The All Ireland Scholarships Alumni Association is delighted to present its third Creative Writing Competition, open to all members of our Alumni Association. This year, a brand new category has been added: an op-ed opinion piece category. This will run alongside fiction and creative non-fiction categories.

*PLEASE NOTE: In order to enter this competition, you must have received an All-Ireland Scholarship.

28th November: Launch.
17th December 11am – 1pm – Donal Ryan and Prof. Sarah Moore Fitzgerald will host a free online workshop.
7th February: Deadline for receipt of entries.
Mid-March: Shortlist announced
8th April: Award winners announced

Categories: A) Fiction; B) Non-fiction; C) Op-ed

Word limit: 2,000 words

€2,500 prize fund, with up to three runners-up prizes of €500 each.


Initiated in 2020, the AIS Creative Writing Competition has already uncovered notable creative talent among AIS Alumni.

Whether you’ve entered before or are considering it for the first time, the competition provides all entrants with an opportunity to learn from leading Irish writer Donal Ryan, and supports and encourages new writers by celebrating their talent and creative commitment. We invite submissions of previously unpublished written work.

The winning and shortlisted stories will be published in a specially produced AIS limited edition publication. Writers in first, second and third places will also receive prizes, will be celebrated as part of prize-giving ceremony in the late spring or early summer of 2023 and will be invited to read from their work at a special UL-hosted event.

Following the success of the inaugural competition, this year’s judging panel comprises a stellar quartet of award-winning authors: Ireland’s first Prix Jean Monnet winner for European Literature, Donal Ryan, acclaimed writers Joseph O’Connor & Eoin Devereux, and 2022’s winning entrant, Romana Semler . The judging process will be chaired by Professor Sarah Moore Fitzgerald.




A fictional short story can about anything at all, created from your imagination.
For inspiration, have a look at the short story collections of any of these Irish writers: Donal Ryan; Joseph O’Connor; Louise Kennedy; Madeleine D’Arcy; Wendy Erskine; Nicole Flattery; Kevin Barry, or go back to some of your own favourites.

Creative non-fiction

Creative non-fiction should have a strong story arc, but based clearly on real events: this can include memoir, biography, a moment in time; travel writing; a piece about a person or moment in history. For good examples of excellent non-fiction have a listen to: any of the memoir-based pieces from RTE’s Sunday miscellany, or read some of the following: Emilie Pine’s award-winning ‘Notes to Self’, Kerry Neville’s ‘Thin Places’ Dave Sedaris’s ‘Me talk pretty one day’. Like fiction, non-fiction can be written in any style and can be funny, sad, insightful, strange, adventuresome or in whatever style or tone you choose. Your non-fiction piece should be well structured and have just as satisfying a narrative arc as a good fictional short story.


We’ve added this third category of writing to the competition this year. If fiction or non-fiction storytelling is not for you, here’s another alternative: Send us an opinion piece. For this category, we encourage you to be guided by a focus on making the world a better place. But beyond that focus, you should feel free to explore any subject or topic of importance to you. Op-ed generally involves some analysis and exploration of real-world events or issues. Within the piece, the opinions you articulate should be backed up by demonstrated reasoning. You should also aim for your writing to be fresh and original – adopt a position, tell us the reasons you think and feel as you do about the issue you write about, share your point of view. That point of view can be political, philosophical, reflective, exploratory, critical and/or more. The most important rule for an op-ed is to have a clear point to make and to get to that point quickly and convincingly. For inspiration, check out some of our favourite op-ed writers in Ireland and beyond: Fintan O’Toole; Olivia O’Leary; Una Mullally, Fergus Finlay, Michael D’Antonio, Polly Toynbee, Sanah Ashan.


The Entries

  • There is no minimum word count, however each entry should be no longer than 2,000 words. If you submit more than one entry, you must include each (to a maximum of three) as separate applications.
  • It is essential that you specify whether each submission is fiction, non-fiction, or op-ed.
  • Entries must be written in English and should be typed, double-spaced 12 font size and saved using the format Title_Genre_WordCount (e.g., ReadersReport_NonFiction_2000) and entered via the form below in Microsoft Word format.
  • Upload one coloured photograph of yourself with your submission.
  • Note that all submissions will be anonymously reviewed, so your name must not appear anywhere on the document, but you should include your full name and contact details in the application form.
  • All writing must be your own, original, unpublished work and should not currently be under consideration elsewhere, nor should it have appeared in the public domain either in print or online.
  • No submissions of poetry please. If you have entered before, you may submit a similar entry once it is not an exact replica and once, compared to the original version, it has been substantially developed.

Short Story Submission 2023
Please specify whether this entry is *
Did you enter last year's Short Story Competition?
Is your submission an edited resubmission from last year or a new short story?

Maximum file size: 134.22MB

Maximum file size: 5MB


Terms and Conditions

  • In the event of an insufficient response and/or low numbers of competition entries, the Alumni Association competition team reserves the right not to award a prize or prizes once the specified time frame is complete.
  • Entrants must be over 18 and must be Alumni or current students of the All Ireland Scholarships scheme.
  • The judges’ decision will be final and they will have absolute discretion with regard to the number of awards in each category.
  • No correspondence will be entered into with any entrants in relation to the award decisions.
  • The competition screening, shortlisting and selection process will be overseen by the competition team and by a trustee of the Scholarships Association.
  • Membership of the judging panel, prize money amounts, categories, competition time frames and deadlines may be subject to change.
  • Shortlisted and / or winning entries may be subject to media and other forms of publication. By entering the competition, you agree to this.


The Judging Panel


Professor Sarah Moore Fitzgerald is an award-winning teacher, academic and novelist. She was UL’s first Dean of Teaching and Learning and is now part of their creative writing team and founder and director of UL’s Creative Writing Winter School. From 2013 to 2018 she was Ireland’s inaugural chair of the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.

A lifelong creative writer, she’s the author of seven novels for children and young adults and her fiction has been shortlisted for many literary prizes including the Irish Book Awards, The Waterstones Prize and CBI book of the year. Her work has been translated into eighteen languages and adapted for the stage in London and Edinburgh. Sarah is this year’s winner of the London Magazine Short Story Award. Among her outreach work, she’s currently working with Children’s Books Ireland on a project entitled ‘Every Child A Reader.’


Donal Ryan, from Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, is the author of six novels and a short story collection. He has won several awards for his fiction, including the European Union Prize for Literature, the Guardian First Book Award, four Irish Book Awards, and has been shortlisted for several more, including the Costa Book Award and the Dublin International Literary Award. He was nominated for the Booker Prize in 2013 for his debut novel, The Spinning Heart, and again in 2018, for his fourth novel, From A Low and Quiet Sea.

In 2021 he became the first Irish writer to be awarded the Jean Monnet Prize for European Literature. His work has been adapted for stage and screen and translated into over twenty languages. His seventh book, The Queen of Dirt Island, was published by Doubleday in August 2022 and was an instant number one bestseller. A law graduate and former civil servant, Donal has lectured in Creative Writing at the University of Limerick since 2014.


Joseph O’Connor’s fiction has been published in 40 languages. His novel Star of the Sea has sold more than a million copies. His novel Shadowplay, won the An Post Irish Novel of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Costa Award. His books include the novels Cowboys and Indians (Whitbread Prize shortlist), Desperadoes, The Salesman, Inishowen, Redemption Falls, Ghost Light (L.A. Times Book of the Year shortlist; Dublin One City One Book choice 2011), The Thrill of it All, and two collections of short stories, True Believers and Where Have You Been? Further works include stage and radio plays, film scripts, adaptations, a TV documentary series, six non-fiction volumes and hundreds of radio columns. His CD The Drivetime Diaries reached number one in the Irish charts.

In 2011, he was elected to Aosdána. Other awards include the Prix Zepter for European Novel of the Year, the Irish PEN Award for outstanding achievement, the Macaulay Fellowship, three Hennessy Literary Awards, France’s Prix Millepages, Italy’s Premio Acerbi, an American Library Association Award, the Nielsen Bookscan Golden Book Award, the Irish Post Literary Award, a Cullman Fellowship at the New York Public Library, an honorary PhD from UCD, the Harman Visiting Professorship of Creative Writing at Baruch College New York, the 2022 American Ireland Funds AWB Vincent Literary Award and the 2022 Bram Stoker Gold Medal for Cultural Achievement from TCD. His next novel, My Father’s House, is published in January 2023. He is Frank McCourt Chair of Creative Writing at UL.


A Professor of Cultural Sociology, Eoin’s poetry has been published by The Irish Times, broadcast on RTE’s Poetry Programme and featured on Poetry Ireland’s Words Lightly Spoken Podcast. His poem ‘The Bodhi Tree’ was short-listed for a Hennessy Award in 2018. He curated the Limerick Poetry Broadsheet 'April Is The Cruellest Month' in 2022 which featured work by the renowned poets and writers John Liddy, Martin Dyar, Emily Cullen and Donal Ryan. Eoin's poem 'The Bullfield' was published in the Poetry Ireland Anthology Vital Signs in 2022. His poetry is concerned with Social Class, Homelessness and Mental Illness.

Eoin teaches the course Creative Writers in the Community on the MA in Creative Writing at University of Limerick, Ireland. He writes and performs a monthly radio show called The Cedarwood Chronicles with Gavin Friday on the U2 radio station U2X Radio on the Sirius Platform in the USA & Canada. He has also written the sleeve-notes for the re-released versions of The Cranberries' albums 'Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?' and 'No Need To Argue.'


Romana Semler, a 2011 AIS recipient, was unanimously chosen as the winning entrant for the 2022 All Ireland Scholarships Alumni Association Creative Writing Competition by a star-studded judging panel for her short story ‘Stringing The Bow’.

On Romana's winning entry, the judges said: “Stringing the Bow is a subtly abstracted story, with an arresting opening and an attention to detail that makes it shine.

“It’s so difficult to capture a child’s voice authentically and consistently, but the voice in this piece is utterly true, and never slips. This is a story composed by a writer of clear talent, replete with startling images and language that’s full of music and flow.

“From its first line right up to its unforgettable closing passage, it is a searing, virtuosic work.”


What is the AIS creative writing competition?
It’s a writing competition open to members of the AIS network. It invites anyone from this group to submit a 2,000 word piece of their own original writing.

Are there different categories?
Yes. There are three different types of writing you can submit for. See above.

Do I have to be a professional writer to enter the competition?
No! In fact since the competition started, many of our shortlistees have been first-time writers with no formal or professional background in writing. The judges won’t be looking at your work with a punishing eye. We’ll be looking for originality, exciting voices, interesting stories and inventive language, but we’ll also remain fully aware that most submissions will not be from professional writers. So while of course we’re seeking excellence, we’re not looking for perfection.

Is there a word limit?
Yes, the absolute word limit is 2000. If your story exceeds that number of words it will automatically be eliminated at initial screening stage. Keep in mind, we’ve seen excellent, award-winning pieces that have been considerably below the word count. It’s worth remembering that many of the best op-eds for example, rarely have to be longer than around 1,000 words. In any of the categories, you can submit pieces as short as you like – just as long as you observe the upper limit of 2000.

What is the timeline?
The competition opens for entries in late November.
A free 1-hour creative writing workshop with Donal Ryan and Sarah Moore will be held online in December
The deadline for submitting your entries is January 27th 2023
Shortlist will be announced in March 2023
Award winners will be announced by mid April 2023

Is it free to enter?

Can I enter as many times as I like?
You can submit a maximum of 3 pieces.

How are the submissions judged?
Each entry will be checked initially to ensure that it meets the criteria and is within the word limit. You are free to write about anything and we welcome a wide diversity of style and theme. However, gratuitously violent or ‘shock-factor’ pieces may be screened out at the discretion of the chair. The writing will be judged anonymously (i.e. the judges will not know who has written the pieces until after they’ve made and confirmed their award decisions). A shortlist of the best entries will be agreed based on clear criteria for excellence, considered in detail by all members of the judging panel and a joint decision will be made. Normally there will be a first, second and third prize. There may not be awards in all three of the categories.

Do I retain copyright of my submission if I want subsequently to publish it elsewhere?
You will retain copyright of your writing. By entering the competition and in the event that you are shortlisted, we’ll request that you grant us a one-off right to print your work in a limited edition AIS publication.

Can I submit my work to another competition at the same time or subsequently?
If you decide to submit your work to the AIS competition, we ask that you do not simultaneously submit it to other competitions until the outcome of the AIS has been announced. Winning entrants will need to check the rules of other competitions should they wish to submit their work elsewhere subsequently.

How are winning writers awarded?
Winning writers will be presented with a prize and recognised at a special AIS celebration. In addition they’ll be invited to read from their winning work at a UL-hosted creative writing event.

Can I get any further guidance about writing and submitting a piece to this competition?
Yes. Internationally-renowned writer, and competition judge, Donal Ryan and chair of the competition, Sarah Moore will host a free online workshop in early December. This will be available to any AIS members who are considering making a submission to the competition. We’ll answer your questions, give you some writing tips and take you through some of the things we look for when evaluating writing.

Are there formatting requirements?
We’re not draconian about formatting requirements, but we encourage you to use conventional print size (12) in standard font (e.g times new roman; arial, or similar) and to use double spacing throughout. A cover page (that will not be shared with the judges) should contain your name, a short bio and contact details, and should clearly state which of the three categories you are submitting for. After this, the written piece should start on a separate page, and should not contain any information that would identify you as the writer.

Is there anything else to keep in mind?
The judges’ decision will be final, and no correspondence will be entered into about the outcome of the competition. In addition, we will not normally be in a position to offer feedback to entrants other than to shortlistees/winners.

Again, we’re not looking for perfection and we know that most of the entries will not be from professional or experienced writers, so if you have a sense that you might like to prepare and submit a piece, we’d be delighted for you to give it a go! All of the judges relish the chance to read a diversity of work, we’re in your corner, we’re cheering you on, and we can’t wait to read your work!