Writing Contests (North America)

Below is a list of nonfiction, essay, memoir and life writing contests based in USA and Canada and mostly open to American and/or Canadian writers — although some may be open to UK / European writers, or those based elsewhere.

For a list of UK / Europe based non-fiction writing competitions, click here.

For competitions in Australia and New Zealand, 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. 



October 27th (plus 3-day grace period)
Ruminate Magazine’s VanderMey Non Fiction Prize
$1,500. No restrictions on subject matter.

October 31st
WOW! Women on Writing Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest
Open topic. 200–1,000 words.

Hidden River Arts’ Tamaqua Award
For a collection of essays. $1,000

Tuscon Festival of Books Literary Awards Competition
$1,000 / $500 / $250.



November 1st
The Malahat Review Open Season Awards
Three categories, including non-fiction, open to writers worldwide. Total prize fund C$6,000.

The Briar Cliff Review
Annual Contest, including creative nonfiction category, up to 5,000 words. $1,000. $20 entry fee.

Reed Magazine’s Gabriele Rico Challenge for Nonfiction
Personal standalone essays or narratives. 5,000 words max. $1,333.

November 15th
Carve Magazine’s Prose & Poetry Contest
Three categories, including nonfiction. $1,000 prize.

November 30th
SMK Contests
Various categories: Humor, intercultural essay, religious essay, memoir vignette, creative non-fiction. (Fiction categories too.)

Prairie Fire Creative Nonfiction Contest
5,000 words max. C$1,250 / 500 / 250. C$32 entry fee, includes magazine subscription.

49th New Millennium Writing Awards
Under 7,500 words. $1,000. $20 entry. All forms of non-fiction welcome. Other categories too.



December 1st
Why My Family Counts contest
Why my family counts in the 2020 Census. Open to young people 14–21 in San Francisco. Various cash prizes, $500 / 250.

December 20th
Lazuli Literary Group Writing Contest
For ‘thoughtful, intelligent, beautiful’ writing. $100.

December 31st
I Must Be Off! Travel Writing Competition
Open to entrants worldwide. Non-fiction and fiction / poetry too. Must concern travel or have a strong sense of place. $300 top prize. $3 entry.



January 1st
Nowhere Magazine’s Fall 2019 Travel Writing Contest
For non-fiction or essay (and fictional forms too). $1,000 for winner.

January 3rd
The Disquiet Prize
Maximum 25 pages (non-fiction). Other categories. Possibility of fellowship / financial aid for outstanding winners. $15 fee.

January 10th
The San Francisco Writers Conference Writing Contest
Adult nonfiction (including memoir) category. Entry fee $35. Open to writers worldwide. First 1,500 words (or less) of essay or nonfiction book. $100, plus automatic consideration for overall prize ($250).

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.



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 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.



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.

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.



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.



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



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.



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.

January 2020
Greywolf Press Non-Fiction Prize

April 2020
Hektoen Grand Prix Essay Competition
The Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest (Canada)
Preservation Foundation Nonfiction Contests
Pinch Journal Literary Awards
New Ohio Review Prize

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


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