Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest

$1000 for one winning personal essay

The 2024 contest is now closed.

Edna Staebler was a pioneer in the field of literary journalism and a beloved figure in her (our) home region of Waterloo, Ontario. Her first article, “Duellists of the Deep,” a story about swordfishing with Neil’s Harbour fishermen, and published in Macleans when she was in her forties, won the Canadian Womens Press Club Memorial Award. Edna went on to publish with MacleansChatelaineSaturday Night, and other flagship magazines, while her books include the Food that Really Schmecks series—cookbooks so entertaining that people read them in bed. Edna led by example in other ways as well, founding eponymous writers’ awards, scholarships, and bursaries to nurture writers. She helped to found The New Quarterly in 1981, and in 2005 her generous bequest allowed us to establish this award, in her honour.


  • A $1000 top prize will be awarded for one personal essay.
  • All entries will be considered for publication in The New Quarterly ($250 paid upon publication).
  • Entry fee: $40 per essay (includes a 1-year Canadian subscription or renewal to The New Quarterly).
  • Entrants’ anonymity will be preserved throughout the judging process.
  • Decisions will be posted by late August. Finalists will be notified ahead by email.


  • We are interested in essays in which the writer’s personal engagement with the subject provides the frame or through-line.
  • Entrants must be Canadian (citizen or resident).
  • Submissions must be unpublished, nor can they be accepted for publication elsewhere.
  • Submissions are accepted online only.
  • We also accept payment by cheque or credit card over the phone. Contact usfor more information.

Formatting Guidelines

  • While there is no word limit to personal essay contest entries, most essays fall within the range of 2000 – 5000 words.
  • Kindly use 12-point font and use 1.5 spacing in your personal essay submission.
  • Include a word count at the end of your personal essay.
  • Include page numbers at the top right hand corner of your submission. Format page numbers as: “Page 1 of x.”
  • Submissions must be in .doc, .docx, or .pdf format.
  • Do not include footnotes or Works Cited in your submission. If external sources are absolutely necessary to include in your personal essay, please reference them within the text.
  • Entrant’s name must not appear in the essay.
  • If names used in your essay might reveal your identity, please use pseudonyms and make a note on your entry form; that way we can ask for real names should the piece go to publication.