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 are open to writers 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.
NOVEMBER 2019 DEADLINES
Carve Magazine’s Prose & Poetry Contest
Three categories, including nonfiction. $1,000 prize.
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.
ServiceScape Short Story Award
Non-fiction and fiction accepted. $1,000. 5,000 words max.
DECEMBER 2019 DEADLINES
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.
Brooklyn Film and Arts Festival Non-Fiction Prize
“A cash award of $500, will be awarded to the best Brooklyn-focused non-fiction essay which is set in Brooklyn and is about Brooklyn and/or Brooklyn people/characters”. Up to 2,500 words.
Lazuli Literary Group Writing Contest
For ‘thoughtful, intelligent, beautiful’ writing. $100.
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 2020 DEADLINES
Nowhere Magazine’s Fall 2019 Travel Writing Contest
For non-fiction or essay (and fictional forms too). $1,000 for winner.
The Disquiet Prize
Maximum 25 pages (non-fiction). Other categories. Possibility of fellowship / financial aid for outstanding winners. $15 fee.
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).
Please See Me Mental Health Awareness Writing Contest
Creative non-fiction of up to 4,000. $250.
Hektoen International Writing Contest
Theme: Blood. 1,600 words max. $3,000; $800 runner up.
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.
FEBRUARY 2020 DEADLINES
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.
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.
AWP Prize for Creative Nonfiction
Opens 1st January. For a book-length work. $2,500 and publication.
MARCH 2020 DEADLINES
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?
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.
Fourth Genre Steinberg Essay Prize
Opens 1st January. 6,000 words max. $20 entry fee. $1,000 top prize.
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”.
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 2020 DEADLINES
Tom Howard / John H Reid Fiction & Essay Prize
6,000 words max. $2,000.
MAY 2020 DEADLINES
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.
JUNE 2020 DEADLINES
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 2020 DEADLINES
PRISM International’s 2020 Creative Non-Fiction Contest
Can$1,500 grand prize, Can$600 runner-up, Can$400 2nd runner-up.
AUGUST 2020 DEADLINES
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.
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.
Greywolf Press Non-Fiction Prize
New Millennium Writings
Hektoen Summer Essay Contest
The Preservation Foundation’s Nonfiction Contest
Boulevard Magazine Nonfiction Contest for Emerging Writers
Literal Latte Essay Awards
Crab Orchard Review — two nonfiction awards
The Forge Flash Nonfiction Contest
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
WOW! Women on Writing Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest
Hidden River Arts’ Tamaqua Award
Tuscon Festival of Books Literary Awards Competition
Bridges Together’s Kraemer IG Story Contest