June 2021 Competitions

E13DC307-9469-405E-AA4F-42DEA099D1FB Here is my regular look at the short story/novel competitions I might enter next month (so no poetry, for example, because I’m rubbish at it). As always this is a purely personal selection, with no claim to be comprehensive – but it might be of interest. I hope some of these appeal to you.
  • Leicester Writes offers a prize of £150 for stories up to 3,500 words; the entrance fee is £5 and the deadline is 1 June.
  • With the same deadline, Salamander magazine has a top prize of $1,000 for stories of up to 30 pages; the entry fee is $15.
  • The Aurora prize from Writing East Midlands costs £9 to enter. First prize is £500 and the word count must be 2,000 or less – the deadline is 7 June.
Then we have several competitions with a deadline of 15 June.
  • First, Globe Soup is offering a top prize of £1,500 for stories up to 5,000 words with the theme ‘a sense of place’. The entry fee is £12, (or £3 for members). Globe Soup runs not one but two writing communities on Facebook, both lively and supportive – worth a look.
  • Segora offers £300 for a winning story of 1,500 to 3,000 words – the entry fee is £8.
  • If you’ve got something larger, Autumn House is looking for manuscripts of 50,000 to 75,000 words – a slim novel, I suppose. The entry fee is $30 and the prize is $1,000.
  • For older writers, Living Springs’ Baby Boomers Plus contest has a prize of $500 with an entry fee of $25; the maximum word count is 4,000 and you must have been born no later than 1966.
  • New American Fiction (you don’t have to be American – they helpfully say you could even be Estonian, so long as your entry is in English) looks for works of at least 100 pages; the prize is $1,500 and the entry fee is $25.
All the rest have a deadline of 30 June.
  • The Friends of Manning’s Pit have launched a Saki short story competition. It does not have to be in the style of Saki, but ‘it needs to have a spark of originality or wit’ (not my usual stuff then?) and ‘have something relevant to the countryside and its wildlife’. Maximum 3,000 words, entry fee £5 and first prize £500
  • The Moth is back with its competition for stories up to 5,000 words, with an entry fee of €15 and top prize of €3,000.
  • I don’t think I’m going to enter this one, but I was intrigued to see that Chiasmus wants stories of exactly 1,001 words. There’s an entry fee of £3.50 but no cash prize for the winner.
  • Lady in the Loft offers £100 for the best story on the theme ‘Grim Reaper’, with a word count between 4,000 and 6,000 words; entry fee £2.
  • Last but certainly not least is the regular Henshaw competition, for stories up to 2,000 words. The top prize is £200 and the entry fee is £6. You can pay extra fir a critique, and I have found these good value in the past.
Good luck, and if you get recognised in any of these, please do let me know!

Up the Tusculum

I’ve just had a cheery email from the Tusculum Review to say they’re extending the deadline for their competition, judged by Amy Sturgis, to 1 June – from 1 April! Competitions try to present an extended deadline as them being nice and giving more time, but in fact it’s very unfair to the people who made the effort to meet their original deadline, especially if they are offered no chance to make further revisions (and that never happens). What’s particularly odd here is that their website still gives the original deadline – so who else do they think is going to enter a competition which appears to have closed over a month ago? Surely they could not be extending the deadline for the benefit of particular people they already know?

I have asked them to withdraw my entry, and I would advise anyone else who played fair to do the same. It’s not to be expected that they will be honest enough to refund entry fees, but I think the point needs to be made.


I received the following response from Kelsey Trom, for which I am grateful. There are a couple of misunderstandings here which I will not try to unpick.

I’m truly sorry to hear that our decision to extend the deadline of the contest is unethical in your view, and I especially regret that you feel ill-used and swindled by our organization. I have withdrawn your entry as requested and am happy to send you a refund of the entry fee. Our organization is small, so our means of refunding entries is by check–if you’ll send me your W-9, I’ll have the business office send you a check for $15.00.

We, the genre editors,  discussed the decision at length, and felt that it was in line with the contest guidelines as published–we have always reserved the right to extend the deadline if we don’t receive the anticipated number of submissions. On occasion, we have exercised that right. This year, in particular, seemed like a time in which an extended deadline would give more authors the time to enter, so we would be able to give the final judge, Amy Sturgis, more than a dozen stories to weigh

It was in the name of equal access that we made this decision: when we announced the contest in November, we did not anticipate the ways that writers with children, sick relatives, or compressed school schedules would be unable to meet an April 1 deadline. When we saw the low number of entries–much lower than usual–we understood.

We have not changed our rules–all submissions are still in the running. For my communication missteps that apparently made this unclear, I apologize.

I pointed out to Kelsey that I wouldn’t be able to cash an American cheque, but that Submittable has a refund facility. I haven’t heard back on that so far, but they have updated the information on their website.

Broadway Success

I got a ‘Highly Commended’ for my story ‘Cheltenham Punk’ in the Julia & Martin Wilson Short Story Prize, part of the Broadway Arts Festival! The story was originally set in Bedford, where I went to school, but it belongs to Cheltenham now…

Klara and the Sun

What was Ishiguro trying to do with this unconvincing robot tale?

An author can use robots in lots of ways. Too often they are just another monster, the threatening and unnatural beings who excitingly menace the protagonist or the whole of humanity. Very rarely an author explores how the robot mind might work – difficult, because we really have little idea of how a humanoid robot might achieve conscious thought. Often the robot merely thinks like a naïve and/or over-logical human. (It never falls into a trance or comes out with inexplicable nonsense, the way real-life computers sometimes do.) Some of the best stories use the robot as a means of reflecting on the human condition – the film Blade Runner, for example (you might claim Frankenstein was similar in that respect).  I really don’t know what Klara, Ishiguro’s companion robot in this near-future story is for. (Spoilers for low.)

She is like a naïve human in many respects. Somehow solar-powered, she thinks of the Sun the way a human might a god, invoking its power and help. Her view of the world, if I understand correctly, is split into frames, though she has a view across the frames, so you’d think a good programmer would easily iron that issue out. Her mind, however, is neither interestingly strange in itself nor an illuminating analogue of the human. Her story, as the companion of Josie, a girl made ill by the genetic improvement therapy now common, is ultimately inconsequential except for what it tells us about human reactions to robots. The trouble is, what it tells us is inconsistent and unconvincing.

Perhaps the least believable thing is the way people go along with Klara. She hatches a mad scheme to help her family based on her weird ideas about the sun. They willingly help her execute this plan, which is partly nutty superstition and partly criminal, without ever demanding to know what she’s up to or being given any explanation. At some points they profess an extraordinary readiness to accept Klara emotionally as an actual family member; but once Josie has gone to college, they deposit her, still fully conscious, in a dump.

I said the story is set in the near future, but some things are odd. Klara is bought from a big, old-fashioned store in the city centre – they still exist? People seem to be using tablets but calling them ‘oblongs’ for some reason. Most of the kids have had their minds enhanced by genetic therapy, but they talk and act like dim-witted normal ones, actually less sophisticated in their speech and behaviour than the one kid who missed out on the therapy. Maybe that is fairly believable after all.

It’s a mildly engaging story with some thought-provoking passages, but I don’t know what we are to take away at the end of it.

May 2021 Competitions

2557C494-0E41-4DB3-A6AB-62635E77333BCraft Short Fiction Prize is for stories up to 5,000 words. The entry fee is $20 and the top prize $2,000 (plus a subscription). Time is running out already as the deadline is 2 May.
  • Only one day later we have the deadline for the Australian Book Review Elizabeth Jolley Prize. Again the maximum word count is 5,000: the entry fee is AU$25 (less for subscribers) and the first prize is AU$6,000.
  • The Bristol Prize has a deadline of 5 May for stories up to 4,000 words; it’s £9 to enter and you can win £1,000.
  • Word Periscope wants stories on the theme ‘Time’, up to a mere 1,500 words, and offers a prize of £1,500. You’ve got until 15 May. The entry fee is £7, or for £15 you can also have feedback.
  • The Raymond Carver prize also has a deadline of 15 May; the word limit is a spacious 10,000, the entry fee $17 and top prize $2,000.
  • Chiplitfest, with a deadline of 16 May, lets you choose your word limit. If you’re happy with 2,500 words, you pay £5 to enter, but you can go up to 5,000 if you pay £8. Either way the first prize is just £500.
  • City Academy is running an unusual contest which seems almost like a mini writing course. You register your interest and receive a series of prompts and exercises. This has been going on for a while already, so if you register now you’ll get all the earlier stuff in one go. The actual entry doesn’t have to be in until 25 May, and the entry fee is £15 (sounds like good value if you fancy a mini-course thrown in). Top prize is £1,000.
  • The Wit to Woo wants pieces up to 10,000 words (which need not be about dating, or indeed, owls – the competition is amiably headlined ‘Write What You Like’). The entry fee is £7, top prize £1,500, and the deadline is 28 May.
  • With a deadline of 31 May (I think) the complicated Page Turner Awards include one for the first ten pages of completed novel manuscripts. Pricing includes an early bird option (too late already, sorry), and there are bronze, silver, and gold options whereby you can pay more for a whole range of extras; the basic seems to be £30, but if you can find out what the prize is, please let me know. It might be unfair, but I couldn’t help feeling that selling the extras and a writing software package is what the labyrinthine website is really about. Shame, but I think I might pass.
  • The BPA First Novel Award asks for your first 5,000 words plus a synopsis; entry is £20 and the prize £1,000; deadline 31 May.
  • The prestigious Bridport competition also has a deadline of 31 May. You can enter stories up to 5,000 words for £12 and the top prize is £5,000.
  • Swoop Books wants stories on the theme ‘Love Locks’, with word limits of 2-3,000. The entry fee is £5 and prize just £100, deadline 31 May.
  • Finally the Queen Mary Wasafiri prize, also with a deadline of 31 May,   has a top prize of £1,000; entry is £10, and the word limit is 3,000. I think a prior look at Wasafiri magazine would be helpful if you want to try for this one.
Good Luck! If you win any of these, let me know! PostScript. Charlotte Wakefield from the Page Turner Awards has helpfully contacted me with some clarification. She says: The deadline is the 31st May, that’s correct, and submission fees start from £30 depending on which membership option or optional extras you might be interested in. You were interested to know more about the prizes, which you can browse here – 2021 Award Prizes | Page Turner Awards. Our mission is to offer meaningful prizes to new writers and established authors, ranging from mentorship to publishing packages to audiobook production.  You can find further details about our awards on our site here – About Us | Page Turner Awards If you have any further questions about the awards, I’d be happy to help.  Feel free to also browse testimonials from last year’s entrants here – Awards Testimonials | Page Turner Awards This should help give you an understanding of what we’re all about.  To enter, you must first register your details. Then, you can log in and enter your submission. You can register and enter here – Enter In Two Steps | Page Turner Awards Please do check that you’re entering for the appropriate award category. There are different criteria depending on whether your work is published or unpublished, and completed or uncompleted. You can browse the 5 award categories here – 2021 Award Categories | Page Turner Awards I’m grateful for the trouble she has taken, and pass that on for your information.

April 2021 Competitions

E4BDAEA9-C78B-4719-BF55-76D1CBC63DD8 Here are the writing competitions I might enter in April.  As always this is a purely personal selection (eg, no poetry, YA or flash, nothing where you have to send a paper ms by post or pay the entrance fee by bank transfer), with no claim to be comprehensive. Not quite so many this month.
  • A big one to start with, though.  The Alpine Fellowship prize is free to enter, but has an impressive top prize of £10,000, plus an invitation to their annual international conference. Only one 3ntry per writer. The theme is Untamed: On Wilderness and Civilization and the deadline is 1 April, so if you haven’t got a story ready to go, you’ll need to get moving. The maximum word count is 2,500.
  • The Tusculum Review wants stories between 2,000 and 6,500 words; the entry fee is $15 (though that also gets you a year’s subscription) and the top prize $1,000. The deadline is 2 April.
  • Top prize for the H.E.Bates competition is £500, with an entry fee of £6 (discounts for multiple entries) and a word limit of 2,000; the deadline is 5 April.
  • Desperate Literature seeks stories up to 2,000 words; the entry fee is €20 and first prize €1,500 plus a week’s residency at the Civitella Ranieri Foundation The deadline is 15 April.
  • The same deadline applies for the New Ohio Review competition; the fee is $22, the prize $1,500 and maximum length is 20 pages.
  • The White Review looks for avant-garde stuff from writers resident in the UK or Ireland. Word count should be between 2,000 and 7,000; the entry fee is £15 and top prize £2,500. The deadline is 26 April.
  • F(r)iction magazine is again looking for stories up to 7,500 words. First prize is $1,600 and entry is $15, with a deadline of 29 April.
  • The Yeovil Literary Prize has several categories, including an ‘anything goes’ one. For the short story category the word limit is 2,000. The fee is £8 and top prize £600. The deadline is 30 April.
  • Finally, the Tom Howard/John H Reid competition accepts essays as well as fiction, with a prize of $3,000 dollars each; 6,000 words max, with a $20 entry fee and a 30 April deadline.
Good Luck! If you win any of these, let me know!