The 2017 Brainstorm Poetry Contest is open for submissions until March 10th, 2017. Click "Submit" below to enter your poems. 

Open Minds Quarterly is a forum for the voices of people living with mental health challenges or mental illnesses. We accept essays, poetry, fiction, first-person accounts and reviews. Our full submission guidelines can be found on our website at

Please note: General submissions are currently closed.  

Due to staffing changes, Open Minds Quarterly is facing a considerable submission backlog. We’re working as hard as we can to give every piece that has already been submitted the careful reading it deserves and to select pieces for publication in the upcoming Winter and Spring 2017 issues. Clearing the backlog will take several weeks – at least – and general submissions will re-open after that.

Please check back in Feb. 2017 for new information about submissions!

Ends on March 10, 2017$12.00

Welcome! Below you will find all the rules and regulations for our 15th Annual BrainStorm Poetry Contest, a small fundraiser organized by NISA/Northern Initiative for Social Action for our literary magazine Open Minds Quarterly: The poetry & literature of mental health recovery ( The contest is open to all writers who have personally experienced addiction, mental illness or mental health challenges, a.k.a. “consumer/survivors” or “people with lived experience.”

The contest, as always, is blind-judged by a panel of three or four writers who are consumer/survivors themselves or personally connected through family or friendship. Our goal is to recognize excellence in the craft of poetry from our community of peers, and to reward that excellence with prizes for the 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. The contest is an important event for our community of readers and writers. We appreciate the support your fees show for our project and your peers, for whom writing is both a healing practice and an art.

To enter the contest online, begin by reading through all the rules and regulations below, then click “Submit.” While we encourage entrants to use our simple and secure online form, we know some writers need other submission options. Click here to download the entry form and our mailing address.

Good luck!

Sarah Mann

Editor, Open Minds Quarterly

NISA/Northern Initiative for Social Action

PS. Savvy writers need to know how to tell if a writing contest is legitimate. You can learn about real and fake writing contests here.


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 Tuesday, January 3, 2017 and closes at noon on Friday, March 10, 2017. All entries must be received before midnight on March 10, 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 imparted a sensation after it was read — the last 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 two 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 will be published in subsequent issues of Open Minds Quarterly. All non-winners will be entered in a random draw to win a free 1-year subscription to Open Minds Quarterly or a copy of our anthology In New Light (2 draws). The judges’ decisions are final. Monetary prizes will be awarded in Canadian dollars.

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


To be eligible, each entry must:

  • be original, unpublished work;
  • be written in English;
  • be accompanied by one 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 no more than 30 lines in length;
  • not include any drawings or images;
  • arrive at NISA by 11:59 p.m. of Friday, March 10, 2017;
  • arrive by surface mail, hand delivery, or through the online submission form (no faxes or e-mails);
  • if submitted by mail, be printed on 8.5” x 11” or A4 paper, one poem per page

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

The entry fee is $12.00 for up to three poems. For mailed entries: 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, and please include your payment confirmation with your mailed entry form.