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. 



August 21st
OSCC Annual Writing Contest for Seniors
For Canadian residents who are members of Oshawa Senior Community Centre or Public Library, and over 55. On the theme of ‘Resilience’. Non-fiction and fiction accepted. 

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 1st
Faulkner Society Wisdom Competition
Essay, and various other categories. 

La Piccioletta Barca Contest
$700 prize fund. Theme: ‘antimatter’. Creative nonfiction and other forms accepted. Up to 5,000 words. 

September 14th
The Forge Flash Nonfiction Contest
Free entry (limited number) for a short period. Opens September 1st. ‘Flash nonfiction’. 1,000 words maximum. 

September 15th
Transitions Abroad Expatriate and Work Abroad Writing Contest
For an original essay or mini-guide, 1,200–5,000 words, related to an experience living, moving or working abroad. $500 top prize; many other runners-up cash prizes. 

September 18th
Surrey International Writers Conference Writing Contest
Supposedly there is a non-fiction category, but nowhere is this specified on the page. Check before paying and submitting. Canadian award. 2,500–5,000 words. C$15 entry fee. C$1,000 prize. Small honourable mention award. 

September 21st
The Travelers’ Tales Solas Awards for Best Travel Writing
750–5,500 words, but 1,000–3,000 preferred. $25 entry for first two entries; $5 thereafter. Around 20 categories, including Women’s Story, Men’s Story, Funny Story, Cruise Story, Love Story ….  

September 30th
The Lascaux Prize in Creative Nonfiction
$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 1st
Mary C Mohr Awards
For a ‘work of creative nonfiction’. 

American Literary Review Contest
For creative nonfiction (other categories too). Opens June 1st. $15 entry fee. 4,000 words maximum. 

Jeffrey E Smith Editors’ Prize
For a piece of nonfiction up to 8,500 words.$25 entry fee. $5,000 top prize. 

October 15th
Event Magazine’s Non Fiction Contest
C$3,000 total prize fund. 5,000 words maximum. C$34.95 entry includes magazine subscription. 

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. 

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. 



None yet confirmed.



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”. 



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.

October 2020
Hidden River Arts’ Tamaqua Award
Bridges Together’s Kraemer IG Story Contest

November 2020
The Malahat Review Open Season Awards
SMK Contests
49th New Millennium Writing Awards

December 2020
Why My Family Counts contest
Brooklyn Film and Arts Festival Non-Fiction Prize
Lazuli Literary Group Writing Contest

January 2021
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
Words on the Lake Writing Award 
Global Changemakers Competition (Worldwide) 

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

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 

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

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

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