid-twentieth century America. Prize: $100 and publication in Jerry Jazz Musician. Deadline: May 31, 2016. Read guidelines HERE.
Save the Earth Poetry Prize. Genre: Poem (1). Poems submitted should, in any way possible, evoke humankind’s awareness of the natural world and nature as such. Restrictions: Open to High school students, grades 11 & 12. Prize: $200 awarded to seven winners.Deadline: May 31, 2016. Read guidelines HERE.
The Castle to Cathedral to Cashmere Writing Competition. Genre: Short story, in English, an original work of fiction, previously unpublished, and not more than 3,000 words. Must adhere to the setting of Elgin and area during the eighteenth and/or nineteenth century. Prize: £350. Deadline: May 31, 2016.
ABA Journal/Ross Writing Contest for Legal Short Fiction. Sponsored by the American Bar Association. Restrictions: Entrants must be U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. Genre: Original works of short fiction that illuminate the role of the law and/or lawyers in modern society. 5000 words max. Prize: $3,000 and publication in ABA Journal. Deadline: May 31, 2016.
James Bartleman Aboriginal Youth Creative Writing Awards. Restrictions: Open to aboriginal youth, 18 years or younger, residing in Ontario, Canada. Prize: $2,500. Deadline: May 31, 2016.
Originally published at publishedtodeath.blogspot.com on April 21, 2016.
Erica Verrillo has published five books. She blogs about the publishing world, posts useful tips on how to get an agent, lists agents who are looking for clients as well as publishers accepting manuscripts directly from writers, explains how to market and promote your work, how to build your online platform, how to get reviews, how to self-publish, and where to find markets for your work on Publishing and Other Forms of Insanity.