Writing Contests (North America)

Below is a list of nonfiction, essay, memoir and life writing contests from USA and Canada and mostly open to American and/or Canadian writers — although some are open to writers elsewhere.

For a list of contests from UK and Europe, click here.

We aim to avoid listing competitions whose terms and conditions request copyright in entries submitted — or make other unreasonable demands. Terms and conditions are usually checked, but some copyright-grabbers may occasionally slip through. Please read carefully before participating. 



January 31st
The Iowa Review Awards
Open 1st January. Includes creative nonfiction. Entry fee $20. Up to 25 pages of prose. $1,500 / $750.

The BookLife Prize
$5,000 grand prize; additional runners-up prizes.

Pinch Journal 2020 Page Prize
For ‘flash non-fiction’. $1,000. $10 entry fee. Opens January 1st. 

Graywolf Press Non-fiction Prize
For the most promising literary non-fiction project by a writer not yet established in the area. 

WOW! Women on Writing Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest
200–1,000 words. Entry fee: $12. $1,000 / $300 / $200 / Amazon vouchers for runners-up + some extras. Open topic. Open to men too.



February 1st
The TSR Nonfiction Prize
Opens January 1st, 2020. $1,000 / $500. “Make us laugh. Make us cry. Most of all, tell us a story.” 4,500 words max.

February 3rd
Accenti Magazine Writing Contest
For writing with an Italian ‘accent’. Fiction and non-fiction. C$20 entry. C$1,000 + 2 x C$100, plus extra C$100. Open to writers worldwide.

February 18th
SPJ’s New America Award
For public service journalism ‘that explores and exposes an issue of importance to immigrant and ethnic communities in the United States’. $25 entry fee to SPJ members; $40 non-members. 

February 28th
CBC Nonfiction Prize
Canadian writers only. Opens 1st January. Up to 2,000 words max. C$25. C$6,000 top prize. 4 x C$1,000 runners-up.

February 29th
AWP Prize for Creative Nonfiction
Opens 1st January. For a book-length work. $2,500 and publication.

The Preservation Foundation Award for Nonfiction Animal Stories
On a factual encounter with a wild animal, bird, insect etc of any kind. $200 top prize; runners-up $100.



1st March
The Hunger Mountain Creative Nonfiction Prize
$1,000 / $100. Opens 1st October.

The Hunger Mountain International Young Writers Prize
Includes a nonfiction category. $100. Opens 1st October. Open to high school writers.

The Fountain Essay Contest
Theme: Challenges. How do you find strength when you feel it does not exist? And what have you learned, or are learning, from your challenges?

3rd March
The Writer 2020 Essay Contest
“Your best essay” — in 2,000 words or fewer. $1,000. $25 entry fee.

8th March
America Media’s 2020 Generation Faith Essay Contest
Open to young people / students. 800–1,200. $1,000. Personal essay on writer’s experiences with life in the church, reflecting on joys / challenges that come with living with faith.

15th March
Fourth Genre Steinberg Essay Prize
Opens 1st January. 6,000 words max. $20 entry fee. $1,000 top prize.

28th March
The Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest
C$40 entry fee. C$1,000 top prize (possible runners-up prizes of C$250 with publication). For a personal essay “in which the writer’s personal engagement with the subject provides the frame or through-line”.

31st March
Red Hen Press Non-Fiction Award
Book length MS of at least 150 pages seeking to recognize “the art of true storytelling through literary craft”. $1,000 plus publication. $25 entry.



April 30th
Tom Howard / John H Reid Fiction & Essay Prize
6,000 words max. $2,000.

WOW! Women on Writing Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest
200–1,000 words. Entry fee: $12. $1,000 / $300 / $200 / Amazon vouchers for runners-up + some extras. Open topic. Open to men too. (Opens shortly after previous quarterly competition closes.)

The Preservation Foundation Award — General Nonfiction contest
Any topic; true stories only. ‘Creative’ nonfiction not considered. $200 top prize; runners-up $100.



31st May
The Iowa Review Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans
Opens 1st May. An MS in any genre up to 20 pages. No entry fee. $1,500 / $750 / 3 x $500. Open to veterans only.



30th June
North Street Book Prize
Opens 15th February. $1,000 plus extras. For Creative fiction and memoir. 200,000 words max. Collection of essays acceptable.

The Preservation Foundation Award for Biographical Nonfiction
On a person known to the author; autobiography accepted. $200 top prize; runners-up $100.



July 15th
PRISM International’s 2020 Creative Non-Fiction Contest
Can$1,500 grand prize, Can$600 runner-up, Can$400 2nd runner-up.

July 31st
WOW! Women on Writing Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest
200–1,000 words. Entry fee: $12. $1,000 / $300 / $200 / Amazon vouchers for runners-up + some extras. Open topic. Open to men too. (Opens shortly after previous quarterly competition closes.)



August 1st
Constance Rooke Creative Non-Fiction Prize / Malahat Review
Opens May 2020.

Tulip Tree Publishing’s Stories That Need to Be Told Contest
$1,000 + 5 x $200. 10,000 words max.

August 30th
Thomas Paine Award
For “an original book-length manuscript of political or social activist writing”. Open internationally.

August 31st
The Preservation Foundation Award for Travel Nonfiction
On a factual trip taken by someone known to the author or the author. $200 top prize; runners-up $100.



October 31st
WOW! Women on Writing Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest
200–1,000 words. Entry fee: $12. $1,000 / $300 / $200 / Amazon vouchers for runners-up + some extras. Open topic. Open to men too. (Opens shortly after previous quarterly competition closes.)



NB: Most of the following are included on the basis of having run in the previous year, but may be provisional or as yet unconfirmed for the upcoming month specified.

April 2020
Hektoen Grand Prix Essay Competition

May 2020
Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society’s William Faulkner — William Wisdom Creative Writing Contest
December Magazine’s Curt Johnson Prose Awards
Eden Mills Literary Contest

June 2020
Room Magazine Creative Non-Fiction Contest
Ploughshares Emerging Writers Awards
Sub Terrain’s Lush Triumphant Literary Awards
A Midsummer Tale Narrative Writing Contest

July 2020
New Millennium Writings

August 2020
Peaceful Dumpling Environmental Writing Prize

September 2020
Hektoen Summer Essay Contest
The Preservation Foundation’s Nonfiction Contest
Solas Awards
Boulevard Magazine Nonfiction Contest for Emerging Writers
Literal Latte Essay Awards
Crab Orchard Review — two nonfiction awards
The Forge Flash Nonfiction Contest

October 2020
American Literary Review Contest
Mary C Mohr Awards
The Missouri Review’s Jeffrey E Smith’s Editor’s Prize
Sequestrum New Writer Awards
Event Magazine’s Non Fiction Contest
The Woven Tale Press Annual Hamptons Competition
Ruminate Magazine’s VanderMey Non Fiction Prize
Hidden River Arts’ Tamaqua Award
Tuscon Festival of Books Literary Awards Competition
Bridges Together’s Kraemer IG Story Contest

November 2020
The Malahat Review Open Season Awards
The Briar Cliff Review
Reed Magazine’s Gabriele Rico Challenge for Nonfiction
Carve Magazine’s Prose & Poetry Contest
SMK Contests
Prairie Fire Creative Nonfiction Contest
49th New Millennium Writing Awards
ServiceScape Short Story Award

December 2020
Why My Family Counts contest
Brooklyn Film and Arts Festival Non-Fiction Prize
Lazuli Literary Group Writing Contest

January 2021
Nowhere Magazine’s Fall Travel Writing Contest
The Disquiet Prize
Erma Bombeck Writing Competition
WOW! Women on Writing Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest (Quarterly, in April, July, October too)
The San Francisco Writers Conference Writing Contest
The Douglas B Rogers Essay Competition
Nova Writes / Nova Scotia Writers Contest 
New Ohio Review Contest
Please See Me Mental Health Awareness Writing Contest
Hektoen International Writing Contest
Rose Post Creative Nonfiction Contest
I Must Be Off! Travel Writing Competition

February 2021
The Preservation Foundation Awards 

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