About the Short Nonfiction Contest

Submissions for the Kenyon Review Short Nonfiction Contest are accepted electronically every year from December 1 through December 31.

The Kenyon Review publishes the winning essay in print, and the author is awarded a full scholarship to attend the Kenyon Review Writers Workshops.

  • Submit via our Submittable portal, starting December 1. We cannot accept paper submissions. 
  • Writers must not have published a book of creative nonfiction at the time of submission. (We define a “published book of creative nonfiction” as a memoir, book of essays, or other creative nonfiction collection written by you and published by someone other than you in print, on the web, or in ebook format.)
  • Submissions must be no more than 3,000 words in length.
  • Please submit no more than once per year. 
  • Please do not simultaneously submit your contest entry to another magazine or contest. 
  • Please do not submit work that has been previously published.
  • Before you submit, please remove your name and any other identifying information from your manuscript.
  • The Submittable portal will remain active between December 1 and 31, 2023. 
  • The entry fee for the Short Nonfiction Contest is just $24, collected at the time of submission. All entrants are invited to claim a complimentary half-year Print plus Digital subscription to The Kenyon Review (for domestic addresses) or a half-year Digital-only subscription (for international addresses) through January 15, 2024. Your new half-year subscription to The Kenyon Review will include the Spring 2024 and Summer 2024 issues. Current subscribers will receive a two-issue extension on their current subscription. As always, we will open in the fall for regular submissions, which we read at no cost to writers.
Photo of Melissa Febos

The final judge of this year’s contest is Melissa Febos. Febos is the author of four books, including the nationally bestselling essay collection, Girlhood, which has been translated into seven languages and was a LAMBDA Literary Award finalist, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism, and named a notable book of 2021 by NPR, Time, The Washington Post, and others. Her craft book, Body Work (2022), was also a national bestseller, an LA Times Bestseller, and an Indie Next Pick. Her fifth book, The Dry Season, is forthcoming from Alfred. A. Knopf.

The recipient of a 2022 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a 2022 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, and the Jeanne Córdova Nonfiction Award from LAMBDA Literary, Melissa’s work has appeared in publications including The Paris Review, The New Yorker, The Sun, The Kenyon Review, Tin House, Granta, The Believer, McSweeney’s, The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, Elle, and Vogue.

Photo credit: Beowulf Sheehan

Winners will be announced in the late spring. You will receive an email notifying you of any decisions regarding your work.

Thanks for your interest in The Kenyon Review!

Announcing the 2023 Contest Winner and Runners-Up

Guest Judge Leslie Jamison selected Carrie Cogan’s “Lowest of the Low on a High Red Hill as the winner of The Kenyon Review’s 2023 Short Nonfiction Contest. “The voice of this essay moved like wind through hollowed-out bone, to borrow one of its countless haunted images,” says Jamison. “There’s an electric and infinitely compelling relationship dramatized here between various dimensions of the self—past and present, person and pathology—and pivots of mind and heart, moments of insight and feeling, that I will never forget.” 

The Men” by Mikaela Dunitz and Poor Historian” by Katie Winkelstein-Duveneck were selected as runners up. “Propelled by lyric rhythms and tender inquiry, by turns sharp as a blade and distended by longing, ‘The Men,’ explores with eloquence and complexity the second truth embedded in Winicott’s famous adage: ‘It is a joy to be hidden, but a disaster not to be found,’”Jamison writes. And of Winkelstein-Duveneck’s piece, Jamison says, “with a gaze sharply etched and often aching, ‘Poor Historian’ addresses itself toward the ways we account for ourselves–to each other, and the world–and the gaps in those acts of accounting, where the deepest truths often dwell.”

“Lowest of the Low on a High Red Hill” will appear in the Winter 2024 issue.

Past Winners

2023 Winners

First Prize: Carrie Cogan,  “Highest of the High on a Low Red Hill”

Runner-up: Mikaela Dunitz, “The Men”

Runner-up: Katie Winkelstein-Duveneck, “Poor Historian”

2022 Winners

Winner: Karen Kao, “Fish Tales

Honorable Mention: Leah Alter, “Roses”

Honorable Mention: Sam Berman, “When You Jump Off The Brooklyn Bridge”

2021 Winners

First Prize: Brigitte Leschhorn Arrocha“And We Inherit Everything”

Runner-up: Christian Butterfield“Blue Whale Challenge”

Runner-up: dm armstrong“Translating”

Honorable Mention: Sandrine Tunezerwe, “Ndagukunda” and Madeline Horan, “The Quiet Limit of the World”

2020 Winners

First Prize: Miriam Grossman“2004”

Runner-up: Mary O. Parker“Currents and Eddies”

Runner-up: Stella Li“Mouthwater”

2019 Winners

First Prize: Anna Hartford“Hello Fridge”

Runner-up: KT Sparks“Saving Luna”

Runner-up: Benjamin Garcia“The Great Glass Closet”

Honorable Mention: My Tran, “The Black Cake”; and Dasom Yang, “Memory Collage 1”