McNally Robinson Booksellers Poetry Award, Short Fiction and Creative Non-Fiction Contests

Prairie Fire Press and McNally Robinson Booksellers present our 2024 Annual Writing Contests!

 Although our deadline is November 30 (postmarked, if mailed), you may submit anytime. By entering our contests you have a chance to win:  


  • Cash prize
  • One prize of $1250 is awarded in each of the three categories.

  • Winning pieces are published in Prairie Fire’s summer issue.

  • An invitation to THIN AIR either in-person or virtually (produced by the Winnipeg International Writers Festival, subject to festival funding)
  • With your contest submission you’ll receive a one-year subscription to Prairie Fire, so if you would like to start reading Prairie Fire as soon as possible, you can send in your entry today!

**Please Note: A copy of our contest ad in our spring issue, along with a few other Canadian literary magazines states $1250 for first, second and third prize, by which we meant $1250 in each prize. We realized the wording was unclear and have therefore changed it. We apologize for any confusion or inconvenience. 


Entries by email are accepted.

Please email submission to and pay via PayPal or by phoning in a credit card immediately before or after submitting your entry.

Entry Fee: $34 (comes with a 1-year subscription to Prairie Fire)



Contest Rules

    • Entry fee: $34. This entitles you to a one-year (4 issues) subscription to Prairie Fire magazine. If you are emailing your submission, please send to and pay via PayPal or by phoning in a credit card immediately before or after submitting your entry. 
    • One fiction entry consists of one story, maximum 5,000 words.
    • One poetry entry consists of up to three poems, maximum length of your poetry submission should not exceed 150 lines, regardless of whether you are sending 1, 2 or 3 poems. 
    • One creative non-fiction entry consists of one piece, maximum 5,000 words.
    • Submitting Fiction or Creative Non-Fiction? Please state which category you are entering.
    • Deadline for all contest entries: November 30th, 2024 11:59:59 PM (GMT-5)

    • Enclose a cover sheet with your name, pronouns, address, telephone number, email address, the title(s) of your piece(s) and word count (prose) or line count (poetry). Please do not identify yourself on the actual piece(s) you are entering.
    • Your entry must be typed on 8 1/2″ x 11″ white paper and clipped, not stapled. Prose must be double-spaced. No faxed submissions, please. Emailed submissions accepted. See “Emailed Submission Info” in “Payment & Submission Info” section.
    • Please include page numbers and the title of your piece on every page of your submission.
    • Only winning entrants will be individually notified of results. Results will be posted on the Prairie Fire website and social media in mid-late January.  
    • Each piece must be unpublished, not submitted elsewhere for publication or broadcast, nor accepted elsewhere for publication or broadcast, nor entered simultaneously in any other contest or competition for which it is also eligible to win a prize.
    • You may enter as often as you like; only your first entry in each category will be eligible for a subscription.
    • On occasion, Prairie Fire Press makes subscriber names and addresses available to external organizations. If you do not wish to receive such mailings, please state this clearly on your cover sheet.
    • Winning pieces will be published in the summer issue of Prairie Fire, with authors paid for publication.
    • International submissions accepted.

Payment & Submission Info

If paying by cheque or money order: Please send a hard copy, along with payment to:

Prairie Fire Contests
423-100 Arthur St.
Winnipeg, MB R3B 1H3

If paying by credit card or PayPal:
Please email submission to and pay via on our website (via PayPal) by clicking the orange circle below or by phoning in a credit card immediately before or after submitting your entry.

Emailed Submission Info:

  • Please have “Contest Entry: [Category] [Name]” as your subject line. Example: Contest Entry: Poetry Joe Smith
  • You must follow all applicable contest rules when submitting your entry via email
  • Please state in the order notes field on the Checkout page the name of your piece and the author name (if name differs from the name on the payment)

2024 Judges

Bola Opaleke

Bola Opaleke

McNally Robinson Booksellers Poetry Award

Bola Opaleke is the author of Skeleton of a Ruined Song. Winner of 2020 Thomas Morton Prize in Poetry. His poems have been published in Prairie Fire, Frontier Poetry, Rattle, CBC Books, The Nottingham Review, The Puritan, Literary Review of Canada, Sierra Nevada Review, The Indianapolis Review, Canadian Literature, and many more. He holds a degree in City Planning and lives in Winnipeg, MB.  Bola is currently Arts Community Director with Winnipeg Arts Council Board of Directors.
Lauren Carter

Lauren Carter

McNally Robinson Booksellers Short Fiction Contest

Lauren Carter is the author of five books, including the short story collection Places Like These (Book*hug Press, April 2023) and This Has Nothing To Do With You, which won the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction. Her debut novel, Swarm appeared on CBC’s Canada Reads long-list. She’s also published two poetry collections: Lichen Bright (long-listed for the ReLit award) and Following Sea. Her work has appeared in anthologies including What Draws Us Near (Little Ghosts Books), Best Canadian Stories, and Voicing Suicide. She has won the Prairie Fire Fiction Contest and been long-listed multiple times for the CBC Literary Awards. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph and regularly mentors writers and runs retreats with other writers through her business Wild Ground Writing. Visit her at

Jenny Heijun Wills

Jenny Heijun Wills

McNally Robinson Booksellers Creative Non-Fiction Contest

Dr. Jenny Heijun Wills is the author of Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related (McClelland & Stewart, Penguin Random House Canada) and the recipient of the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Non-Fiction Prize in 2019. Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related also won the Eileen McTavish Sykes Best First Book Prize from the Manitoba Book Awards and was named a Globe & Mail Best book of 2019. She has a forthcoming collection of personal essays to be published by Knopf Canada in 2024. 

She is the co-editor of Adoption & Multiculturalism (University of Michigan Press, 2020). This year, her co-edited Teaching Asian North American Texts will be published by the Modern Language Association Press. Wills is Professor of English at the University of Winnipeg.

Contest Sponsors & Supporters


Soon after McNally Robinson Booksellers opened its store in Winnipeg’s Osborne Village in the mid-eighties, Prairie Fire began to hold launches and readings there. McNally Robinson sold Prairie Fire on its newsstand and, occasionally, advertised in PF’s pages. Over the next several years, Holly and Paul McNally showed themselves to be great friends of local writing by establishing the Award for Manitoba Book of the Year, which was the precursor to the many awards that today comprise the Manitoba Book Awards.

The current owners, Chris Hall and Lori Baker have generously kept up the tradition. McNally Robinson Booksellers Writing Contests were launched in 2004 and have continued successfully ever since.

Moving forward from 2022 onwards, McNally Robinson Booksellers will be the official sponsor of all three of our yearly writing contests.

Winnipeg International Writers Festival

Prairie Fire Press has collaborated with the Winnipeg International Writers Festival to bring the first-prize poetry winner to Winnipeg to appear at Thin Air, its annual literary festival hosted each September. This collaboration between PF and WIWF has gone on for more than twenty years, and we are grateful for their generosity and support. It greatly enhanced the overall enjoyment of winning the Banff Centre Bliss Carman Poetry Award for each of those writers, and gave us the opportunity to meet them.

Back in the ’90s, when Prairie Fire had just begun to run contests, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity supported the first-prize poetry winner with a contribution of $500 and a replica of Bliss Carman’s turquoise ring, which is how the Banff Centre Bliss Carman Poetry Award came to be. A couple of years ago, Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity decided that it was more integral to who they were to offer a one-week residency for a period of three years. That time has now come to a close and we are grateful to Banff Centre for all the years of support.

And, we’re thrilled that our collaboration with WIWF will continue and that in future, all first-prize winners may be invited to attend Thin Air, either in person or virtually. The fulfilment of that dream is always dependent on funding, but we are grateful to be continuing our partnership with WIWF and look forward to future collaborations.

Manitoba Arts Council

Prairie Fire Press acknowledges the financial assistance of the Manitoba Arts Council and the Sustainability Grant for providing the prize money for the 2021 contests.  We give our thanks to MAC and the Sustainability Grant for providing assistance during this time of financial uncertainty.