2021 short story competition guide

[UPDATED 2/3/21] It may feel a bit soon to be looking towards next year’s UK and Ireland short story awards, but there are quite a few currently open and waiting for your wonderful words. Of course, the Covid crisis has played havoc in terms of planning 2021 arts festivals, so there aren’t as many accompanying competions being announced as usual. But I will update the list as and when they are confirmed, so do check back every now and then for news.

And as always, the very best of luck. May you soon be hoisting that trophy and blubbing through that acceptance speech!

  • The Ninth Annual Mogford Food & Drink Short Story Prize
  • Closing date: January 13 (at 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 and possibly as a booklet to be placed in Mogford hotel rooms. The four finalists will be invited to the Mogford Prize 2021 party (date to be confirmed), and hosted in one of the Mogford hotels in Oxford, UK. All travel expenses agreed in advance will be met by Jeremy Mogford, including, where necessary, economy flights
  • Word limit: 2,500 words
  • Theme: food and drink must be at the heart of the story
  • Entry details: £15 per story, a proportion of which will be donated to the charity Pen International. Open internationally
  • The Phare Magazine WriteWords Short Story Competition
  • Closing date: January 17
  • Prizes: 1st place £100, an invitation to record the entry for journal’s podcast and a free place in The Phare’s WriteLines online writing retreat. 2nd place £50. Both finalists will appear in the competition issue in February, and be published in a print anthology
  • Word limit: 3,000 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee: £8 for one story, £14 for two. There are five free spots available for writers of restricted means, on application. Appears to be open internationally
  • 2020 Michael McLaverty Short Story Competition
  • Closing date: January 31
  • Prizes:  1st place £2,000, and two runners-up will win £250 each. The three stories will be published in a limited anthology
  • Word limit: 3,000 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee: free to enter. Entrants must have been born in, or are citizens of, or resident in Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland
  • Cúirt New Writing Prize for Fiction 2021
  • Closing date: February 1 (5pm)
  • Prize: €500 and the opportunity to read at the 36th annual Cúirt International Festival of Literature, which will take place in Galway, April 21-25
  • Word limit: 2,000 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee: €10 per entry, multiple entries permitted. There are 35 subsidised entries available on application (more details on the website). Appears to be open internationally 
  • Crime Writers Association/Margery Allingham Short Story Competition
  • Closing date: February 26 (6pm)
  • Prize: £500 plus two weekend passes to CrimeFest 2021 (scheduled to take place May 13-16 in Bristol, UK) and a selection of Margery Allingham-related books
  • Word limit:  3,500 words
  • Theme: a short mystery – one that fits into legendary crime writer Allingham’s definition of what makes a great story: “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.”
  • Entry fee: £12 per entry, mutiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • Bryan MacMahon Short Story Award 2021
  • Closing date: February 28
  • Prize:  1st place €1,000. This is the official short story competition for the renowned Listowel Writers’ Week, scheduled to take place June 2-6
  • Word limit: 3,000 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee: €10 per entry for postal entries (+€3 booking fee if submitted online), multiple entries permitted. They don’t mention whether this is open internationally
  • Scottish Arts Club Short Story Award 2021
  • Closing date: February 28
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,000, 2nd £500, 3rd £250. The three winners will also receive one year’s free membership of the Scottish Arts Club, and have a dedicated page on the website promoting their work. The top 20 stories will be published in a print anthology
  • Word limit: 2,000 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry details: £10 per entry, multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • Flash 500 Short Story Competition
  • Closing date: February 28
  • Prizes: 1st place £500, 2nd £200, 3rd £100
  • Word limit: 1,000-3,000 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry details: £7 for one story, £12 for two, £16 for three, £20 for four. There is also an option to receive a critique for £25 per story. Open internationally
  • Fowey/Du Maurier Festival Short Story Competition
  • Closing date: March 7
  • Prizes: 1st place £200, 2nd place £100. The winning entries will be published on the website of the Fowey Festival of Arts and Literature, which celebrates the life and work of Daphne du Maurier
  • Word limit: 1,500 words
  • Theme: ‘Breaking Point’, inspired by the title of Daphne du Maurier’s collection of short stories
  • Entry details: £10 per story, one entry only. Open internationally
  • The Wild Hunt Magazine Short Story Competition
  • Closing date: March 9
  • Prizes: 1st place £200, 2nd £100, 3rd a copy of competition judge Helen McClory’s new novel Bitterhall. All three will be published on The Wild Hunt magazine website
  • Word limit: 500-3,000 words
  • Theme: none, but they are looking for stories of literary merit that embrace the mission and ethos of The Wild Hunt magazine. The journal is described as celebrating ‘the weird, surreal, the other, and imaginary worlds (ie. not actual hunting!). Its aim is to feature writing and artwork that includes strange occurrences, mysterious places, magic, creatures and monsters, the uncanny, fairies, folklore, horror, the ghostly and ghoulish, and any whirlwind adventures’
  • Entry details: £4 per story, up to three entries permitted. Open internationally
  • Evesham Festival of Words Short Story Competition 2021
  • Closing date: March 12 (5pm)
  • Prizes: 1st place £150, 2nd £50, 3rd £30, as well as an engraved trophy for the winner. The winning short stories will, with the author’s permission, be added to the festival website (the Evesham Festival of Words is scheduled to take place late June/early July, dates still to be confirmed depending on the Covid-19 situation)
  • Word limit: 2,500 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee: £5 per entry, multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • Silver Apples Magazine Redemption Short Story Competition
  • Closing date: March 17
  • Prizes: 1st place €200, 2nd place €125, 3rd place €75. All twelve shortlisted stories (including the three winners) will be published in a special issue of Silver Apples Magazine titled ‘Redemption II’
  • Word limit: 1,500-5,000 words
  • Theme: not a theme as such, but this competion is called ‘Redemption’ so send your favourite story that has bewilderingly been rejected from other journals/comps (that gives most of us writers a wide range to choose from!)
  • Entry fee: €10 per entry, one story only. Open internationally
  • Short Fiction/University of Essex International Short Story Prize
  • Closing date: March 31
  • Prizes: 1st place £500, 2nd £250, 3rd £100
  • Word limit: 5,000 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee: early bird £7 per entry until February 28, thereafter £9 per entry, multiple entries permitted. Forty free entries are available to writers of limited means, on application. Open internationally
  • From the Well Short Story Competition 2021
  • Closing date: April 1 (4pm)
  • Prizes: 1st place publication in an anthology, which takes its name from the winning entry. The winner and two others will be featured as part of the 2021 West Cork Literary Festival (in previous years this was a reading as part of the festival in Bantry, Co Cork in July, with the winner also getting a free place on one of the five-day writing workshops – last year this happened online). The twenty selected stories will be published in the annual finalist’ anthology
  • Word limit: 2,000 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee: free to enter, one entry only. Open to registered library members
  • HE Bates Short Story 2020/21 Competition
  • Closing date: April 5
  • Prizes: 1st place £500, 2nd place £200, 3rd place £100. There will also be a prize of £100 for the best story by a Northants writer
  • Word limit: 2,000 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee: £6 for one story, £10 for two. Open internationally
  • 2021 Bath Short Story Award
  • Closing date: April 19
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,200, 2nd £300, 3rd £100. There’s also the Acorn Award of £100 for an unpublished writer of fiction. The top 20 stories will be published in the annual print and digital anthology
  • Word limit: 2,200 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee:  £9 per entry, multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • The White Review Short Story Prize 2021
  • Closing date: April 26 (5pm)
  • Prizes: 1st place £2,500 and publication in The White Review print journal. Shortlisted writers will have their work published online
  • Word limit: 2,000-7,000 words
  • Theme: none, but the judges will be looking for short stories that explore and expand the possibilities of the form
  • Entry fee: £15 per entry, one entry only. Free entry is available for up to 100 low-income writers, on application. Open to writers resident in the UK and Ireland
  • Mairtín Crawford Award for Short Story
  • Closing date: May 2
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,000 and a five-night stay at The River Mill Writer’s Retreat in Downpatrick, Co Down. Two runners-up will receive a cash prize of £250
  • Word limit: 2,500 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee: £6 per entry, doesn’t say if multiple entries are permitted. Open to writers who were born in or are citizens of Ireland and UK
  • 2021 Bristol Short Story Prize
  • Closing date: May 5
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,000, 2nd £500, 3rd £250. 17 shortlisted writers will each receive £100. The 20 winning stories will be published in the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Volume 14 by Tangent Books and the contributors will each receive two copies
  • Word limit: 4,000 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee: £9 per entry, multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • RTE Short Story Competition in honour of Francis MacManus
  • Closing date: May 7
  • Prizes: 1st place  €3,000, 2nd place €2,000, 3rd place €1,000. A further seven runners-up will receive €250 each, and all 10 shortlisted stories will be published on rte.ie/culture and broadcast in a season of new writing on RTÉ Radio 1 in the autumn
  • Word limit: 1,800-2,000 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee:  free to enter, one entry only. Open to writers who are resident on the island of Ireland, or, if living abroad, hold an Irish passport
  • Michael Terence Publishing Short Story Competition 2021
  • Closing date: May 31
  • Prizes: 1st place £2,021 and publication in the MTP 2021 anthology (print and ebook), which will take its title from the winning story. The T&Cs don’t mention it, but I presume the shortlisted stories will also appear in the anthology
  • Word limit: 3,000 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee:  early bird entry of £5 per entry till February 28, thereafter £7 per entry, multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • The 2021 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize
  • Closing date: May 31 (5pm)
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,000 and print publication by Wasafiri literary journal. Shortlisted writers will have their work published on the Wasafiri website. All fifteen shortlistees and winners will also be offered the Chapter and Verse or Free Reads mentoring scheme in partnership with The Literary Consultancy (dependent on eligibility), and a conversation with Nikesh Shukla of The Good Literary Agency to discuss their career progression
  • Word limit: 3,000 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee:  £10 for one entry or £16 for two, multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • The Cambridge Short Story Prize 2021
  • Closing date: June 14 (opens for entries March 15)
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,000, 2nd place £300, 3rd place  £200, and all remaining shortlisted writers will be awarded £50. The winners and shortlisted stories will be published on the TSS Publishing site
  • Word limit: 2,500 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee: there’s a staggered entry fee, with early-bird of £7.50 from March 15-April 14, thereafter £8.50 until May 14 and then £9.50 until the closing date, multiple entries permitted. There will also be 30 free entries for those in economic hardship on a first come, first served basis. Open internationally
  • Write by the Sea – Fiction Short Story Competition
  • Closing date: June 25
  • Prizes: 1st place €250, plus an additional €250 for the outright winner of the three available categories (Fiction Short Story, Memoir and Poetry). The winner will also receive a beautiful, handcrafted trophy and their work will be published on the website, as well as a weekend pass to the Write by the Sea Literary Festival 2021, to be held (either virtually or live in Kilmore Qay, Co Wexford) September 24-26
  • Word limit: max 3,000 words
  • Theme: ‘Rescue’
  • Entry fee: €10 per piece or submit three pieces (in any category) for €20. Open internationally
  • The Moth Short Story Prize 2021
  • Closing date: June 30
  • Prize: 1st place €3,000, 2nd a week-long writing retreat at Circle of Misse  in France and a travel stipend of €250, 3rd €1,000. The winning stories will be published in the Autumn 2021 issue of The Moth magazine. The judge is novelist Ali Smith
  • Word limit: 5,000 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee: €15 per story, multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • Doris Gooderson Short Story Competition
  • Closing date: July 13
  • Prize: 1st place £200, 2nd place £100, 3rd place £50. The the winning entries may be published in the next Wrekin Writers Anthology and on the Wrekin Writers website. Publication in the anthology, or on the website, is not guaranteed
  • Word limit: 1,200 words
  • Theme: none
  • Entry fee: £5 per entry, multiple entries permitted (50% of any profits will be donated to the Severn Hospice). Open internationally
  • Anthology Magazine Short Story Competition 2021
  • Closing date: July 31
  • Prize: €500, publication in a future issue of Anthology magazine and a one-year subscription
  • Word limit: 1,500 words
  • Theme: ‘Memories’
  • Entry fee: early bird entry of €10 per story by April 30, €15 per story thereafter, multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • To Hull and Back Humorous Writing Contest 2021
  • Closing date: July 31
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,200, 2nd place £600, 3rd place £300. Three Highly Commended writers will receive £150 each, 14 shortlisted writers will receive £50 each. All finalists will be published in the To Hull And Back Short Story Anthology, which will be available both in print form and on Kindle
  • Word limit: 2,500 words
  • Theme: no set theme, but stories must have an element of humour
  • Entry fee: early bird entry of £13 for 1 story, £21 for 2 , £26 for 3 until April 30. Thereafter, £15 for 1 story, £24 for 2, £30 for 3. Open internationally

Photos: Jill Wellington/Pixabay; Michael Gaida/Pixabay; Winterseitler/Pixabay; Nck_gsl/Pixabay

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