Your 2020 short story competition guide

[Updated 10/4/20 – please note that some deadlines have been extended due to the Covid-19 crisis] Can you 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
  • 2nd Annual Cobh Readers and Writers’ Short Story Competition
  • Closing date: March 15
  • Prizes: 1st place €150, 2nd and 3rd place €100 worth of vouchers. Winners will be invited to read at the Cobh Readers and Writers’ Festival, Cobh, Co Cork (April 23-26), and all placed entries will be published in a collection of work
  • Theme: ‘A Million Miles Away’
  • Word limit: 3,000 words
  • Entry details: appears to be free to enter, one entry only
  • 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
  • Colm Tóibín International Short Story Award 2020
  • Closing date: April 13
  • Prizes: 1st place €700 and a crystal trophy, 2nd place €500, 3rd place €300
  • Theme: none
  • Word limit: 1,700-2,200 words
  • Entry details: €10 per entry, one entry only. Open internationally
  • From the Well Short Story Competition 2020
  • Closing date: EXTENDED TO April 17 (5pm)
  • Prizes: 1st place a weeklong writing workshop at the West Cork Literary Festival in Bantry, Co Cork, and €250 towards accommodation. The winner and 19 shortlisted stories will be published in the annual anthology, which takes its title from the winning story
  • Theme: none
  • Word limit: 2,000 words
  • Entry details: free to enter, one entry only. Entrants must be registered members of a library (the competition is run by Cork County Library & Arts Services). As far as I’m aware, the library can be anywhere in the world
  • 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
  • Molly Keane Creative Writing Award 2020
  • Closing date: EXTENDED TO May 1 (12pm)
  • Prize: €500. Unlike previous years, this year’s winner is not required to attend the award ceremony, for obvious reasons
  • Theme: none
  • Word limit: 2,000 words
  • Entry details: free to enter, one entry only . Open to writers resident on the island of Ireland
  • Francis MacManus/RTE Short Story Competition 2020
  • Closing date: May 8 (5pm)
  • Prizes: 1st place €3,000, 2nd place €2,000, 3rd place €1,000. Seven shortlisted writers will receive €250 each, and all 10 short stories will be broadcast in a season of new writing on RTÉ Radio 1 in the autumn. The top three prizewinning stories will also be published on thejournal.ie
  • Word limit: 1,800-2,000 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee: free to enter, one entry only. Open to writers who are Irish nationals or resident in Ireland
  • Mairtín Crawford Short Story Award 2020
  • Closing date: EXTENDED TO May 13
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,000 (this has been increased from the original purse of £500) and a 3-night stay at The River Mill writers’ retreat in Co Down. 2nd place £250 
  • Theme: none
  • Word limit: 2,500 words
  • Entry details: £6 per entry, looks like one entry only permitted. Open internationally
  • Leicester Writes Short Story Prize
  • Closing date: EXTENDED TO May 20
  • Prizes: 1st place £100, 2nd place £50, 3rd place £25. A longlist of up to 20 stories will be published in an anthology
  • Theme: none
  • Word limit: 3,000 words
  • Entry details: £7 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
  • 2020 Shooter Short Story Competition
  • Closing date: May 31
  • Prizes: 1st place £400 and publication in the winter edition of Shooter Literary Magazine, 2nd place £100. Both stories will be published on the site
  • Word limit: 5,000 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee: £7 for one entry, £10 for two, multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • 2020 Frome Festival Short Story Competition
  • Closing date: May 31
  • Prizes: 1st place £400, 2nd £200, 3rd £100
  • Word limit: 1,000-2,2000 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee: £8 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
  • Writing Magazine Grand Prize
  • Closing date: June 30
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,000 and publication  in the October Writing Magazine Competition Supplement, 2nd place £250, 3rd place £100, 4th place a WM Courses mini-critique, 5th place a twelve-month subscription to Writing Magazine
  • Word limit: 2,000 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee: £15 per entry (£10 for subscribers), multiple entries permitted. Appears to be open internationally
  • VS Pritchett Short Story Prize
  • Closing date: July 3
  • Prize: £1,000 and publication in Prospect magazine online and in the RSL (Royal Society of Literature) Review
  • Word limit: 2,000-4,000 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee: £7.50 per entry, multiple entries permitted. Open to writers resident in the UK, Republic of Ireland or Commonwealth (see list of countries here) and likely to be available for a prize-giving event in London in November 2020
  • The HG Wells Short Story Competition 2020
  • Closing date: July 6
  • Prizes: 1st place £500. All shortlisted stories will be published in an anthology. There is also a category called The Margaret and Reg Turnill Competition for Young Writers (under-21s), with a prize of £1,000
  • Word limit: 1,500-5,000 words
  • Theme: ‘Vision’
  • Entry fee: for entrants over 21, it’s £10 per story, or £5 for students with student ID, multiple entries permitted. Entry is free for writers under 21 (see above). Multiple entries permitted, open internationally
  • Write by the Sea/Kilmore Quay Short Story Competition 2020
  • Closing date: July 10
  • Prizes: two category winners (there are also memoir and poetry categories) will receive €250 and the overall winner will receive €500. All three will received a hand-crafted trophy, have their winning entries published on the Write by the Sea website and receive a festival weekend pass (worth €110), granting free entry to workshops, talks, interviews and other weekend events, (with the exception of any limited place workshops which may already be fully booked when the winning entries are announced in September). Each category winner will be invited to read at the Write by the Sea Festival opening reception on September 25
  • Word limit: 3,000 words
  • Theme: ‘Waves’
  • Entry fee: €10 per entry, or €25 for three entries (which can be in any or all of the three categories), multiple entries permitted. Appears to be open internationally
  • 2020 Doris Gooderson Short Story Competition
  • Closing date: July 15
  • Prizes: 1st place £200, 2nd place £100, 3rd place £50. The winning entries may be published in the next Wrekin Writers Anthology and on the Wrekin Writers website, though this is not guaranteed
  • Word limit: 1,300 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee: £5 per entry, multiple entries permitted. 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; Roger Mosley/Pixabay

4 thoughts on “Your 2020 short story competition guide

    1. Niamh! Good to see you on the interweb. I hate when that happens. I’ve missed many a deadline because I missed a detail like the comp closing at 5pm or 11pm – that’s why I always mention it on my listings. At least you have something prepped for one of the many others coming up. Not many free-to-enter comps at the moment, though From the Well is accepting subs. And Molly Keane should open v soon as well

      Like

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