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. Terms and conditions are usually checked, but some copyright-grabbers may occasionally slip through. Please read carefully before participating. 



October 27th
Ruminate Magazine’s VanderMey Nonfiction Prize
Max 5,500 words. $20 entry fee. $1,500 top prize. $300 runner up. 

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.)

Tuscon Festival of Books Literary Awards Competition
Non-fiction piece or book chapter. 5,000 words max. $1,000 / $500 / $250. 

Indiana Review Creative Nonfiction Prize
Opens September 1st. Up to 5,000 words. $1,000 top prize. 



November 1st
Reed Magazine’s Gabriele Rico Challenge for Nonfiction
$20 reading fee. $1,333 top prize. Stand-alone essays up to 5,000 words. 

The Briar Cliff Review
Includes creative nonfiction. $20 entry fee. $1,000 top prize. 5,000 word limit. 

The Malahat Review Open Season Awards
Three categories, including creative nonfiction. C$2,000 top prize in each. 2,500 words max. Open internationally; various entry fees. 

November 15th
Carve Magazine’s Prose & Poetry Contest
Opens October 1st. $1,000 top prize for nonfiction category. 

Cutthroat Writing Awards 
Top prize $1,200; runner up $250. For a creative nonfiction piece of up to 5,000 words. $23 entry fee. 

November 20th
Nowhere Magazine Fall Travel Writing Prize
Opens October 1st.

November 30th
ServiceScape Short Story Award
For original works of nonfiction (or fiction) up to 5,000 words. $1,000 top prize. 

Prairie Fire Creative Nonfiction Contest
Entry fee: $32 — includes magazine subscription. Prizes: $1,250 / $500 / $250. 

Soul Making Keats Literary Competition
Various non-fiction (and other categories). $5 entry and modest cash prizes. Categories include creative non-fiction, religious essay, intercultural essay.

51st New Millennium Writing Awards
Nonfiction category. Under 7,500 words. $1,000 prize. 



None yet confirmed.



January 1st
Mississippi Review Prize
Nonfiction category, $1,000. $16 entry. 1,000–6,000 entry. 

January 8th
H.R.Percy Short Creative Non Fiction Prize
For “a creative non-fiction essay or an excerpt from a longer work of creative non-fiction (up to a maximum of 3,000 words)”. C$20

January 15th
JFK Library Profile in Courage Essay Contest
Opens September 1st. $10,000 / 3,000 / 5 x 1,000 / 8 x 100. “Describe and analyze an act of political courage by a US elected official who served during or after 1917”. 

Entries open 15th October. Prizes vary dependent on Coronavirus restrictions. Non-fiction and other categories. $15 reading fee.

The Douglas B Rodgers Conditions of a Free Society Award
Open to undergraduate students. $2,000 / $1,000 / $500. Set theme on a passage from Ludwig von Mises’s Liberalism.

North Carolina Writers’ Network’s Rose Post Creative Nonfiction Contest
Opens 15th November. For “lasting nonfiction that is outside the realm of conventional journalism and has relevance to North Carolinians”. $10/12 entry fee.

January 18th
The Nine Dots Prize
What does it mean to be young in an ageing world? US$100,000 prize for 3,000 words in answer to this question, to expand upon your ideas and write a short book. 

January 22nd
Lazuli Literary Group Writing Contest
$200 prize. $15 entry fee. For “work that is linguistically, intellectually, and emotionally demanding of the reader”. Essays, non-fiction and excerpts accepted.



February 1st
The BookLife Prize
Opens 1st October. For “unpublished or self-published books — works for which the author has subvented the cost of the book’s publication”. 40,000–100,000 words. 

February 5th 
Ottawa Tourism Travel Writing Awards
C$500. No entry fee. For “outstanding travel writing featuring Canada’s Capital Region”.



None yet confirmed.



April 15th

Zone 3 Press Creative Nonfiction Book Award
Opens January 1st. $25 reading fee. 



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 2021
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
Nova Writes / Nova Scotia Writers Contest 
New Ohio Review Contest
Please See Me Mental Health Awareness Writing Contest
Hektoen International Writing Contest
I Must Be Off! Travel Writing Competition
The Iowa Review Awards
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
Words on the Lake Writing Award 
Global Changemakers Competition (Worldwide) 
Creative Nonfiction Collective Competition 

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
Shuswap Association of Writers Contest 
Red Hen Nonfiction Award 

April 2021
The Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest
Red Hen Press Non-Fiction Award
Torch Prize for Creative Non-fiction
Tom Howard / John H Reid Fiction & Essay Prize
WOW! Women on Writing Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest
The Preservation Foundation Award — General Nonfiction contest 
Gulf Coast Prize 
Panther Creek Book Award in Nonfiction 

May 2021
December Magazine’s Curt Johnson Prose Awards
Peninsula Pulse’s Hal Prize
Ploughshares Emerging Writers Contest
Sub Terrain’s Lush Triumphant Literary Awards
The Iowa Review Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans
The Writers College Free Writing Competition
Restless Books Immigrant Writing Prize 

June 2021
Room Creative Non-Fiction Contest
The Fiddlehead’s Annual Creative Nonfiction Contest
Kentucky Women Writers Betty Gabehart Prize
Eden Mills Literary Contest
Goi Peace Foundation’s International Essay Contest for Young People
A&U Christopher Hewitt Awards
A Midsummer Tale Narrative Writing Contest
North Street Book Prize
The Preservation Foundation Award for Biographical Nonfiction
New Millennium Writing Awards

July 2021
Canadian Stories Awards
Nowhere Magazine Spring Travel Writing Prize
PRISM International’s 2020 Creative Non-Fiction Contest
Lazuli Literary Group Writing Contest
WOW! Women on Writing Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest
Narrative Magazine Spring 2020 Story Contest

August 2021
Tulip Tree Publishing’s Stories That Need to Be Told Contest
Constance Rooke Creative Non-Fiction Prize / Malahat Review
Thomas Paine Award
The Preservation Foundation Award for Travel Nonfiction
Blue Mesa Review Summer Competition

September 2021
Faulkner Society Wisdom Competition
La Piccioletta Barca Contest
AILCAT Essay Prize 
Terrain.org 12th Annual Contest
The Forge Flash Nonfiction Contest
Surrey International Writers Conference Writing Contest
The Travelers’ Tales Solas Awards for Best Travel Writing
The Lascaux Prize in Creative Nonfiction
Boulevard Emerging Writers Nonfiction Contest

October 2021
American Literary Review Contest
Jeffrey E Smith Editors’ Prize
Event Magazine’s Non Fiction Contest
Transitions Abroad Expatriate and Work Abroad Writing Contest
Writers Digest Personal Essay Awards

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