The following is a list of writing competitions for women. The description of each is taken directly from the most relevant website.
NB: These contests are open to entries by authors themselves. I have a separate resource page dedicated to awards given by nomination.
It is extraordinarily difficult to compile a list of open competitions as there are so many of them; however, funding often prevents them from operating as more than a singular opportunity. I have therefore included only contests that run annually.
This started as an exclusively literary list with a focus on creative work, but I’ve diversified things a little and added some broader writing awards. At some point, I may create a new category specifically for those, but in the meantime, the links will live here.
If you find a non-working link or know that a contest no longer exists, or if you know of an annual competition that should be added to this list, please let me know. I appreciate your help in making this list as comprehensive as possible. Thank you!
— Nicole Melanson
The Barnard Women Poets Prize (USA)
The Barnard Women Poets Prize is given for an exceptional second collection of poems.
BBC Somali Young Female Poet of the Year Award
The contest is open to all women aged 16 to 35 with no restrictions on their level of experience or location. Entries for the award must be an original work of poetry, that is a maximum of 15 lines long and not more than one minute of recording, in Somali language. For further details, see BBC Somali.
The Catharine Stimpson Prize for Outstanding Feminist Scholarship
From The University of Chicago Press and Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, The Catharine Stimpson Prize is awarded biennially to the best paper in an international competition. Leading feminist scholars from around the globe will select the winner. The prizewinning paper will be published in Signs, and the author will be provided an honorarium of $1,000.
Comedy Women in Print Prize (UK)
The UK & Ireland’s first comedy literary prize dedicated to celebrating witty women’s writing. Prizes are awarded to a published novel, an unpublished novel, and a short story.
The Coniston Prize is an annual award that recognizes an exceptional group of poems by a woman writing in English. The winner receives $1,000 and is featured in Radar’s dedicated contest issue, which is released in October of each year. Finalists are also awarded publication.
Daisy Pettles House Older Women Writing Awards
Includes a full month’s rent-and-utility-free-residency in the furnished Daisy Pettles Writer’s House, a vintage 1920s arts and crafts bungalow in historic Bedford, Indiana, just south of Bloomington, Indiana (home of Indiana University); PLUS a $1,000 cash stipend, and an Award Certificate as Honorary Writer in Residence at the house for the year awarded.
The Women’s Prize Trust, Audible, Curtis Brown literary agency and Curtis Brown Creative have partnered to run the Discoveries writing development programme, which offers practical support and encouragement to aspiring female novelists of all ages and backgrounds, from across the UK and Ireland. The programme culminates with awarding the Discoveries Prize for an unpublished novel-in-progress.
Doris Bakwin Award for Writing by a Woman
The Bakwin Award honors full-length prose work (novel, short story collection, or memoir) by an author who is a woman. The winner will receive a $1,000 honorarium, and the winning book will be published by Carolina Wren Press.
Hidden River Arts offers the Eludia Award, for a first book-length unpublished novel or collection of stories. The prize is open to women writers age 40 and older, who do not yet have a book-length publication of fiction.
NB: I’ve included this award because it runs annually and you’ll come across it advertised elsewhere. However, I have personally had a bad experience with this press, “winning” their 2019 William Van Wert Fiction Award with no announcement, no award, no fee reimbursement, and no communication since, so I don’t endorse them and I won’t be adding an active link to them. Please do your own research before entering.
Embellishment Story Competition (Australia)
Voices of Women sponsors this annual writing competition for short monologues and narratives—800 words max, or 3-4 minutes out loud. Shortlisted writers receive $100 AUD and selected stories will be performed.
The Heroine Women’s Writing Prize & Anthology
The Heroines Anthology is a collection of stories of women written by women. Works with a particular focus on telling lost women’s history, untold stories, and reimagined myths, fairy tales, folklore or legends, or speculative fiction, are particularly encouraged.
Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize
Annual prize of $1000 for an outstanding book collection conceived and built by a young woman. The contest is open to women book collectors in the United States, aged 30 or younger.
The Host Publications Chapbook Prize (USA)
The Host Publications Chapbook Prize awards women writers with publication, $1000, 25 copies of the published chapbook, a book launch, and national distribution with energetic publicity and promotion by our dedicated staff.
We don’t want stories, flash fiction or poetry about Hysterectomy; instead, we are looking for entries that appeal to our website visitors, who are mostly women between the ages of 25ish and 65ish; we accept entries in any genre except erotica or horror.
The Jewish Women’s Prize (USA)
The prize is awarded once a year for a micro chapbook, published digitally on Harbor Review’s website, to anyone who identifies as a woman and Jewish. Micro chapbooks should be exactly 10 poems long. Winner also receives $200.
Joyce Parkes Women’s Writers Prize (Australia)
$500 prize aimed at promoting and encouraging women writers in Australia.
The Kelsey Street Press Firsts! Contest
This contest is open to women-identified writers as well as writers with non-binary gender identities who have never published a full-length book of poetry, which we define as any publication of 48 pages or more.
Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize (USA)
This annual competition sponsors the publication of a poetry collection by a woman who has yet to publish a full-length book of poems.
The Lois Cranston Memorial Poetry Prize
$300 cash prize for up to 3 unpublished poems through CALYX Journal.
MIT undergraduates: Please consider submitting your academic essays or creative writing (creative nonfiction, short stories, poetry, etc…) to the Louis Kampf Writing Prize in Women’s and Gender Studies. Submissions should provide thoughtful reflection using gender as a central category of analysis. $500 prize.
Malinda A. Markham Memorial Prize in Translation
$2000 and publication by Saturnalia Books. Manuscript must be a translation by a female translator of a female poet.
The Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest
The contest awards prizes for the best poems submitted by young women who are sophomores or juniors in high school or preparatory school.
NextTribe Short Story Contest (USA)
$500 plus publication in NextTribe will be awarded to a woman over age 45 for a short story.
For a First or Second Book by a Woman, inclusive of transgender women and female-identified individuals.
The Rachel Funari Prize for Fiction
The Rachel Funari Prize for Fiction is a themed fiction competition open to all women, female-identifying and non-binary Australian writers.
Red Hen Press Women’s Prose Prize
This award is for a previously unpublished, original work of prose. Novels, short story collections, memoirs, essay collections, and all other forms of prose writing are eligible for consideration.
The Sappho Prize for Women Poets
This contest only accepts submissions from women* poets. The winning poet will be awarded $3000 and publication on Palette Poetry. Second and third place will win $300 & $200 respectively, as well as publication.
*all women are welcome to submit (cis, trans, non-binary, etc)
Sylke Tempel Essaypreis / Essay Prize (Germany)
This prize from Women in International Security Germany (WIIS.de) and the journal Internationale Politik (IP) is open to women 35 and younger. The winning text will be awarded 1,500,- € and be published in IP.
Voices of Women Annual Writing Competition
We invite all unpublished short monologues and narratives (800 words) written in the first person.
The Wilder Series Poetry Book Prize
The Wilder Series Book Prize is open to women over 50 years of age (established or emerging poets) and includes a $1000 prize, publication by Two Sylvias Press, 20 copies of the winning book, and a vintage, art nouveau pendant.
One award of $500.00 will be awarded to the unpublished fiction book judged best by our judges.
The Women’s Prize for Playwriting
The Women’s Prize for Playwriting is the very first prize celebrating and championing female and non-binary playwrights in the UK and Ireland. The winner gets £12,000, optioning, and script publication.
Women of Resilience Chapbook Contest
The first poetry contest from the Southern Collective Experience aiming to highlight “not only the struggle, but a way to the light”.
The Women of the World Poetry Slam
The Women of the World Poetry Slam (WOWps) is a performance poetry tournament designed for individual competition, where poets will perform four poems of varying lengths during preliminary bouts. Taking place March 15th – 19th, the top poets will go on to finals to compete for the title of, The 2017 Women of the World Champion!
Words and Women Prose Competition (UK)
National prize open to women writers over the age of 40. Regional prize open to women writers over the age of 16 living in the East of England.
12 thoughts on “Women’s Literary Contests & Competitions (open entry)”
Dear Nicole, thank you for this collection. It’s the fruit of your own search, so it’s very useful. I didn’t find “my” competition, but received some new ideas:) Take care.
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Hi Xena, thanks for your feedback. I’m glad you found some new ideas. If you run or know of another competition I should include, do let me know. Thanks!
How can I participate in these compitition?
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Hi Gaurisha, click through to the individual websites, where you’ll find their guidelines. Good luck!
How can I participate this contest
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Hi, Neeta. This is a list of multiple contests. Click on the relevant links for individual guidelines. Good luck!
Thanks so much, Nicole! How great to see a list that highlights competitions for Women of a Certain Age. Telling our stories and writing our poems is a great way to push back on the nexus of ageism and sexism that manifests as the “invisibility” of older women. Brava!
PS Please consider adding The Writer’s Lab, an annual competition for a screenwriting workshop open to women over 40. This competition was founded by Meryl Streep and is also supported by Oprah and by Nicole Kidman. Thanks again!
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Hi Stella, I’ll definitely add it. Thanks for letting me know, and all the best with your writing! Cheers, Nicole
Hi, Can women from other parts of the world also participate? I live in Brussels, Belgium. I would like to know more about these competitions. Thanks in advance, Kalpana.
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Hi, Kalpana. I’m sorry – I didn’t see your question earlier. A lot of competitions are open to writers around the world, but some are still restricted to local entries. You’ll need to check the rules for individual contests to find out if you’re eligible. Good luck! Nicole
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