Exploring the art of prose


CRAFT Creative Nonfiction Award

2020 CRAFT Creative Nonfiction Award
November 1 to December 31, 2020

Judged by Joy Castro




Welcome to our inaugural award for unpublished creative nonfiction up to 6,000 words!

Joy Castro will select three winning pieces for publication
Each will be awarded $1,000 & a complete set of Graywolf Press’s The Art Of series

More awards and details below

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  • Open November 1 to December 31
  • CRAFT submissions are open to all writers
  • International submissions are allowed
  • Creative nonfiction only! (please no academic work or fiction)
  • Please submit work in English only
  • 6,000 word count maximum
  • We review literary nonfiction, but are open to a variety of genres and styles including memoir, lyric essays, personal essays, narrative nonfiction, and experimental prose—our only requirement is that you show excellence in your craft
  • Previously unpublished work only—we do not review reprints, including self-published work, for contests
  • We allow simultaneous submissions—writers please notify us and withdraw your entry if your work is accepted elsewhere
  • $20 reading fee per entry allows ONE creative nonfiction piece from 1,001 to 6,000 words OR up to TWO flash creative nonfiction pieces of 1,000 words or fewer each—if submitting two flash pieces (2,000 words maximum combined/1,000 words maximum each), please put them both in a SINGLE document
  • We allow multiple submissions—each entry should be accompanied by a reading fee
  • All entries will also be considered for publication in CRAFT
  • All submissions must be made via Submittable
  • All entrants will receive an exclusive digital compilation next summer that includes: the winning pieces with Joy Castro’s introductions and the winners’ craft essays; the editors’ choice winners; excerpts from finalist pieces; and more
  • Please, please, double-space your submission and use Times New Roman 12 pt font
  • Please include a brief cover letter with your publication history (if applicable)
  • We do not require anonymous submissions
  • We do not discriminate on the basis of age, ancestry, disability, family status, gender identity or expression, national origin, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation, or for any other reason
  • Additionally, we do not tolerate discrimination in the writing we consider for publication: work we find discriminatory on any of the bases stated here will be declined without complete review (you will be refunded, less fees)


Friends, family, and associates of the judge are not eligible for consideration for the award.



The writers of the three winning essays will receive:

  • $1,000 each
  • A complete set of fourteen titles of Graywolf’s The Art Of series
  • Publication in CRAFT, each with an introduction by Joy Castro
  • Publication of an Author’s Note (craft essay) to accompany the piece


The $600 editors’ choice round:

  • Publication and a cash prize to a piece or pieces we just can’t let go
  • A complete set of fourteen titles of Graywolf’s The Art Of series


An excerpt from our interview with Joy Castro:

Jacqueline Doyle for CRAFT: One of the things I love about Island of Bones and How Winter Began is the variety of lengths and styles in both collections, and the interest you’ve expressed in compressed prose. “Short works for me,” you say in your essay on “Grip,” “Compression. Urgency. Get in, get out.” […] What will you be looking for in good creative nonfiction as you read for the contest?

Joy Castro: Thank you. I’ll be looking for intensity, urgency, necessity: something that surprises yet feels organic—not contrived, not forced, not striving to shock or sensationalize or impress but just genuinely unique due to the lived conditions from which it arises. Something vulnerable, something risky, something that doesn’t waste time.

I dearly love to see a mind in motion, the voice of a questing, vulnerable subject with a lot at stake, and I love to see formal experimentation when that’s melded to content and purpose in a meaningful way.

That said, my tastes are catholic, and my mind is very open….

Read more here.


Photo credit: Shae Sackman

Born in Miami, raised in England and West Virginia, and educated in Texas, Joy Castro is the award-winning author of the memoir The Truth Book, two literary thrillers set in post-Katrina New Orleans: Hell or High Water and Nearer Home, the essay collection Island of Bones, and the short fiction collection How Winter Began. Her work has appeared in venues including Ploughshares, Senses of Cinema, Brevity, Fourth Genre, North American Review, SalonAfro-Hispanic ReviewGulf Coast, and the New York Times Magazine. Winner of the Nebraska Book Award and an International Latino Book Award, finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award, an alternate for the Berlin Prize, editor of the anthology Family Trouble, and a former Writer in Residence at Vanderbilt University, she’s the Willa Cather Professor of English and Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she teaches creative writing, literature, and Latinx studies.


Graywolf Press is a nonprofit literary publisher of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and work in translation.

Their mission:

Graywolf Press is a leading independent publisher committed to the discovery and energetic publication of twenty-first century American and international literature. We champion outstanding writers at all stages of their careers to ensure that adventurous readers can find underrepresented and diverse voices in a crowded marketplace.

We believe works of literature nourish the reader’s spirit and enrich the broader culture, and that they must be supported by attentive editing, compelling design, and creative promotion.