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. 



March 28th
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”.

March 31st
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 1st
Torch Prize for Creative Non-fiction
Up to 30 pages, double-spaced. $500. 

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.



May 1st
December Magazine’s Curt Johnson Prose Awards
Entry opens 1st March. $1,500 / $500. $20 entry fee. Max. 8,000 words. 

Peninsula Pulse’s Hal Prize
4,000 words max. $250 / 100 / 50. 

May 15th
Ploughshares Emerging Writers Contest
Under 6,000 words. Poetry and fiction as well as nonfiction. $24 entry fee (comes with free subscription); free to subscribers. 

May 31st
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.

The Writers College Free Writing Competition
600 words. On ‘The best writing tip I’ve ever received’. $200.



June 1st
Room Creative Non-Fiction Contest
Details announced in April.

June 15th
Eden Mills Literary Contest
Details to follow.

Goi Peace Foundation’s International Essay Contest for Young People
“A Letter from Myself in 2030”. Ages in two categories 15–25 and 14 and under. 700 words. Various prizes. 

June 30th
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.

New Millennium Writing Awards
Nonfiction category (plus others). 7,499 words or less! $20 per entry. $1,000 prize. 



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 22nd
Lazuli Literary Group Writing Contest
Any genre. “Send us the best you have … thoughtful, intelligent, and beautiful”. $15 entry. $200 prize. 

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.

Blue Mesa Review Summer Competition
Opens June 1st. Nonfiction category, as well as others. 6,000 words max. $12 entry. $500 top prize.



September 30th
The Lascaux Prize in Creative Nonfiction
Opens April 1st. $15 entry. Up to 10,000 words. $1,000 top prize. 

Boulevard Emerging Writers Nonfiction Contest
Opens June 2nd. $1,000 for an essay by an unpublished writer. 8,000 words max. $16 entry. 



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

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

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
Indiana Review Creative Non-Fiction Prize

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
Cutthroat Writing Awards 

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
The Iowa Review Awards
The BookLife Prize
Pinch Journal 2020 Page Prize
Graywolf Press Non-fiction Prize
The Page Prize in Non-fiction 

February 2021
The Preservation Foundation Awards 
The TSR Nonfiction Prize
Accenti Magazine Writing Contest
SPJ’s New America Award
The Writers’ Union of Canada Short Prose Competition
CBC Nonfiction Prize
AWP Prize for Creative Nonfiction

March 2021
The Hunger Mountain Creative Nonfiction Prize
The Hunger Mountain International Young Writers Prize
The Fountain Essay Contest
The Writer 2020 Essay Contest
America Media’s 2020 Generation Faith Essay Contest
Fourth Genre Steinberg Essay Prize

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