43 Writing Contests in May 2022 — No entry fees

Erica Verrillo
9 min readApr 30, 2022

This May there are more than three dozen free writing contests for short fiction, novels, poetry, CNF, nonfiction, and plays. Prizes range from $60,000 to a free writing class. 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!


Forum Prize. Genre: Essay on the subject of: ‘Challenging Literature.’ “We are looking for bold, visionary and persuasive essays that use academic research to pursue innovative questions. The topic may be addressed from the perspective of any of the literatures (including literary linguistics, translation and comparative literature approaches) normally covered by the journal: Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.” Prize: £500 and publication. Deadline: May 1, 2022.

The Orchards Poetry Journal: Grantchester Award. Genre: Poetry. Prize: First place is $50.00.
Second place is $30.00. Deadline: May 1, 2022.

The Waterston Desert Writing Prize. Genre: Literary nonfiction, desert theme. Prize: $1,500. Deadline: May 1, 2022.

West Virginia Fiction Competition. Restrictions: Open to West Virginia residents or students. Genre: Short fiction, 5,000 words max. Prize: $500. Deadline: May 1, 2022.

Queer Scifi Flash Fiction Contest. Genre: Fantasy, paranormal or horror LGBTIQA stories of no more than 300 words on the theme of Clarity. Prize: The top three winners will receive cash prizes of $75, $50, and $25 respectively. Deadline: May 1, 2022.

Questions Writing Prize. Restrictions: Open to authors aged 18–30. Genre: Short stories of any genre or nonfiction between 1500 and 2000 words. Prize: First place winners (or prize pool for a tie) is $2000. The work will also be published in a book. Deadline: May 1, 2022.

Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction. Restrictions: The writer must be Canadian, and an entry must be the writer’s first or second published book of any type or genre and must have a Canadian locale and/or significance. Genre: Print books and ebooks of creative non-fiction published in the previous calendar year. Prize: C$10,000.00. Deadline: May 1, 2022.

CINTAS Creative Writing Fellowship. Restrictions: Open to any Cuban author (including those of direct Cuban lineage; need not reside in Cuba). Genre: Novel excerpts, short stories, plays, or poems of up to 25 pages. Prize: $20,000 fellowship. Deadline: May 1, 2022.

Parsec Short Story Contest. Restrictions: Open to non-professional writers. Genre: Speculative fiction. The theme for the 2022 contest is: Hearth, Song, and Table. This can be conveyed in the setting, plot, characters, dialogue…the only limit is your imagination. The theme must be integral to the story in some way and not just mentioned in passing. Prize: $200 and publication. Best youth story (age 19 and under) receives $50. Deadline: May 1, 2022.

Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors. Created by the Missouri Humanities Council, the Warrior Arts Alliance, and Southeast Missouri State University Press, this series of anthologies preserves and shares military service perspectives of our soldiers and veterans of all conflicts and of their families. It is not only an outlet for artistic expression but also a document of the unique aspects of wartime in our nation’s history. Genres: Poetry, Short Fiction, Essay, Photography, Interview with a Warrior. Prize: $250 and publication. Deadline: May 2, 2022 (postmarked).

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 1, 2022 and May 2, 2022. Deadline: May 3, 2022.

Atwood Gibson Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. Genre: Fiction. Restrictions: Titles must be published in Canada and written by Canadians. No self-published works. Prize: $60,000 will be awarded to a novel or short-story collection published between March 1, 2022 and May 2, 2022. Prizes of $5,000 will be awarded to each of the finalists. Deadline: May 3, 2022.

Harper-Wood Creative Writing & Travel Award for English Poetry and Literature. Restrictions: Open to any student who has graduated from any university in the UK, Ireland, the Commonwealth or the USA. Genre: The Award Holder is expected to engage in a course of study or research, and produce a piece of original fiction, drama or poetry. Prize: £15,500 is provided to cover accommodation and living expenses during the course of the year. Deadline: May 4, 2022.

Grist: Imagine 2200. Genre: Short stories. “What we’re seeking: short stories that envision the next 180 years of equitable climate progress. Our mission is to make the story of a better world so irresistible, you want it right now.” Prize: First, second, and third-prize winners will be awarded $3,000, $2,000, and $1,000 respectively, and nine additional finalists will each receive a $300 honorarium. Deadline: May 5, 2022.

All Our Various Voices. Montpelier Arts Center is seeking original and unpublished submissions for All Our Various Voices, an anthology celebrating the rich diversity of personal or family stories of immigration from writers who are 18 years of age and older and reside in Maryland, Virginia, or the District of Columbia. Prize: First Place ($200), Second Place ($150), Third Place ($100) and two Honorable Mentions ($50 each). First Place ($200), Second Place ($150), Third Place ($100) and two Honorable Mentions ($50 each). Deadline: May 7, 2022.

RTÉ Radio Short Story Competition. Restrictions: Open to Irish writers and residents of Ireland. Genre: Short story. Prize: Up to 3,000 euros. Deadline: May 13, 2022.

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 15, 2022.

Toyin Falola Prize. Restrictions: Open to Africans between the age of 15 and 35. Genre: Prose (fiction or nonfiction) on theme of Freedom. Prize: $2,500 share between winner and 5 short listed stories. Deadline: May 15, 2022.

Governor General’s Literary Awards. Restrictions: Books must have been written by Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada. They do not need to be residing in Canada. Genre: The Governor General’s Literary Awards are given annually to the best English-language and French-Language book in each of the seven categories of Fiction, Literary Non-fiction, Poetry, Drama, Young People’s Literature (Text), Young People’s Literature (Illustrated Books). Prize: $25,000. Deadline: May 15, 2022.

Austen Riggs Erikson Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media. Genre: Nonfiction. “The Austen Riggs Erikson Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media recognizes a select group of media professionals, including journalists, writers, and others who create exemplary work that contributes to a deeper understanding of and greater public awareness about mental health issues. To be eligible, work must have been written in English, intended for the layperson, and must have been first published/released after April 1, 2020.” Prize: $3000. Deadline: May 15, 2022.

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, 2022.

Singapore Poetry Contest. Genre: Poetry. “We are looking for poems that use the chiming words “time” and “regime” together or separately in imaginative ways.” Prize: USD300, 200, and 100 will go to the top three winners. Deadline: May 15, 2022.

Leeway Foundation: Transformation Award. Restrictions: Women and transgender poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers in the Philadelphia area who have been creating art for social change for five or more years. Writers who have lived for at least two years in Bucks, Camden, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, or Philadelphia counties, who are at least 18 years of age, and who are not full-time students in a degree-granting arts program are eligible. Award: $15,000. Deadline: May 15, 2022.

The Roadrunner Review: High School Writing Competition. Restrictions: Open to high school students. Genre: Poetry, prose. Prize: $100. Deadline: May 16, 2022.

Roscommon New Writing Award. Restrictions: All entrants must have a connection with the county of Roscommon (born in, living in, currently working in, went to school in, etc). Genres: Short stories. Prize: €750.00. Deadline: May 20, 2022.

Creative Future Writers’ Award. Restrictions: Open to underrepresented writers in the UK only, who are over 18 years old. Genre: Poetry, fiction. This year’s theme is ‘How It Started.’ Prize: Publication, unspecified monetary award (?) Deadline: May 22, 2022.

Bacopa Literary Review. Genres: Fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry. Prizes: First ($200) and Runner-Up ($160) prizes in each genre. All published will receive $20 and a copy of the print journal. After publication, Bacopa will be promoted online. Deadline: May 23, 2022.

Irene Adler Prize for Women Writers. Restrictions: Open to Canadian women. Genre: Creative nonfiction. Prize: $1,000 scholarship to a woman pursuing a degree in journalism, creative writing, or literature at a recognized post-secondary institution in the U.S. or Canada. Deadline: May 30, 2022.

The Center for Fiction / Susan Kamil Emerging Writer Fellowships offer grants, editorial mentorship, and other opportunities to early-career New York City-based practitioners who are at a critical moment in their development as fiction writers. Genre: Fiction. Grant: $5,000. Deadline: May 30, 2022.

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, 2022.

A Voice for Animals Teen Essay Contest. Restrictions: Open to students between the ages of 14–18. Genre: Essays on an animal rights topic. In the 16–18 year olds category, essays must be 800–1,000 words long and be accompanied by a photograph; in the 14–15 year olds category, essays should be between 1,400–1,500 words. One climate change prize (both age categories compete) will be awarded for an essay on how climate change affects a particular animal species. Prize: $500. Deadline: May 31, 2022.

#GWstorieseverywhere. Genre: Micro fiction. Your story must be no longer than 25 words, with a max of 280 characters, including spaces and the hashtag. See themes. Prize: Free Gotham class. Deadline: May 31, 2022.

bpNichol Poetry Chapbook Award. Restrictions: Canadian publishers only. Genre: Published poetry chapbook. Prize: The author receives $4,000 and the publisher receives $500. Deadline: May 31, 2022.

CNO Naval History Essay Contest. Genre: Scholarly essay on naval history. Prize: First Prize: $5,000. Second Prize:$2,500. Third Prize: $1,500. Deadline: May 31, 2022.

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, 2022.

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, 2022.

McLaughlin-Esstman-Stearns First Novel Prize is awarded to the author of the best first novel published in the previous calendar year. Restrictions: Only American authors publishing in English are eligible. Non-eligible books include short story collections, flash fiction, memoirs, biographies and books published solely in electronic format. Prize: $1000. Deadline: May 31, 2022.

Owl Canyon Press Essay Contest. Genre: Essay of at least 2,000 words about some aspect of Marc Jampole’s experimental literary masterpiece, The Brothers Silver. Prize: $5000. An additional honorarium of $1,000 will be awarded the winner if their essay is published in an eligible publication (see rules for list); authors of any other entry published in an eligible publication will receive $300. Deadline: May 31, 2022.

Substack runs a monthly short story competition. Their mission is to “revive the art of the short story, support artists, and produce something wonderful.” Genre: Short story. Length: 6000- 10,000 words. Prize: $100 plus 50% of subscription revenue to be sent by Paypal, Zelle, or check. Deadline: May 31, 2022. Reprints are ok so long as you still have the rights to distribute.

Speculative Literature Foundation Older Writers Grant. Restrictions: Open to writers who are fifty years of age or older at the time of grant application. Genre: Speculative fiction. Prize: $500. Deadline: May 31, 2022.

Undiscovered Voices First Novel Prize. Genre: First novel published in 2021. Prize: $3000. Deadline: May 31, 2022.

The Drabble Harvest Contest. Genre: Drabble on theme of “Space Junk.” A “drabble” is defined as a short story containing exactly precisely no more and no fewer than 100 words. It has a title, which can be from 1 to 15 words — but no more than 15. Prize: $5. Deadline: May 31, 2022.

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. Prizes: First place: $1,000 plus publication in The Iowa Review. Second place: $750. Three runners-up: $500 each. Deadline: May 31, 2022.

Like this article? For more articles about the publishing world, useful tips on how to get an agent, agents who are looking for clients, how to market and promote your work, building your online platform, how to get reviews, self-publishing, as well as publishers accepting manuscripts directly from writers (no agent required) visit Publishing and Other Forms of Insanity.