Little Bird Writing Contest

The Little Bird Writing Contest

The 2020 Little Bird Contest will take place in the fall. Find out who won the 2019 contest!

Last year's contest prompt was:

Write a story that starts with an ending. Give your character an unusual watch, use the words “striped” and “innovative” somewhere, and end your story with fruit.

Our 2019 contest judge was Cherie Dimaline, author of The Marrow Thieves.

Sign up for my letters below to receive the announcement of the 2020 contest opening.

Newsletter Opt-in/Bloom Replacement


  • Winner: $1,000
  • First runner-up: $250
  • Second runner-up: $250
As well, the winning stories are published in an annual short fiction anthology: Little Bird Stories.
Here's What To Do:

(These are the guidelines for the 2019 contest, which is now closed. Next year's guidelines will be posted in fall 2020.)
  1. Start writing. Your story must be inspired by this year's contest prompt:
    Write a story that starts with an ending. Give your character an unusual watch, use the words “striped” and “innovative” somewhere, and end your story with fruit.
  2. Read “Deep Revision”, my free series of writing tutorials. Do the homework: it will help you rewrite your story draft to make sure it’s the best it can be. You can find it on my Free Resources page.
  3. Subscribe to Little Bird Stories to read stories by past winners.
  4. Submit your finished story between April 1, 2019 and May 1, 2019, at 9pm ET.
  • be a maximum of 2,500 words
  • be inspired by this year's contest prompt
  • be double-spaced with numbered pages and submitted as a .pdf or .doc file (.docx files are not accepted)
  • be submitted anonymously: your name must not appear anywhere on your story to ensure the objectivity of the judge (your name will go on the submission form only)
  • be accompanied by a $25 entry fee (you may enter as many times as you like).
Important dates:

April 1, 2019: Contest opens

April 12, 2019, 12pm ET: Little Bird Salon

May 1, 2019, 9pm ET: Contest closes

Any questions? Please get in touch with us at [email protected]

About this year's judge
Read the announcement on our blog!

Cherie Dimaline is a Métis author and editor whose award-winning fiction has been published and anthologized internationally. Her first book, Red Rooms, was published in 2007, and her novel The Girl Who Grew a Galaxy was released in 2013. In 2014, she was named the Emerging Artist of the Year at the Ontario Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, and became the first Aboriginal Writer in Residence for the Toronto Public Library. Her book A Gentle Habit was published in August 2016. Her latest book, The Marrow Thieves, won the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Kirkus Prize; was a finalist for the White Pine Award, was named to the Globe and Mail Top 100, and was selected for CBC’s Canada Reads in 2018.
Little Bird Salon
On April 12, 2019, Cherie Dimaline and I met to discuss story, ceremony, craft, and magic.

Cherie Dimaline is a generous, intelligent, and compassionate writer with incredible energy. In this call, she tells us how to honour our first draft process. I ask her to explain the difference between adult fiction and YA fiction — and she has a surprising answer! We talk about how the publishing industry is changing. We talk about mystery and magic. In my favourite part of the call, she reminds us that storytellers are special, and explains why it is so important that we write and share stories.

To listen to the recording, log in to your Sarah Selecky Writing School Simplero account and access Free Resources. If you don't have access to my Free Resources yet, you can sign up here.
About the contest
When I first went on Twitter, I tweeted daily writing prompts. They worked so well that people wanted to know how to use what they’d written, which is where the idea for The Little Bird Writing Contest came from. It’s now an annual, international contest exclusively for innovative, emerging short fiction writers. The contest opens each spring when the birds come back and showcases the excellent stories (up to 2,500-words) that come from Sarah Selecky Writing School's daily writing prompts. And when we say showcase, we mean it—each year we publish a beautiful anthology that is available to subscribers. Five dollars from every subscription goes to the Pelee Island Bird Observatory, to help protect the real little birds out there. To subscribe, go here. And that’s not all. Each winning story is chosen by a celebrated author who also participates in The Little Bird Salon so that you can benefit from what they have to say (see below).

Little Bird Judges
  • 2019 - Cherie Dimaline
  • 2018 - Michelle Winters
  • 2017 - Esi Edugyan
  • 2016 - Lisa Moore
  • 2015 - Neil Smith
  • 2014 - Rebecca Lee
  • 2013 - Alex Ohlin
  • 2012 - Zsuzsi Gartner
  • 2011 - Matthew Trafford & Jessica Westhead

Little Bird Salon
Each year, since 2013, I’ve spoken to The Little Bird Writing Contest judge about what inspires them, the process of writing, what they think of revision, and more.

In 2013 Alix Ohlin and I spoke on the phone with over 250 writers and readers listening around the world. In 2014, Rebecca Lee and I had a Skype chat from Toronto-Wilmington, NC. In 2015 I spoke with Neil Smith, from Montreal. In 2016, I spoke to Lisa Moore about the “tremendous engine of desire” that drives story and why a writer has to use intuition before submitting something for publication. In 2017, Esi Edugyan gave practical advice to writers who want to understand the creative process, especially how to balance research with writing, how to turn first draft scenes into full stories, and what makes a compelling opening paragraph. This year, Michelle Winters and I talked about why writing contests are so important. She shared what she's looking for in a story—what makes a "gut punch" happen—and why surprises are so critical in short-story writing. We also talked about extensive revisions, and how to balance deadlines and rewriting.

We have a secret room in our Sarah Selecky Writing School classroom to inspire your creative process. All of the Little Bird Salons, along with other free resources, are available for you. Please help yourself! Sign up on my Free Resources page.
Become a Little Bird Stories Subscriber
Subscribe to Little Bird Stories, and read what writers who placed in The Little Bird Writing Contest did with our Daily Writing Prompts in previous years! Get all published volumes of Little Bird Stories right now, and receive a new anthology of fresh short fiction every year. A lifetime subscription is $25. A percentage of every subscription goes to the Pelee Island Bird Observatory, to help protect the real little birds out there. When you become a Little Bird Subscriber, you're supporting the study and conservation of wild birds and their habitats!

Ready to become a subscriber?

Buy Now