Book Prize Guidelines

River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Book Prize (photo by Patrick Tomasso)

River Teeth's editors conduct a yearly national contest for a book-length manuscript of literary nonfiction in English. All manuscripts are screened by the co-editors of River Teeth. The contest winner receives $1,000 and publication by The University of New Mexico Press.

Submissions open August 1. 

Deadline for Submissions: October 31

Final Judge: Lacy M. Johnson


Photo of Lacy M. JohnsonLacy M. Johnson is a Houston-based professor, curator, activist, and is author of THE RECKONINGS (Scribner, 2018), which was named a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist in Criticism and one of the best books of 2018 by Boston Globe, Electric Literature, Autostraddle, Book Riot, and Refinery 29. She is also author of THE OTHER SIDE (Tin House, 2014). For its frank and fearless confrontation of the epidemic of violence against women, The Other Side was named a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Autobiography, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, an Edgar Award in Best Fact Crime, the CLMP Firecracker Award in Nonfiction; it was a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writer Selection for 2014, and was named one of the best books of 2014 by KirkusLibrary Journal, and the Houston Chronicle. She is also author of TRESPASSES: A MEMOIR (University of Iowa Press, 2012), which has been anthologized in The Racial Imaginary (Fence Books, 2015) and Literature: The Human Experience (Bedford / St. Martin’s, 2013-2018). She is co-editor, with Cheryl Beckett, of MORE CITY THAN WATER: A HOUSTON FLOOD ATLAS (University of Texas Press, 2022), winner of the 2022 Art in Service to the Environment Award from the Texas Sierra Club.

She worked as a cashier at WalMart, sold steaks door-to-door, and puppeteered with a traveling children’s museum before earning a PhD from University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program, where she was both an Erhardt Fellow and Inprint Fondren Fellow. As a writer and artist, she has been awarded grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, Houston Endowment, Rice University's Humanities Research CenterHouston Arts Alliance, the Sustainable Arts Foundation, Kansas Arts Commission (may it rest in peace), the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, Inprint, and Millay Colony for the Arts. Her work has appeared in the Best American Essays, Best American Science and Nature Writing, Best American Travel Writing, the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Paris Review, Orion, Virginia Quarterly Review, Tin House, and elsewhere. She teaches creative nonfiction at Rice University and is the Founding Director of the Houston Flood Museum.  

General Guidelines:

  1. Entries must be submitted online through Submittable. Manuscripts must be in English, double-spaced, and between 35K-85K words long (approximately 150-350 pages).
  2. The winner will receive book publication with The University of New Mexico Press and a $1,000 honorarium. 
  3. The reading fee is $27 (which includes a one-year subscription to River Teeth to begin in the spring). While our contest is open to entries outside of the U.S., we cannot offer free subscriptions to non-U.S. submissions because of high mailing rates.
  4. The deadline for submissions is October 31st. The contest winner and finalists will be announced by early March.
  5. Submissions should be previously unpublished as a complete book (it’s fine if excerpts or individual essays have appeared in literary journals or magazines). Any literary nonfiction (including memoir, personal essays, investigative reporting, et cetera) is eligible.
  6. Simultaneous submissions are fine, but as ever, be sure to withdraw your manuscript immediately if it is accepted elsewhere for publication before the conclusion of the contest.
  7. The editors make every effort to screen manuscripts without bias of identifying author details; however, because the contest is nonfiction, it is not always possible to eliminate identifying characteristics about the author from the manuscript. Do not include your name on the title page or in the header or footer of the manuscript, but otherwise do not fret too much over anonymity. Please include a brief bio in the cover letter section of Submittable.
  8. River Teeth encourages underrepresented voices to submit their work for consideration, including but not limited to: BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and disabled writers.
  9. Close friends, family members, and former students of the judge may not submit in that year. (Writers who have had short-term interactions with the judge at residencies, conferences, or fellowships do not count as students.) Current Ball State University faculty and students (including interns) are ineligible.

Please direct all questions to

Submission Guidelines:

  1. Entries must be submitted online through Submittable.
  2. Online submission fee is $27 

Please direct all questions to

Photo by Patrick Tomasso at Unsplash.

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