Writers festivals, literary prizes and competitions in 2019

Love all things writing related? Here’s a list to transfer straight into your calendar.
Photo by Annelies Geneyn on Unsplash.

Thinking of entering a writing prize or competition? Keen to share ideas and stories with your favourite author at a writers festival? Here is a list to get you started that you can transfer straight into your 2019 calendar.

January, February, March

Furious Fiction
Opens on the first Friday of every month 

Presented by the Australian Writers’ Centre, this is a monthly short story prize with a 500-word limit. Open nationally and internationally, this competition is free to enter. A $500 prize is awarded to the winner.

black&write! Writing Fellowship
Open for applications from November to January

Presented by State Library of Queensland, the black&write! fellowships are open to all writers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent currently living in Australia. The fellowships are open to all genres and entry is free. A 50,000 word count is required for Adult Fiction/Non-fiction submissions with $10,000 and a publication opportunity up for grabs.

Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards

The winners of these awards across each category receive $25,000 with the overall prize, the Victorian Prize for Literature, worth an additional $100,000. Submissions are accepted from publishers and writers in September for titles published between 1 January and 31 December of the same year.

Nature Writing Prize

Presented by The Nature Conservancy every 2 years, this short essay prize for works between 3000 and 5000 words awards the winner $5000. The winning entry will also be published as an online multimedia essay by Griffith Review. The theme for this year is ‘Writing of Place’.

Carmel Bird Digital Literary Award

This award is for short fiction works up to 30,000 words. The award winner will receive $3000 and two runners-up will receive $1000 with publication for all three entries.

Nakata Brophy Prize for Young Indigenous Writers

Presented by Overland Magazine, this short story prize (up to 3000 words) recognises the talents of young First Nations writers nationally and is open to writers who are 30 years of age or younger. The first prize offers $5000 and a writing residency of up to three months at Trinity College.

Newcastle Short Story Award

Presented by Hunter Writers Centre this award is open nationally, and is not bound by a theme. A maximum of 2000 words is required with the winner receiving $3000. The top 30 selected works will be published in an anthology.

Snowy Monaro Readers Writers Festival

Based in Jindabyne and hosted by venues in the Snowy Mountains region, this festival engages all ages and features events involving authors, poets, artists and illustrators.

Writers Week: Perth Festival
8 February–3 March

This year’s theme for Writers Week is Our Imagined Selves. Held across venues at The University of Western Australia’s picturesque campus and Perth’s libraries, galleries and writers’ centres, Writers Week promises an array of special events. The full program will be revealed on 10 January.

Adelaide Writers’ Week
1–17 March

As part of Adelaide Festival, this year’s Adelaide Writers’ Week is themed around ‘Telling truths’. Featuring six days of free sessions at the Pioneer Womens Memorial Garden, guests announced to date include Brisbane-based playwright turned novelist Future D Fidel, Man Booker Prize-shortlisted Canadian author Esi Edugyan, and Goorie writer Melissa Lucashenko.

April, May, June

Newcastle Writers Festival
5–7 April 

Set in the harbour city, this writing festival sees more than 100 writers participate every year. With a popular children’s program, Newcastle Writers Festival is a festival that caters for the whole family.

Clunes Booktown
4–5 May

The regional Victorian town of Clunes becomes a vast bookshop in this annual event. Along with author talks, panel discussions and literary luncheons, festival-goers can discover the largest collection of rare, out-of-print and collectable books in Australia.

The Australian/Vogels Literary Award

This award is for an unpublished manuscript written by a writer under 35 years of age. The winner will receive $20,000 and the winning work to be published by Allen & Unwin with an advance against royalties.

The Stella Prize

Celebrating Australian women’s contribution to literature, books entered into the prize must be first published between 1 January and 31 December of the previous year. The winner will receive $50,000 in prize money.

ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize

Recognising an outstanding original short story between 2000 and 5000 words, this prize awards the winner $12,500 and is presented by Australian Book Review.

NSW Premier’s Literary Awards
Open now: closes 14 October

Celebrating Australian writing and with a prize pool of $305,000, there are 14 categories open for submission. All works must have been first published, performed, screened or broadcast and made publicly available between 1 October of the previous year and 30 September of that year.

Sydney Writers Festival
29 April–3 May

This week-long conversation about books and ideas presents more than 300 events. Previous Sydney Writers Festival international guests include Jennifer Egan, Min Jin Lee, Masha Gessen, Eileen Myles, George Saunders, Susan Faludi and many more.

Questions Writing Prize

Part of the Future Leaders initiative, this writing prize is for young writers between the ages of 18 and 30. Fiction or non-fiction submissions between 1500 to 2000 words are sought, with a $2000 prize for the winner.

University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize

Offered by the University and administered by the International Poetry Studies Institute (IPSI), this prize is awarded to a single poem of up to 50 lines. The winner receives $15,000 with the runner up receiving $5000.

The Fair Australia Prize

As described by Overland: ‘This prize encourages artists and writers of fiction, poetry and essays to be part of setting a new agenda for our future – to imagine a just, common future, and how we might get there together’. With a total prize pool of $18,000, this prize is awarded to fiction, essay, poetry, graphic and other categories.

Emerging Writers Festival
19–29 June

The festival for writers, not readers, the EWF features 11 days of professional development and stimulating conversation.

July, August, September

VU Short Story Prize for New Writers 

Presented by Overland, this annual competition celebrates excellent and original short fiction up to 3000 words in length by new and emerging writers. The winner will receive $6000 with the two runner-up receiving $1000.

Mildura Writers Festival
18–21 July

A winter program that brings together writers and thinkers, Mildura Writers Festival has hosted Nobel Laureates such as JM Coetzee, renowned authors such as David Malouf and Les Murray, and international stars such as Clive James. A Writers Residence is also offered by the festival over the months of June and July.

Miles Franklin Literary Award

The substantial $60,000 prize is awarded to ‘to a novel of the highest literary merit that presents Australian life in any of its phases’. Publishers are required to submit novels on behalf of an author.

Byron Bay Writers Festival
2–4 August

Located in the beautiful coastal landscape of Byron Bay, this festival consists of three days of storytelling, conversations and ideas. An ideal mid-winter escape for writers and readers in the southern states.

Canberra Writers Festival
21–25 August

This five-day celebration of literature has something for everyone with author talks, panel discussions, family events and a number of free events. The 2019 festival’s theme, Power Politics Passion, scrutinises today’s issues, reflects on the past, contemplates the future and challenges our understanding of all.

Queensland Poetry Festival
22–25 August

In 2019, Australia’s foremost festival for the poetic arts will explore what it really means to listen: to take heed, pay attention, tune in, listen up.

Salisbury Writers Festival
24–26 August

Hosted by the City of Salisbury and Writers SA, this writers festival supports and showcases local writers. A family-friendly festival, it also offers a short story competition for children.

Melbourne Writers Festival
30 August–8 September

‘A bookish arts party that will bring the City of Literature to life’, Melbourne Writers Festival is pushing the boundaries thanks to new Artistic Director Marieke Hardy.

Blak & Bright Festival
5–8 September

Blak & Bright is a First Nations Literary Festival based in Melbourne, established in 2016. Blak & Bright is a four-day showcase which celebrates the diverse expressions of First Nations writers, covering all genres, from songs to essays, oral stories to epic novels, and plays to poetry.

Brisbane Writers Festival
5–8 September

Connecting people through stories, this writers festival will be celebrating its 58-year milestone this September. Held at State Library of Queensland and QAGOMA, Brisbane Writers Festival has been host to writers such as Anosh Irani, Min Jin Lee, Veronica Roth, Alexis Wright, Dame Quentin Bryce and many more.

Hobart Writers Festival
13–15 September

The theme for this year’s Hobart Writers Festival is My Tasmanian Landscape – and it’s all about Tasmania’s amazing literary landscape.

October, November, December

National Young Writersʼ Festival
3–6 October

The National Young Writers’ Festival (NYWF) occurs annually in the city of Newcastle, New South Wales, over the NSW Labour Day Holiday Weekend. The festival presents ‘writing’ in its broadest sense through panels, discussions, workshops, launches, performances, readings, installations, and more.

FNAWN Literary Awards
Open now: closes 11 October

This short story and poetry prize is available to members of FNAWN, the First Nations Australia Writers Network. Entries are open for the Short Story Award (up to 2500 words) and the Auntie Kerry Reed-Gilbert Poetry Award (max 80 lines), with an under-30 division for each. The winners will receive $2000.

Weekend of Reading (Read Tasmania)
11–13 October

A weekend to celebrate reading and all its benefits. Over three days we will be creating a space for reading, learning and sharing. There will be discussions on the importance of books, libraries, bookstores, readers and writers.

Odyssey Literary Festival
15 October

Odyssey Literary Festival is a free one-day event produced by students of the RMIT professional writing and editing program. Past guests include Tony Birch, Mark Brandi, Sofie Laguna, Carly Findlay and Jennifer Down. The 2019 festival is called Raze / Rekindle will be held at The Capitol, a heritage-listed theatre in the heart of Melbourne.

Boundless Festival
26 October

Boundless is a free festival of Indigenous and culturally diverse writers at the Bankstown Arts Centre in Western Sydney. The all-day event includes readings, workshops, panel discussions, and performances, with guests including Alice Pung, Benjamin Law and Jack Latimore.

Terror Australis Readers and Writers Festival
31 October–5 November

Terror Australis Readers and Writers Festival (TAF2019) is Tasmania’s newest biennial literary festival held in the gorgeous Huon Valley. There are three areas of programming to enjoy across our Halloween-to-Melbourne Cup long weekend of words, wine and mystery.

Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize
Open now: closes 17 November

This short story prize (of up to 3000 words) is presented by Overland and supported by the Malcolm Robertson Foundation. The theme for this prize is around the notion of ‘travel’ and the winner receives $4000 with their story published in Overland.

The Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize 
Open now: closes 17 November

For new and emerging poets, this prize is supported by the Malcolm Robertson Foundation and seeks outstanding poetry by writers who have published no more than one collection of poems under their own name. The major prize is $6000 with a second prize of $2000 and third prize of $1000.

Queensland Literary Awards
Closed: winners announced 12 November

Presented by State Library of Queensland, these awards celebrate outstanding Australian books and authors. The top prize is the Queensland Premier’s Award for a work of State Significance, which awards the winner $25,000.

Ubud Writers & Readers Festival
23–27 October

A cultural exchange of writing and thinking, this writers festival is held in Indonesia’s beautiful Ubud region. Described as ‘an annual pilgrimage for lovers of literature and conversation’, Ubud Writers & Readers festival is a major annual project of the not-for-profit foundation, the Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati. ArtHub contributor Kath Melbourne visited the festival in 2018: read her impressions of the event here.

JLF (Jaipur Literary Festival)
1–3 November

In collaboration with OzAsia Festival, this writers festival is presented by Teamwork Arts, producers of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival. Housed at the Adelaide Festival Centre and now in its tenth iteration this festival celebrates the stories and heritage of South Asia.

Quantum Words Perth
8–10 November

Quantum Words Perth is Western Australia’s first writers festival dedicated specifically to writing about science, creativity and the spaces in which they intersect.

Lane Cove Literary Awards
Closed: winners announced in November (date TBC)

Presented by Lane Cove Council, these awards are open nationally for writers over the age of 16 and offer prize categories such as: Short Story Prize $2000; Theatre Script Prize $1500; Poetry Prize $1500; The Burns Bay Bookery Youth Prize (16–24 years) $500 and more.

Walkley Awards
Closed: winners announced 28 November

The most prestigious awards given to Australian journalists, and awarded across more than 30 categories. Presented by the Walkley Foundation, the Awards celebrate their 64th anniversary this year.

Wollongong Writers Festival
22–24 November

This writers festival offers a $1000 Short Story Prize for a previously unpublished short story based on a given theme. The winning story will be published by Mascara Literary Review.

Prime Minister’s Literary Award

The Prime Minister’s Literary Awards celebrates Australian literary talent and the ‘valuable contribution Australian literature and history makes to the nation’s cultural and intellectual life’. The award categories are fiction, non-fiction, Australian history, poetry, children’s literature and young adult literature, with $80,000 given to each category winner.

Word for Word Geelong Writers Festival
15–17 November

Australia’s only non-fiction literary festival, Word for Word celebrates memoir, biography, journalism, essays, song-writing, travel and poetry by great thinkers and writers.

Last updated 2 October 2019