Leon Forrest Prose Awards

Each year, the Guild Complex acknowledges emerging and established writers via a judged competition and recognition event in Chicago. A cash prize of $500 in each category (fiction and non-fiction) will be awarded. Three semi-finalists from each category will read their work at our annual Prose Awards event, and the winners will be announced live that evening. The recognition event will be held in January of 2018.

Writers of all backgrounds and experience levels are invited to submit, and all themes and subjects are welcome. See below for full submission guidelines and FAQs.

About Leon Forrest


Leon Forrest was a Chicago author of fiction and essays, whose long career as a writer was celebrated not only in Chicago, but with national renown.  His work is dense, and rich with the vibrancy and darkness of Chicago, and as Henry Louis Gates called Forrest’s Divine Days “The War and Peace of African-American Literature.”

Conducted into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame in 2014, they say of Forrest, “His stream-of-consciousness writing concerned the legacy of slavery and earned him a place on Chicago magazine’s “Most Important Chicagoans of the 20th Century.” His novels are set in a mythical Forrest County that closely resembles Chicago. His third novel, “Two Wings to Veil My Face” (1984), won the Society of Midland Authors Award for adult fiction, the DuSable Museum Certificate of Merit and Achievement in Fiction, the Carl Sandburg Award and the Friends of Literature Prize. His fourth book, “Divine Days” (1992), won the Chicago Sun-Times Book of the Year Award for local fiction.

Forrest served as president of the Society of Midland Authors, as well as wrote for numerous South Side Chicago newspapers during his long literary career. He was a professor at Northwestern University serving there from 1973 until his death in 2001, and was the head of the African American Studies Department from 1985-1994.  His work still carries with it the weight of a great writer whose gifts are not diminished, but rather extended with time.


Submission Guidelines

  • Author must be 18 years of age or older by the last day of the submission period.
  • Author must currently live in, or prove student status in Illinois.
  • Submit one original work of fiction or non-fiction up to 1250 words. No exceptions.
  • Previously published work is not eligible.
  • Submit work in a legible 12-point font and double-spaced. Only typed submissions will be accepted.
  • Submissions may not exceed 1250 words.
  • Do not include your name on your story or essay, but please do so in your email/letter.
  • Author must be available to read his or her work at the live event in January of 2018 (If you are selected as a semi-finalist, attendance at the event is mandatory. You will not be considered for a prize if you are unable to read at the event.)
  • Previous applicants and semi-finalists are encouraged to re-submit.
  • Previous first-place winners are not eligible.
  • Deadline to submit TBA (Mailed applications must be received a week prior two the on-line cut off date – this is not a postmark deadline. Emailed applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. on the day of CST. Submissions cannot be made in person.)
  • A reading fee of $5 is required. Payment is to be made via PayPal. Visit guildcomplex.org, click on the “donate” button, and include “PROSE fee” in the memo field. Submissions without a fee will not be considered. (Your reading fee includes a non-transferable ticket to the January 11th event—which means submitting to the event is cheaper than just attending!)
  • Incomplete applications or applications that do not follow these guidelines will not be considered.

To submit your story/essay by email:

Please put “Prose Awards” in the subject line. Include your full name, street address, email address, telephone number, category (fiction or non-fiction), and name of the piece submitted in the body of the email. Attach your story or essay as a simple Word document or PDF labeled with the title only. Your name should not appear in the document label or on the pages of the piece itself. Email your submission to: contests@guildcomplex.org

Once your submission is emailed, please go to guildcomplex.org, click on the “donate” button, and submit your $5 submission fee via PayPal.

To submit your story/essay by mail:

Send your story or essay with a separate cover sheet that includes your full name, street address, email address, telephone number, title of work submitted, and category (fiction or non-fiction) of work submitted. The story or essay should have none of this identifying information except for the title of the work. Mail to:

Guild Literary Complex | 641 West Lake Street, Suite 200 | Chicago, IL 60661
Attn: Prose Awards

Once your submission is mailed, please go to guildcomplex.org, click on the “donate” button, and submit your $5 submission fee via PayPal.


We’ll send you an acknowledgement email to let you know your submission arrived and has met the guidelines.

If you have questions, please read the FAQs below. If you do not find the answer you need, write to us at contests@guildcomplex.org.


What if I don’t like reading my own work in public? Can someone else do it? A: Some writers don’t like to read to an audience. That’s ok. But like a lot of events with the Guild, we want to bring writing to life for our audiences. And we know no one can do that for your story better than you! We want to hear your voice.

I have a (wedding/job/date/etc.) the day of the event. Can I leave the recognition event early/come late? A: No. If you are a semi-finalist, we ask you to be available for the full event to enjoy the recognition and hear great work by your writing peers.

Why does the Guild require a submission fee? I’m not a rich writer. A: We understand. But the submission fee helps offset part of the Guild’s costs for the event, PLUS your submission fee allows you entrance into the event whether you are selected as a semi-finalist or not—and is actually cheaper then a ticket to the event ($10)

Do I have to pay my submission fee by PayPal? A: Yes. At this time our limited staff support makes this the best way to process entries quickly and accurately.

Should my work focus on a particular theme or style besides fiction/non-fiction? A: No, just send us an example of your best work. We look forward to reading it.