Free writing contests and challenges are a fun way to stretch your writing muscles and make new friends in the writing community.
And who doesn’t love the chance to win PRIZES!
The prizes for all of these contests range from signed books, to professional critiques, to memberships in writing courses, and more. Which means not only will you get bragging rights... but you can also use your prize to improve your writing even more for next time!
Here’s a round up of my favorite FREE writing contests and challenges for children's book authors.
⭐TIP: ⭐ Subscribe to each host’s newsletter to make sure you don’t miss the submission window!
Story Storm: January 1 through 31st
Host: Tara Lazar
Tara, the author of more than a dozen quirky and humorous picture books, hosts an annual challenge called StoryStorm. From January 1st to January 31st, she hosts 31 guest bloggers who are all united with a single purpose—to help you come up with 30 shiny new picture book ideas by the end of the month!
Authors can enter the challenge by simply commenting on a post on her blog and then keeping track of their ideas on the honor system. (Plus you get to post a super cute participant "badge" like the one above on your social media accounts!) At the end of the month, let Tara know you’ve got 30 ideas, and you’ll be entered to win great prizes - like consults and critiques with agents, editors, or other authors. There’s also a private Facebook group where you can chat with other participants.
This challenge is a great way to jump start the new year!
Kid’s Choice KidLit Writing Contest: end of January
Host: Kailei Pew
The Kid’s Choice KidLit Writing Contest puts the power into the hands of our toughest audience - kids! Each year, author Kailei Pew organizes dozens of child readers who read and judge hundreds of submissions in categories ranging from picture book up to young adult. Prizes are given to the winners, but the real fun is knowing that your story was enjoyed by a child!
Valentiny Writing Contest: 2nd week of February
Host: Susanna Leonard Hill
Susanna Leonard Hill is an award-winning, traditionally published author of more than 27 children’s books. This contest challenges you to write a Valentines’ story for children, maximum 214 words (because Valentines’ Day is 2/14), including a character with a specified emotion.
Susanna is so kind and encouraging, and is always working to support others in the writing community. As she says on her website, “The experience is (hopefully!) one that will further your writing and give you the chance to enjoy the camaraderie of the kid lit community, see the work of other writers, make some new friends, and maybe win something awesome.”
50 Precious Words: March
Host: Vivian Kirkfield
All picture book authors know that shorter is better, and Vivian Kirkfield challenges you to take that to the extreme by writing a full story, appropriate for ages 12 and under, in 50 words or less!
Like Susanna, Vivian is one of the sweetest and most encouraging ladies you’ll meet in the writing community, and her contest has jump started more than one of my own book ideas.
PBParty: February - March
Host: Mindy Alyse Weiss
“The annual PBParty contest is for unagented writers and author/illustrators with finished and polished picture book manuscripts. You submit an entry (query and first 60 – 70 words) and we pick a wide variety of genres for the agents/editors to read and hopefully request.”
Hosted by kidlit author, Mindy Alyse Weiss, this contest is special because if your manuscript makes it to the top 50, it will be shared with an ever growing group of industry agents and editors - giving you a chance to snag the best prize of all - a book deal!
Spring Fling Writing Contest: March or April
Host: Kaitlyn Sanchez
Literary agent, Kaitlyn Sanchez, hosts three kidlit writing contests each year: Spring Fling Writing Contest, Fall Writing Frenzy, and KidLit Zombie Week. The spring event asks you to choose from a selection of images and write a kidlit piece inspired by it.
KidLit Zombie Week: July
Host: Once again… Kaitlyn Sanchez!
This super fun event asks authors to choose a "dead" manuscript - one that’s been abandoned in the recesses of your hard drive - and bring it back to life! CREEPY!
KidLit Vibes Contest: Summer
Spin the WHEEL OF FEELS and see what feeling you land on! Then, write a kidlit piece under 125 words that captures that feeling. Win manuscript critiques, signed copies, gift cards, and more!
Fall Writing Frenzy: October
Host: You guessed it….Kaitlyn Sanchez!
Pretty much the same as the Spring Fling Writing Contest, but fall themed!
Halloweensie Writing Contest: last week of October
Host: Susanna Leonard Hill (see bio above)
Write a Halloween story for children, maximum 100 words, including 3 specific Halloween-related words which change from year to year.
Holiday Writing Contest: 1st or 2nd week of December
Host: Susanna Leonard Hill (see bio above)
Write a holiday story for children, maximum 300-400 words (changes from year to year), based on the supplied prompt (which changes from year to year.)
Remember, these free writing contests aren't really about the prizes.
They're about practicing your skills and getting to know your fellow authors. Participating in free writing contests like these is guaranteed to boost your craft and expand your network.
And if you do win a prize or two along the way...what a bonus!