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

Sunday Star-Times Short Story awards

This annual competition includes a secondary category. Entries close 12 November 2023

Find out more: Sunday Star-Times Short Story Awards

2024 Landfall Young Writers' Essay Competition

The competition is open to anyone in Aotearoa aged 16-25. The winners will receive $500 and a year's subscription to Landfall. They will also have their essay published in Landfall 247, coming out in May 2024. Entries close 31 March 2023

Find out more: Landfall Young Writers' Essay Competition


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.

2023 - closed

These awards are now closed for 2023. 

The Cambridge Autumn Festival Short Story Competition

The Cambridge Autumn Festival’s Short Story Competition is now open. The theme for this year’s competition is "A hard day’s work".

First prize is $1000, second prize $500, third prize $250. There is no entry fee and no age limit. The word limit is 1500 words. Entries close 31 January 2023.

Find out more: The Cambridge Autumn Festival 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 Charles Brasch Young Writers' Essay competition close on 31 March 2023.

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

Write On School for Young Writers - Write On Competition

Write On The School for Young Writers runs competitions. 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. Entries close 15 April 2023.

Find out more:

National Flash Fiction Day Youth Competition

Submit your short story/prose up to 300 words. The 2023 NFFD Youth Competition is on 28 February to 30 April 2023.
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.

The Elsie Locke Writing Prize

An opportunity for young writers ages 5-13 to develop an original piece of writing for publication inspired by New Zealand history and Elsie's work for peace, the environment, women’s issues, and our community. Submissions can be any writing on a topic - past, present or future - that you think would have been of interest to Elsie. For example: personal narratives, poems, articles, essays, speeches or plays.

The winner will receive $250 and their story will be published in Toitoi 33. They will also receive a copy of Toitoi's latest hardback publication - Jillion 2.
Email your writing to by 30 June 2023 and include your name, age, school and a parent or teacher’s name and contact details.

Find out more: The Elsie Locke Writing Prize

Rainbow Writing Competition Whakataetae Tuhituhi

As part of the Out of the Shelves campaign in June each year, InsideOUT Kōaro runs a national rainbow writing competition to celebrate and encourage budding rainbow storytellers to share their work. There are two age categories – Under 16, and 16 – 24. For each age category there are three writing categories – fiction (prose), poetry and non-fiction. Winning and shortlisted entries are published on the Out on the Shelves website and celebrated in their annual Rainbow Zine. Entries close 30 June 2023

Find out more: Rainbow Writing Competition Whakataetae Tuhituhi

Sargeson Prize - short story competition

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 Sargeson Prize and close at 11.59pm (NZST) on 30 June 2023. 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, or home-schooled students, who are aged between 16 and 18 years on the date that competition entries close. Entries must be single stories of no more than 3000 words. They must be original, unpublished pieces of work.

  • First Prize: $2,000
  • Second Prize: $1,000
  • Third Prize: $500

The winning story will be published by Newsroom in its literary section ReadingRoom.

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.

Poetry Aotearoa Yearbook Student Poetry Competition

Entries are now open for the Poetry Aotearoa Yearbook student poetry competition. Send in up to 3 of your previously unpublished original poem. Thanks to the University of Waikato there are now prizes of: $500 (first place), $300 (second place) and $100 (third place). Each winning poet and their school will also receive a copy of the book.

Entries close 24 July 2023.

Find out more: Poetry New Zealand Yearbook student poetry competition


Re-Draft is a nationally acclaimed collection of teenagers' writing, published each year by Clerestory Press. Any New Zealand teenager can enter their work. Entries can be any creative writing genre and will be judged by award winning New Zealand writers. 

Entries close 25 August 2023.

Find out more:

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 National Schools Poetry Award. Entry deadline: August 2023.

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.


Details to come on the following awards, or they aren't offered in 2023. 

Smart Alex competition

Smart Alex 2022 coincides with the release of Te Kupenga, and students are encouraged to use this taonga to become familiar with the work and collections of the Turnbull Library.

The competition is open to all secondary school students in New Zealand and the South Pacific Islands. As in previous years, there are two age-group categories for entries: Years 9-10, and Years 11-13 and the Friends are offering $3,100 in prize money.

Entries close 28 August 2022.

To fire your imagination visit your school library and look through Te Kupenga, opens a new window or browse the Te Kupenga content on the National Library website: Te Kupenga, opens a new window . Or you could also search on-line, opens a new window to discover an item in the Turnbull collections that inspires you.

For further information about Alexander Turnbull himself, see his biography in Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of NZ, opens a new window, the FoTL website, or the Alexander Turnbull Library website, opens a new window.

Find out more: Smart Alex 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. Back in 2022.

Find out more: Zephyr Short Story Competition

More awards

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.
Find out more

International writing competitions

$10,000 Text Prize

The Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing is an annual $10,000 prize awarded to an outstanding unpublished manuscript. Since its inception in 2008, the Text Prize has become one of the most renowned prizes for young adult and children’s writing in Australia and New Zealand. There is also the Steph Bowe Mentorship for Young Writers to nurture and encourage a writer under the age of 25.
Published and unpublished writers of all ages are now invited to enter works of fiction or non-fiction.

The winner will be announced in mid-2021 and will receive a publishing contract with Text and a $10,000 advance against royalties.
Find out more.

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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