He got up and sat on the edge of the bedstead with his back to the window. “It’s better not to sleep at all,” he decided. There was a cold damp draught from the window, however; without getting up he drew the blanket over him and wrapped himself in it. He was not thinking of anything and did not want to think. But one image rose after another, incoherent scraps of thought without beginning or end passed through his mind. He sank into drowsiness. Perhaps the cold, or the dampness, or the dark, or the wind that howled under the window and tossed the trees roused a sort of persistent craving for the fantastic. He kept dwelling on images of flowers, he fancied a charming flower garden, a bright, warm, almost hot day, a holiday—Trinity day. A fine, sumptuous country cottage in the English taste overgrown with fragrant flowers, with flower beds going round the house; the porch, wreathed in climbers, was surrounded with beds of roses. A light, cool staircase, carpeted with rich rugs, was decorated with rare plants in china pots. He noticed particularly in the windows nosegays of tender, white, heavily fragrant narcissus bending over their bright, green, thick long stalks. He was reluctant to move away from them, but he went up the stairs and came into a large, high drawing-room and again everywhere—at the windows, the doors on to the balcony, and on the balcony itself—were flowers. The floors were strewn with freshly-cut fragrant hay, the windows were open, a fresh, cool, light air came into the room. The birds were chirruping under the window, and in the middle of the room, on a table covered with a white satin shroud, stood a coffin. The coffin was covered with white silk and edged with a thick white frill; wreaths of flowers surrounded it on all sides. Among the flowers lay a girl in a white muslin dress, with her arms crossed and pressed on her bosom, as though carved out of marble. But her loose fair hair was wet; there was a wreath of roses on her head. The stern and already rigid profile of her face looked as though chiselled of marble too, and the smile on her pale lips was full of an immense unchildish misery and sorrowful appeal. Svidrigaïlov knew that girl; there was no holy image, no burning candle beside the coffin; no sound of prayers: the girl had drowned herself. She was only fourteen, but her heart was broken. And she had destroyed herself, crushed by an insult that had appalled and amazed that childish soul, had smirched that angel purity with unmerited disgrace and torn from her a last scream of despair, unheeded and brutally disregarded, on a dark night in the cold and wet while the wind howled

The 17 Best Flash Fiction Contests

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Here’s what you should never do: dash off a story and send it to a Flash Fiction contest below. Nothing is worse than hastily written very short fiction, with all its seams and gears showing.

If anything, you should take much more time to craft your stories under 1000 words, because the precision of a tiny jewel is harder to work on than a mammoth gem. I’ve worked harder on Sudden Fiction, as it is sometimes called, than on full length short stories. And sometimes perfecting that microfiction feels more difficult than the big, broad strokes of a novel.

Still, what is attractive about a flash fiction contest is that I almost always have a half dozen stories lying around that I consider pretty good, and sometimes I like to dust them off and submit to contests like the ones below. I tried to list a variety of markets below — ones with long pedigrees, and new ones, ones with expensive fees and free ones with no entry fee. I hope you enjoy looking at them and enjoy submitting to them.UYTxg0GV

The competition for these contests can be brutal — I remember the Kenyon Review competition was getting thousands, and they finally had to start charging for it just to whittle down the amount of people submitting. So if you aren’t sending your best, you really won’t win.

Below I’ve listed a bunch of contests. Some of them are journals and magazines that specialized in very short fiction, but most of them publish all different lengths and genres and moonlight as microfiction publishers.

The 17 Best Flash Fiction Contests:

1. Kenyon Review

One of the most notorious (notable?) contests, Kenyon calls it the “Short Fiction Contest,” so it might not show up on people’s radars. Get your submissions in now.

  • Cost: $20
  • Prize: Scholarship to a writing conference
  • Word Limit: 1,200
  • Number of contestants: 2,000+

2. NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge

This is one of the more innovative contests, where you write things with a 24-hour deadline incorporating certain details they choose, and you have to make it through early rounds to compete for the grand prize. If they organized writing competitions like March Madness, this would be it.

  • Cost: $35
  • Prize: $2,000 + goodies
  • Word Limit: 1,000
  • Number of contestants: 1,400

3. NANO Flash Fiction Contest

I like NANO a lot, and have written about them in my 20 Best Flash Fiction Journals post. The other great thing about this contest is that it’s in the 8th year (they’ve been around for a decade), which is a long time in the world of very short fiction. They are essentially one of the veterans out there.

  • Cost: $10
  • Prize: $1000
  • Word Limit: 300
  • Number of contestants: Unknown, but since they lowered the entry fee from $15 to $10, they’re trying to attract more submissions.

4. Fiction Southeast Ernest Hemingway Flash Fiction Prize

My biggest gripe with this prize is that the ratio of cost to prize is pretty low. I mean, once they receive 20 entries everything out from there is gravy for them. But one good thing about this flash fiction contest is that they publish all the finalists — many magazines claim they will consider the finalists, but rarely publish any.

  • Cost: $10
  • Prize: $200
  • Word Limit: 1,500

5. Gigantic Sequins

This will be their fifth annual contest, with the previous years competition judged by Leesa Cross-Smith and Mike Doughty. They usually cite six or seven finalists, which is nice if you like the Glimmer Train model of offering you a morsel of dignity if you don’t win 1st place.

  • Cost: $5
  • Prize: Giftcards and $75
  • Word Limit: 1,000

6. River Styx Schlafly Beer Micro-Brew Micro-Fiction Contest

You mean I get beer for writing fiction? Yes, that’s right. It’s every writers dream. Microfiction leads to Microbrew. This might win the award for best flash fiction contest, if not for the title, then for then the award. It’s not judged by an outside judge (which is probably most common) but by the editors of River Styx, which is a great literary magazine. They include several honorable mentions, as well as awarding 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place.

  • Cost: $10
  • Prize: $1500 plus BEER (one case of Schlafly micro-brew)
  • Word Limit: 500

7. Sycamore Review Flashcard Flash

This one is mainly about fun and comraderie than about money and prestige. The winner gets some token money and their winning story distributed at AWP on a flashcard. I like Sycamore Review and think they’re publishing some of the best fiction out there, so don’t hesitate on this flash fiction contest.

  • Cost: $5
  • Prize: $100, publication online, and story distributed at AWP
  • Word Limit: 500

8. The Lascaux Prize 

This magazine wasn’t on my radar before, but so far they’ve had two good years where they’ve published an anthology with the winners from this contest inside it. Not a bad business model.

  • Cost: $10
  • Prize: $1000 and a bronze medallion
  • Word Limit: 1,000

9. The Cesar Egido Serrano Foundation International Flash Fiction Competition

You want to go big? This is the mother of all flash fiction contests, the grandaddy of prizes and the grandaddy of competition. If you have anything to submit, you should send it here and pray to the heavens that you get through the initial rounds and on to the final judges. 149 countries submitting to this thing, that’s how international it is. I mean, for the last one THE QUEEN was in the audience to hear the winners read.

  • Cost: Nothing! That’s right, no entree fee
  • Prize: $20,000. No, that’s not a typo. That’s twenty thousand dollars. That’s 20K.
  • Word Limit: 100
  • Contestants: 35,000 + (just a tiny bit of competition)

10. Driftless Annual Flash Fiction Competition

Do you prefer your flash fiction contest with a little more transparency? This contest model uses a very interesting approach: the first 64 stories get in, and each story faces off with another story to either lose and be jettisoned from the competition, or win and be promoted to the next round.

  • Cost: $10
  • Prize: $350
  • Word Limit: 1,000

11. Bath Flash Fiction Contest

This British flash fiction contest is a rolling contest, which means as soon as one contest ends, the next begins. Each one lasts 4 months. Latest judge is Michelle Elvy, and it’s organized by Jude Higgins. They also publish an anthology, so finalists out of the money still get their work published. This one has a great cost-to-prize ratio, one which puts most of the American ratios to shame.

  • Cost: £7.50
  • Prize: £1000 for first prize
  • Word Limit: 300

12. Flash in the Attic Flash Fiction Contest

Fiction Attic is curating their third print anthology of very short fiction, and looking for excellent examples.

  • Cost: $3
  • Prize: $10 and publication
  • Word Limit: 1,000

13. Prime Number Magazine 53-Word Story Contest

In case you’re wondering, 53 is a prime number. And no, titles are not included in the word count (so bulk that sucker up to cheat a bit). The theme for 2016 is “Madness,” which is appropriate for a contest in March.

  • Cost: Free
  • Prize: Publication
  • Word Limit: 53

14. South Hampton Review Short Short Fiction Contest

You can see why Flash Fiction has become the preferred term for short fiction, beating out Sudden Fiction, Microfiction and as listed above, “Short Short Fiction.” That last one just gets a bit redundant. They’re a bit new, having only started the competition last year, but they said they received “three times the number of submissions they expected,” which either sounds like low expectations or a great turnout.

  • Cost: $3
  • Prize: $350 for 1st, $250 for 2nd, $150 for 3rd
  • Word Limit: 350

15. Flash 500 Contest

If you can get past the late 90s website design, Flash 500 does seem to have a legitimate contest. They’ve been running for seven years and are conducted quarterly (yes, 4 times a year!). It would be a fantastic way to publish your fiction, but first you have to run through the gauntlet of competition! If you want to pay an extra £5, you get a critique from the editors.

  • Cost: £5
  • Prize: £300 for 1st, £200 for 2nd, £100 for 3rd
  • Word Limit: 500

16. F(r)iction Winter Literary Competition

It’s confusing, but Tethered by Letters is apparently the organization that publishes F(r)iction now, so the link above is correct. If you want a different link, this is the main literary magazine site. The latest judge is Kathy Fish. They’re looking for material that “takes risks in genre, plot, and style,” so pull out your ambitious flash pieces and let ’em rip.

  • Cost: $10
  • Prize: $300
  • Word Limit: 750

17. Conium Review Flash Fiction Contest

You can read one of the previous winners here. In addition to choosing a winner, Conium lists a bunch of finalists and some special mentions, and it was judged recently by Laura Ellen Joyce.

  • Cost: $10
  • Prize: $300
  • Word Limit: 1,000

If you want the best book ever written about how to write very short fiction, you have to read The Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction, edited by Tara L. Masih. It is well worth all your time and money, and your writing will thank you for it.

Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction

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23 comments

  1. It’d be great if you could add the Bare Fiction Prizes to this list John. The 3rd annual Bare Fiction Prizes for Flash Fiction, Short Story and Poetry have a deadline of 31st October each year. £500 top prize in each category (approx $635) and costs £6 (approx $7.50) per entry for Flash Fiction up to 500 words, £8 (approx $10) for short story up to 3000 words, and £5 (approx $6.35) for poetry up to 40 lines.

  2. Great list, John. Here’s another flash competition your readers might be interested in:

    Reflex Fiction is a quarterly, international flash fiction competition for stories between 180 and 360 words. The inaugural contest is FREE TO ENTER and closes on February 28, 2017. Prizes are first place £100 (~$125), second place £50, third place £25. The unique thing about Reflex Fiction is we don’t just publish the winning stories. After we’ve announced the longlist, we publish one non-winning story each day as we count down to the winners. Writers can check the website each day to see if their story has been published or if they’re still in the running for a prize!

  3. Thank you for that list! Would love to add one more to it:

    Write a Book, Rewrite Your Life Contest – Win $100
    According to common wisdom, we all have a book inside of us. In honor of our upcoming Rewrite Your Life workshop in San Francisco, we’re asking how you how your life would be better if you wrote your book Write a letter from your future self, maximum 300 words, describing how your life has changed now that you’ve written that book you’re meant to write.

    Include items such as describing:
    –a description of your book, including a title
    –the best part about having that book written
    –the kind of support you got to help you write the book
    –the ways your life has gotten better since you wrote the book

    Email that letter to us at support@womenwellnessretreats.com. Your entry qualifies you for a chance to win $100 cash and $100 off your dream writing retreat! Full instructions available here: https://womenwellnessretreats.com/contest.

  4. Hello,
    I’d love to add our flash fiction contest to this list!

    Competition: Flash Fiction Writers Group (https://fiction.wwocz.net/blog/)
    Country: USA
    Closing Date: Wednesday, every two weeks
    Winners Announced: Thursday, every two weeks
    Max Words: 1200
    Entry Fee: $0
    Top Prize: Eternal kudos and the occasional Starbucks Gift Card

  5. I was wondering if there is an age restriction on the Cesar Egido Serrano foundation international flash fiction competition. I am twelve years old and want to enter it. Thanks!

  6. One more contest! “An Axe to Grind”
    We are celebrating our new Darling Axe website with a flash fiction contest.
    Tell us a story in fewer than 1000 words for a chance to win $200.
    Top three will be published on the Chopping Blog.
    Only $5 to enter! Deadline is February 28, 2019.
    One entry per person.
    https://darlingaxe.com/pages/contest

  7. Consider including the Santa Barbara Literary Journal Flash Fiction Contest!
    Winner receives $100; first runner-up receives $50.
    Deadline: March 1st, 2019
    Santa Barbara Literary Journal seeks amazing flash fiction writing as defined as works under 1,000 words that offer character and plot development. We welcome submissions from all authors. We don’t charge submission fees but are selective in what we choose to publish. Send us your twitterature, minisaga, nanotale and micro-stories: surprise us!
    Submission guidelines linked here: https://www.sblitjo.com/p/submit.html

  8. Consider including the Brink Spring 2019 Literary Contest!

    Brink Literacy Project is delighted to announce their F(R)ICTION Spring 2019 Literary Contests. The submission categories are: 
    Short fiction: first place prize of $1,000.00 
    Flash fiction: first place prize of $300.00 
    Creative nonfiction: first place prize of $500.00
    And poetry with a prize of $300.00
    Each winner of the submission categories, along with the five top finalists, will be considered for publication in F(R)ICTION alongside original artwork from Brink’s talented team of artists. F(R)ICTION is dedicated to publishing the best writing of all kinds, and we encourage submissions that push boundaries and take risks in genre, plot, and style. The deadline to submit is April 5, 2019.

  9. Is the Boulder Weekly 101 word contest not worthy of a nod?

    I was one of 5 winners this year (2019) and I don’t know if I am supposed to feel
    high-minded or lowbrowed. Any feedback?

    1. You should feel happy. They probably got hundreds of submissions and you were in the top 5. Celebrate!

  10. Now Nov 14, 2019… still asking for submissions info to the Cesar Egido flash fiction? Or has it ended for this year?
    Any help muchly appreciated,
    Hugh Yonn
    Grant, Florida USA

  11. The Stories of the Nature of Cities Prize for Flash Fiction

    We aspire to green cities around the globe—cities that are resilient, sustainable, livable, and just. What does this mean? We created the prize to imagine and explore visions of how people, nature, and cities might join (or not). The partners and sponsors of the Nature of Cities Prize for Urban Flash Fiction are happy to announce seven prize winners and a book, a collection of 57 stories from 23 countries, published by Publication Studio in May 2019, with an introduction by Dr. Ursula Heise, Professor of Literature at UCLA.

    The 2020 edition of the Stories of the Nature Cities Prize for Flash Fiction is now accepting submissions. The theme of this year’s stories is City in a Wild Garden. The contest is open for submissions until 1 January 2020.

    Write a short story (“flash fiction”, up to 750 words), set in the present or future (near or far) and inspired by the phrase “City in a wild garden”. You do not have to literally use this phrase in your story. You may interpret liberally any of the words in the phrase: city, wild, and garden. Plot elements must include cities, nature, and people. It has to be fiction (that is, a story, not an essay)—any genre, from science fiction to magical realism—and can be about anything: climate change; food security; utopias; wild nature; a love story; … anything. At TNOC, we are very interested in imagining cities in which nature and people co-exist, cities in which the relationships between the human-made and the natural are imagined differently.

  12. Hello.I am trying to find details of the Cesar Egido Serrano Flash fiction Competition for 2020 but with no success.Does anyone have more information please? Many thanks.