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.



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. 

Terry Tempest Williams Creative Nonfiction Prize
500–10,000 words. $1,000 first prize. 

14th April
Narratively Profile Prize
For “surprising and awe-inspiring stories about one-of-a-kind people or groups”. 1,500–7,000 words. $20 entry fee. $3,000 top prize / 2 x $1,000 runners-up. 

16th April
The Gulf Coast Prize for Nonfiction
For “a single prose work not exceeding 7,000 words”. $26 entry fee. $1,500 top prize, plus 2 x $250. 

27th April
F(r)fiction Creative Nonfiction Contest
$500 or $1,000 top prize (contradictory information on site). $15 entry fee. 

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

Tadpole Press 100-Word Writing Contest
Any genre. $10 entry; $1,000 top prize. “The theme is humor as a way to change something negative into something better. As we process the grief, uncertainty, and anxiety from the past few years, how can we use humor to experience joy, growth, and lightness?”

Preservation Foundation Storyhouse Animal Stories Nonfiction Contest
For non-fiction animal stories (not pets). 

WOW! Women on Writing Quarterly Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest
200–1,000 words. Open topic. $12 entry fee ($25 with critique). Various cash and other prizes.



15th May
Ploughshares Emerging Writers Contest
Opens 1st March. Open to writers who have yet to publish a book. Nonfiction is 6,000 words max. Free to subscribers; $24 to enter / subscribe. $2,000 prize in each category (also fiction / poetry). 

31st May
Storyhouse General Nonfiction Contest
No entry fee. $100 top prize. $50 runner up.



1st June
The Fiddlehead’s Annual Creative Nonfiction Contest
Opens 1st March. C$2,000 for best creative nonfiction essay. Entry fees: C$35 (Canada) / C$45 (elsewhere), plus C$10 for subsequent entries.

15th June
Living Spring Publishers Baby Boomers Plus Contest
“Tell us about an experience growing, or use your experience gained and tell us a story. The entry may be fiction or nonfiction. This contest  is for anyone who was born 1966 or earlier. The entry fee is $20. The word count for this contest is 900–5,000 words … First, second and third place finalists receive cash prizes of $500, $200 and $100 respectively.”

30th June
North Street Book Prize
For “self-published or hybrid-published books” in one of several categories, including creative nonfiction and memoir. Entry fee $75. Category top prize: $1,000, plus runner up $300. Opens 15th February. 

Preservation Foundation Storyhouse General Nonfiction Contest
Any topic. 



31st July
WOW! Women on Writing Quarterly Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest
200–1,000 words. Opens 1st May. $12 entry fee ($25 with critique). Various cash and other prizes.



9th August
Tulip Tree Publishing’s Stories That Need to Be Told Contest
$20 entry. 10,000 words max. $1,000, plus 5 x $200. 

31st August
Preservation Foundation Storyhouse Biographical Nonfiction Contest
For a person known individually to the author. 



1st September
Fairfield Scribes’ The Scribes Prize
Opens 1st May. For 90–110 words of creative non-fiction (or fiction). $5 entry. $250 / $125 / $60 plus 15 x $20. 



30th October
Preservation Foundation Storyhouse Travel Nonfiction Contest
“Stories should be factual and true accounts of a trip taken by the author or a person or persons known by the author”



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.

May 2023
2023 Curt Johnson Prose Awards

June 2023
Hunger Mountain’s Creative Nonfiction Prize
Narratively Spring 2022 Memoir Prize

August 2023
Constance Rooke Creative Non-Fiction Prize / Malahat Review
AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards

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
Tuscon Festival of Books Literary Awards
Sowell Emerging Writers Prize
WOW! Women On Writing Nonfiction Essay Contest
Storyhouse General Nonfiction 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
The Eunice Williams Nonfiction Prize
TCK Publishing Nonfiction Writing Contest

January 2024
Mississippi Review Prize
The Writer 100-Word Contest
H.R.Percy Short Creative Non Fiction Prize
John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest
North Carolina Writers’ Network’s Rose Post Creative Nonfiction Contest
National Magazine Awards (Canada)
The BookLife Prize
Iowa Review Awards

February 2024
Montana Prize in Creative Nonfiction
Ottawa Tourism Travel Writing Award
The Writers’ Union of Canada Short Prose Competition
Lazuli Literary Group Writing Contest
SPJ’s New America Award 
Red Hen Women’s Prose Prize
Creative Nonfiction Collective Writing Contest
AWP Prize for Creative Nonfiction
CBC Nonfiction Prize
The Writer Essay Contest

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