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$12.00 CAD

Welcome! Below you will find all the rules and regulations for our 18th Annual BrainStorm Poetry Contest, a small fundraiser organized by NISA/Northern Initiative for Social Action, for our literary magazine Open Minds Quarterly: Life in a mad world (www.openmindsquarterly.com). The contest is open to all writers who have personally experienced madness, mental illness, mental health challenges, or neurodiversity.

The contest, as always, is anonymously judged by a panel of three or four writers who have lived experience themselves. 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 $12 CAD entry fee we collect goes 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 find the entry form for mailing in.

Good luck!

Open Minds Quarterly

NISA/Northern Initiative for Social Action


Contest Rules & Regulations

The contest is open internationally, only to people with lived experience of madness/mental health challenges/mental illness/neurodivergence. It aims to eliminate the stigma associated with these by showcasing the talents and creativity of individuals who have lived through them, and provide a platform for folks to share their experiences.

The contest opens Friday, January 1, 2021 and closes on Sunday, February 14, 2021. All entries must be received before midnight on February 14, and payment must arrive with entry. Entries will not be returned.

Poetry about the experience of madness 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. 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 nonwinners will be entered in a random draw to win a free one-year subscription to Open Minds Quarterly or a copy of our book, The Dictionary of Madness (two draws).

The judges’ decisions are final. 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 include a name on the page (put your name only on the accompanying entry form);
  • be written legibly;
  • be no more than 30 lines in length;
  • not include any drawings or images;
  • arrive at NISA by 11:59 p.m. of February 14;
  • arrive by the online submission form, surface mail, or hand delivery, (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 or elsewhere;
  • 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 CAD 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 PayPal.com to info@nisa.on.ca, and please include your payment confirmation with your mailed entry form.

We use Submittable to accept and review our submissions.