Your Guide to Fall 2013 Magazine Writing Contests

Magazine contests present a great opportunity for up-and-coming writers to get their creative projects published and their talents recognized by the magazine industry. They also offer many of Canada’s best literary mags a chance to grow their readership (most contests offer a complimentary subscription with the entrance fee) and connect with potential new writers. It’s about the most perfect win-win situation imaginable.

Plus, once in a while it leads all the way to a National Magazine Award. Earlier this year, the winner of the annual National Magazine Award for Best New Magazine Writer went to Sierra Skye Gemma, whose winning story, “The Wrong Way,” was a contest winner in The New Quarterly. A 2008 winner in Prairie Fire‘s creative non-fiction contest, “Prehistory” by Alex Leslie, won a Gold National Magazine Award in Personal Journalism. (Read our interview with Alex Leslie.) Many other magazine contest winners have been nominated for NMAs over the years. (Check out the NMA Archive.)

And whether it leads to a publication, an award (and prize money!) or just the next chapter of your life as a writer, the magazine contest is best appreciated for moving that story or poem you’ve been working on into production; for getting it finished and putting it out into the world.

Here are some contests coming up this season, offered by a host of great Canadian magazines…

Geist: Erasure Poetry Contest
Sections: Poetry
Deadline: September 30, 2013
Prize: $600 (first); $250 (second); $150 (third); publication in Geist; prize packs for HM
Entry Fee: $20 (includes subscription)

CBC Canada Writes Short Story Contest
Section: Fiction
Deadline: November 1, 2013
Prize: $6000 + Banff Centre Residency (1st) + Publication in enRoute (1st prize); $1000 for each of 4 runners up
Entry Fee: $25

The Malahat Review Open Season Awards
Sections: Fiction; Poetry; Creative non-fiction
Deadline: November 1, 2013
Prize: $1000 to the winner in each section + publication
Entry Fee: $35 (includes subscription)

PRISM International Literary Non-fiction Contests
: Literary non-fiction
Deadline: November 28, 2013 December 5, 2013 [Updated]
Prize: $1500 (1st); $300 (2nd); $200 (3rd); publication in magazine
Entry Fee: $35 (includes subscription)
Details [Note: Prism will host its annual Fiction and Poetry contests in January, 2014.]

Prairie Fire Creative Writing Contests
Sections: Creative non-fiction; Short fiction; Poetry
Deadline: November 30, 2013
Prize: $1250 (1st); $500 (2nd); $250 (3rd); publication in magazine
Entry Fee: $32 (includes subscription)

Briarpatch Creative Writing Contest
Sections: Creative non-fiction; Fiction
Deadline: December 1, 2013
Prize: $300 + print publication (1st); $75 + online publication (honourable mention)
Entry Fee: $25 (includes subscription)

The Fiddlehead 23rd annual Literary Contest
Sections: Poetry; Fiction
Deadline: December 1, 2013
Prize: $2000 (winner); $250 each for 2 runners-up; publication in magazine
Entry Fee: $30 (includes subscription)

Freefall 13th & 13th Flash Fiction Contest
Section: Short Fiction
Deadline: December 13, 2013
Prize: $130
Entry Fee: $13
Details: Entrants submit a short fiction story (500 words) around the general guideline of “What happened on Friday, September 13, 2013, at the corner of 13th Street and 13th Avenue.” More info:

Freefall 2013 Prose & Poetry Contests
Section: Fiction; Poetry
Deadline: December 31, 2013
Prize: $600 (1st); $150 (2nd); $75 (3rd); $25 (HM); publication in magazine
Entry Fee: $21 (includes subscription); additional entries $5 each

Other contests on the horizon for 2014:
The New Quarterly literary contests
CBC Canada Writes non-fiction & poetry contests
Prism International fiction & poetry contests
Grain magazine Short Grain writing contests
Event magazine creative non-fiction context
Writers Union of Canada various contests
Geist magazine various contests
Arc Poetry Magazine various contests
Up Here magazine various contests
Quebec Writing Competition
Room magazine short story contest

Did we miss something? Email staff[at]magazine-awards[dot]com or hail us on Twitter @MagAwards.

Check out the Contests section of this blog for frequent updates on similar opportunities from Canadian magazines.

Workshop by NMA-winning Poet Julie Bruck

Two-time National Magazine Award-winning poet Julie Bruck, who also has a Governor General Literary Award in her impressive collection of honours, will lead a nine-week “Fearless Poetry Workshop” this fall in San Francisco, part of highly regarded Writing Salon where she has been an instructor for the past eight years. Yes, the catch is you have to be in San Francisco to take the workshop, which runs from October 17-December 19. More information at The Writing Salon website.

In 1999 Ms. Bruck became the first person to win consecutive Gold National Magazine Awards in the Poetry category, winning for a collection of poems published in the Malahat Review after having won the top prize in 1998 for her work in Carousel. She has been an NMA finalist four times and has also served on the jury for the poetry award.

Word on the Street? Great magazine deals & more

This weekend in 5 cities across Canada, it’s the annual book and magazine festival, Word on the Street, a smorgasbord of workshops, author readings, presentations and a marketplace for great deals on books and magazine subscriptions.

Saturday in Kitchener, and Sunday in Lethbridge, Halifax, Saskatoon and Toronto, all open to the public.

It’s an especially great opportunity to acquaint yourself with many of Canada’s wonderful independent and literary magazines.

In Toronto, for example, you’ll want to check out the booths of great (and National Magazine Award-nominated or -winning) titles such as Canadian Dimension, Canadian Art, The Feathertale Review, Maisonneuve, The New Quarterly, Shameless, Spacing, Taddle Creek, THIS Magazine, Toronto Review of Books, The Walrus, Worn Fashion Journal and more.

And the impressive list of authors on hand includes National Magazine Award-winners Anne Dowsett Johnson, Don Gillmor, David Macfarlane, Shawn Micallef, Katrina Onstad and others.

Come out this weekend and join the fun!

A Brief History of Magazines in First Covers

Ernest Hemingway wrote a story for the inaugural issue of Esquire in 1933. The debut of Rolling Stone in ’67 featured John Lennon in military garb. Gracing the first cover of People in 1974 was Mia Farrow, promoting her new film “The Great Gatsby” (deja vu?).

Recently the blog at The Week put up 17 first covers of famous American magazines, including Time (1923), Newsweek (then News-Week, 1933), Life (1936), New York (1968) and Wired (1993).

On February 21, 1925, Eustace Tilley came to life as a cover icon for The New Yorker (note the cover price: 15 cents. In 1965 it was 25 cents; in 1991, $1.75; and today, $6.99).

The first cover photo of Sports Illustrated in 1954 featured a swinging Eddie Matthews (career stats: .271 batting average, 512 home runs, 2 World Series titles, debuted for the Boston Braves, before they moved to Milwaukee and then Atlanta, and long after they were known as the Boston Beaneaters).

And how about that first cover of The Atlantic Monthly., which sent its first issue to press in 1857 to crowd the newsstands with Harper’s, which had launched seven years earlier.

Check out all 17 covers and their stories.

A couple of years ago the Magazines Canada blog started posting first covers of Canadian magazines, featuring National Magazine Award winners like The Beaver (1920), Chatelaine (1928), The Fiddlehead (1945), THIS Magazine (1966), Cottage Life (1988), The Walrus (2003) and more.

New book from NMA Winner Ann Dowsett Johnston on Women & Alcohol

A new book by seven-time National Magazine Award winner Ann Dowsett Johnston examines the history and sociology of women and alcohol, confronting recent developments in female drinking behavior, corporate marketing and feminist theory while layering in her own story of abuse and recovery.

According to its publisher, HarperCollins Canada, Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol “combines in-depth research with [the author’s] own personal story of recovery, and delivers a groundbreaking examination of a shocking yet little recognized epidemic threatening society today: the precipitous rise in risky drinking among women and girls.”

With the feminist revolution, women have closed the gender gap in their professional and educational lives. They have also achieved equality with men in more troubling areas as well. In the U.S. alone, the rates of alcohol abuse among women have skyrocketed in the past decade. DUIs, “drunkorexia” (choosing to limit eating to consume greater quantities of alcohol), and health problems connected to drinking are all rising—a problem exacerbated by the alcohol industry itself.

Ms. Johnston is a former editor at Maclean’s, where she edited the annual University Rankings for 14 years, garnering NMA nominations every year from 1992-2004. Her new book grew out of a 13-part series she produced for the Toronto Star on women and alcohol.

Canadian Dimension hosts Chris Hedges in Toronto

This Friday, September 20 in Toronto Canadian Dimension magazine is hosting an evening with Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist Chris Hedges.

A former 15-year foreign correspondent for The New York Times, winner of the Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism, and author of a recent cover story in The Walrus, Mr. Hedges is the author of the new book The World As it Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress

He famously sued the Obama administration last year over the constitutionality of the National Defense Authorization Act, and won.

Tickets for the Toronto event are available but nearly gone. A note on the site states that a few tickets are on sale via EventBrite or at Another Story Bookshop (315 Roncesvalles Avenue in Toronto).

Canadian Dimensions is an independent Canadian magazine with a global focus, founded in 1963 in Winnipeg. In 2005 it was nominated for a National Magazine Award for “The Battle for Canadian Universities.”

Maclean’s, Toronto Life, Hazlitt headline COPA finalists

The companion sites of Maclean’s and Toronto Life magazines will vie with those of Chatelaine, Today’s Parent and Spacing for the title of Best Overall Companion Website at this year’s Canadian Online Publishing Awards, the finalists for which were announced earlier today.

Maclean’s was tabbed for 8 nominations in 15 categories in the COPAs’ Red Division, which consists of consumer magazines (print and online). Toronto Life garnered 4 nominations, including Best Website Design, Best Smartphone App and Best Mobile-Optimized Site.

Hazlitt, the online-only literary publication which earlier this year won the National Magazine Awards for Magazine Website of the Year, Magazine Website Design and Best Online Video, is nominated for 4 COPAs, including Best Overall Online-Only Publication Website, where it will compete against RedNation Online, Torontoist, Tuja Wellness, and What’s Really Good Magazine.

Hazlitt is also nominated for a COPA in Best Website Design, Best Blog and Best Online-Only Article. The online-only city mag Torontoist also nabbed 4 nominations in total.

In the category for Best Tablet Edition, the nominees are Maclean’s, Best Health, Clin d’oeil, Canadian Living and Travel + Escape. And for Best Smartphone App, Maclean’s and Toronto Life will compete against Cool! and YoyoMama.

Check out all of this year’s nominees, including those in the Blue (trade publications) and Green (newspaper & broadcast media) divisions.

This year’s COPA winners will be announced on November 13 at a soiree at The Hoxton in Toronto. Ticket and event info here.

Hot on the Newsstand: 3 magazines making news right now

The 10th anniversary issue of The Walrus hit newsstands last week, an impressive 124-page, perfect-bound magazine with a cover photograph by Edward Burtynsky. On the inside, illustrations by Barry Blitt, fiction by Lisa Moore, and journalism from Ron Graham, Mellissa Fung, Katrina Onstad, Andrew Coyne and more.

The Walrus was born in October 2003, when the big stories were Paul Martin, SARS and a re-arming Russia (plus Lewis Lapham essaying on Marshall McLuhan). Since then the magazine has won 99 National Magazine Awards for its journalism, fiction, poetry, design, photography and illustration, and won Magazine of the Year in 2007. Buyers of the anniversary issue will also receive a free Walrus e-Book and be entered in a drawing to win a place on an Adventure Canada Greenland and Wild Labrador expedition.

A newly renovated Western Living is out on newsstands this month, featuring a bold redesign by art director Paul Roelofs for the magazine’s annual Designers of the Year issue. More than just a new look, however, the award-winning TC Media title has expanded its content, too, with a host of new columns (including Just One Room, On Trend, 48 Hours In, Out There, Spirit Guide) and an editorial roster that promises readers “more faces in places, more pan-regional content, an authoritative voice, more entertaining stories [and] more travel stories with a design focus.” 

The September Designers of the Year issue is the largest for the magazine in 20 years, and is accompanied by events in Vancouver (with the Western Living Design Week from Sept 12-22) and Calgary (on Oct 2) celebrating the best new designs in Western Canada. Founded in 1970, Western Living has won 13 National Magazine Awards from 49 nominations.

The September-October issue of This Magazine presents its annual Corporate Hall of Shame report, and this year the publication is adding a twist: launching a new film series Every Film is Political. The series gets underway with a screening on September 25 of the film WAL-TOWN, “director Sergeo Kirby’s NFB-produced look at the business practices of mega-retailer Wal Mart and the ongoing debate of the company’s effect on towns across Canada.” The film will be screened at the Tranzac in Toronto (event info and tickets). The new issue of This Magazine, winner of 17 National Magazine Awards since 1977, is on stands now.

Call for Participants: NMAF Round Table on Eligibility & Judging

[This post has been updated] Each autumn the NMAF convenes one or more Round-Table discussions with members of the industry to help us ensure we are representing the needs of our stakeholders.

On Thursday, September 26 [Update: at 2:30pm] in Toronto the National Magazine Awards Foundation (NMAF) will host an industry Round-Table discussion concerning its policies on magazine eligibility and its judging process. All stakeholders and representatives of participating magazines are invited attend, but must RSVP not later than Friday, September 20.

Agenda: The NMAF has proposed two general topics for discussion and feedback; however, we also invite attendees to table other questions, concerns and ideas regarding the policies, procedures and roles of the NMAF in the magazine industry.

  1. Magazine Eligibility: What defines a magazine and who may participate in the National Magazine Awards?
  2. Digital Magazines & Content: Is the NMAF serving the needs of the industry and representing relevant creators?

Participants: Members of the NMAF Board of Directors and Judging Committee will join industry representatives for a 90-minute open discussion. Ideal participants will fulfill one or more of the following criteria:

  • General familiarity with NMAF’s operations, stakeholders and roles in the Canadian magazine industry;
  • Prior service as an NMA judge, particularly judges who’ve participated in multiple years and/or multiple categories;
  • Interest in / experience with being involved with the broad issues of the NMAF and the Canadian magazine industry at large;
  • Working in / knowledge of digital magazine production or digital aspect of the magazine industry;
  • General seniority or prominence in the industry;
  • Representation from a variety of participating magazines, magazine companies, and geographic regions of Canada.

Participants from outside Toronto may attend via teleconference. Participants in Toronto are encouraged to attend in person.

Those interested to attend should please contact NMAF Special Projects Manager Richard Johnson not later than Friday, September 20.

Email: richard.johnson [at]

Confirmed participants will receive a detailed agenda and other event information by Monday, September 23.

Stephen Trumper on his path to journalism

Stephen Trumper (Photo by Nigel Dickson)
Stephen Trumper (Photo by Nigel Dickson)

On June 7 the National Magazine Awards Foundation was proud to honour Stephen Trumper with the Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement. In his acceptance speech that evening Mr. Trumper touched on the challenges he faced as a person living with disability, including those related to breaking into journalism.

An excerpt of his address has been published as “Lost and Found: How a Small Group of War Vets Helped Me Find a Brighter Future” on the website of

Memorably, he concluded:

[W]hat every person with a disability looking to build a career needs are allies to help shine a light on the uncertain path ahead, illuminating the way—as my war vets did—aiding me in my quest to, as Dr. Keith concluded, create a future that rested on working with my brain. That turned out to be editing and writing, a profession full of intricacies, settings and timing: elements that also happen to be the concerns of a good watchmaker.

Read the entire text of Mr. Trumper’s article.

Related post:
Stephen Trumper wins NMAF Outstanding Achievement Award

Leif Parsons exhibits opening this week

Canadian illustrator Leif Parsons, a three-time National Magazine Award winner for his work in The Walrus as well as the creator of the cover art for the 35th anniversary National Magazine Awards gala, has an exhibit of his work opening  this Saturday, September 14, at the Buffalo Arts Studio, with a reception starting at 7pm.

Titled “Leif Low Beer: First Conference of the International Network of Personal Relationships (INPR),” Leif’s exhibit is an “installation of individual sculptures that interact with low-hanging two-dimensional mixed media works to produce a singular integrated composition.” The exhibit runs through November 9 if you find yourself in the Buffalo area.

And Leif’s work will also be part of a group show in Brooklyn starting Friday September 13 and running through October 6 at the Greenpoint Terminal Gallery.

Walrus editor talks about mag’s 10-year anniversary

[THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED] Earlier this week John Macfarlane, editor and co-publisher of The Walrus, spoke with Masthead about his magazine’s tenth anniversary, which it is celebrating throughout 2013 but in particular with its special anniversary issue coming out later this month.

After discussing things like the new issue, the magazine’s first decade and talk of his retirement, Macfarlane sounded an optimistic note at the end when asked about where The  Walrus will be in another ten years:

Right off the bat, I’ll say I think The Walrus will be here 10 years from now doing what it’s currently doing. I also think there will still be a print edition, although some of the print audience might have migrated to other platforms. It’s hard to say at the moment because we’re all in this fog and finding it difficult to see into the future very clearly. I think and hope that paid circulation will have increased, on whatever platforms. I hope that The Walrus continues to become a better and better magazine, and I don’t see why that won’t happen, since that’s what we come in here every day to do. I don’t see that culture changing.

Read the entire interview here.

Since it was founded in September 2003, The Walrus has won 99 National Magazine Awards (64 Gold, 35 Silver), more than any other Canadian publication.

UPDATE: This past Saturday’s Globe and Mail had a good article on The Walrus reaching the 10-year mark in the context of its evolving business model.

PitchFest Edmonton starts this weekend

For aspiring magazine writers and veterans looking to brush up on their skills, join the Alberta Magazine Publishers Association for a two-part PitchFest in Edmonton at the Public Library, starting on Saturday September 7.

PitchFest features an opening seminar with industry expert (and editor of many National Magazine Award-winning stories) Shelley Youngblut, followed by a panel of accomplished local magazine editors.

The seminar promises “time-tested strategies for developing your idea, polishing your query, making the approach and following up to get results [and] also insider tips for establishing and nuturing the editorial relationships that can make getting future assignments a snap.”

The one-hour moderated panel discussion features Max Fawcett (Managing Editor, Alberta Venture), Tim Querengesser (Senior Editor, Alberta Venture), Steven Sandor (Editor, Avenue Edmonton) and Lindsay Shapka (Editor, Where Edmonton).

In part two of PitchFest (on Saturday Sept 14) “you’ll take everything you’ve learned to refine or write a new pitch and return for one-on-one sessions with the editor of your choosing from the panel. You’ll receive feedback, specific advice and maybe even sell a story.”

Cost and all other details here.

The MagAwards blog is back! Latest news…

The Magazine Awards blog is fueled up and ready to roll again after a summer hiatus. Hope you, too, enjoyed your summer, perhaps part of which was spent curled up with the 36th National Magazine Awards Gold Book, a digital collection of this past year’s NMA Gold Winners.

And now for a little Magazine Awards news to get us back in the swing…

Belated congrats to two-time NMA winner Carol Shaben, whose 2012 book Into the Abyss was named the winner of this year’s prestigious Edna Staebler Prize for Creative Non-fiction, an award bestowed by Wilfred Laurier University that includes a cash prize of $10,000. Read our profile of the book Into the Abyss as well as our interview with Carol Shaben about her incredible story and her path to becoming a writer. Ms. Shaben will receive her award in a ceremony on November 13.

Former National Magazine Award winner David Baines has been named this year’s winner of the Bruce Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by the Jack Webster Foundation honoring career excellence in British Columbia journalism. The award will be presented at a ceremony in Vancouver on October 30. Mr. Baines has been a reporter at the Vancouver Sun for more than 25 years. He won a Gold National Magazine Award in 1994 for his work in Vancouver Magazine.

This year’s winner of the first National Magazine Award for tablet publishing – Canadian House & Home – caught the attention of the high-profile blog of the software giant Adobe, which featured House & Home‘s tablet edition in a post in August. They noted, “every issue of this magazine is interesting, inventive and takes full advantage of the DPS features that enable an immersive, interactive experience.”

Legion, a periodical of Canadian military history, has been named one of three finalists for this year’s Pierre Berton Award, known more formally as the Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Popular Media. Legion won an honourable mention at the 2010 National Magazine Awards for its special issue “World War I: The War that Shaped a Nation.” The other two finalists for this year’s Pierre Berton Award are military historians Tim Cook and Mark Zuehlke. The winner will be announced at the Governor General’s Awards ceremony in Ottawa on November 19.

The award-winning fashion title Flare has unveiled a redesign as of this month’s issue, the product of the magazine’s new creative director Michèle Champagne, and featuring custom calligraphy with a retro feel by Olivia Grandperrin. Editor Amanda Purves explains in her latest note to Flare‘s readers: “When I first met Michèle, she was sustaining herself, after spending several years in Amsterdam, with interesting contract gigs and making her own magazine about graphic design. I instantly knew she had the true vision of an artist. A fashion magazine needs that—the Alexander Libermans, the Fabien Barons—or it’s not special.”

And, Up Here magazine just announced the winners of its Robert Service Poetry Contest, with Gus Barrett of Qualicum Beach, B.C., winning the top prize for “Willy the musher.”

Good to be back on the blog. Stay with us for regular updates this year on National Magazine Award winners, events, news and more, including, of course, updates on this coming year’s National Magazine Awards submissions, slated to open on December 1.

And follow us on Twitter @MagAwards.