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, some of which are open to writers outside Europe, click here.

We aim to avoid listing competitions whose terms and conditions request copyright in entries submitted — or make other unreasonable demands. T&Cs are usually checked, but some may slip through. Please check carefully before participating. 

Note that some entry fees may seem expensive, but often offer additional benefits, such as an annual magazine subscription.



16th December
The Eunice Williams Nonfiction Prize
For “the stuff of your heart” / “brave stories” which are “true and about you”. Under 5,000 words. Open to “women identifying persons”. $400 / $250 / $100. Entry $15.

31st December
TCK Publishing Nonfiction Writing Contest
Open to all writers. For “a nonfiction piece of writing up to 8,000 words”. Entry: $12. $1,000 top prize



1st January
Mississippi Review Prize
1,000–6,000 words for nonfiction category. Entry $16. 

2nd January
$15 entry. Up to 25 pages max. $1,000 or two-week paid scholarship in Lisbon. 

13th January
John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest
Theme: “Describe and analyze an act of political courage by a US elected official who served during or after 1917”. $10,000 / $3,000 / 5 x $1,000 / 8 x $100.

15th January
North Carolina Writers’ Network’s Rose Post Creative Nonfiction Contest
2,000 words max. $10 (members) / $12 (non-members) entry. $1,000 / $300 / $200. For “lasting nonfiction that is outside the realm of conventional journalism and has relevance to North Carolinians. Subjects may include traditional categories such as reviews, travel articles, profiles or interviews, place/history pieces, or culture criticism”

31st January 
The BookLife Prize
For unpublished or self-published works of non-fiction. 



3rd February
Ottawa Tourism Travel Writing Award
For published writing. “Ottawa Tourism offers an annual $500 CAD prize for outstanding travel writing featuring Canada’s Capital Region. Eligible entries include items in English or in French that have appeared in magazines, newspapers, or online media in 2022 that highlight Ottawa as a travel destination.”

17th February
The Writers’ Union of Canada Short Prose Competition
“A C$2,500 prize is awarded to a Canadian writer for the best piece of unpublished prose of up to 2,500 words in the English language.” 

27th February
SPJ’s New America Award 
For “public service journalism that explores and exposes issues of importance to immigrant or ethnic communities in the United States”.

28th February
Red Hen Women’s Prose Prize
25,000–80,000 words. Fiction, but also memoir / essay collections. $25 submission fee. $1,000 + publication prize. 

Creative Nonfiction Collective Writing Contest
Opens November 14th. Open to Canadian citizens / residents. 3,000 words max. C$1,000 / 300 / 200. $20 entry fee. $15 members. 



28th March
The Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest
C$1,000 top prize. C$40 entry (includes a Canadian subscription). 

31st March
Restless Books Immigrant Writing Prize in Nonfiction
For “outstanding debut literary works by first-generation immigrants, awarded for fiction and nonfiction in alternating years. The winner receives $10,000 and publication by Restless Books”. Opens December 5th to works of nonfiction. 



1st April
Zone 3 Press Creative Nonfiction Book Award
Manuscript 120-250 pages. $25 fee. “Manuscripts that embrace creative nonfiction’s potential by combining lyric exposition, researched reflection, travel dialogues, or creative criticism are encouraged. Memoir, personal narrative, essay collections, and literary nonfiction are also invited.” Entries open 1st January. 

30th April
Tom Howard / John H Reid Fiction & Essay Prize
Essay first prize $3,000. $22 entry. 6,000 words max. 



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 2023
Erma Bombeck Writing Competition
H.R.Percy Short Creative Non Fiction Prize
Douglas B Rogers Essay Competition
National Magazine Awards (Canada)
Iowa Review Awards
Indiana Review Creative Nonfiction Prize

February 2023
Please See Me Mental Health Awareness Writing Contest
Accenti Magazine Writing Contest
The TSR Nonfiction Prize
World Bank Blog Writing Contest
Askew’s Words on the Lake Writing Award
AWP Prize for Creative Nonfiction
CBC Nonfiction Prize

March 2023
Zone 3 Press Creative Nonfiction Book Award
The Writer 2022 Essay Contest

April 2023
Terry Tempest Williams Creative Nonfiction Prize
The Gulf Coast Prize for Nonfiction 
The Preservation Foundation Nonfiction Animal Stories Contest
Tadpole Press 100 Word Writing Contest

May 2023
2023 Curt Johnson Prose Awards
Ploughshares Emerging Writers Contest
The Iowa Review Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans
Lazuli Literary Group Contest

June 2023
The Fiddlehead’s Annual Creative Nonfiction Contest
Hunger Mountain’s Creative Nonfiction Prize
Living Springs Publishers’ Baby Boomers Plus Writing Contest
A&U Magazine Christopher Hewitt Award
Narratively Spring 2022 Memoir Prize
Preservation Foundation Storyhouse General Nonfiction Contest
North Street Book Prize

July 2023
Women on Writing Nonfiction Contest

August 2023
Constance Rooke Creative Non-Fiction Prize / Malahat Review
AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards
Tulip Tree Publishing’s Stories That Need to Be Told Contest
The Preservation Foundation Biographical Nonfiction Contest

September 2023
Writers Digest Personal Essay Awards
Puerto del Sol Prose Competition
Terrain.org 13th Annual Contest
Peninsula Pulse’s Hal Prize
The Travelers’ Tales Solas Awards for Best Travel Writing
Touchstone Literary Magazine Debut Prize in Nonfiction for Emerging Writers
The Lascaux Prize in Creative Nonfiction
2022 San Francisco Writing Contest
Dreamers Creative Writing Flash Fiction/Nonfiction Contest

October 2023
Jeffrey E Smith Editors’ Prize
American Literary Review Prizes
Event Magazine’s Non Fiction Contest
Narrative’s Fall 2022 Story Contest
The Preservation Foundation Travel Nonfiction Writing Contest
Tuscon Festival of Books Literary Awards
Sowell Emerging Writers Prize
WOW! Women On Writing Nonfiction Essay Contest

November 2023
Ned Stuckey-French Nonfiction Contest
Room Magazine Short Forms Contest
Cutthroat Writing Awards 
The Malahat Review Open Season Awards
MayDAY Magazine Creative Nonfiction Prize
Brooklyn Nonfiction Prize
Carve Magazine’s Prose & Poetry Contest
Red Hen Press Quill Prose Award
ServiceScape Short Story Award
Prairie Fire Creative Nonfiction Contest
55th New Millennium Writing Awards
Soul Making Keats Literary Competition

December 2023
Briarpatch’s Writing in the Margins Awards

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