Exploring the art of prose


CRAFT Memoir Excerpt & Essay Contest 2023

2023 CRAFT Memoir Excerpt & Essay Contest

$3,400 Awarded

November 13, 2023 – January 14, 2024

Thank you to all the writers who sent work to our
2023 Memoir Excerpt & Essay Contest,
guest judged by Sarah Fawn Montgomery.

We are delighted to publish the winning pieces
and editors’ choice selections in June 2024.
Congratulations to all the honorees listed below!


Chaya Bhuvaneswar: “Orchid,” Excerpt from Orchid: A Memoir
Elissa Lash: “Twelve”
Gabe Montesanti: “Bus Stop”

Editors’ Choice Selections

Herb Harris: Excerpts from The Space Between
Tori Malcangio: “Racing,” Excerpt from My Heart Is a Bomb


Susan Barr-Toman: “The Vanishing”
Rose Gerszberg: “Drawing Breath in Chapters”
Calvin Gimpelevich: “Lions and Tigers”
Rebecca T. Godwin: “Rapid Channeling”
Vedran Husić: “Missouri Anabasis”
Kristina Kasparian: “Out of Body”
Lucy McBee: “Green”
Thuy Phan: “Accepting My Dad’s Adidas Shirts”
Alexis M. Wright: Excerpt from Membership

The Rest of the Longlist

Faith Adiele: “How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Structure My Writing Wants: A Brown Manifesto”
Michael Agugom: “Songs on Sundries”
Angelica Allen: “The Echo”
Janet Burroway: “East Alvarado,” Excerpt from As Far As I Can Tell
Éanlaí Cronin: “The Trees That Burned His Name”
Kate Horowitz: “Rabbit Facts”
Ralph Wales Huntley: “Egg”
Lisa Kaufman: “Something is Wrong,” Excerpt from May You Have a Long Slow Recovery
Kimberly Nelson: “Sacred Places”
Jennifer Thuy Vi Nguyen: “The Excluded”

Honorable Mentions

Consuelo Arias: “Three Memories”
Adèle Barclay: “Every Possible Way,” Excerpt from Black Cherry
Elizabeth Evans: Excerpt from All of the Above
Anne Rochell Konigsmark: Excerpt from Long Gone Lonesome
Ann Levin: “Sprezzatura”
Emi Macuaga: Excerpt from The Things We Hide
Leonid Newhouse: “Brothers, Comrades, Friends”
Kathy Z. Price: “The Sister Chronicles”
Jennifer Springsteen: “Hello, I’m the On Call Chaplain”
Michele J. Thomas: “Creature Comforts”
Carson Wolfe: “Shades of Pink”

We will return in Winter 2024 with our next creative nonfiction contest!

2023 CRAFT Memoir Excerpt & Essay Contest

Calling all memoirists and essayists—we want to read your story! We’re looking for your most authentic creative nonfiction for the 2023 CRAFT Memoir Excerpt & Essay Contest. Here’s what our wonderful guest judge, Sarah Fawn Montgomery, would like to see for this contest:

I’m looking for work that does not follow predictable patterns, but instead reimagines structural and stylistic possibilities entirely, transporting the reader into a writer’s world as opposed to translating that world for the reader. I want to be immersed in the writer’s mind, experiencing their sense of self in all its tender, powerful, painful, and gorgeous uncertainty. I’m drawn to unapologetic vulnerability, a thorough questioning of subject and self, and an attempt to capture complexity that does not necessarily result in tidy conclusion. Bonus points for attention to image and language that sings.

Please carefully review the guidelines below, then send us your most polished work. Three winners will receive $1,000 each and publication. Our team will also select two “editors choices” to publish alongside the three grand-prize winners. All fifteen shortlisted creative nonfiction writers will receive a $1,000 scholarship to PocketMFA. Do your words “sing” on the page? If so, dont wait—submit ASAP!


  • The contest is open November 13, 2023, to January 14, 2024.
  • CRAFT submissions are open to all writers, emerging and experienced.
  • Submit creative nonfiction ONLY! (Please, no academic work, flash prose, short fiction, or poetry.)
  • International submissions are allowed.
  • Please submit work primarily written in English, but conceptually or stylistically necessary code-switching/meshing is warmly welcomed.
  • This contest is for creative nonfiction excerpts and essays between 1,001 and 6,000 words. Please do not submit flash prose.
  • We review literary creative nonfiction, but are open to a variety of genres and styles including memoir excerpts, lyric essays, personal essays, narrative nonfiction, speculative nonfiction, and experimental prose—our only requirement is that you show excellence in your craft.
  • For this contest, we will consider previously unpublished work only—we will not review reprints or partial reprints, including self-published work (even if only on social media). Reprints will be automatically disqualified.
  • We allow simultaneous submissions—writers, please notify us and withdraw your entry if your work is accepted elsewhere.
  • The $20 reading fee per entry allows one longform creative nonfiction piece (either memoir excerpt or essay) from 1,001 to 6,000 words. We will not read flash nonfiction prose for this contest. Please do not submit flash prose.
  • We allow multiple submissions—each entry should be accompanied by a separate reading fee.
  • All entries will also be considered for publication in CRAFT.
  • Please double-space your submission and use Times New Roman 12.
  • Please include a brief cover letter with your publication history (if applicable).
  • Please include appropriate content warnings (if applicable), for the sake of our dedicated, diligent staff.
  • We do not require anonymous submissions, but the guest judge will review the shortlist anonymously.
  • Creative nonfiction writers from historically marginalized groups are invited to submit for free until we reach the twenty-five free submissions budgeted for this particular contest. Email us with relevant inquiries.
  • 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/disqualified without complete review.
  • AI-generated work will be automatically disqualified.
  • Entries that do not adhere to these guidelines in full will be declined/disqualified without complete review.


The writers of the three winning pieces will receive:
  • $1,000 each;
  • publication in CRAFT, each with an introduction by Sarah Fawn Montgomery;
  • publication of an author’s note (craft essay) to accompany the piece;
  • and a set of six titles of Graywolf’s The Art Of series.
The two writers chosen in the editors’ choice round will receive:
  • $200 each;
  • publication in CRAFT, each with an introduction by the editorial team;
  • and publication of an author’s note (craft essay) to accompany the piece.

All fifteen shortlisted writers will also receive a $1,000 scholarship to PocketMFA.


SARAH FAWN MONTGOMERY is the author of Halfway from Home (Split/Lip Press, 2022), winner of a Nautilus Book Award. She is also the author of Quite Mad: An American Pharma Memoir (The Ohio State University Press, 2018) and three poetry chapbooks, as well as a forthcoming craft book on writing disability (Sundress Publications, 2025). Her work has been listed as Notable in The Best American Essays many times, and her poetry and prose have appeared in Brevity, Catapult, Cincinnati Review, DIAGRAM, Electric Literature, Literary Hub, New England Review, The Normal School, Passages North, Poetry Foundation, The Rumpus, Southeast Review, Terrain, and numerous other journals and anthologies. She is an associate professor at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts. Find her on Twitter at @SF_Montgomery.


  • Friends, family, and associates of the guest judge are not eligible for consideration for the award.
  • Our collaboration with editorial professionals in the judging of our contests and the awarding of our prizes does not imply an endorsement or recognition from their agencies, houses, presses, universities, etc.
  • Read (and enjoy!) our 2022 contest winners for examples of work we’ve chosen to publish in the past.
  • As we only consider unpublished writing, and will publish the winning pieces in June 2024, any work under contract to publish prior to September 2024 should not be entered in this contest.


You may choose to receive editorial feedback on your work. We will provide line-level marginal editorial notes, as well as a two-page global letter discussing the strengths of the writing and the recommended focus for revision. While editorial feedback is inherently subjective, our criticism is always actionable and encouraging. Work that we critique is not eligible for future CRAFT contests. If your piece is chosen for publication, feedback will not be given and your feedback fee will be returned.


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.

BLACK LAWRENCE PRESS has also generously partnered with CRAFT to provide contest submitters a free six-month subscription to their weekly e-newsletter Sapling (a $15 value). Sapling is a wonderful resource for writers highlighting the best the small-press and indie-publishing world has to offer. The coupon code will be provided upon submission.

PocketMFA is a twelve-week mentoring and workshopping program, designed to make more accessible the rigor, community, and guidance of a graduate-level writing program. Based on the low-residency MFA model, PocketMFA places up to ten writers with a creative nonfiction mentor of their choice, to work through our three distinct and entirely virtual phases of Direct Instruction, Mentorship & Workshopping, and Writing Life Residency. All fifteen shortlisted creative nonfiction writers will receive a $1,000 scholarship to PocketMFA.