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. 



April 1st
Red Hen Press Non-Fiction Award
$25 entry fee. $1,000 top prize. For ‘previously unpublished essay collections, memoirs, research-driven and/or narrative non-fiction’. 

Terry Tempest Williams Creative Nonfiction Prize
$23 entry fee. 500–8,500 words. Nonfiction on any subject “as long as it is well executed”. $1,000 top prize

April 15th
Zone 3 Press Creative Nonfiction Book Award
Opens January 1st. $25 reading fee. 

Gulf Coast Prize
For “a single prose work not exceeding 7,000 words”. $23 entry fee. $1,500 top prize. 

April 20th
Chi Media Company / The Milpitas Beat — 21st Century American Writing Contest
For “culturally relevant, emotionally potent, strikingly original, tangibly heartfelt, and resonantly artistic works of prose” — nonfiction books 25,000–100,000 (plus novels and short stories also accepted). $40 entry fee. Top prize: $300 plus book publishing contract. Open to anyone in the US (except residents of Colorado, Maryland, Nebraska, North Dakota, Vermont).  

April 30th
Tom Howard / John H Reid Fiction & Essay Prize
For up to 6,000 words. Open internationally. $20 entry fee. $3,000 top prize.

The Preservation Foundation Award
For nonfiction animal stories (not a pet). $200 / $100. 



May 1st
Peninsula Pulse’s Hal Prize
Nonfiction of up to 4,000 words. $10 entry fee. (Also fiction and poetry accepted.) Cash prizes. 

2021 Curt Johnson Prose Awards
$1,500 / $500 for top prize / honourable mention, respectively. Max. 8,000 words. $20 entry. 

May 15th
Ploughshares Emerging Writers Contest
Opens March 1st. Includes nonfiction. For writers yet to publish a book. Under 6,000 words. Free to subscribers, or subscribe to qualify for entry ($24).

Subterrain’s Lush Triumphant Literary Awards
Creative nonfiction 4,000 words (based on fact, ‘adorned with fiction’). $30 entry. Also fiction and poetry. $3,000 prizes. 

May 31st
MTP 2021 Short Story Competition
Non-fiction accepted. £2,021 top prize. 3,000 words max. Open to authors worldwide. Entry fee £5 / £7. 



June 1st
Room Creative Nonfiction Contest
Opens April 1st

The Fiddlehead’s Annual Creative Nonfiction Contest
Creative nonfiction of max. 6,000 words. Entry: C$35 / US$40. 

June 15th
Living Springs Publishers’ Baby Boomers Plus Writing Contest
800–4,000 words. “Stories Through the Ages”. Open to those born 1966 or earlier. $25 entry fee ($20 for multiple entries). Publication in a book to at least 15 entries. $500 / 200 / 100 for top three. 

Read at the Fringe Literary Contest
Nonfiction 2,000 words max. C$150 prize. C$20 entry fee. 

A&U Magazine Christopher Hewitt Award
Creative nonfiction (and other categories) on theme of HIV / AIDS. $75 prize. No entry fee. 

June 30th
North Street Book Prize
For a self-published book. Creative nonfiction / memoir category, among others. Various cash prizes. 

The Preservation Foundation General Nonfiction Contest
For true stories. $200 / $100. Opens April 30th. 



August 31st
The Preservation Foundation Biographical Nonfiction Contest
For an autobiographical or biographical piece. $200 / $100. Opens June 30th. 



October 31st
The Preservation Foundation Travel Nonfiction Contest
For an autobiographical or biographical piece. $200 / $100. Opens August 31st. 



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.

June 2021
Kentucky Women Writers Betty Gabehart Prize
A Midsummer Tale Narrative Writing Contest
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
SF Writers Conference Writing Contest
Gulf Stream Summer 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
Ruminate Magazine’s VanderMey Nonfiction Prize
WOW! Women on Writing Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest
Tuscon Festival of Books Literary Awards Competition
Indiana Review Creative Nonfiction Prize

November 2021
Reed Magazine’s Gabriele Rico Challenge for Nonfiction
The Briar Cliff Review
The Malahat Review Open Season Awards
Carve Magazine’s Prose & Poetry Contest
Cutthroat Writing Awards 
Nowhere Magazine Fall Travel Writing Prize
ServiceScape Short Story Award
Prairie Fire Creative Nonfiction Contest
Soul Making Keats Literary Competition
51st New Millennium Writing Awards

December 2021
Erma Bombeck Writing Competition
Briarpatch’s Writing in the Margins Awards

January 2022
Mississippi Review Prize
H.R.Percy Short Creative Non Fiction Prize
JFK Library Profile in Courage Essay Contest
The Douglas B Rodgers Conditions of a Free Society Award
North Carolina Writers’ Network’s Rose Post Creative Nonfiction Contest
The Nine Dots Prize
Lazuli Literary Group Writing Contest
Please See Me Mental Health Awareness Writing Contest
The Pinch Journal’s Page Prize

February 2022
The BookLife Prize
Accenti Magazine Writing Contest
The TSR Nonfiction Prize
Ottawa Tourism Travel Writing Awards
The Writers’ Union of Canada Short Prose Competition
Creative Nonfiction Collective Contest
World Bank Blog Writing Contest
SPJ’s New America Award
AWP Prize for Creative Nonfiction
CBC Nonfiction Prize
Askew’s Words on the Lake Writing Award 

March 2022
The Hunger Mountain Creative Nonfiction Prize
The Writer 2022 Essay Contest
Griffith Review’s The Long and The Short of It
The Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest
Restless Books Immigrant Writing Prize in Nonfiction

May 2022
The Iowa Review Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans

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