Banff Centre Bliss Carman Poetry Award, Short Fiction and Creative Non-Fiction Contests

Prairie Fire Press and McNally Robinson Booksellers present the 2020 Annual Writing Contests with $6,000 in prizes!




Although our deadline is November 30 (postmarked), you may submit anytime. By entering the Banff Centre Bliss Carman Poetry Award Contest you not only have a chance to win:  

  • $1,250 in cash
  • A one-week residency in the Leighton Artists’s Studios, which includes a private studio in the woods, a bedroom and a meal plan
  • A jeweller-cast replica of poet Bliss Carman’s ring
  • An invitation to THIN AIR (produced by the Winnipeg International Writers Festival)
  • Dinner with the staff of Prairie Fire
  • Publication in Prairie Fire magazine
  • With your contest submission you’ll receive a one-year subscription to Prairie Fire, so if would like to start reading Prairie Fire as soon as possible, you can send in your entry today!

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. Info on payment below. 

Entry Fee: $32

Entries by email are accepted. We are working on having this option available in future.

Entry Fee: $32

Prizes are awarded in each of the three categories and winning entries are published in Prairie Fire:

1st prize $1,250
2nd prize $500
3rd prize $250

Contest Rules

  • Entry fee: $32. This entitles you to a one-year (4 issues) subscription to Prairie Fire magazine. Make cheque or money order payable to Prairie Fire and enclose with your entry.
  • One fiction entry consists of one story, maximum 10,000 words.
  • One poetry entry consists of 1, 2, or 3 poems, maximum 150 lines.
  • One creative non-fiction entry consists of one article, maximum 5,000 words.
  • Submitting Fiction or Creative Non-Fiction? Please state which category you are entering.
  • Deadline for all contest entries: November 30, 2020 (postmarked by).
  • Do not identify yourself on your entry. Enclose a cover sheet with your name, address, telephone number, the title(s) of your piece(s) and word count (prose) or line count (poetry). 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.
  • 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. 
  • Entries will not be returned. If you wish to be informed of contest results, include a stamped, self-addressed envelope.
  • Emailed submissions will not be notified of contest results (except for winners). Results will be posted on website, and social media in late January.
  • Each piece must be original, 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.
  • Winning pieces will be published in Prairie Fire magazine, 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 PayPal 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 PayPal Notes field the name of your piece and the author name (if name differs from the name on the payment)

2020 Judges

Garry Thomas Morse

Garry Thomas Morse

Banff Centre Bliss Carman Poetry Award

Garry Thomas Morse is a poet and novelist continually grappling with genre and form. He is the author of various poetry titles, most notably Discovery Passages and Prairie Harbour, each a finalist for the Governor-General’s Award for Poetry. He is also the author of a speculative fiction series called The Chaos! Quincunx, and two of its three books have been nominated for the ReLit Award. He recently released the Yams Do Not Exist, through Turnstone Press. Morse has served as a mentor to emerging and established writers as the Jack McClelland Writer-in-Residence at The University of Toronto, as the Carol Shields Writer-in-Residence at The University of Winnipeg, and twice as a guest at the Ânskohk Aboriginal Literature Festival in Saskatoon.
Casey Plett

Casey Plett

Short Fiction Contest

Casey Plett is the author of Little Fish, A Safe Girl to Love, and the co-editor of Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Transgender Writers. She is a winner of the Amazon First Novel Award, the ALA Stonewall Book Award Barbara Gittings Literature Prize, and a two-time winner of the Lambda Literary Award. She has written for The New York Times, The Walrus, McSweeney’s, Maclean’s, and Rookie, among other publications.
Trisha Cull

Trisha Cull

Creative Non-Fiction Contest

Trisha Cull is the author of The Death of Small Creatures (Nightwood Editions). Her writing has appeared in journals and anthologies across Canada. She has won numerous writing awards, including the Prairie Fire Bliss Carman Award for Poetry and the Prism international prize for literary nonfiction. She is currently back in school in a post-graduate program in Mental Health and Addictions. She hopes to continue writing while working with disenfranchised populations. She lives, writes and plays in Victoria, B.C.

Contest Sponsors


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.


Back in the mid 1990s, when Prairie Fire had just begun to run contests, and were looking for ways to fund them. As a PS in a letter to our subscribers, we asked if anyone had any suggestions. To our surprise, we soon received a phone call from Graeme McDonald, President and CEO of the Banff Centre. He told us that, decades earlier, the Centre had received a gift (or bequest, perhaps) from the granddaughter of Bliss Carman. This gift had consisted of a sum of money and Mr. Carman’s silver and turquoise ring. By accepting the gift, the Centre was obliged each year to present a replica of the ring to its best writing student. He asked if Prairie Fire would like to award the replica ring to its first-prize winner instead. There would be a small sum of money attached, too. We accepted this generous and intriguing offer, and that’s how the Bliss Carman Poetry Award came to be. At first the cash portion consisted of only $300, but the Centre soon raised the prize to $500 and added its name to the title: The Banff Centre Bliss Carman Poetry Award. Then, in 2019, The Banff Centre added a one-week residency at the centre at the Leighton Artists’s Studios, adding greater value to the award.