The BrainStorm Poetry Contest - Enter by March 13, 2015


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Northern Initiative for Social Action and Open Minds Quarterly are pleased to announce our 13th Annual BrainStorm Poetry Contest. The contest, which opens for entries on January 2, 2015, is open to poets worldwide who have personally experienced mental health issues or mental illness (‘consumer/survivors’ or ‘people with lived experience’). In each of the last 12 years our judges we have been moved and impressed by the poetry that our contest brings in, and we look forward to seeing what works arrive this year.

Is 13 your lucky number? Enter the 13th Annual BrainStorm Poetry Contest and find out! Read through the full rules and regulations below, then choose your method of entry, by mail or online. The entry fee is $15 for up to three poems, and only $12 if you submit them online. All poems must arrive by 4 p.m. Friday, March 13, 2015 to be considered by the judges. (Remember, this contest is blind-judged, so please make sure your name is not shown on your poems.)

This contest is intended as a fundraiser for NISA’s magazine Open Minds Quarterly, as well as a way to support excellence in the craft of poetry from our peer community by recognizing that excellence with monetary prizes to the top three winners. We also celebrate the winners and honourable mentions with publication in Open Minds Quarterly. The entry fees we collect go towards the monetary prizes and any dollars collected beyond that go to Open Minds Quarterly. It isn’t a big fundraiser for us, but we feel it is an important event for our community. We hope you will agree, knowing that your fees are supporting your peers, who turn to creative expression for many reasons, including healing. 

To enter, begin by reading through all the rules and regulations below, then clicking on one of the buttons for online submission or mailed submission. Good luck!

—Dinah Laprairie, Editor, Open Minds

PS. Savvy writers need to know how to tell if a writing contest is legitimate. Read an excerpt from our how-to manual “An Adventure in Chapbook Publishing” by Anthony Chalk.

Contest Rules & Regulations

The contest is open only to consumers/survivors of mental health services* internationally. It aims to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness by showcasing the talents and creativity of individuals living with mental illness.

The contest opens Friday, January 2, 2015 and closes at noon on Friday, March 13, 2015. All entries must be received before 4 p.m. on March 13 and payment must arrive with entry. Entries will not be returned. Eligible poems will be blind-judged by a consumer/family panel.

Poetry about the experience of mental illness is welcomed; however, all subjects are acceptable. Poems are judged on poetic merit: originality, creativity, how well it changed or provoked readers’ thoughts, how well it was written, the effective use of imagery and sound devices, writing mechanics, and whether the poem maintained a sensation after it was read — the latter a critical factor in the final round of judging.

The top-three winning poems will be published in an upcoming issue of Open Minds Quarterly, NISA’s literary journal, and publicized during Mental Health Week in May 2015. Winners will receive three copies of the issue of Open Minds Quarterly in which their work appears. The top-three winners will also receive monetary awards: $250 for First Place; $150 for Second Place; $75 for Third Place. Entries receiving Honourable Mentions may be published in subsequent issues of Open Minds Quarterly. The judges’ decisions are final. Monetary prizes will be awarded in Canadian dollars.

Authors retain the rights to their writing and, after the contest, are welcome to submit their poems to Open Minds Quarterly for regular review.

To be eligible, each entry must:

  • be written in English;
  • be accompanied by an entry form (for every three poems entered);
  • arrive with your entry fee;
  • NOT have any names or identifying marks (put your name only on the accompanying entry form);
  • be typed;
  • be printed on 8.5” x 11” or A4 paper, one poem per page
  • be no more than 30 lines in length
  • not include any drawings or images
  • arrive at NISA by Friday, March 13, 2015, 4 p.m.
  • arrive by surface mail, hand delivery, or through the online submission form (no faxes or e-mails).

Poems are not eligible if:

  • they have already been published by or accepted for publication in Open Minds Quarterly.
  • the rules listed above are not followed
  • entry fee payment is returned due to insufficient funds.

NISA staff and board members are ineligible for entry. Disqualified entrants will not be notified of disqualification.

Entry Fee

There are two fee options. The online entry fee is $12.00 for up to three poems. If you are mailing in your entry, the fee is $15.00. Do not send cash in the mail. Cheques or money orders must be made payable to NISA or Northern Initiative for Social Action; credit card payments can be sent via to, but please include your payment confirmation with your mailed entry form.

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