There are nearly three dozen free writing contests in January. They cover the full range of genres, from debut mystery novels to poetry. In addition to the prestige of winning a contest, a few of the monetary prizes this month are substantial. Be sure to check the submission requirements carefully, as some have age and geographical restrictions.
Many contests are offered annually, so if you miss a contest you may be able to catch it next year. For a full month-by-month listing of contests see: Free Contests.
Tony Hillerman Prize. Sponsored by St. Martin’s Press. Genre: Debut mystery novel set in Southwest. Prize: $10,000 advance against royalties and publication, Deadline: January 2, 2017. Read guidelines HERE.
Christopher Doheny Award. The award recognizes excellence in fiction or creative nonfiction on the topic of serious physical illness. The award is presented annually for a completed manuscript that has not yet been published. Prize: $10,000. Deadline: January 2, 2017.
Nuff Said Publishing’s annual Speculative Writing Contest to Promote Diversity (SWCPD). Restrictions: The contest is open to United States residents. Genre: Speculative fiction less than 10,000 words. Prize: $100 and publication in anthology. Deadline: January 3rd, 2017.
Texas Institute of Letters Literary Awards. Restrictions: Entrants must have resided in Texas for at least 2 consecutive years, or have been born in Texas. Genre: Book (published). 11 different categories. Prize: $6,000. Deadline: January 3, 2017.
John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest is sponsored by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Restrictions: The contest is open to United States high school students in grades nine through twelve attending public, private, parochial, or home schools; US students under the age of twenty enrolled in a high school correspondence/GED program; and US citizens attending schools overseas. Genre: Essay on an act of political courage by a US elected official who served during or after 1956. Prize: The first-place winner receives $10,000 comprised of a $5,000 cash award and $5,000 from John Hancock. The second-place winner receives $1,000. Up to five finalists receive $500 each. Deadline: January 4, 2017.
Stop the Hate: Youth Speak Out Essay Contest. Stop the Hate® is designed to create an appreciation and understanding among people of differing religions, races, cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds. Genre: Essay, 500 words. Restrictions: Northeast Ohio 6–12th Graders. Prize: $40,000. Deadline: January 6, 2017 for Grades 6–10, January 20, 2017 for Grades 11–12.
Japan Center-Canon Essay Competition. The aim of the Japan Center Essay Competition is to promote awareness and understanding of Japan in the United States and to help young Americans broaden their international horizons. Genre: Essay. Contestants should write, in English, one or more aspects of Japan including art, culture, tradition, values, philosophy, history, society, politics, business, and technology in relation to their personal views, experiences, and/or future goals. (Contestants do not need to have any experience in visiting Japan or studying Japanese. Prize: Best Essay Award in the High School Division: 1st Place: $3,000 and a Canon camera, 2nd Place: $1,500 and a Canon camera, 3rd Place: $750 and a Canon camera; Best Essay Award in the College Division: $3,000 and a Canon camera; Uchida Memorial Award: $1,000 and a Canon camera; Merit Award: $200 (each) for up to five awards. Deadline: January 8, 2017.
New York Times “Win a Trip with Nick Kristof” Contest. Genre: Essay (700 words max) on why you should win this prize. Prize: A reporting trip in the developing world with New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. Restriction: Open to US college and graduate school students. Deadline: January 8, 2017.
The Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award introduces emerging writers to the New York City literary community. The prestigious award aims to provide promising writers a network for professional advancement. Since Poets & Writers began the Writers Exchange in 1984, 85 writers from 33 states and the District of Columbia have been selected to participate. Restrictions: Open to Maine residents. Genre: Poetry and Fiction. Prize: A $500 honorarium; A trip to New York City to meet with editors, agents, publishers, and other writers. All related travel/lodgings expenses and a per diem stipend are covered by Poets & Writers. Winners will also give a public reading of their work; and One-month residency at the Jentel Artist Residency Program in Wyoming. Deadline: January 9, 2017. For guidelines click HERE.
Moving Words Poetry Contest. Restrictions: People who live within the DC Metro transit area (the Northern Virginia counties Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun and the cities Alexandria, Fairfax, and Falls Church; the District of Columbia; and the Maryland counties Montgomery and Prince George’s) and who are over 18. Genre: Poetry. Prize: $250 honorarium. Deadline: January 12, 2017.
Orwell Prize. Genre: Political writing published between 1st January and 31st January 2016. All entries must have a clear British link. Fiction and non-fiction. Prize: £3,000.00. Deadline: January 12, 2017. (Their website is impossible to figure out, which is ironic.)
The Ellen Meloy Fund for Desert Writers was established in 2005 to honor the memory of Ellen Meloy. The Fund provides support to writers whose work reflects the spirit and passions embodied in Ellen’s writing and her commitment to a “deep map of place.” Ellen’s own map-in-progress was of the desert country she called home. Genre: Only literary or creative nonfiction proposals will be considered. No fiction or poetry proposals will be reviewed. Prize: $3,000. Deadline: January 15, 2017.
French-American Foundation Translation Prizes. Genre: Book — best English translation of French in both fiction and non-fiction. Prize: $10,000. Deadline: January 15, 2017.
Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award. Restrictions: Open to poets who have published no more than two books of children’s poetry. Genre: Children’s poetry (for children and young adults up to grade 12). A book-length single poem may be submitted. The award is for published works only. Poetry in any language may be submitted; non-English poetry must be accompanied by an English translation. Poetry copyrighted from 2016 to 2018 may be submitted. Prize: $500. Deadline: January 15, 2017.
VCU Cabell First Novelist Award. Genre: First novel published July–December 2016. No self-published books. Prize: $5,000. Deadline: January 14, 2017.
Posen Society of Fellows Awards. Genre: Jewish-themed dissertation. Prize: $40,000 fellowship. Deadline: January 15, 2017.
Stacy Doris Memorial Poetry Award. Genre: Poem, 3–10 pages long, that demonstrates a “truly inventive spirit.” Prize: $500. Deadline: January 15, 2017.
Bethesda Literary Festival Essay and Short Story Contest. The Bethesda Urban Partnership & Bethesda Magazine have partnered to honor local writers at the Bethesda Literary Festival held April. Genres: Essays and short stories. Restrictions: Residents of Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia are eligible. Prizes: First Place: $500 and published in Bethesda Magazine. Second Place: $250. Third Place: $150. Honorable Mention: $75. Deadline: January 20, 2017. For more details click HERE.
James White Award. Restrictions: Non-professional authors from anywhere in the world. Genre: Previously unpublished science fiction stories of 6000 words or less, but the stories must be written in English. Prize: £200 plus publication in Interzone. Deadline: January 20, 2017.
IGGY/Litro Young Writers’ Prize. Restrictions: Open to 13–18 year olds. Genre: Short story. The theme is Memory. Prize: £1,000 and publication. Deadline: January 20, 2017. Read submission guidelines HERE.
Bodley Head/Financial Times Essay Prize. Restrictions: Open to authors aged 18–35. Genre: Scholarly or journalistic essay on a topic of your choice. 3,500 words max. Prize: £1,000, e-publication with Bodley Head, a mentoring session with the Financial Times/Bodley Head editorial staff, a subscription to FT.com, and a selection of books from Bodley Head. Deadline: January 29, 2017.
Jerry Jazz Musician Fiction Contest. “The Jerry Jazz Musician reader has interests in music, social history, literature, politics, art, film and theater, particularly that of the counter-culture of mid-twentieth century America.” Genre: previously unpublished work of short fiction. Prize: $100.00. Deadline: January 31, 2017.
College Undergraduate Poetry and Florence Kahn Memorial Award. Restrictions: Undergraduates working toward a degree in an accredited U.S. college or university. Genre: Poetry. Prize: $500. Deadline: January 31, 2017.
Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize. The annual Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize is awarded each spring to honor an outstanding literary translation from German into English published in the USA the previous year. Genre: Published fiction or non-fiction, may include: novels, novellas, short stories, plays, poetry, biographies, essays and correspondence. Prize: $10,000. Deadline: January 31, 2017.
14th Michael E. DeBakey Medical Student Poetry Awards. Restrictions: Only undergraduates currently enrolled in accredited United States medical schools are eligible. Genre: Poetry. Prize: $1,000 top prize. Deadline: January 31, 2017. Note: Winners do not retain copyright.
The Danuta Gleed Literary Award for best first collection of short fiction in the English language was initiated by John Gleed in honour of his late wife to promote and celebrate the genre of short fiction, which she loved. Restrictions: Canadian residents only. Prize: A $10,000 prize will be awarded for the best first collection of published short fiction in the English language. Two finalist will also be awarded $500 each. Deadline: January 31, 2017.
Imagine Little Tokyo. Little Tokyo Historical Society (LTHS) seeks fictional short stories in Japanese or English for its second annual “Imagine Little Tokyo” writing contest. The setting of the story should be in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, CA– either past, present or future. Prize: $600. The winner of the youth division (18 or younger) will receive $400. Deadline: January 31, 2017.
Caine Prize for African Writing. Restrictions: Open to writers born in Africa, or nationals of an African country, or with a parent who is African by birth or nationality, Genre: Short fiction (published). Prize: £10,000. Deadline: January 31, 2017.
Nelson Algren Literary Awards is a short story contest sponsored by the Chicago Tribune. This contest is open to residents of the United States. All entries must be: fiction, less than 8,000 words, double spaced, written in English. Prize: One grand prize winner will receive $3,500. Four finalists will each receive $1,000. Five runners-up will each receive $500. Total value of all prizes: $10,000. Deadline: Closing date January 31, 2017.
Walter Rumsey Marvin Grant. Restrictions: Open to authors under 30 years of age who have not had a book published. Applicant must have been born in Ohio or have lived in Ohio for a minimum of five years. Genre: Short fiction and creative non-fiction. Prize: $1,000. Deadline: January 31, 2017.
Words and Brushes. Genre: Fiction inspired by artwork. Prize: $300 top prize. Deadline: January 31, 2017.
El Chapo Review Essay Contest 2017. Genre: Creative non-fiction. Prize: $500 top prize. Deadline: January 31, 2017.
Outlet Publishing Young Writers’ Short Story Competition. Restrictions: Open to ages 16–25, UK residents only. Genre: Short story. Prize: £150 top prize. Deadline: January 31, 2017.
Originally published at publishedtodeath.blogspot.com on December 27, 2016.
Like this article? You can find more writing resources, including free contests, calls for submissions, useful tips on how to get an agent, agents who are looking for clients as well as publishers accepting manuscripts directly from writers, tips for 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.