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.
Note that some entry fees may seem expensive, but often offer additional benefits, such as an annual magazine subscription.
SEPTEMBER 2021 DEADLINES
Boulevard Emerging Writers Nonfiction Contest
Up to 8,000 words. $16 entry. $1,000 top prize.
Dzanc Books Nonfiction Prize
$1,500 advance plus publication. $25 entry. Seeking “innovative and inspiring book-length work of nonfiction, including but not limited to memoir, essays, polemical writing, historical writing, and biography”
OCTOBER 2021 DEADLINES
Jeffrey E Smith Editors’ Prize
Up to 8,500 words. Entry fee $25/$30. $5,000 top prize.
Event Magazine’s Non Fiction Contest
For creative non-fiction. $35 entry fee. $3,000 total prize fund.
Ruminate Magazine’s VanderMey Nonfiction Prize
Up to 5,500 words. $20 entry fee. $1,500 / $300 prizes.
Lazuli Literary Group Writing Contest
Entry fee $15. All genres accepted. For “the best you have; we want only for it to be thoughtful, intelligent, and beautiful”.
Red Hen Press Quill Prose Award
For a book by authors identifying as queer. $1,000 plus publication.
The Preservation Foundation Travel Nonfiction Contest
For an autobiographical or biographical piece. $200 / $100.
Tuscan Festival of Books Literary Awards Competition
Nonfiction (plus fiction / poetry) categories. Prizes $1,000 / $500 / $250 in each. $20 entry. 5,000 words max.
WOW! Women on Writing Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest
200–1,000 words. $12 entry fee. Open topic. $500 / $300 / $200, plus runners-up and additional prizes.
Indiana Review Creative Nonfiction Prize
$3 or $20 entry fee (unclear from site / link). Creative nonfiction up to 5,000 words. $1,000 prize. “Send us your best carefully strange work!”
NOVEMBER 2021 DEADLINES
Cutthroat Writing Awards
Creative non-fiction up to 5,000 words. $23 entry. $1,500 / $300 prizes.
The Malahat Review Open Season Awards
Includes creative nonfiction. C$2,000 top prize. 2,500 words max. Entry fees: C$35 (Canadian writers) / C$45 (non-Canadian writers); C$15 discount for early bird entry by September 30th.
Prairie Fire Creative Nonfiction Contest
One article, up to 5,000 words. Entry fee C$32.
ServiceScape Short Story Award
Nonfiction story (as well as fiction). Up to 5,000 words. $1,000 top prize.
Soul Making Keats Literary Competition
$5 entry. Various categories — including memoir vignette, intercultural essay, religious essay, and creative nonfiction.
Tadpole Press 100 Word Writing Contest
On the theme of ‘Abundance’. Any genre. Entry $10. Prizes: $1,000 / $450 writing coaching package / $250 developmental or diversity editing package. Open to writers worldwide.
51st New Millennium Writing Awards
Under 7,500 words for nonfiction. $1,000 first prize. $20 entry.
DECEMBER 2021 DEADLINES
Briarpatch’s Writing in the Margins Awards
Creative non-fiction no more than 2,000 words. C$25 entry (Canadian writers); C$40 (US writers); C$45 (non North American writers). C$500 top prize. Honourable mentions: C$150.
Nowhere Magazine Fall Travel Writing Prize
Details on website / unavailable at time of writing.
JANUARY 2022 DEADLINES
Mississippi Review Prize
$1,000 prize; poetry and fiction as well as nonfiction. 1,000–8,000 words. $16 entry fee.
H.R.Percy Short Creative Non Fiction Prize
From the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia. 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)”
JFK Library Profile in Courage Essay Contest
Prizes: 1 x $10,000, 1 x $3,000, 5 x $1,000, 8 x $100. On the topic: “Describe and analyze an act of political courage by a US elected official who served during or after 1917”
North Carolina Writers’ Network’s Rose Post Creative Nonfiction Contest
$10 / $12 entry fee. For “the creation of lasting nonfiction that is outside the realm of conventional journalism and has relevance to North Carolinians.” Subjects may include traditional categories such as reviews, travel articles, profiles or interviews, place/history pieces, or culture criticism. $1,000, $300, and $200 prizes for first, second, third.
The DISQUIET Prize
For “one piece of non-fiction, maximum 25 (double-spaced) pages per entry”. $15 fee. $500 cash prize.
APRIL 2022 DEADLINES
Zone 3 Press Creative Nonfiction Book Award
$25 reading fee. Prize: $1,000 plus publication. (Opens January 1st.)
The Preservation Foundation Nonfiction Animal Stories Contest
For true stories (but not about pets). $200 / $100.
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.
Erma Bombeck Writing Competition
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
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
Red Hen Press Non-Fiction Award
Terry Tempest Williams Creative Nonfiction Prize
Zone 3 Press Creative Nonfiction Book Award
Gulf Coast Prize
Chi Media Company / The Milpitas Beat — 21st Century American Writing Contest
Tom Howard / John H Reid Fiction & Essay Prize
The Preservation Foundation Award
Globe Soup Travel Writing Competition
The Iowa Review Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans
2022 Curt Johnson Prose Awards
Ploughshares Emerging Writers Contest
Subterrain’s Lush Triumphant Literary Awards
MTP 2021 Short Story Competition
Faulkner Society Wisdom Competition
Room Creative Nonfiction Contest
The Fiddlehead’s Annual Creative Nonfiction Contest
Living Springs Publishers’ Baby Boomers Plus Writing Contest
Read at the Fringe Literary Contest
A&U Magazine Christopher Hewitt Award
North Street Book Prize
The Preservation Foundation General Nonfiction Contest
New Millennium Writing Awards
Nowhere Magazine Spring Travel Writing Prize
Constance Rooke Creative Non-Fiction Prize / Malahat Review
Tulip Tree Publishing’s Stories That Need to Be Told Contest
The Preservation Foundation Biographical Nonfiction Contest
Blue Mesa Review Summer Competition
AILCAT Essay Prize
Writers Digest Personal Essay Awards
Puerto del Sol Prose Contest
Terrain.org 14th Annual Contest
Peninsula Pulse’s Hal Prize
SF Writers Conference Writing Contest
The Travelers’ Tales Solas Awards for Best Travel Writing
The Lascaux Prize in Creative Nonfiction