Writing Contests Personal Essays

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40 Writing Contests in January 2018 - No entry fees

There are more than three dozen free writing contests in January 2018. As always, every form and genre is represented. There are prizes for novel manuscripts, poetry, short stories, essays, works of nonfiction, political writing, translations and more. Some of these contests have age and regional restrictions, so be sure to check submission guidelines before submitting.

Many contests are offered annually, so if you miss your ideal contest this year,  you can always enter next year. For a month-by-month list of free contests see: Writing Contests

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Small But Mighty. Restrictions: Children ages 7-11 and 12-15. Genre: Fiction and poetry. Prize: Writing supplies, certificate, and publication on website. Deadline: January 1, 2018.

Tony Hillerman Prize. Sponsored by St. Martin's Press. Genre: Debut mystery novel set in Southwest. Prize: $10,000 advance against royalties and publication, Deadline: January 2, 2018.

Texas Institute of Letters Literary Awards. Restrictions: Entrants must have resided in Texas for at least 2 consecutive years, or have been born in Texas. Genre: Book (published). 11 different categories. Prize: $6,000. Deadline: January 2, 2018.

Christopher Doheny Award. The award recognizes excellence in fiction or creative nonfiction on the topic of serious physical illness. The award is presented annually for a completed manuscript that has not yet been published. Prize: $10,000. Deadline: January 2, 2018.

Best Villain Fairy Tale Competition. Genre: Short story. "Are you tired of only reading about the “good guys”? Well, here is your chance to turn the spotlight on the villains of fairy tales and folk tales. Fairytalez wants to hear the other side of the story, the villains behind a so-called “happily ever after”! After all, as they say, even the villain is the hero in their own story. Let’s hear it for the “bad” guys! You may either write a new fairy tale or folk tale with a new original villain character or take one of the classics and write the untold story from the villain’s point of view." Prize: Active promotion across all Fairytalez’s social networks. A digital winner badge published with your story and on your profile page. A digital winner badge for your blog or website. A $200 gift certificate to Amazon.com Deadline: January 3, 2018.

John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest is sponsored by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Restrictions: The contest is open to United States high school students in grades nine through twelve attending public, private, parochial, or home schools; US students under the age of twenty enrolled in a high school correspondence/GED program; and US citizens attending schools overseas. Genre: Essay on an act of political courage by a US elected official who served during or after 1956. Prize: The first-place winner receives $10,000 comprised of a $5,000 cash award and $5,000 from John Hancock. The second-place winner receives $1,000. Up to five finalists receive $500 each. Deadline: January 4, 2018.

Stop the Hate: Youth Speak Out Essay Contest Grades. Stop the Hate® is designed to create an appreciation and understanding among people of differing religions, races, cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds. Genre: Essay, 500 words. Restrictions: Northeast Ohio 6-12th Graders. Prize: $40,000. Deadline: January 5, 2018 for Grades 6-10, January 19, 2018 for Grades 11-12.

The Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award introduces emerging writers to the New York City literary community. The prestigious award aims to provide promising writers a network for professional advancement. Since Poets & Writers began the Writers Exchange in 1984, 85 writers from 33 states and the District of Columbia have been selected to participate. Restrictions: Open to Arkansas residents. Genre: Poetry and Fiction. Prize: A $500 honorarium; A trip to New York City to meet with editors, agents, publishers, and other writers. All related travel/lodgings expenses and a per diem stipend are covered by Poets & Writers. Winners will also give a public reading of their work; and One-month residency at the Jentel Artist Residency Program in Wyoming. Deadline: January 8, 2018.

Leah Ryan's FEWW Playwriting Prize. Restrictions: Open to women. Genre: Completed full-length work for theater.  Prize: $2,500, a workshop at the Vassar Powerhouse Theater, and a reading in New York City. Deadline: January 8, 2018.

Japan Center-Canon Essay Competition. The aim of the Japan Center Essay Competition is to promote awareness and understanding of Japan in the United States and to help young Americans broaden their international horizons. Genre: Essay. Contestants should write, in English, one or more aspects of Japan including art, culture, tradition, values, philosophy, history, society, politics, business, and technology in relation to their personal views, experiences, and/or future goals. (Contestants do not need to have any experience in visiting Japan or studying Japanese. Prize: Best Essay Award in the High School Division: 1st Place: $3,000 and a Canon camera, 2nd Place: $1,500 and a Canon camera, 3rd Place: $750 and a Canon camera; Best Essay Award in the College Division: $3,000 and a Canon camera; Uchida Memorial Award: $1,000 and a Canon camera; Merit Award: $200 (each) for up to five awards. Deadline: January 8, 2018.

Orwell Prize. Genre: Political writing published between 1st January and 31st January 2017. All entries must have a clear British link. Journalism and ‘exposing Britain’s social evils’. Prize: £3,000.00. Deadline: January 11, 2018. (Their website is impossible to figure out, which is ironic.)

Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America Best First Crime Novel Competition. Restrictions: The Competition is open to any writer, regardless of nationality, aged 18 or older, who has never been the author of any published novel (except that authors of self-published works only may enter, as long as the manuscript submitted is not the self-published work) and is not under contract with a publisher for publication of a novel. Genre: Murder or another serious crime or crimes is at the heart of the story. Prize: $10,000. Deadline: January 12, 2018.

Moving Words Poetry Contest. Restrictions: People who live within the DC Metro transit area (the Northern Virginia counties Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun and the cities Alexandria, Fairfax, and Falls Church; the District of Columbia; and the Maryland counties Montgomery and Prince George's) and who are over 18. Genre: Poetry on theme: “Ripped from the Headlines.” Prize: $250 honorarium. Deadline: January 12, 2018.

VCU Cabell First Novelist Award. Genre: First novel published July–December 2017. No self-published books. Prize: $5,000. Deadline: January 14, 2018.

Hektoen Grand Prix Essay Competition. Genre: Essay relating to art, history, literature, education, personal narratives, and music as they relate to medicine, as well reports on famous physicians or hospitals. Length: 1600 words max. Prizes: $3000 to a top finalist and (2) awards of $800 to two runners-up. Deadline: January 14, 2018.

The Ellen Meloy Fund for Desert Writers was established in 2005 to honor the memory of Ellen Meloy. The Fund provides support to writers whose work reflects the spirit and passions embodied in Ellen’s writing and her commitment to a “deep map of place.” Ellen’s own map-in-progress was of the desert country she called home. Genre: Only literary or creative nonfiction proposals will be considered. No fiction or poetry proposals will be reviewed. Prize: $3,000. Deadline: January 15, 2018.

The Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize. Genre: First full-length book of poems by a Latinx poet. Prize: $1000 and a contract from University of Notre Dame Press. Upon publication of the winning book, Letras Latinas will extend an invitation to both the winner and the judge to give a joint reading at Notre Dame. Deadline: January 15, 2018.

Joan Swift Memorial Prize. Restrictions: Open to women over age 65 now living and writing in the Pacific NW - Washington, Oregon, Idaho, northern California, western Montana, British Columbia, and Alaska. Genre: Poetry. Prize: $500 and publication in Poetry Northwest.  Deadline: January 15, 2018.

Women Artists Datebook. Restrictions: Women. Genre: 4 poems. Peace and Justice. Prize: $70. Deadline: January 15, 2018. Read details HERE.

Stacy Doris Memorial Poetry Award. Genre: Poem, 3-10 pages long, that demonstrates a "truly inventive spirit." Prize: $500. Deadline: January 15, 2018.

Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize. Restrictions: Open to women, US citizens only. Genre: Novel. All entries must be submitted by publishers who wish to have the work of their authors that were published in the year 2017 considered. No self-published works or works from vanity presses will be accepted. Prize: $7,500. Deadline: January 15, 2018.

Bethesda Literary Festival Essay and Short Story Contest. The Bethesda Urban Partnership & Bethesda Magazine have partnered to honor local writers at the Bethesda Literary Festival held April. Genres: Essays and short stories. Restrictions: Residents of Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia are eligible. Prizes: First Place: $500 and published in Bethesda Magazine. Second Place: $250. Third Place: $150. Honorable Mention: $75. Deadline: January 19, 2018.

Poetry Society of Virginia - Student Contest. Restrictions: Open to students in Virginia, grades 3 - 12. Prize: $10 - $25. Deadline: January 19, 2018.

NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowships, awarded in fifteen different disciplines over a three-year period, are $7,000 cash awards made to individual originating artists living and working in the state of New York for unrestricted use. These fellowships are not project grants but are intended to fund an artist’s vision or voice, regardless of the level of his or her artistic development. Deadline: January 24, 2018.

Fountain Magazine Essay Contest. Genre: Essay. 1,500 - 2,500 words. "How to face a disaster? A life with no disasters is a fantasy. All of us face them – both personally and globally – sooner or later. Then, how should we face a disaster? Just as we take measures while constructing buildings on a fault line, can we be always prepared? How do we defend our inner peace when facing danger? Tell us how you survive difficult times. Give us your best advice. Share your greatest life lesson" Prize: 1st Place - $1,500, 2nd Place - $750, 3rd Place - $300, Two Honorable Mentions - $200 each. Deadline: January 31, 2018.

Striking 13. Genre: Flash Fiction. Max 513 words on theme of "Greed." Prize: Three Amazon voucher prizes, for the top 3 entries ($25, $15, $10) Deadline: January 31, 2018.

French-American Foundation Translation Prizes. Genre: Book - best English translation of French in both fiction and non-fiction. Prize: $10,000. Deadline: January 31, 2018.

Jerry Jazz Musician Fiction Contest. "The Jerry Jazz Musician reader has interests in music, social history, literature, politics, art, film and theater, particularly that of the counter-culture of mid-twentieth century America." Genre: previously unpublished work of short fiction. Prize: $100.00.  Deadline: January 31, 2018.

College Undergraduate Poetry and Florence Kahn Memorial Award. Restrictions: Undergraduates working toward a degree in an accredited U.S. college or university. Genre: Poetry. Prize: $500. Deadline: January 31, 2018.

Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize. The annual Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize is awarded each spring to honor an outstanding literary translation from German into English published in the USA the previous year.  Genre: Published fiction or non-fiction, may include: novels, novellas, short stories, plays, poetry, biographies, essays and correspondence. Prize: $10,000. Deadline: January 31, 2018.

The Danuta Gleed Literary Award for best first collection of short fiction in the English language was initiated by John Gleed in honour of his late wife to promote and celebrate the genre of short fiction, which she loved. Restrictions: Canadian residents only. Prize: A $10,000 prize will be awarded for the best first collection of published short fiction in the English language. Two finalist will also be awarded $500 each. Deadline: January 31, 2018.

Imagine Little Tokyo. Little Tokyo Historical Society (LTHS) seeks fictional short stories in Japanese or English for its second annual “Imagine Little Tokyo” writing contest. The setting of the story should be in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, CA– either past, present or future. Prize: $600. The winner of the youth division (18 or younger) will receive $400. Deadline: January 31, 2018.

Caine Prize for African Writing. Restrictions: Open to writers born in Africa, or nationals of an African country, or with a parent who is African by birth or nationality, Genre: Short fiction (published). Prize: £10,000. Deadline: January 31, 2018.

Words and Brushes. Genre: Fiction inspired by artwork. Prize: $300 top prize. Deadline: January 31, 2018. (Submission guidelines say "February." I don't know if that means on February 1st or by February 1st, so I am erring on the safe side.)

Indigenous Voices Award. Restrictions: Open to emerging Indigenous writers in lands claimed by Canada. Genre: Novels, creative non-fiction, short stories, poetry, orality, graphic novels, comics, slam, drama, music lyrics, screenwriting, and other forms. Prize: 5 awards for unpublished work totaling $10,000 and 3 awards for published work totaling $15,000. Deadline: January 31, 2018.

Radiating You. Restrictions: You must be 18 years old or older. Genre: Personal essay. "We all have thoughts and secrets we hold close so no one else will know or judge us. Things we push down so we don’t hurt those we love. Feelings that continue to haunt us because they are never shared. Are you brave enough to share yours? Radiating You is launching a contest to uncover the real and unfiltered side of life." Prize. 1st place $100, 2nd place $75, 3rd place $50. Length: 500 words maximum. Deadline: January 31, 2018. NOTEBy submitting, you’re granting permission for Radiating You to use your submission on their blogs, social media channels, or future book.

Prospero Prizes. Genre: Poems of philosophical and imaginative heft, haft, and polish. Prize: $150 and feature publication in their digital magazines. Deadline: January 31, 2018.

Walter Rumsey Marvin Grant. Restrictions: Open to authors under 30 years of age who have not had a book published. Applicant must have been born in Ohio or have lived in Ohio for a minimum of five years. Genre: Short fiction and creative non-fiction. Prize: $1,000. Deadline: January 31, 2018.

15th Michael E. DeBakey Medical Student Poetry Awards. Restrictions: Only undergraduates currently enrolled in accredited United States medical schools are eligible. Genre: Poetry. Prize: $1,000 top prize. Deadline: January 31, 2018. Note: Winners do not retain copyright.

Sunburst Awards. Restrictions: Open to Canadians. Genre: Speculative fiction short stories published in 2017. Prize: ? Deadline: January 31, 2018.

Submissions

General Overview

Unlike many magazines, Creative Nonfiction draws heavily from unsolicited submissions. Our editors believe that providing a platform for emerging writers and helping them find readers is an essential role of literary magazines, and it’s been our privilege to work with many fine writers early in their careers. A typical issue of CNF contains at least one essay by a previously unpublished writer.

We’re open to all types of creative nonfiction, from immersion reportage to personal essay to memoir. Our editors tend to gravitate toward submissions structured around narratives, but we’re always happy to be pleasantly surprised by work that breaks outside this general mold. Above all, we’re most interested in writing that blends style with substance, and reaches beyond the personal to tell us something new about the world. We firmly believe that great writing can make any subject interesting to a general audience.

Creative Nonfiction typically accepts submissions via regular mail and online through Submittable. Please read specific calls for submissions carefully.

We try to respond to all submissions as soon as possible. If you submit by regular mail, you will receive an email from us (typically within a week of your manuscript’s arrival in our office), confirming we have received your manuscript. If you submit online, you will receive a confirmation email from Submittable.

We read year-round, but it is not uncommon for a decision to take up to 6 months; unfortunately, this is especially true of work we like. If you have not heard from us since the initial confirmation email, please assume your manuscript is still under consideration.

Please follow the links below for more information about: 



A Note About Fact-checking

Essays accepted for publication in Creative Nonfiction undergo a fairly rigorous fact-checking process. To the extent your essay draws on research and/or reportage (and ideally, it should, to some degree), CNF editors will ask you to send documentation of your sources and to help with the fact-checking process. We do not require that citations be submitted with essays, but you may find it helpful to keep a file of your essay that includes footnotes and/or a bibliography.



Current Submission Calls

HOME

For a special issue of Creative Nonfiction magazine, we’re seeking true stories about finding—or, perhaps, coming to terms with losing—your place in the world. Deadline: May 21, 2018Complete guidelines »

LET'S TALK ABOUT SEX!

For a special contest and issue of Creative Nonfiction magazine, we’re seeking true stories about doing it—whether you’re straight, gay, or other; alone, in a couple, or in a crowd; doing it for the first time or the last, or not doing it at all. Deadline: July 16, 2018Complete guidelines »

TRUE STORY

Submissions for our monthly mini-magazine should be between 5,000 and 10,000 words long, on any subject, in any style. Surprise us! The only rules are that all work submitted must be nonfiction and original to the author, and we will not consider previously published work.  Now ReadingComplete guidelines »

PITCH US A COLUMN

Have an idea for a literary timeline? An opinion on essential texts for readers and/or writers? An in-depth, working knowledge of a specific type of nonfiction? Pitch us your ideas; Creative Nonfiction is now accepting query letters for several sections of the magazine. Accepted Year-Round. Complete guidelines »

TINY TRUTH CONTESTS

TWITTER
Can you tell a true story in 140 characters (or fewer)? Think you could write one hundred CNF-worthy micro essays a day? Go for it. We dare you. There's no limit. Simply follow Creative Nonfiction on Twitter (@cnfonline) and tag your tiny truths with the trending topic #cnftweet. That's it. We re-tweet winners daily and republish ~20 winning tweets in every issue of Creative Nonfiction. Not sure what we're looking for? Check out this roundtable discussion about the art of micro-essaying with some of the more prolific #cnftweet-ers. 


Previous Submission Calls

THE DIALOGUE BETWEEN SCIENCE AND RELIGION

Closed: December 12, 2016
Issue now available.

DANGEROUS CREATIONS: REAL-LIFE FRANKENSTEIN STORIES

Closed: April 17, 2017
Look for this themed issue as our Spring 2018 release.

STARTING OVER

Closed: June 19, 2017
We are actively reading the submissions received and expect to be able to update submitters on the status of their work in fall 2017. Look for this themed issue as our Spring 2018 release.

EXPLORING THE BOUNDARIES

Closed: September 11, 2017
We are actively reading the submissions received and expect to be able to update submitters on the status of their work in spring 2018.

RISK

Closed: November 6, 2017
We are actively reading the submissions received and expect to be able to update submitters on the status of their work in summer 2018.

INTOXICATION

Closed: February 26, 2018

We are actively reading the submissions received and expect to be able to update submitters on the status of their work in fall 2018.

WRITING PITTSBURGH BOOK PRIZE

Closed: November 20, 2017
We are actively reading the submissions received and expect to be able to update submitters on the status of their work in summer 2018.


A Note About Reading Fees

Here at Creative Nonfiction, we are always reading, searching for excellent new work to showcase in our various publications. At any given time, we usually have several submission portals open (see above calls for submissions), many of which require writers to pay a reading fee to submit their work.

Why we charge reading fees.

  1. We publish between 70-100 writers every year, and we pay every single one of those writers; reading fees help offset that expense.
  2. We like to pay writers more when we can, so we often run essay contests (with prizes ranging from $1,000-$10,000 per winning piece); reading fees help us offset that expense.
  3. Online submission is incredibly convenient for writers, but in some cases, it can be too convenient. Charging a nominal fee helps eliminate spam submitters--and it helps offset the administrative expenses of processing submissions.

How to avoid paying the reading fees.

  1. For books and other non-contest submission categories, send a hard-copy submission through the mail. The only cost is in ink and postage.
  2. Participate in our ongoing micro-essay experiment on Twitter! We publish 22 "Tiny Truths" in every issue… and we pay these writers with copies of the magazine.
  3. Subscribe to Creative Nonfiction and/or True Story. 

How buying a subscription to CNF eliminate the cost of a reading fee.

We recently adopted a new policy: no active subscriber to CNF will ever have to pay a reading fee of any type. Ever. Subscribers can submit as many times, to as many calls for submissions as they like, as long as their subscription is current. This is our way of supporting the readers who are supporting us.

Ways to become a subscriber (or renew a lapsed subscription) to CNF.

  1. Submit your work. Many of our calls for submissions offer a submit-and-subscribe option—the price of which is about 25% less than the cost of the regular subscription.*
  2. Join our email list. Joining our list is another way to stay up-to-date for all of our current calls and news. Once you've signed up, you'll be offered a chance to subscribe for $10 less than the regular price.**
  3. Subscribe. You can always purchase a subscription at the regular price at any time from anywhere.

* Offer valid for U.S. subscribers only. We regret the limitation, but it’s incredibly expensive to send magazines overseas.
** Again, U.S. residents only.


FAQs

How much do you pay for a published essay?

For essays published in Creative Nonfiction magazine, we typically pay a $50 flat fee + $10/printed page, plus a copy of the magazine. For essays published in an In Fact Books anthology, we typically pay a flat fee between $100 and $150. 

My essay is over your word limit. Will you still consider it for publication?          

We’re very sorry, but we have to draw the line somewhere.

Do you always charge a reading fee?

No: you can always submit non-themed essays for consideration without a reading fee, if you send a hard copy via regular mail. Like many other magazines, we charge a $3 convenience fee to submit essays online through Submittable. In the case of contests, reading fees generally offset the costs associated with those issues, as well as (in most cases) the prize money; or, for a small additional cost, you can become a subscriber, which also helps keep the lights on at CNF.

Will you consider excerpts from longer pieces?

We are happy to read excerpts from longer pieces, though in our experience it rarely works to pull 4,500 words from a longer piece and call it an essay. Rather, we suggest you consider adapting part of your longer piece so that it can truly stand alone.

Does something posted on a blog count as previously published?

If your blog is shared with the public, we do consider its writing published. If you significantly re-write or expand a piece that is posted on your blog, though, we will be able to consider it for any of our calls for submissions.

Can I change the names or distinguishing characteristics of the people in my story to protect their privacy?

We typically prefer that you not do this, and would argue that, in most cases, there are better ways to approach this type of challenge. That said, in some cases—for example, if you’re a doctor writing about your work with patients—sometimes this may be appropriate. Regardless, we’re big fans of transparency, and greatly appreciate a note in the cover letter or perhaps even footnoted in the manuscript itself, if you’ve taken this type of liberty.

Will you give feedback on the essay I submitted?

Unfortunately, due to the high volume of submissions we receive (in the neighborhood of 100+ essays per month), we can’t send detailed feedback or responses. If you are interested in having a professional editor review your manuscript, we encourage you to check out CNF’s mentoring program and online courses.

Can I submit an essay I wrote in one of CNF’s online courses or in the mentoring program?

Sorry, no. But we do wish you the best of luck placing such work elsewhere, and hope you’ll keep in touch with your teacher or mentor and let us know about any successes!

What are CNF’s copyright requirements?

CNF typically considers only unpublished work and seeks first publication rights. After publication, CNF typically retains certain reprint rights, and some other rights revert to the author. We find that when people ask this question, they usually mean, “I’m submitting a chapter from a book I’m writing, and I need to have the rights to it.” Please know that we absolutely do not retain any rights that would interfere with your ability to publish your work in your own book. 

Can I make changes to my essay once I submit it online?

The work you submit for consideration should be the final proofread and edited version of your essay. We do understand that mistakes happen, however, so in the event that you submitted the wrong file, realized that your essay was a poem, or some other obvious oversight, we do allow editing of submitted essays within a limited set of parameters--usually within two weeks of the original submission date or up until a contest deadline. After the essay has been assigned to a reader, changing files can cause a lot of confusion and may result in our not giving your work our best attention.

I found a typo in my submission. What should I do?

While your essay should be carefully proofread, a small typo will not influence the overall evaluation of your submission. In the event that we accept your essay for publication, it will go through a careful editorial process, and you will have plenty of opportunities to review it carefully.

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