Writing Contests

Contests are a great way to sharpen your submission skills, stretch your imagination, and get your work out in the world. That’s why the Institute runs adult and kidlit writing contests throughout the year. Each contest culminates in a Winners Workshop where we announce the winners and critique the winning entries to help all entrants improve their skills. Plus, each contest has cash prizes for the top five entries. Check out our contests below.

IFW Sci-Fi First Pages

Can you establish your science fiction world and pull a reader into your story in the first 1,000 words? Submit the first 1,000 words of your unpublished sci-fi manuscript aimed at an adult audience for your chance to win the grand prize.


  • Submit up to the first 1,000 words of your unpublished adult sci-fi novel.
  • Deadline: December 15, 2021

ICL The Great Outdoors Picture Book

Let’s get outside! For this writing contest, we want to see your picture book manuscripts that take place outdoors and show us the adventures kids can have when they get out of the house. Your entry should be a full story with a beginning, middle, and end. It should be aimed at 5-7-year-olds and be no more than 500 words.


  • Date: This contest will open in 2022

ICL My Funny Family Personal Essay

Is your family funny? This contest will be your chance to share a story about your family that will have us giggling, guffawing, and falling off our chairs.


  • This contest will open in Spring 2022.
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Winners Workshop


Following each writing contest, we hold a live workshop to announce the winners. The contest judge will reveal tips for writing in the contest genre and critique the winning entries sharing why they worked—and how they could be even better. Look for our Middle Grade Mystery Winners Workshop in February 2022. To learn more about our next workshop, sign up below.

Looking to improve your contest entry?

by ICL Instructor Nancy Coffelt

by ICL Contributor Jan Fields

with Katie Davis and Nancy Coffelt

Past Contests and Winners

Check out our past contest themes and winners!

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