Your 2020 short story competition guide

[Updated 20/1/20] Can you actually believe we’re casually referring to 2020 as something imminent and not the setting for a sci-fi series where everyone dresses in tin foil smocks? How on earth did that happen? In this bold new world, there will be things called short story competitions and you – intrepid explorer – will boldly go where your comfort zone has never taken you before and enter them. Here are all the details you need.

As always, I will update this post as and when new Ireland and UK competitions are announced. You could say this is Mission Control, and I’m Ed Harris in a waistcoat, occasionally muttering ‘Failure is not an option.’

OK, my sci-fi/spacey theme is getting a bit muddled now. The important thing is – Godspeed and happy writing!

  • 8th Annual Mogford Food & Drink Short Story Prize
  • Closing date: January 13 (12 noon)
  • Prizes: 1st place £10,000 and an inscribed award. The winning entry will be recorded by an actor for The StoryPlayer website. Three runners-up will receive £250 each. All shortlisted stories will be published on the Mogford website
  • Theme: food and drink must be at the heart of the story
  • Word limit: 2,500 words
  • Entry details: £10 per entry. Open internationally
  • The London Magazine Short Story Prize 2019
  • Closing date: January 15
  • Prizes: 1st place £500 and publication in the print edition of The London Magazine. 2nd place wins £300, 3rd place £200. The second and third place stories will be published on TLM website. Winners will also be invited to a reception in London in early 2020
  • Theme: none
  • Word limit: 2,500 words
  • Entry details:  £10 for one short story, subsequent entries £5 per story. Student entry £5 per story (entrants must provide a valid university email address), multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • Cúirt New Writing Prize 2020
  • Closing date: January 31 (5pm)
  • Prize: €500 and the opportunity to read at the Cúirt/Over the Edge Showcase event at the 35th Cúirt International Festival of Literature, which takes place in Galway, April 20-25
  • Theme: none
  • Word limit: 2,000 words
  • Entry details: €10 per entry, multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • STORGY Annihilation Radiation Short Story Competition
  • Closing date: January 31 (11pm)
  • Prizes: 1st place £500, 2nd place £100, 3rd place £50. All shortlisted stories will be published in the Annihilation Radiation anthology published by STORGY
  • Theme: the brief is to submit “irradiated stories involving the annihilation of the world. Think Mad Max, The Road, The Book of Eli, Snowpiercer, World War Z, I Am Legend, The Hunger Games, Stake Land, 12 Monkeys and Escape from New York.” When you click on the Submittable link to enter the competition, you will be sent a time period to set your story in, ie. Before, During or After
  • Word limit: 8,000 words
  • Entry details: £10 per entry, one entry only. Free entry will be available for low/no-income writers, see website for details of how to apply. Open internationally
  • ChipLitFest Short Story Competition 2020
  • Closing date: February 8
  • Prizes: 1st place £500, 2nd place £100, 3rd place £50. The authors of the top 10 stories will have an opportunity to feature on Penny Shorts, a website which publishes short stories of all genres online. The top 3 stories will be published on the ChipLitFest website
  • Theme: none
  • Word limit: there are two set limits, of either 2,500 or 5,000 words
  • Entry details: £5 for stories up to 2,500 words, £8 for stories up to 5,000 words, multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • Writers’ & Artists’ Short Story Competition 2020
  • Closing date: February 13
  • Prize: a place on an Arvon Foundation residential course (worth £1,000) and the winning story will be published on the W&A website
  • Theme: none
  • Word limit: 2,000 words
  • Entry details: free to enter (you just have to register on the site), one entry only. Open internationally
  • The White Review Short Story Prize 2020
  • Closing date: February 27 (5pm)
  • Prizes: 1st place £2,500 and publication in a print issue of UK literary journal The White Review. Shortlisted writers will have their work published online
  • Theme: 2,000-7,000 words
  • Word limit: none, but the journal emphasise that the prize was ‘founded to reward ambitious, imaginative and innovative approaches to creative writing’, so send them your most adventurous work
  • Entry fee: £15 per story, one entry only. Free entry is available for up to 50 low-income writers, on application before January 23. Allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Open to writers of any nationality provided they reside in UK or Ireland
  • Exeter Writers Short Story Competition 2020
  • Closing date: February 28
  • Prizes: 1st place £700, 2nd place £250, 3rd place £100. There is also a local prize of £100 for Devon-based writers. The winning stories will be published on the Exeter Writers website
  • Theme: 3,000 words
  • Word limit: none
  • Entry fee: £7 per story, multiple entries allowed. Open internationally
  • Bryan MacMahon Short Story Award 2020
  • Closing date: February 28
  • Prize: €2,000 
  • Theme: 3,000 words
  • Word limit: none
  • Entry fee: €10 (plus €3 booking fee if submitting online) per story, multiple entries allowed. Website doesn’t specify whether it is open internationally
  • Flash 500 Short Story Competition
  • Closing date: February 29
  • Prizes: 1st place £500, 2nd place £200, 3rd place £100
  • Theme: none
  • Word limit: 1,000-3,000 words
  • Entry details: £7 for one entry, £12 for two, £16 for three, £20 for four. Open internationally
  • Michael Terence Publishing Winter Short Story Competition
  • Closing date: February 29
  • Prizes: 1st place £400, 2nd place £300, 3rd place £200. The finalists will be published the MTP anthology (print book and ebook), which will take its title from the winning entry
  • Theme: none
  • Word limit: 3,000 words
  • Entry details: £5 per entry, multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • CWA/Margery Allingham Short Mystery Competition 2020
  • Closing date: February 29
  • Prize: £500, a selection of Margery Allingham-related books and two weekend passes to international crime fiction convention CrimeFest 2020, which takes place in Bristol, UK, June 4-7
  • Theme: stories may be on any theme, but must satisfy Margery Allingham’s definition of a mystery and its chronology, ie. “The Mystery remains box-shaped, at once a prison and a refuge. Its four walls are, roughly, a Crime, a Mystery, an Enquiry and a Conclusion with an Element of Satisfaction in it.”
  • Word limit: 3,500 words
  • Entry details:  £12 per story, multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • Scottish Arts Club Short Story Award 2020
  • Closing date: February 29
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,000, 2nd place £500, 3rd place £250. The three winners will also receive one year’s free membership of the Scottish Arts Club, and have dedicated page on the website promoting their work. The top 20 stories will be published in a print anthology
  • Theme: none
  • Word limit: 2,000 words
  • Entry details: £10 per entry, multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • Desperate Literature Prize for Short Fiction 2020
  • Closing date: March 15
  • Prizes: 1st place €1,000, a week’s residency at the Civitella Ranieri Foundation in Italy and a  consultation with a literary agent from Andrew Nurnberg Associates. Two runners-up prizes of €500. All shortlisted writers will be published in a limited edition book published by Desperate Literature and launched at the Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize Salon, Madrid; there will also be publication with one of Desperate’s partner journals: 3:AMHelter SkelterThe London Magazine, Open PenPrototypeHotelGorse,  The Second Shelf  (women only); participation in Desperate Literature Prize Salons at Desperate Literature, Madrid; Burley Fisher, London; Typewronger Books, Edinburgh; and The Second Shelf, London (women only); and participation in the Rizoma Film Festival. In addition, one shortlisted winner will be selected for a week’s residency at Casa Ana, Andalucia, as part of their creative writing programme
  • Theme: none
  • Word limit: 2,000 words
  • Entry fee: €20 for the first entry and €10 for any subsequent entry, with a maximum of five entries per person. Open internationally
  • 2020 Short Fiction/University of Essex Prize
  • Closing date: March 31
  • Prizes: 1st place £500, 2nd place £250. Both will be published in online literary journal Short Fiction, while the shortlisted stories will be considered for publication
  • Theme: none
  • Word limit: 5,000 words (no minimum requirement)
  • Entry details: early-bird entry fee of £7 until Feb 29, thereafter £9 per entry, multiple entries permitted. There will be 25 free entries available to writers on a low income, on a first-come first-serve basis. Open internationally
  • Bath Short Story Award 2020
  • Closing date: April 20
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,200, 2nd place £300, 3rd place £100. Shortlisted stories will be published in the BSSA anthology
  • Theme: none
  • Word limit: 2,200 words
  • Entry details: £8 per entry, multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • Bristol Short Story Prize 2020
  • Closing date: April 30
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,000, 2nd place £500, 3rd place £250. 17 further prizes of £100 will be presented to the shortlisted writers
  • Theme: none
  • Word limit: 4,000 words
  • Entry details: £9 per entry, multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • Lucent Dreaming 2020 Short Story Contest
  • Closing date: May 30 (10pm)
  • Prizes: 1st place £100, publication on the Lucent Dreaming website and UK creative writing magazine, and free editing for a year. 2nd place £50, pubication on the site and in the magazine. 3rd place £25 and publication on the website
  • Word limit: 2,000-7,500 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee: £4 per entry, up to five entries permitted. Entries are free for those from low-income backgrounds, from households earning £16,000 or less per year. There is no need to declare or prove your income threshold. Open internationally
  • The Bridport Prize for Short Story
  • Closing date: May 31
  • Prizes: 1st place £5,000 and an invitation to the awards lunch to read your story to the audience, chat to the judges, meet other writers, agents and take part in publicity. 2nd place £1,000, 3rd place £500, both with an invitation to the awards lunch. 10 Highly Commended stories will be awarded £100 each. All the winning and highly commended pieces will be published in the Bridport Prize anthology and entered into the Sunday Times Audible competition, top prize £30,000. Literary agent AM Heath will read all the shortlistees and consider representation
  • Word limit: 5,000 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee: £12 per entry, multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize: Short Story
  • Closing date: June 1 (5pm)
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,000, publication by UK literary journal Wasafiri both in print and online, and an offer of the Chapter and Verse or Free Reads mentoring scheme in partnership with The Literary Consultancy (dependent on eligibility). Shortlisted writers will be published online with Wasafiri and may be eligible for Free Reads mentoring also
  • Word limit: 3,000 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee:  £10 for a one entry, £16 for two. A limited number of subsidised entries will be available at £6 per entry, which must be accompanied by an explanation of the entrant’s need for subsidised entry. 25 subsidised entries will be accepted per month during the months that the prize is open (February-May 2020). Open internationally
  • Aesthetica Creative Writing Award
  • Closing date: August 31
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,000, publication in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual 2020, a selection of books from Vintage and Bloodaxe Books, one-year print subscription to Granta and a consultation with Redhammer Management. 60 shortlisted entries will be published in the annual Aesthetica anthology
  • Word limit: 2,000 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee: £18 per entry, multiple entries permitted. Open internationally

PS. If you’re new to writing and/or submitting, you might find a useful tip or two in my post 6 Things I’ve Learned About Entering Competitions

Photos: Jonny Lindner/Pixabay; Song Kimpton/Pixabay; Kira Hoffmann/Pixabay; Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

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