Prize Categories | Eligibility Criteria | Rules & Regulations | Entry Requirements


Prize Categories

The prize for the winning entrant in each category is $250 and an invitation to read from the winning manuscript at the Celebration of Emerging Writers in Halifax in May of the competition year.

Budge Wilson Short Fiction Prize: Entry must be a work of short fiction or an excerpt from a longer work of fiction (up to a maximum of 3,000 words) and may be in any genre (historical fiction, literary fiction, mystery, romance, speculative fiction, or otherwise).

Rita Joe Poetry Prize: Entry must be no more than six poems (up to a maximum of 1,500 words) and may be in any style. For judging purposes, each entry must be given a collection title. It is not a requirement that the poems have a thread that binds them, but many of our readers and judges will be looking for that thread as a basis of evaluation. Do not include images of any kind. If your poems rely on particular spacing, please submit as a PDF to ensure that the text does not shift when opened on another computer.

H.R. (Bill) Percy Short Creative Non-Fiction PrizeEntry must be a creative non-fiction essay or an excerpt from a longer work of creative non-fiction (up to a maximum of 3,000 words). Creative non-fiction is a form of non-fiction that uses inventive or literary techniques to produce work that is factually true and artistically elegant. Eligible works of creative non-fiction are the following written in a personal, identifiable voice: history, narrative journalism, memoir, personal essay, and travel writing.

Joyce Barkhouse Writing for Children & Young Adult Fiction PrizeThis prize category alternates annually between writing for children and writing for young adults. Entries are judged based on the criteria for their respective age ranges, with overall excellence being the determining factor in selecting a shortlist and winner. Entrants in this category should pay close attention to age appropriateness, as a miscategorization on the part of the writer will count against the entry. Picture books are not accepted.

  • Young Adult Fiction (2020 category): Entry must be a short story or an excerpt from a longer work of fiction (up to a maximum of 3,000 words) for young adult readers (aged 12+) and may be in any genre (historical fiction, literary fiction, mystery, speculative fiction, or otherwise). If your entry is an excerpt, include a summary of the excerpted work as the first page of your manuscript document. This summary should contain no biographical or other personally identifiable information.
  • Writing for Children (2019/2021 category): Entry must be short fiction, short creative non-fiction, or an excerpt from a longer work of fiction/non-fiction (up to a maximum of 3,000 words) and may be from a chapter book (ages 6-9, independent reader) or a middle grade novel (ages 8-12). Identify at the beginning of your manuscript document whether the work is (from) a chapter book or middle grade novel. Readers and judges evaluate entries based on suitability to and conventions of each age range. A chapter book is a short novel of moderate complexity intended for intermediate readers. The story is told primarily through prose, though it does contain illustrations. The book is usually divided into short chapters designed to hold the interest of shorter attention spans. A middle grade novel is longer and more complex than a chapter book but shorter than a YA novel and with less-mature themes (PG rating). Romance, if present, is puppy love. There are no depictions of extreme/graphic violence. If there is cursing, it’s generally mild or only implied. Middle grade novels tend to have main characters who are the age of, or slightly older than, the target reader. The plot tends to be more outwardly focused than a chapter book, consistent with the reader's greater independence. Do not include illustrations, but feel free to indicate where illustrations might appear.

Le prix Félix Thibodeau de la forme courteCe prix récompensera l’auteur.e d’un texte littéraire (poésie ou prose--contes, nouvelles, poèmes, fables...en français d’un maximum de 3 000 mots.

Eligibility Criteria

To be considered an eligible entrant of the Nova Writes Competition for Unpublished Manuscripts, a writer must meet the following criteria:

  • You are 16 years of age or older and are a full-time resident of Nova Scotia who has lived in the province since the September 1 immediately prior to the submission deadline date. Residency refers to permanent residency (i.e., you file your taxes in Nova Scotia). Out-of-province college/university students are not considered residents for the purposes of this competition.
  • You have not published a standalone book or more than three shorter works (in recognized anthologies or periodicals) in the prize category you wish to enter. High school or university anthologies do not count against your total.
  • You are not a reader or judge in the prize category you wish to enter.
  • You are not a previous winner of Nova Writes (or Altantic Writing Competition) in the prize category you wish to enter.
  • You are not a staff member of the Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia.

To be considered an eligible entry for the Nova Writes Competition for Unpublished Manuscripts, a manuscript must meet the following criteria:

  • The manuscript meets the requirements of the prize category to which it is submitted, including genre and maximum word count, as outlined under each category description.
  • The manuscript is submitted digitally, either through our online entry form (if paying online by PayPal/credit card) or via email to with the subject line "Nova Writes – [Category/prize name] – [Pen Name]" (if paying via mail by cheque/money order made payable to the Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia). Physical submissions cannot be accepted.
  • The manuscript is the original work of the entrant and unpublished (in part or in whole) in print or online. The manuscript cannot have been self-published, accepted for publication, submitted for publication elsewhere, or entered into another competition at the time of entry nor during the course of the competition.
    • If you decide to submit your manuscript elsewhere during the competition, you must contact the WFNS to withdraw your manuscript from the competition. The Nova Writes entry fee will not be refunded.
    • Once the competition results have been revealed, you are free to submit your manuscript elsewhere. You retain copyright of your manuscript entry. 
  • The manuscript is accompanied by a pen name and does not contain the real name of the entrant.
    • To help ensure the impartiality of readers and judges during the assessment process, entrants must choose a pen name to accompany their manuscripts. The purpose of the pen name is to maintain entrant anonymity, so the chosen pen name cannot be connected to you (e.g., it cannot be in active use as an online alias). At no point in the assessment process are readers and judges to be made aware of the identity of entrants. Entries submitted without a pen name will be considered ineligible. Please do not put your real name anywhere on your manuscript. Your real name must appear only on your cover letter, which is for office use only.
  • The manuscript is the entrant's sole entry in the prize category that year. Entrants may submit to more than one prize category in a given year, but each entry requires its own entry form and entry fee.
  • The manuscript is not a previous winning or shortlisted entry in the Nova Writes competition (or the Altantic Writing Competition). Entrants may resubmit a manuscript that was submitted in a previous year provided the piece did not win or make the shortlist.

Entrants and entries that do not meet all eligibility criteria and accord with all competition rules & regulations and entry requirements (including formatting) will be considered ineligible for the competition and adjudication process.

Rules & Regulations

  • First-round readers remain anonymous. Volunteer readers cannot be contacted to provide additional feedback or expand on their feedback.
  • Decisions of the judges are final. Volunteer judges cannot be contacted to provide additional feedback or expand on their feedback. 
  • Readers and judges have the same prerogative as any reader at a publishing house, which is to stop reading any manuscript whose first few pages are rife with spelling and grammatical errors.
  • The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia reserves the right not to proceed the adjudication or awarding of any prize category should (a) the entries received not meet standards of quality in the opinion of the judges or (b) the number of entries received not be high enough to ensure a competitive process. The decision not to offer a prize for such a category is final and at the discretion of the WFNS. However, feedback will still be offered on all entries in that category.  
  • WFNS will keep a copy of all complete and eligible submissions for one year following the Nova Writes deadline date before deleting them.
  • Competition entries that are incomplete, formatted improperly, longer than the indicated word limit, submitted without a pen name, submitted after the deadline, or submitted past 11:59pm on the deadline will be consider ineligible. Your entry is not considered complete until we have received payment. Please ensure that your entry is otherwise complete and correct before submitting.
  • Due to the volume of Nova Writes entries, revised entries cannot be accepted. Revised documents will not be accepted unless we specifically request them. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the WFNS office prior to submitting your manuscript.

Entry Requirements

Please read these entry submission requirements carefully. If you have any questions about these requirements, please email Please ask for assistance no later than two weeks before the competition close date. If you send a queries within one week of the deadline, we may not be able to answer you before the competition deadline.

We are unable to provide technical assistance such as formatting or attaching documents to email. If you require this kind of assistance, please speak to a friend or family member or contact your local library branch.

To be considered complete and eligible, each Nova Writes entry must include the following items:

  • Completed entry form
    • If submitting online (and paying online by PayPal/credit card), you must complete our online entry form.
    • If submitting via email (paying via mail by cheque/money order made payable to the Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia), send an email to (with the subject line "Nova Writes – [Category/prize name] – [Pen Name]") instead of completing the online entry form.
  • Non-refundable $20 entry fee ($25 for non-members)
    • If we receive a fee without an accompanying manuscript, we will reach out to you.
  • Unpublished manuscript, in digital form, that contains no personally identifiable information and is formatted as follows:
    • If you are submitting to a category that requires a summary, include the summary in this document and ensure it contains no personally identifiable information.
    • Use Times New Roman or Arial 12-point font.
    • Use A4 (8.5"x11") page size with a minimum 1" margin on all sides.
    • Number each page in sequence in the upper right hand corner, and include the entrant's pen name in the header of each page.
    • Double-space your text. (For poetry manuscripts, this requirement does not apply. Please space poetry as you intend it to be read.)
    • Use DOC/DOCX or PDF format. (For poetry manuscripts, please use PDF format. This will ensure your spacing, margins, and other formatting work are preserved.)
    • Use a file name that includes the pen name, the manuscript title, and the category/prize name (e.g., PenName_MyStory_BudgeWilson.doc).
  • Cover letter, in digital form, that will be used internally by the WFNS and will not be submitted to readers
    • Provide the entrant's pen name, real name, permanent address, phone number, and e-mail address.
    • Include a one-paragraph biographical note on the entrant, including mention of any previous writing credits.
    • Include the final word count of the entered manuscript.
    • Include the digital declaration as outlined below (if submitting via email and paying via mail).
    • Use a file name that includes the pen name, the manuscript title, the category/prize name, and the phrase "cover letter" (e.g., PenName_MyStory_BudgeWilson_CoverLetter.doc).
  • Digital declaration stating that the entrant and submission meet all eligibility criteria and attesting to the entrant's status as a Nova Scotia resident
    • If submitting online, this declaration must be made by marking checkboxes on our online entry form.
    • If submitting via email, this declaration must be included as a note in the cover letter described above.

For questions or further information, please contact us.