Getting published: Writing competitions for teens

One way of getting published is to enter your work into writing competitions. Winning an award is the way many top New Zealand poets and writers have started their careers.

New Zealand writing competitions

The Cambridge Autumn Festival Short Story Competition

The Cambridge Autumn Festival’s Short Story Competition 2021 is now open. The theme for this year’s competition is “Lockdown”- a theme we hope will inspire writers to test their talents and enter this nationwide competition. Writers can interpret the theme in whatever way they wish, but it has to be a work of fiction.

First prize is $1000, second prize $500 and third prize $250. 
There is no entry fee and no age limit. The word limit is 1500 words. Entries close 11.59pm, 31 January 2021.

Find out more: The Cambridge Autumn Festival Short Story Competition

Zephyr Short Story Competition

The Zephyr Short Story Competition is run by the Wellington Branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors. There are two sections - Junior for writers 18 years and younger, and Open for all writers over 18.

Mandy Hager is the judge for the Junior section. Prizes - 1st prize $150 in book tokens, 2nd prize $100 in book tokens, 3rd prize $50 in book tokens.
Entries must be received by 30 September 2020.

Find out more: Zephyr Short Story Competition

Charles Brasch Young Writers' Essay Competition

Landfall runs the Charles Brasch Young Writers' Essay Competition, an annual award open to writers aged 16 to 21. Essays should not exceed 1500 words. The winner will be announced and published in each May issue of Landfall. The winner receives $500 and a year’s subscription to Landfall.
Entries for the 2020 Charles Brasch Young Writers' Essay competition close on 31 March 2020.

Find out more: Charles Brasch Young Writers' Essay Competition.

National Flash Fiction Day Youth Competition

Submit your short story/prose up to 300 words. The 2020 NFFD Youth Competition is on 15 February to 15 April 2020.
Winners will be announced 22 June on National Flash Fiction Day celebrations. Winners and short-listed work will be published in a special edition of fingers comma toes.

Find out more: NFFD Youth Competition.

Write On School for Young Writers - Write On Competition

Write On The School for Young Writers runs competitions. Their current comp: Voices Monologue. Entries close Friday 15 May 2020. YEARS 4-6 Two winners will receive a $20 Scorpio Books voucher; YEARS 7-8 Two winners will receive a $30 Scorpio Books voucher; YEARS 9-10 Two winners will receive a $50 Scorpio Books voucher.

Find out more:

Sargeson Prize - short story competition

New in 2019, the Sargeson Prize is New Zealand's richest short story prize, sponsored by the University of Waikato. Named for celebrated New Zealand writer Frank Sargeson, the Prize was conceived by writer Catherine Chidgey, who also lectures in Writing Studies at the University. Entries open on 1 April for the 2020 Sargeson Prize and close at 11.59pm (NZST) on 30 June 2020. There is no entry fee, and entries are limited to one per writer, per division.

The Secondary Schools Division is open to students enrolled at a New Zealand secondary school and aged between 16 and 18 years on the date that competition entries close. Entries must be a single story of no more than 3000 words. It must be an original, unpublished piece of work.

  • First Prize: $500
  • Second Prize: $200
  • Third Prize: $100

The winning story will be published in Mayhem. The winner of the Secondary Schools Division will also be offered a one-week summer residency at the University of Waikato, to be taken up in January or February of the following year. The residency will include accommodation and meals at one of the University of Waikato Halls of Residence, a writing space in the School of Arts, and mentoring from postgraduate students and/or academic staff in the Writing Studies programme. If the winner is under 18 years of age, parental consent will be required.

Find out more: Sargeson Prize.

National Schools Poetry Award

The National Schools Poetry Award is held annually. It is free to enter and open to Year 12 and 13 students across New Zealand.
Entries are now open for the 2020 National Schools Poetry Award. Entry deadline: 6 July 2020.

The winner and nine finalists will win cash and prizes for their poems, plus an invitation to attend an exclusive masterclass with leading New Zealand poets at the IIML on Wellington's Victoria University campus.

Find out more: National Schools Poetry Award.


Re-Draft is a nationally acclaimed collection of teenagers' writing, published each year by Clerestory Press. Any New Zealand teenager can enter their work using the form found in the back of the current edition of Re-Draft. Entries can be any creative writing genre and will be judged by award winning New Zealand writers. Read the guidelines.

Entries close 1 September.

Find out more: Re-Draft.

Sunday Star-Times Short Story awards

This annual competition includes a secondary category. Information should be announced in October 2020.

Smart Alex Competition for Secondary Schools

The Smart Alex creative writing competition is sponsored by The Friends of the Turnbull Library Ngā Hoa o te Whare Pukapuka Turnbull. Entry is free and there is $3,000 in prize money. They invite a personal response from you to an item in the collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library.

Your response (or interpretation) can be a piece of creative writing, a poem, an illustrated graphic story, or the written lyrics for a song or waiata. To get you going, they have selected a range of images from the Library’s collections that may spark your imagination. If you want to explore for yourself, you can search online to discover something else in the Alexander Turnbull collections that inspires you.

Entry is open to anyone currently attending a secondary school in New Zealand or in the Pacific Islands. There are two age-group categories for entries: Years 9-10, and Years 11-13.

Submit your completed entry by 5pm on Sunday 21 July 2019. Results were announced on Thursday 19 September 2019. Read more about the winners.

Find out more

Poetry New Zealand Yearbook Student Poetry Competition

Entries are now open for the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook student poetry competition. Send in your previously unpublished original poem and be in to win a copy of Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2019. Winning poems will be published in the 2020 edition of the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook, and each poet and their school will also receive a copy of the book.

Entries will be judged by Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2020 editor Johanna Emeney. Entries closed 30 June 2019. The 12 winners will be announced on Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day, 23 August 2019.
• Poems can be of any length, any style and about any subject
• When you enter please indicate whether you are a Year 11, Year 12, or Year 13 student at a New Zealand school and please name your school
• Four prizes will be given in each of these three age-group categories
• Successful entrants must agree to their names and schools appearing in media and publicity for the award, and their poems appearing online
Please send your entries to

Pikihuia Awards

The Pikihuia Awards (formerly the Huia Short Story Awards) is a biennial competition that started in 1995 to discover and recognise Māori writers. The awards encourage diverse Māori viewpoints and writing in both te reo Māori and English. Each award category is open to adults and school students.

Entries for the 2021 Pikihuia Awards will open on 1 January 2021.

Find out more: Pikihuia Awards.


Takahē runs annual poetry and short story competitions. The Takahē Collective Trust is a non-profit organisation that aims to support emerging and published writers, poets, artists and cultural commentators.

Find out more: Takahē.

International writing competitions

Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award

For poems written by any young poet aged 11 to 17. Each year 100 winners (85 commendations and 15 overall winners) are selected by a team of high profile judges. Free entry.
Find out more: Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award.

Other publications to submit your work to

Starling - New writing from young New Zealanders

Starling considers work from New Zealand writers under 25 years old at time of submission. Starling is published twice yearly in January and July. Submissions may be made at any time to be considered for the next issue, so the best time to send your work is when you feel it is ready. The editors will read and respond to all submissions as soon as possible, and in any event no later than 8 weeks following the deadline. The editors are unable to enter into correspondence regarding individual submissions or their selections.

The deadlines for work to be considered for each issue are 20 April for the Winter issue and 20 October for the Summer issue.

  • Poetry: send up to six poems.
  • Prose: Send up to two pieces, each up to a 5,000 word maximum. Prose may include short stories, creative non-fiction, personal essays or anything else you can surprise them with.

Find out more: Starling submissions.

fingers commas toes

fingers comma toes is an online journal for children and young adults created by Lola Elvy and Tristan Deeley in October, 2015, in Nosy Be, a small island to the west of mainland Madagascar.

Find out more: fingers commas toes submissions.

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