Writing Contests & Competitions (open entry)

The following is a list of contests and competitions for writing by / for people with disabilities, including mental illness, or about the disability / mental health experience. The description of each is taken directly from the associated website.

NB: These contests are open to submissions. I am not aware of any disability lit awards or prizes subject to nomination. If that changes, I will post them to this page.

All links are current as of August 2020. If you find a non-working link, or if you know a contest that should be added to / deleted from this list, please let me know.

Thank you!

— Nicole Melanson


The Barbellion Prize (UK +)

The Barbellion Prize is dedicated to the furtherance of ill and disabled voices in writing. The prize is awarded annually to an author whose work has best spoken of the experience of chronic illness and/or disability.

The awarded work can be of any genre in fiction, memoir, biography, poetry, or critical non-fiction from around the world — whether it is in English, in translation, traditionally published, or self-published.

The work in question must be one published in the current year or one that will be published later that year. The prize is international and books newly translated into English are also eligible.


Creative Future Writers’ Awards (UK)

Founded in 2013, the Creative Future Writers’ Award is an annual development programme for talented writers from a wealth of backgrounds. It includes the UK’s only national writing competition for all under-represented writers, alongside a series of workshops in hubs throughout the UK.

Prizes are awarded for both poetry and short fiction, including cash & professional writing development opportunities. Winners are given the opportunity to develop their work through training, mentoring, assessment and coaching.

A high-profile awards ceremony follows selection, with winning entries also published in an anthology.


The Disability History Association’s Outstanding Book and Outstanding Article / Book Chapter Awards (US +)

Submissions are welcome from scholars in all fields who engage in work relating to the history of disability.

Although the awards are open to all authors covering all geographic areas and time periods, publications must be in English, must have significant historical content, and must have a publication date within the year preceding the submission date. Book submissions may be single- or multiple-authored and may be a single monograph or an edited collection, provided the latter contains new and original scholarship. Articles may also be single- or multiple-authored and must be published in books or in peer-reviewed academic journals.

The amount of the book award is $300 for the winner and $100 for the honorable mention. The amount of the article/book chapter award is $200 for the winner and $100 for the honorable mention.


The Dulcie Stone Writers Competition (Victoria, Australia)

The Dulcie Stone Writers Competition is open to people with intellectual disability. It is designed to showcase the voices of people with intellectual disability and recognises the lifetime contribution of Dulcie Stone to services for people with intellectual disability and writing.

Works can be of any length up to a maximum of 1,000 words or a storyboard of up to 3 x A4 pages of drawings. A storyboard is a number of squares on one page with pictures or drawings that tell a story.


Grieve Project (Australia)

Annual writing contest for poems, short stories, and essays, with winning entries published in an anthology and / or awarded prizes during August, which is Grief Awareness Month in Australia.

Please note that the Grieve Project does not seek disability lit as such; however, much of the winning work touches on illness, care-giving, and other disability-related themes.


Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability (US +)

These awards recognize work that explores and illuminates legal or judicial issues regarding the treatment of people with disabilities and the challenges they face, with special consideration  given to entries that are accessible to those with disabilities.

Entries will be accepted from print, broadcast or online-only publications. Entries from outside of the U.S. may be accepted if the work submitted is in English.

Winners will receive a total of $8,000 in cash awards for first-, second- and third-place finishes in large media and small media categories. First-place winners in each category will be awarded $2,500 and invited to give a public lecture for the Cronkite School in fall 2020. Second-place winners will receive $1,000, third-place winners $500.


London Writers’ Awards (UK)

The London Writers’ Awards aim to increase the number of writers from under-represented communities being taken up by agents and publishers.

The Awards focus on four genres of prose writing: literary fiction (including short stories), commercial fiction (for e.g.: crime, science fiction, romance), narrative non-fiction and YA/children’s (including middle grade and Young Adult fiction, excludes picture books).

The Awards are free to participate in. Bursaries are available for writers in need and there is an Access Fund for disabled writers.


Mind Media Awards (UK)

The annual Mind Media Awards recognise and celebrate the best possible representations of mental health across TV, radio, print and online.

Work must challenge perceptions of mental health, be well crafted and responsibly produced, be safe for intended audiences, and demonstrate reach and impact (apart from Student Journalist award with will be judged on potential).


mindshare Awards (South Australia, Australia)

The mindshare Awards is a poetry and creative writing competition presented by mindshare, the Mental Health Coalition of SA, Writers SA and Access2Arts.

The competition is an opportunity for South Australian writers with lived experience of mental illness to share their stories, showcase their skills, discover new creative communities, and connect with industry professionals.

While entered works do not need to be about your lived experience, poetry and creative writing generated from personal experience or work that tackles mental health themes are encouraged.


Oleb Books Personal Essay Award / OBPEA (US+)

In 2019, we launched the Oleb Books Personal Essay Award (OBPEA) in partnership with Pen 2 Paper — one of the largest international writing competitions for writers with disabilities.


Pen 2 Paper Creative Writing Contest (US +)

The Coalition of Texans with Disabilities / CTD’s annual Pen 2 Paper (P2P) creative writing competition seeks pieces of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry that treat the topic of disability. Whether or not you have experience as a creative writer; whether or not you have a disability, we want to hear your voice!


Perito Prize (UK +)

The Perito Prize is an international, annual, short fiction competition created to get people thinking in different ways about inclusive environments, inclusion, diversity, accessibility and inclusive design!

The Prize is awarded to outstanding new short fiction of between 1000 and up to 2000 words, with cash prizes, readings, and publication in the Perito Prize Anthology.


The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival Writing Competition (Scotland)

The SMHAF Writing Competition, held in partnership with Bipolar Scotland, seeks new writing that addresses mental health using various forms, techniques and styles.

The Writing Competition is one of the festival’s most enduring successes, providing an opportunity for first time writers to be published alongside established names. The awards ceremony is often where we discover what our festival is really about, as writers from across Scotland and further afield take inspiration from our theme in poignant, powerful, personal and often ingenious and surprising ways.


The Schneider Family Book Award (US +)

Three annual awards each consisting of $5000 and a framed plaque, will be given
annually in each of the following categories: birth through grade school (age 0-10),
middle school (age 11-13) and teens (age 13-18). (Age groupings are approximations).

The book must emphasize the artistic expression of the disability experience for children and or adolescent audiences. The book must portray some aspect of living with a disability or that of a friend or family member, whether the disability is physical, mental or emotional. Books with death as the main theme are generally disqualified.

This award is given out on an annual basis. Term of eligibility extends to publications from the preceding year. The book must be published in English.


WeScreenplay Diverse Voices Screenplay Contest and Lab (US +)

Diverse Voices is a screenplay contest and lab that strives to encourage stories that are told from perspectives that are often underrepresented in Hollywood today. This includes writers of color, women writers, writers with disabilities, writers over 40, writers in the LGBTQ+ community, and any other voices that have historically been ignored by Hollywood.

4 thoughts on “Writing Contests & Competitions (open entry)

  1. Hi, I want to enter a writing contest. I have a story I want to share, and I think it can inspire other people. Please, Write me back.


  2. Hi my name is Emma Gonzales, I am a poet and have written many poems, I would like to know how and where I can get exposure on how to publish my poems, From poets with disabilities.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Emma, thanks for writing. If you are able to participate in writing groups and public readings, that is a good way to gain exposure and get to know your local community. Many of these are now accessible virtually. Many small literary magazines and websites also welcome work from beginners – start with them and slowly build your publication portfolio by submitting to sure things and working your way up to long shots. Good luck!


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