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

Prairie Fire Press and McNally Robinson Booksellers present the 2021 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 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 jeweler-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.

To pay entry fee via PayPal, click here.

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 total.
  • 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, 2021 (postmarked by).
  • Do not identify yourself on your entry. Enclose a cover sheet with your name, pronouns, 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)

2021 Judges

Duncan Mercredi

Duncan Mercredi

Banff Centre Bliss Carman Poetry Award

Duncan Mercredi is a Cree/Métis poet, writer and storyteller. A longtime resident of Winnipeg, he was born in Misipawistik (Grand Rapids) and grew up listening to his grandmother’s stories. His affinity for the wilderness and his sensitivity to the deep cultural prejudices of the broader culture inform his writing.

He has published four poetry collections, including Spirit of the Wolf: Raise Your Voice and The Duke of Windsor: Wolf Sings the Blues. His work has appeared in countless anthologies and periodicals including Prairie Fire and CV2, including the special joint issue ndncountry, published in 2018. He has appeared at storytelling and literary festivals across North America and for close to two decades he has been conducting workshops for school children all over Manitoba.

Duncan is currently completing a manuscript entitled this city is red, a series of reflections on the city he calls home. The work was developed through his long-standing membership in Winnipeg’s Indigenous Writers Collective. A new book mahikan ka-onot: The Poetry of Duncan Mercredi  has just been released by Wilfrid Laurier University Press, a collection spanning from his earliest work to recent unpublished poems.

Duncan was the 2019 writer-in-residence at the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture and he is presently Winnipeg’s Poet Laureate for 2020 and 2021.

lisa bird-wilson

lisa bird-wilson

Short Fiction Contest

Lisa Bird-Wilson is a Saskatchewan Métis and nêhiyaw writer whose work appears in literary magazines and anthologies across Canada. Her fiction book, Just Pretending (Coteau Books 2013), won four Saskatchewan Book Awards, including 2014 Book of the Year, was shortlisted for the Danuta Gleed Award, and was the 2019 One Book, One Province selection. Bird-Wilson’s debut poetry collection, The Red Files (Nightwood Editions 2016), is inspired by family and archival sources and reflects on the legacy of the residential school system and the fragmentation of families and histories. She is the current prose editor for Grain magazine and the chair of the Saskatchewan Aboriginal Writers’ Circle Inc (SAWCI)—the group that hosts the Ânskohk Festival. Her new novel, Probably Ruby, will be published by Doubleday Canada in August 2021.


Donna Besel

Donna Besel

Creative Non-Fiction Contest

Donna Besel loves writing of all kinds, and does presentations for schools, libraries, universities, conferences, and retreats. Her work has gained recognition from CBC Literary Awards and won national contests. A collection of short stories, Lessons from a Nude Man, earned two nominations for Manitoba Book Awards and a spot on McNally Robinson’s annual bestseller list. University of Regina Press has recently published The Unravelling: Incest and the Destruction of a Family. The forests of Eastern Manitoba, where she has always lived, provide endless ideas and settings for her “boreal stories.”

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.