Home > Contests > How PRISM Judges Its Literary Contests

By Andrea Hoff, Contest Manager

It’s an exciting time of year at PRISM international! Our non-fiction contest has just wrapped up, and our fiction and poetry contest deadline is fast approaching on January 25 (you still have 10 days to send in your fiction and poetry contest submissions). I thought I’d take a moment to address a question I am often asked: How are the literary contests judged?

We judge on a blind submission basis. As Contest Manager, I receive all the submissions with names and contact information attached. This applies whether you enter online or with a mail-in entry. I then remove the names of the writers from their submissions, and each piece is sent out to a minimum of three first readers. The first readers are all master’s students in the Department of Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia. The first readers vote on each piece and submit a written critique of the work.

The votes are then tallied and a long list is established of the top 15 submissions. The long list is submitted to a panel of at least four second readers. The second readers read each long-listed work and establish a short list. The short list comprises the top ten submissions. The second readers are also master’s students in Creative Writing at UBC.

Once the short list is established, it is sent to our judge. The judge reads all the works on the short list and decides on a grand prize winner, a first runner-up, and a second runner-up. The judge also submits an essay on the winning entries. This year our non-fiction judge is Andreas Schroeder – celebrated Canadian non-fiction writer with 23 published books and numerous literary awards.

Only once the judge has chosen the winners are the writers’ names connected to their submissions again and the exciting time of announcing the long list, the short list, and the three winners begins. This year, we will announce these lists here on three successive days: Monday, January 14 for the long list; Tuesday, January 15 for the short list; and Wednesday, January 16 for the winners.

This year we had a record number of submissions and were thrilled at the high quality of writing. Congratulations are due for everyone who entered!