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.



21st September
The Travelers’ Tales Solas Awards for Best Travel Writing
“All submitted travel stories must be your original work, must be in English, and must be a minimum of 750 words and a maximum of 5,500 words. Stories must be non-fiction and must reflect a true and accurate account of events you experienced.” (They recommend 1,000–3,000 word length.) Various cash prizes. 

30th September
The Lascaux Prize in Creative Nonfiction
Creative nonfiction may include memoirs, chronicles, personal essays, humorous perspectives, literary journalism—anything the author has witnessed, experienced, learned, or discovered. Pieces may be previously published or unpublished, and simultaneous submissions are accepted. Winner: $1,000; finalists $100. Entry fee $15. Max: 10,000 words.



1st October
Dreamers Creative Writing Flash Fiction/Nonfiction Contest
“Submit a fiction or nonfiction story of between 300 and 1000 words. Winner: C$150. Up to 3 x C$20. Entry fee: C$15. 

American Literary Review Prizes
Creative Nonfiction: One work per entry fee ($15), limit 4,000 words per work. $1,000 prize. 

Jeffrey E Smith Editors’ Prize
For a piece of nonfiction (or fiction) up to 8,500 words. $25 / 30 entry. $5,000 prize. 

15th October
Event Magazine’s Non Fiction Contest
Creative Non-Fiction. Writers are encouraged to explore the form. $1,500 First Place; $1,000 Second Place; $500 Third Place. $34.95 per entry; includes a one-year subscription (or renewal) to EVENT.

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”

31st October
Tuscon Festival of Books Literary Awards
Includes non-fiction category, with $1,000 / $500 / $250 prizes. $20 entry. 5,000 words max. (No academic or ‘how to’ nonfiction accepted.)

Helena Whitehill Book Award
A poetry award, but also open to creative non-fiction. $30 entry. $1,000 prize plus publication. 



1st November
The Malahat Review Open Season Awards
Includes creative non-fiction, 2,500 words max. “The winner in each genre will receive a prize of CAD$2,000”.

15th November
Brooklyn Non-fiction Prize
For a Brooklyn story. Free entry. $500 prize. 

20th November
Briarpatch’s Writing in the Margins Awards
Includes creative nonfiction, max. 2,000 words. $500 top prize; runner-up $150. $25 entry (includes magazine subscription). 

30th November
Prairie Fire Creative Nonfiction Contest
For an essay, up to 5,000 words. $34 entry fee. $750 / $350 / $150 prizes. 

ServiceScape Short Story Award
Nonfiction accepted, up to 5,000 words. $1,000 top prize. 

Red Hen Press Quill Prose Award
Open to “authors who identify as queer”. Min. 150 page prose submission (nonfiction or fiction). $10 entry. $1,000 + publication prize. 



1st December
Ned Stuckey-French Nonfiction Contest
10 pages max. $750. $16 entry fee. For “nonfiction that prods and pressures expectations; that speaks to the personal against the powerful; and that prioritizes soul, heart, and service”. 

15th December
The Eunice Williams Nonfiction Prize
Up to 5,000 words. Open to “women identifying and nonbinary folks”. No set theme: “… simply nonfiction written by you, about you. Give us your best work, the stuff of your heart. Our stories are what make us, tell yours.” $400 / $250 / $100 prizes.



1st January
Mississippi Review Prize
1,000–8,000 words for nonfiction. $15 entry. “Prizes of $1,000 in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction … finalists receive $100.”

5th January
For a “nonfiction piece or book excerpt, maximum 25 (double-spaced) pages”. $15 entry. 

12th January
John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest
“Describe and analyze an act of political courage by a US elected official who served during or after 1917.” First-place: $10,000; Second-place: $3,000; Five Finalists: $1,000 each; Ten Semi-finalists: $100 each. Open to US high school students. 700–1,000 words. 



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 2024
The Writer 100-Word Contest
H.R.Percy Short Creative Non Fiction Prize
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

March 2024
The Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest
Restless Books Immigrant Writing Prize in Nonfiction
Zone 3 Press Creative Nonfiction Book Award
Terry Tempest Williams Creative Nonfiction Prize

April 2024
Narratively Profile Prize
The Gulf Coast Prize for Nonfiction
F(r)fiction Creative Nonfiction Contest
Tom Howard / John H Reid Fiction & Essay Prize
Tadpole Press 100-Word Writing Contest
Preservation Foundation Storyhouse Animal Stories Nonfiction Contest
WOW! Women on Writing Quarterly Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest

May 2024
Ploughshares Emerging Writers Contest
The Writer 500 Word Contest
Write the World Food Writing Competition
Storyhouse General Nonfiction Contest
Sundress Publications E-Chapbook Contest

June 2024
The Fiddlehead’s Annual Creative Nonfiction Contest
Writers Digest Annual Writing Competition
Living Spring Publishers Baby Boomers Plus Contest
North Street Book Prize
Preservation Foundation Storyhouse General Nonfiction Contest
Narrative Prize

July 2024
Exisle Publishing Your Big Break Book Pitch Competition
Room Magazine Creative Nonfiction Contest
WOW! Women on Writing Quarterly Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest
CAPTRS Universe of Threats Essay Contest
Narrative Spring 2023 Story Contest

August 2024
AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards
Constance Rooke Creative Non-Fiction Prize / Malahat Review
56th New Millennium Writing Awards
Tulip Tree Publishing’s Stories That Need to Be Told Contest
Preservation Foundation Storyhouse Biographical Nonfiction Contest
Letter Review Prize for Nonfiction

September 2024
The Hal Prize
Fairfield Scribes’ The Scribes Prize
Black Warrior Review 2023 Contests
Writers Digest Personal Essay Awards
Puerto del Sol Prose Competition
Terrain.org 14th Annual Contest
Gold Line Press Chapbook Contest

October 2025
Sowell Emerging Writers Prize 

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