True Life Story Essay Contests

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 A typical issue of CNF contains at least one essay by a previously unpublished writer.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.

2018 Writing Contests

Show:

All Contests


Rhyming Poetry Contest

Share a rhyming poem to enter this poetry contest. This contest has a cash prize. Deadline: In 5 Days

3 Line Poetry Contest

Write a poem to someone special for this writing contest but it must follow a specific syllable count of 5-7-5 or 5-7-7 The winner takes away a cash prize. Deadline: In 6 Days

75 Words Flash Fiction

For this writing contest you are to write a story with only 750 words. That is the extreme amount of words for a flash fiction. This contest has a cash prize. Deadline: Next Week.

Non-Fiction Writing Contest

Share a non-fiction story for this contest. Enter for your chance at the cash prize. Deadline: Next Week.

Love Poem Poetry Contest

This contest challenges you to write a poem that is a love poem. The winner takes away a cash prize. Deadline: Mar 20th

Nonet Poetry Contest

This poem only has 9 words. To enter this writing contest share a poem that has nine lines and a specific format. Cash prize to the winner. Deadline: Mar 23rd

Acrostic Poetry Contest

For this contest pay special attention to the first letter of each line. Because your goal is to spell out a word using the first letter of each line in the poem. Cash Prize. Deadline: Mar 30th

Dribble Flash Fiction

Can you share a complete story with only 50 words? It can be done. Share your short story but only use 50 words. Enter for your chance at the cash prize. Deadline: Apr 4th

Short Poem

Your challenge for this writing contest is to share a poem that only has 20 syllables. Cash Prize. Deadline: Apr 5th

Six Word Poetry Contest

Six words is all you get for this poetry contest. Can you share a poem with only six words? Cash Prize. Deadline: Apr 8th

Romance Writing Contest

Share a story of romance for this writing contest. Romance is one of the biggest sellers in the book stories. You can have quite a career with it. Now is your chance. Cash prize to the winner. Deadline: Apr 13th

Rhyming Poetry Contest

Write a poem that rhymes for this contest. Your poem can be any type but must have a clear rhyme scheme. This contest has a cash prize. Deadline: Apr 17th

5-7-5 Poetry

Share a poem that has three lines and follows the 5-7-5 syllable count. It's similar to a haiku but you can write about anything.' Cash prize to the winner. Deadline: Apr 19th

ABC Poetry Contest

An ABC poem follows the alphabet. Start each line with a letter in the alphabet that follows the previous line. Enter for your chance at the cash prize. Deadline: Apr 20th

150 Words Flash Fiction

For this writing contest you are to write a story with only 750 words. That is the extreme amount of words for a flash fiction. Cash prize to the winner. Deadline: Apr 21st

Cinquain Poetry

Write a poem with a specific syllable count to enter this writing contest. Cash Prize. Deadline: Apr 25th

3 Line Poetry Contest

Share a poem that has three lines and follows the 5-7-5 syllable count. It's similar to a haiku but you can write about anything.' The winner takes away a cash prize. Deadline: Apr 28th

Loop Poetry Contest

Write a poem with a specific format for this contest. Cash Prize. Deadline: May 3rd

2-4-2 Poetry

Share a poem with a specific syllable count and only three lines. Cash prize to the winner. Deadline: May 9th

One Line Poem

Can you write a complete poem - with only one line? That is the challenge of this writing contest. Cash prize to the winner. Deadline: May 10th

150 Words Flash Fiction

You only have 150 words! Can you write a complete story with this amount of words? That is the challenge of this flash fiction writing contest. Cash prize to the winner. Deadline: May 11th

Mother's Day Poetry Contest

A writing contest with a cash prize. Read the contest announcement for the details on this contest with a specific topic. The winner takes away a cash prize. Deadline: May 13th

5-7-5 Poetry Contest

Share a poem that has three lines and follows the 5-7-5 syllable count. It's similar to a haiku but you can write about anything.' Enter for your chance at the cash prize. Deadline: May 15th

Minute

Share a poem that has a specific syllable count. Details in the contest announcement. The winner takes away a cash prize. Deadline: May 20th

Share Your Story

What's your story. Give details about your life and how you can to be where you are. Cash prize for the winner of this writing contest. The winner takes away a cash prize. Deadline: May 25th

Four Line Poem

Write a poem wtih only four lines that has a special syllable count. Enter for your chance at the cash prize. Deadline: May 28th

This Sentence Starts The Story

For this contest we provide you with the first sentence to start your story. What you do with it from there is up to you. Cash Prize. Deadline: May 31st

Horror Story Writing Contest

Share a horror story for this writing contest. Past greats such as Stephen King have made careers with horror writing. Now is your chance to share your horror story for this writing contest. The winner takes away a cash prize. Deadline: Jun 1st

Free Verse Poetry Contest

Share a poem without restrictions for this free verse poetry contest. This contest has a cash prize. Deadline: Jun 5th

Dialogue Only Writing Contest

Dialogue is an important part of any story. For this writing contest your challenge is to write a story only using dialogue. No speech tags. No descriptions. Write a story as if those writing were talking on the telephone or texting. This contest has a cash prize. Deadline: Jun 8th

5-7-5 Poem

Share a poem that has three lines and follows the 5-7-5 syllable count. It's similar to a haiku but you can write about anything.' Cash prize to the winner. Deadline: Jun 12th

Flash Fiction Writing Contest

A flash fiction story is a story that only has a few words - but tells a complete story. Your challenge is to share a story that only uses a few words but tell a comlete story in the process. Enter for your chance at the cash prize. Deadline: Jun 16th

Faith Poetry Contest

Share your poem with the topic of 'faith' for this writintg contest. The winner takes away a cash prize. Deadline: Jun 18th

True Story Contest

Share a true story for this writing contest. Share something in your life that is either dark, exciting or interesting and write a story to enter this contest. This contest has a cash prize. Deadline: Jun 22nd

I Imagine

Write a poem that begins with the words specified to enter this poetry contest. Cash Prize. Deadline: Jun 24th

Tanka Poetry Contest

To enter this contest share a poem that has five lins with the specified syllable count. The winner takes away a cash prize. Deadline: Jun 28th

5 Line Poem

Write a five line poem for this writing contest. This contest has a cash prize. Deadline: Jul 3rd

Lune Poetry Contest

Write a three line poem to enter this contest. The winner takes away a cash prize. Deadline: Jul 7th

100 Word Flash Fiction

This flash fiction writing contest challenges you to share a story with only 100 words. The winner takes away a cash prize. Deadline: Jul 8th

Rhyming Poem

Write a poem that rhymes for this contest. Your poem can be any type but must have a clear rhyme scheme. Cash prize to the winner. Deadline: Jul 10th

5-7-5 Poetry Writing

Share a poem that has three lines and follows the 5-7-5 syllable count. It's similar to a haiku but you can write about anything.' Cash prize to the winner. Deadline: Jul 15th

Share A Story In A Poem

Your poem should tell a story for this contest. The challenge is to write a poem of any type that also tells a story. The winner takes away a cash prize. Deadline: Jul 20th

Sonnet Poetry Contest

Write a sonnet poem to enter this writing contest. Read the contest announcement for the details on writing a sonnet. This contest has a cash prize. Deadline: Jul 25th

Haiku Poetry Contest

Write a three line poem to enter this poetry contest. Cash Prize. Deadline: Jul 30th




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