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Writing Contests Help Children's Writers Kick-Start Their Career

Writing contests are a great way for new children's writers to get published. Learn the other benefits of these contests and how to go about finding one.


If you've written a great story for kids and you're a new writer, you may be wondering about publishing options. You can try submitting your story to a children’s magazine or publishing house, or you can take a leap and enter a children’s writing contest.

There are many writing contests held throughout the year for children’s writers, and most are free or affordable. Even better, writing contests can help new writers kick-start their careers and may prove to be more beneficial than getting published the traditional way.

Here’s the scoop on children’s writing contests and which ones are worth a shot.

Why Enter a Writing Contest?

According to money might be a key motivator for some, but it’s not the most important reason to enter a writing contest. Money is nice, but think of it as an added bonus for winning. A better reason for entering a writing contest, especially for new writers, is to get your work read and possibly published.

Most winners and even many runners up will have their stories or manuscripts published by the contest’s sponsor, whether it be a magazine publisher, book publisher, or website. Along with winning and publication come recognition, exposure, and (depending on the publisher) sales. Contests can lead to all kinds of benefits beyond publication, too, like future contracts or work offers, school visits,and interviews.

But you don’t have to win a contest to benefit from it. Entering a contest is good practice for learning about the submission process, including the amount and quality of work involved and the importance of sticking to deadlines. It’s also a way to get your work critiqued, as some contests offer feedback on submissions.In addition, entering a contest helps validate your role as a writer and can inspire you to keep writing and submitting.

Finding a Children’s Writing Contest

So where do you look for a children's writing contest? If you belong to a writing organization, start your contest search there. Many writing organizations, including the SCBWI, announce upcoming competitions, either directly on their websites, in forums, or in their newsletters. An online search will also pull up many writing contests, although you’ll have to navigate through them to find which ones are a good fit. Don’t overlook general writing contests, either—many have categories for children’s writing.

Another place to find a writing contest is in writer's market directories, such as Children’s Writer’s Market. Most writing directories have a separate section on contests. Check the reference department of public libraries for recent editions of these books. Finally, networking with other writers and joining social networking sites (and writing groups within those sites) are other ways to learn about writing contests and competitions.

When looking for a contest, make sure you choose one that seeks submissions in your specific genre. Have you written a picture book? A teen mystery? A nonfiction article for young adults? Your submission should be appropriate for the contest you’re entering. Also, if there's a topic or theme, stick to it. Don't submit a modern-day adventure story to a historical fiction contest.

You'll also want your submission to fit the writing style of the publication or publisher. If possible, review past winners or other published pieces by the contest sponsor for style and tone. Most important, be sure to follow the rules of the contest. Pay close attention to word counts, entry fees, deadline dates, and other basic contest criteria.

Best Writing Contests for Children’s Writers

Below are some writing contests for children’s writers that are worth checking out. These contests all seek unpublished submissions.

  • Children’s Writer Contest – prizes include publication in Children’s Writer newsletter, cash, winners’ certificates, and training; free to subscribers.
  • Pockets Annual Fiction Contest – awards are $500 and publication in Pockets Magazine; no entry fee.
  • Highlights Fiction Contests – cash prizes or tuition for a Highlights workshop, plus publication; no entry fee. Entries accepted during the month of January.
  • Milkweed Prize for Children’s Literature – large cash prize and book contract for winning manuscript of fiction for 8- to 13-year-olds; no entry fee or deadline.
  • Writing for Children Competition, Writers’ Union of Canada – open to Canadian writers who have not been published in book format; entry fee required.
  • Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition/ Young Adult Fiction Category – cash prizes, one-year subscription to Writer’s Digest,and a variety of discounts for winners; entry fee required.

Give a children’s writing contest a try, and see how it can help further your writing career—and provide fun in the process.

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