Essay Contests For Adults For Money

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Colorado Review

Nelligan Prize

Cash Prize: $2,000

Entry Fee: $15

Application Deadline: 3/14/18

Genre: Fiction

A prize of $2,000 and publication in Colorado Review is given annually for a short story. Margot Livesey will judge. Submit a story of any length with a $15 entry fee...

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Prairie Schooner

Book Prizes

Cash Prize: $3,000

Entry Fee: $25

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction

Two prizes of $3,000 each and publication by University of Nebraska Press are given annually for a poetry collection and a short story collection. An editorial board will...

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James Jones Literary Society

First Novel Fellowship

Cash Prize: $10,000

Entry Fee: $30

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Fiction

A prize of $10,000 is given annually for a novel-in-progress by a U.S. writer who has not published a novel. A selection from the winning work will be published in ...

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Sonora Review

Annual Contests

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $15

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction

Three prizes of $1,000 each and publication in Sonora Review are given annually for a poem or group of poems, a short story, and an essay. The 2018 contest theme is "...

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The Pinch

Literary Awards

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $20

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction

Three prizes of $1,000 each and publication in the Pinch are given annually for a poem, a short story, and an essay. Maggie Smith will judge in poetry, Carmen Maria...

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Bellingham Review

Literary Awards

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $20

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction

Three prizes of $1,000 each and publication in Bellingham Review are given annually for works of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. The 49th Parallel Award for...

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The Word Works

Washington Prize

Cash Prize: $1,500

Entry Fee: $25

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry

A prize of $1,500 and publication by the Word Works is given annually to a U.S. or Canadian poet for a poetry collection. Submit a manuscript of 48 to 80 pages with a $25 entry...

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Southampton Review

Frank McCourt Memoir Prize

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $15

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Creative Nonfiction

A prize of $1,000 and publication in Southampton Review is given annually for a personal essay. Using the online submission system, submit an essay of up to 4,500...

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Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation

Poetry Prize

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $10

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry

A prize of $1,000 is given annually for an unpublished poem. Richard Blanco will judge. Submit up to three poems of no more than three pages each with a $10 entry fee by March...

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The Writer's Center

McLaughlin-Esstman-Stearns First Novel Prize

Cash Prize: $500

Entry Fee: $0

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Fiction

A prize of $500 is given annually for a first novel by a U.S. author published during the previous year. Authors, publishers, and agents may submit three copies of a novel...

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Kundiman/Tupelo Press

Kundiman Poetry Prize

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $28

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry

A prize of $1,000 and publication by Tupelo Press is given annually for a poetry collection by an Asian American poet. The board members of Kundiman and Tupelo Press will judge...

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Sarabande Books

Morton and McCarthy Prizes

Cash Prize: $2,000

Entry Fee: $29

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction

Two prizes of $2,000 each and publication by Sarabande Books are given annually for collections of poetry and fiction. For the Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry, submit a...

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Hunger Mountain

Literary Prizes

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $20

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction

Three prizes of $1,000 each and publication in Ephemeral Artery, Hunger Mountain's online publication, are given annually for a poem, a short story, and an...

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Slope Editions

Book Prize

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $22

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Poetry

A prize of $1,000 and publication by Slope Editions is given annually for a poetry collection. Ocean Vuong will judge. Submit a manuscript of 40 to 90 pages with a $22 entry...

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Hidden River Arts

Eludia Award

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $30

Application Deadline: 3/15/18

Genre: Fiction

A prize of $1,000 and publication by Sowilo Press is given annually for a novel or story collection by a woman writer over the age of 40. Using the online submission system,...

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Cave Canem Foundation

Poetry Prize

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $20

Application Deadline: 3/16/18

Genre: Poetry

A prize of $1,000 and publication by Graywolf Press is given annually for a first book of poetry by a black poet of African descent. Chris Abani will judge. Using the online...

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Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation

Literary Awards

Cash Prize: $10,000

Entry Fee: $100

Application Deadline: 3/16/18

Genre: Fiction, Creative Nonfiction

Two prizes of $10,000 each are given annually for a book of fiction and a book of nonfiction (including creative nonfiction) published in the previous year that "foster peace,...

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Fourth Genre

Steinberg Essay Prize

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $20

Application Deadline: 3/20/18

Genre: Creative Nonfiction

A prize of $1,000 and publication in Fourth Genre is given annually for an essay. Using the online submission system, submit an essay of up to 6,000 words with a $20...

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New South

Writing Contest

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $15

Application Deadline: 3/21/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction

Two prizes of $1,000 each and publication in New South are given annually for a poem and a story or essay. Safiya Sinclair will judge in poetry, and Alissa Nutting...

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Enizagam

Literary Awards

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $20

Application Deadline: 3/23/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction

Two prizes of $1,000 each and publication in Enizagam are given annually for a group of poems and a short story. Jesse Nathan will judge in poetry, and Rachel Khong...

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Trustees of the Robert Frost Farm

Frost Farm Prize

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $6

Application Deadline: 3/30/18

Genre: Poetry

A prize of $1,000 is given annually for a poem written in metrical verse. The winner also receives a scholarship and honorarium to give a reading at the Frost Farm Poetry...

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Florida Review

Editors’ Awards

Cash Prize: $1,000

Entry Fee: $20

Application Deadline: 3/31/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction

Three prizes of $1,000 each and publication in Florida Review are given annually for a group of poems, a short story, and an essay. The editors will judge. Submit...

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Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing

Poetry and Prose Prizes

Cash Prize: $1,600

Entry Fee: $25

Application Deadline: 3/31/18

Genre: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction

Two prizes valued at $1,600 each will be given annually to a poet and fiction writer to attend a weeklong seminar at the Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing Summer...

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Creating a great story, poem or essay is often its own reward for a writer. But wouldn’t it be even more satisfying if you made some money from your efforts? Maybe it’s time to enter your best work in writing contests that pay cash prizes.

There’s nothing wrong with writing contests that have a small entry fee. For example, Writer’s Weekly 24-Hour Short Story Contest costs $5 to enter. They email a topic or “starter” paragraph to all contestants at once, and you have 24 hours to write and submit your story (usually 500 to 2,000 words). The contest runs four times annually, and prizes include cash awards of $300, $250, and $200 for the top three finishers and free ebooks for dozens of other contestants.

Free Writing Contests

Of course, those $5 and $10 entry fees can add up. And let’s be honest; the odds of winning any particular contest are small. So you might want to limit your participation to those that don’t charge a fee. Fortunately, you have many to choose from, and the prizes are not insignificant.

For example, Utah State University English major John Gilmore won $10,000 in the Norman Mailer Nonfiction Writing Contest for his 8,000-word entry. There were more than 650 other college students in the competition.

You don’t have to be in college or even take first place to win big in many contests. High school teacher Kari Ballentine won $5,000 for her poem, “Midsummer’s Eve,” and that was for taking third place. Ballentine says she has won writing contest awards before, but never more than $75. Her big win came from the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Memorial Fund Poetry Contest, which awarded 30 prizes of $1,000 or more in 2013.

Here are a few more writing contests that don’t charge an entry fee:

Real Simple’s Life Lessons Essay Contest: An annual contest with a first-place prize of $3,000 for an essay about a “eureka moment” in your life. Entries are limited to 1,500 words or less.

Brooklyn Non-Fiction Prize: Sponsored by the Brooklyn Film & Arts Festival, this is a non-fiction essay contest with a $500 prize. The work has to be focused on Brooklyn and have a maximum of 2,500 words.

L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest: This contest is open to new and amateur writers (see their definition), and accepts short stories and novelettes in the science fiction, fantasy and dark fantasy genres. Every three months, they award prizes of $1,000, $750 and $500, and each year there’s an additional grand prize of $5,000.

New Voices Award: Entries are children’s books (fiction, nonfiction or poetry) up to 1,500 words. The first-place winner gets $1,000 and a publishing contract from Lee and Low Books. To be eligible, you have to be a writer of color who lives in the U.S. and has not previously published a children’s picture book.

More Contests

FreelanceWriting.com has a list of creative writing contests with no entry fees. The deadlines shown suggest a few out-of-date listings, but many contests are annual, so click the links on the expired ones to see if you’ll have another chance coming up.

Poets and Writers Magazine has an online database of Writing Contests, Grants & Awards that they screen for legitimacy. Contests with entry fees are included, but you can sort the list to show only those with no entry fee (or those with a $1 to $20 entry fee).

Entering Writing Contests

For your stories, essays, books and poems to have the best shot at winning a prize, you should do the following:

Read the eligibility criteria closely: Many contests are set up for certain groups of writers. You might have to be young, old, unpublished, in college or meet other eligibility requirements.

Follow submission rules carefully: Some contests are very strict about their rules. If you’re two words over the limit, your entry might be sent straight to the trash.

Revise and edit: Don’t submit anything but a piece that has been revised and edited repeatedly, and is in its final form. The competition in most contests is tough, but if you lose with your best you at least have something ready to self-publish or to enter in another contest.

Enter many contests: The math is simple; if you have any chance of winning a prize with your writing, you increase the odds by entering more contests.

Track your entries: Note the dates that winners will be announced, so if you happen to lose you can quickly enter that story or poem in another contest or pitch that essay to a magazine.

Your Turn: Have you ever entered or won a writing contest?

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