With everyone winding down their day job and racing around preparing for the season's madness, is it really worth thinking about writing? If you want to be in with a chance of winning any of the many free-to-enter competitions that have closing dates coming up–yes! Here are a few to consider.

* The 14th Binnacle Ultra-short competition for up to 150 words of prose or 16 lines of poetry on any subject that takes your fancy. Closing date: 15th March 2017. Details at http://www.umm.maine/edu/binnacle.
* Readers Digest has a contest for 100 word stories (word count excludes the title) closing on 20th February 2017. Details at http://www.readersdigest.co.uk/100-word-story-competition.
* Brilliant Flash Fiction has prizes of €50, €25 and €15 for up to 500 words on the theme 'aftermath'. Closing date 15th January 2017. Details at https://brilliantflashfictionmag.wordpress.com/writing-contests.
* The Keats-Shelley Prize on the theme 'To a Friend' offers a share of £4,000 for poems up to 30 lines. Details at http://www.keats-shelley.co.uk/the-keats-shelley-prize.
*Purbeck Literary Festival has a contest for stories of 1,000 words, give or take 50 words, on the theme of 'wild'. There's a £100 prize. Closing date 13th January 2017. Details from http:www.purbeckliteraryfestival.info/short-story-writing-competition.
* It isn't a contest as such, but if you want to write for television, don't miss the chance to submit to the BBC Script Room. Closes 5pm on 9th January 2017. Details at http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom. It's the only chance you'll have in 2017 to submit a drama of at least 30 minutes for TV, radio, stage or film, although there should be an opening for comedy in the autumn.

    If you're more in the mood for reading than writing, the 13th Binnacle Ultra-Shorts 2016 is available, or you could try After Lines or Killing It Softly. For something longer, you can get Discord's Child and Discord's Apprentice at http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/ksdearsley or https://www.amazon.com/K-S-Dearsley/e/B006L00FCG.
    However you spend it, have a wonderful Christmas and all the best for 2017.