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When is a short story competition not a short story competition? I’ve been entering these things for years, only ever winning two and being short-and-long-listed on a handful of other occasions. HOWEVER, winning isn’t all that’s on offer.

Competitions can be incredibly successful for curing writers’ block. If you’re stuck with your novel, turning your back on it and creating something new, perhaps in a different genre, can help you return to your manuscript with fresh perception.

Writing a short story might also develop a character or set of characters who will take hold of your imagination and inspire something much more significant. Tanya’s two published novels — Of Human Telling and All Desires Known — had their genesis in a short story about people living in the shadow of an English public school. My own novel, currently being edited prior to submission, began life as a short story, but elicited the comment from a judge that she felt the subject matter: ‘really called for a book’.

Competition entries can also help develop the persistence that writers desperately need. A story that failed in the Olga Sinclair Award several years ago served its time in my rejects drawer, was then re-written and re-named, and went on to success in the Hysteria Short Story Competition. It can be seen under Writings on our masthead, together with Tanya’s Across the River, a winner in Writer’s Forum, and Marshmallow Truth, a winner in Writing Magazine. Both stories were entered in a number of competitions over the years without any real success. Persistence pays off.

So what’s stopping you?

Costa Short Story Award. Short stories up to 4,000 words on any theme. Prizes: £3,500; £1,000; £500. FREE ENTRY.  DEADLINE 3 AUGUST. Entry details from: http://www.costabookawards.com

Ilkley Literature Festival Short Story and Poetry Competition for short stories and poetry. DEADLINE 1ST AUGUST. Short story, maximum 3,000 words. Entry fee £5. Prize: £200. Poetry, maximum 30 lines. Entry fee £5. Prizes: £200; £100; £75. Details: http://www.ilkley-literaturefestival.org.uk/join-in/competitions

Exeter Story Prize and Flash Competition. Story: max 10,000 words. Flash: max 1,000 words. Fee: £12. Prizes: £500 plus trophy; £150; £100. Tricia Ashley Award for best humorous entry: trophy plus £200. Deadline 31 August. Details: http://www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk/competitions.html

1000-Word Challenge. Flash: max 1000 words. Entry fee: £5. Prizes: ££100; £50; £25. Details: http://www.1000wordchallenge.com

Bench Theatre’s Supernova 8 Festival of new one act plays will take place at the Spring Arts and Heritage Centre, Havant, Hampshire in February 2019 and if you are resident in the UK, or a British citizen, you have until 17 August to submit a play for consideration for the festival. There is no entry fee and although no payment is made, if your play is performed you will gain all-important performance credit. Submit original plays of a maximum of 45 minutes and no more than six actors. Shortlisted plays will be given feedback. Full details: http://www.benchtheatre.org.uk/supernova.php

The HWA Dorothy Dunnett Short Story Award is inviting entries of unpublished historical short fiction, set at least 35 years in the past, of up to 3,500 words. The winning story will receive £500, publication in The Whispering Gallery and on http://www.historiamag.com, mentoring sessions and tickets to the HWA Crowns ceremony in November, when the award will be presented. Runners-up will receive mentoring and invitations to the awards ceremony. The entry fee is £5 per story and the closing date is 31 August. Details: https://historicalwriters.org/dorothydunnett/

Aesthetica Creative Writing Award.  For unpublished poems of up to 40 lines and short stories of up to 2,000 words. Entry fee for poems: £12; short stories: £18. Details: http://www.aestheticamagazine.com/cwa

The Prague City of Literature Project is inviting applications for 2019 writer-in-residency stays. Six are available, each for a two-month period and writers-in-residence are reimbursed for a return ticket and provided with accommodation and a monthly stipend of 600 Euros. Applicants should have a cultural interest in Prague, at least one published literary work, a willingness to take part in the local literary life and a project they will be working on during their stay. At the end of their stay they must undertake to provide the Municipal Library in Prague with a text inspired by the residency to be used by the Prague City of Literature Project. Closing date to apply is 31 August. Details: http://www.prahamestoliteratury.cz

The C21 Drama Series Script Competition invites entries for a pilot script for an international TV drama series. Six finalists will present their script to a panel of commissioners and broadcasters, including representatives from Amazon, Netflix and the BBC. The winner will receive a $10,000 option from WritersRoom to develop the project. There is no entry fee. Deadline is 31 August and details can be found via: http://www.c21media.net/script/

The John O’Connor Short Story Competition 2018 offers a bursary to attend the John O’Connor Writing School and Literary Arts Festival in Armagh between 1 and 4 November, plus £250. The prize includes accommodation, but not travel expenses. The competition is for short stories between 1,800 and 2,000 words. There is an entry fee of £10. Deadline 28 August. Details http://www.thejohnoconnorwritingschool.com

As ever, please let me urge you to double check all competition details on the relevant website before entering.

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