We are excited to reopen our internationally-renowned short story competition, made possible by the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies (LiFTS) at the University of Essex. The shortlist judge in 2021 for the main Prize will be highly acclaimed short story writer Irenosen Okojie.

This year we will also be awarding a LiFTS Wild Writing Prize for nature, environmental or climate crisis fiction. This exciting new Prize will be judged by novelist and short story writer Naomi Booth, and James Canton, Director of Wild Writing at LiFTS. 

1st Prize: £500 

Runner-up: £250 

3rd Prize: £100

Wild Writing Prize: £500 and Wild Writing masterclasses

3 x Runners-up: Wild Writing masterclasses

Please enter via our Submittable link after reading the following competition rules.

1. Dates: The Prize is open for entries from 1 January 2021. The deadline for receipt of entries is 31 March 2021 (23:59 BST).

2. Language: All entries must be in English.

3. Geographical restrictions: There are no geographical restrictions on entry: while the Prize is UK-based, all writers – within and outside the UK – are welcome to enter.

4. Length: The maximum length of submissions is 5,000 words, not including the title. There is no minimum length. 

5. Genre/theme: For the main Prize, there are no restrictions on genre, style, theme, or subject, but entries should be prose fiction – not poetry or memoir. Entries to the Wild Writing Prize should be prose fiction on the theme or themes of nature, environment and/or climate crisis.

6. Entry fee: There is an entry fee for each story submitted (though see Free entries, below). In the final month, March, the entry fee will be £9. To encourage early submissions, the fee for entries submitted in January and February will be £7 – the discounted fee will apply until 28 February 2021 (23:59 GMT). Payment is made through the Submittable portal for the Prizes. At the time of entry, writers can opt to pay a supplement of £1 to subsidise a free entry for a writer in more difficult circumstances.

7. Free entries: Forty (40) free entries are available to writers for whom the fee would be a barrier to entry. Twenty (20) of these are reserved for writers resident in the UK. [Update 10 Feb 2021: all free entries have now been allocated.] To request one, please email shortfictionjournal@gmail.com and let us know your country of residence and whether you wish to enter the main Prize or the Wild Writing Prize. The free entries are offered on a first-come, first-served basis, and you do not need to give us detailed information about your circumstances. Free entries will be judged blind, the same as paid entries.

8. Blind judging: Entries will be read and judged anonymously; entrants’ names and contact details should only appear on the entry form and not anywhere on their stories/manuscripts. The stories/manuscripts must be free of all personal information about the author. This includes age and address.

9. Entry format: Entries should be in a standard 12pt font and double-spaced, unless the form of the story demands otherwise. Entry is online-only, via Submittable. Entries sent to our normal submissions email address will be discarded.

10. Multiple entries: Writers may enter as many stories as they like; each separate story requires a separate entry fee.

11. Simultaneous submissions: Simultaneous submissions are welcome, but please withdraw your entry via Submittable as soon as possible if the story is accepted for publication elsewhere, in print or online (including self-published, ebook, magazines, journals, audio, websites, blogs, social network sites), or broadcast.

12. Age restriction: Entrants must be 18 years old or over on the closing date.

13. Corrections: No corrections or alterations can be made after receipt of an entry.

14. New work only: Entries must be entirely the work of the entrant and must never have been previously published, in print or online (including self-published, ebook, magazines, journals, audio, websites, blogs, social network sites), or won a prize in another writing competition. Any entry found to have been plagiarised will be disqualified.

15. Judging process: Each entry will be read by at least two members of a diverse panel of experienced short story readers. A shortlist, announced by 31 May 2021, will then be forwarded to the Judges – Irenosen Okojie for the main Prize and Naomi Booth and James Canton for the Wild Writing Prize – who will select the winner and runner-up for final announcement by 30 June 2021. The panel’s and Judges’ decisions are final and no individual correspondence will be entered into. 

16. Prizes: £500 will be awarded to the main Prize winner; the runner-up will receive £250; and in 2021 a third prize of £100 will also be awarded. The winner of the Wild Writing Prize will be awarded £500. A weekend of online Wild Writing masterclasses with the LiFTS team at the University of Essex, in summer 2021, will also be awarded to the winner and 3 runners-up in the Wild Writing Prize.

17. Publication: The winners of both Prizes, and the runner-up and third prize winner in the main Prize, will be published online at Short Fiction journal. Acceptance of any prize implies agreement for the relevant story to be published online. The shortlist will be considered for publication. Shortlisted individuals will be contacted about this by email after the winner and runner-up have been announced.

18. Results: Entrants will not be contacted individually about the competition results unless they are selected for the shortlist.

19. Rules acceptance: Entry implies an acceptance of these rules. Entries that fail to comply with the entry rules and requirements may be disqualified.

We look forward to reading your entries!


Sponsor: LiFTS are specialists across literature, screen and stage. We are an interdisciplinary department with expertise in English literature, drama, creative writing, journalism, film and screen media. Our courses are taught by leading academics, writers, film makers and journalists, and allow you to follow specialised pathways or to combine your interests across subject areas. Literature was one of the founding subjects at the University of Essex and since the department's inception in the 1960s under the poet Donald Davie, it has built its reputation on scholarly and critical achievements across English, comparative and world literature.


:Main Prize Judge

Irenosen Okojie is a Nigerian British writer. Her debut novel Butterfly Fish won a Betty Trask award and was shortlisted for an Edinburgh International First Book Award. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Observer, The Guardian, the BBC and the Huffington Post amongst other publications. Her short stories have been published internationally including Salt's Best British Short Stories 2017 and 2020, Kwani? and The Year's Best Weird Fiction. She was presented at the London Short Story Festival by Booker Prize winning author Ben Okri as a dynamic talent and featured in the Evening Standard Magazine as one of London’s exciting new authors. Her short story collection Speak Gigantular, published by Jacaranda Books, was shortlisted for the Edgehill Short Story Prize, the Jhalak Prize, the Saboteur Awards and nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award. Her new collection of stories, Nudibranch, published by Little Brown's Dialogue Books, was longlisted for the Jhalak Prize. She is the winner of the 2020 AKO Caine Prize For Fiction for her story 'Grace Jones'. She is a fellow and Vice Chair of The Royal Society of Literature. www.irenosenokojie.com Twitter: @IrenosenOkojie


Wild Writing Prize Judge:

Naomi Booth is a fiction writer and academic, with particular interests in eco-fictions, writing and the body, and northern landscapes. She is the author of The Lost Art of Sinking, Sealed and Exit Management—which was named a Guardian Best Fiction Book of 2020. She is the recipient of a Saboteur Award for Best Novella and her short fiction has been longlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award and the Galley Beggar Short Story Prize. She was recently commissioned to retell the northern folktale of the boggart for Audible Original/Virago anthology Hag; the resulting story, ‘Sour Hall’, is being adapted into an audio drama series. Naomi grew up in West Yorkshire and now lives in York. She lectures in Creative Writing and Literature at Durham University. 

:Wild Writing Prize Judge

James Canton is a writer and lecturer who has written widely in creative non-fiction forms and taught on the MA in Wild Writing

at the University of Essex since its inception in 2009, exploring the fascinating ties between the literature and landscape of East Anglia. His first book From Cairo to Baghdad (2011) explored the writings of British Travellers to Arabia from 1882 to 2003. Out of Essex: Re-Imagining a Literary Landscape (2013) is inspired by rural wanderings in the county. Ancient Wonderings: Journeys into Prehistoric Britain was published by William Collins in 2017 and tells some remarkable tales of life in ancient Britain. His latest book The Oak Papers is published with Canongate in July 2020