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Written by Grace Tierney   

Contests for Younger Writers

"Let us help you to find the perfect writing contest to enter and leave you free to do what you're good at, writing your entry."

by Grace Tierney

I am constantly amazed by the sheer numbers of enthusiastic writers I meet online who are under 18. There's a long history of young authors; Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley who wrote "Frankenstein" when she was 19 years, Christopher Paoli was 15 when he self-published his young adult fantasy book "Eragon" and it swept onto bestseller lists, and more recently 18 year old Leah Lauber published "Soccer Dreams" ( ) to describe her true adventure following the U.S. Women's National Team as a 12 year old junior reporter during the 1999 Women's World Cup.  

Their passion and skill far outstrips their age, yet I rarely find writing sites and contests targeted for them. Obviously most writing contests are open to younger participants too but, for example, fees hardly seem fair on students and why not have some categories open to those without gray hairs on their heads?

So in this edition I've done my best to locate writing contests specifically for younger writers, whether that is eleven-year-olds or those studying at university. I won't list contests that exclude participants purely on the basis of their geography so I am not including those aimed at specific school systems or countries, a chat with an English teacher or school librarian may be the best way to find out about those ones.

R emember too that there are prizes for things like essays about science, the environment, and feminism, which a young writer could tackle with his non-fiction writing skills.

As for getting started as a young writer, well how about starting with this article ( at Woodworks E-zine which explains it much better than I can! StoneSoup ( ) lists magazines that want contributions from young writers and you could also check out the teen writers forum at where some members kindly helped me with my research for this feature.

Additionally, as Debi mentioned in our last edition, November is National Novel Writing Month ( ) and that's open to brave young writers too who are trying to create a 50,000-word novel within the 30 days, in fact I know quite a few who are skimping on schoolwork this month in an effort to complete their masterpieces on time. In 2003 approximately 25,000 writers accepted the challenge and the numbers are even higher this time around.

Plus yesterday (November 15) was the third "I Love To Write Day" ( ), which is an opportunity for people of all ages to write something. Authors everywhere made visits to schools for readings and to give advice to young hopefuls. If your community, club, or school missed out this time around why not write to your favorite writer and ask her to come along next year, or even sooner?

So what else do I have in this edition? Well apart from the ten contests aimed at younger writers I've got 27 contests in my regular round-up for the month, leading us up to the 31 st of December deadlines. This is my second anniversary of writing this column and I bet I've still got readers out there who haven't fulfilled their resolution to themselves to enter a contest; this list has your last chance to end 2004 with a prize. You'll be relieved to hear that despite the pre-Christmas spending frenzy about a third of them are entry free, so go for it!

All contests are annual unless otherwise noted and all are open to international writers


Regular contests of various forms


Regular contests, not all requiring writing to enter

Merlyn's Pen

Irregular contest information

Teen Ink Magazine

Now active for 16 years, they run regular contests from art to essays to fiction to poetry and most things in between. Well worth a look

Felix Morley Journalism Competition

articles, editorials, opinion pieces, essays and reviews by writers under 25 years

December 1

Story Starter Junior

short fiction and non-fiction contests for writers aged 10-18

December 31 and October 31

The Dome's annual Halloween Short Story contest

scary or humorous short fiction on a Halloween theme by writers under 21, multimedia writing is welcome

October 19

Contemporary Issues YA Fiction Contest

This one is mainly aimed at adult writers but surely a young writer could write good YA fiction? They run several fiction and non-fiction contests

free for subscribers / ten US dollars for others

October 31

Williamette Writers Kay Snow Writing Awards

Free for students

Short Fiction, non-fiction, poetry by those aged 18 or under

May 15

Cathal Bui Summer School Writing Competition

school-goer 1 /   1.50   per haiku

The dates and genres for this contest are subject to change from year to year but are associated with a festival that runs annually.

June 1

Coming Soon to the Writing Contest Department

Forthcoming features will focus on seasonally themed contests, personal essays, plays, screenplays, haiku, quirky contests, non-fiction writing, no-fee contests, humor writing, short story contests, travel writing, writing for children, speculative fiction, contests with unusual prizes, and mystery writing contests.

I'm always looking for new contest types to research so if you're looking for one, just drop me a line. I'd also love to hear from you if you win a contest you read about here or if you have a contest to suggest for inclusion. Please note that I will only include contests which are open to writers anywhere in the world as our readers are geographically dispersed.

Contest Deadlines from December 11 to January 10

December 15

Writing on the Run

writing tip / non-fiction

December 15

The Writer's Digest International Self-Published Book Awards

self-published book in various categories

December 15

Boulevard Emerging Writers Contest

Poetry and short fiction

December 15

Canadian Chapter of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula Creative Writing

vampire short fiction and poetry

December 15

Dorrie Wheeler/SparkleDoll Productions New Author Contest


December 15

Penny's Pens & Pics Writing & Photography

essay / non-fiction

December 15

Central PA Writing Contest

fiction or non-fiction, humorous or serious, personal essay or short fiction

December 16

CrazyHorse Fiction Prize and Lynda Hull Memorial Poetry Prize

short fiction and poetry

December 21

Dead of Winter Writing Contest

short fiction

December 22

Robert H. Winner Memorial Award

poetry by older poets

December 30

Whim's Place Flash Fiction Contest

flash fiction

December 31

Griffin Poetry Prize

poetry chapbook

December 31

Obadiah Press Writers' Contest

non-fiction article or essay

December 31

The Foster City International Writer's Contest

fiction, poetry, children's fiction, humor, personal essay

December 31

The Andre Dubus Award in Short Fiction

short fiction

December 31

Real Eight View Poetry Competition


December 31

Pre-Furred Flash Fiction Competition

flash fiction featuring an animal and the entry fee goes to an animal shelter

December 31

Ghost Road Press Contest

all genres, including fiction, poetry, and essays

December 31

El Dorado Writer's Guild

fiction, non-fiction, poetry

December 31

JBWB Seasonal Contest

seasonal short fiction contest with six categories

December 31

Logan Writer's Guild Contest

short fiction and poetry

December 31

SPS Studios Biannual Poetry Card Contest

greeting card poetry

December 31

Firebrand Fiction / SF Reader Fiction contest

short fiction in horror, slipstream, fantasy, science fiction, steampunk, or alternate history or any other sub-genre

December 31

Story Starter Junior

short fiction contest for young writers ages 10-14, and 15-18

December 31

Tracking A Serial Poet Contest


December 31

The Purple Pen

an intriguing opening line

December 31 Photo Caption Contest

caption / humor


Grace Tierney is a freelance writer who lives in Ireland. When she's not researching writing contests, she enjoys gluttony, reading, gardening, and travel. Her short stories have been published in the US and UK, and her non-fiction has been published in Ireland, the UK, America, and Australia. She is a staff writer with Writer Online and Netsurfer Digest . Grace may be contacted via


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