Narrative Nonfiction Competition: Stronger than Fiction

Narrative Nonfiction Competition: Stronger than Fiction

Our competition is now closed. Thank you for all the entries, we enjoyed reading every one!

Our winner this year is Carolyn Roberts and her entry ‘Shame’. Read her piece, and the other 5 shortlisted pieces in competition winners [pdf]

Thank you also to all who attended our writing workshops. Scientists who write and writers of science alike took inspiration from each other and we had two fantastic evenings of discovery, discussion and literary creation.

Please join us next year when we have even more events planned and more categories to win in. To register your interest in more events, send an email to with ‘Register for Events’ in the subject line.

Original competition invitation

Original competition invitation

We’re inviting you to submit pieces inspired by any research at the University of Glasgow, past or present, from the sciences to the humanities. So you might write a personal essay about the origins of Scotland’s oldest museum, or maybe you're more interested in writing a moving memoir on ultrasound, developed at Glasgow University in 1956. You might even be inspired to create a piece based on the long lost Burns manuscripts recently unearthed by a Glasgow University researcher. You can find more inspiration in the University news archives. Whatever you choose to write about, your piece should take a narrative nonfiction approach. For more details see ‘What is NNF?’ below.

We have a great panel of judges, and some fabulous books to give away. Six finalists will receive a copy of ‘You Can’t Make This Stuff Up’, Lee Gutkind’s guide to narrative nonfiction and all feedback from the judges. The winner will also receive one-to-one or online support for 2 further pieces of their work from Barbara Melville, writer in residence at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine.

The competition is open to all. We will also run free writing workshops in Glasgow on narrative non-fiction to get people started, and there will be monthly social evenings where researchers, writers and readers can meet and discuss their interests over a glass of wine. To receive updates on workshops and social evenings write to with ‘Register for Social Events’ in the subject line.

So, give it a go! We're looking forward to reading what you come up with!

What is NNF?

Narrative nonfiction (NNF), also called creative nonfiction, is about making non-fiction stories read like fiction: think Bill Bryson, Oliver Sacks or Rebecca Skloot. The genre covers a wide range of works and often includes personal narratives, weaving the author's story together with fact. You can read more about what NNF is and the techniques you can use in this kind of writing on the Creative Non-fiction website. In the meantime, here is a definition from Lee Gutkind:

'"The words 'creative' and 'nonfiction' describe the form. The word 'creative' refers to the use of literary craft, the techniques fiction writers, playwrights, and poets employ to present nonfiction—factually accurate prose about real people and events—in a compelling, vivid, dramatic manner. The goal is to make nonfiction stories read like fiction so that your readers are as enthralled by fact as they are by fantasy."
Lee Gutkind, author

Submission guidelines

Entrants can submit up to two pieces of NNF up to 1500 words long, written for an adult non-specialist audience. This can be any non-specialist audience – so if you write an imaginative but educational blog on  ‘nanokicking’ stem cells to help treat osteoporosis, you may envisage it being read by patients and carers. But if you went for a personal essay on the illness, perhaps the general public or an adult literary audience would be more suitable.

The piece must follow an NNF approach and must be inspired by some of the research at the University of Glasgow. This should be integral the piece rather than tacked on, but the university doesn't have to be mentioned.

Pieces must be submitted by 11:59pm on September 30th 2013. Please submit in .doc, .docx or pdf format as an attachment to

Who can enter?

The competition is open to everyone worldwide including staff and students at the University of Glasgow. Collaborative entries are also welcome, but should a collaboration win, prizes will be given to the primary entrant to share.

What you can win?

Six finalists will receive a copy of Lee Gutkind's You Can’t Make This Stuff Up and have their work published in an online anthology. The competition winner will additionally receive one-on-one or online mentoring sessions with an NNF writer.

What the judges are looking for?

First and foremost, the judges will check your work is within the submission guidelines stated above. After that, the judges will be looking for: 

  • Originality and interest - Is what you've written worth a read? Is it fun, fascinating, moving, surprising? Does it encourage the reader to think about your story and the research it contains?
  • Accuracy and relevance - Have you conveyed some key research? Have you checked your facts?
  • Clarity and accessibility - Could an adult with no research background understand and engage with your content? Are any technical terms you've used made clear from the context?

Terms and Conditions

There are some restrictions for entering this competition. Please check the terms and conditions carefully before entering.

By submitting an entry to the competition you declare that you are eligible to participate, that the work you submit is your own, that you give permission for the University of Glasgow to use and disseminate your work without restriction and that you have read and accepted all the following Terms and Conditions in full.


  1. The competition is open to everybody worldwide, regardless of age, of writing experience or qualifications, except:
  2. Individuals involved in the set-up, administration or judging of the competition, their employees or families may not enter


  • Entries must be submitted in word or pdf format by email to no later than 23.59 on 30th September 2013. Entries received via any other mechanism or after this deadline will be disregarded. No responsibility is taken for entries that are lost, delayed, misdirected or incomplete, or for entries that cannot be delivered or entered for any technical or other reason. Proof of delivery of any entry is not proof of receipt.
  • All submissions must be new and unpublished. Do not submit entries that have been published elsewhere, including online.
  • Entries must not contravene any confidentiality terms or agreements; if you write about new research that is not yet in the public domain, you are responsible for ascertaining that findings or data may be made public.
  • Do not submit entries that are being considered for other competitions or publication elsewhere.
  • Collaborative submissions are allowed. You must name all individuals involved in producing the entry. Should a collaborative entry win, the prize will be divided equally between all collaborators.
  • Individuals can submit up to two entries. This includes members of a collaboration.
  • Entries that do not fall within all the above terms and meet the category guidelines published on our website will be deleted unread.


  1. Entries will be screened by a team of first readers. A shortlist will then be passed to the relevant category judge(s).
  2. Judging will be anonymous; first readers and judges will not have access to participants’ personal information during the judging process.
  3. The University of Glasgow will contact the winners and runners up by email on or by 15th November 2013.
  4. The judges’ decision is final.


  1. Book prizes will be posted to the winners in November 2013. The University of Glasgow are not responsible for prizes that are lost in the post.
  2. Winners and runners up may be invited to attend a celebratory event in Glasgow, UK. Entry to this event will be free but we will not cover any travel, accommodation or subsistence costs.
  3. Publication of the winning entries on our website and within our anthology is at the discretion of the University of Glasgow and may involve minor edits. By submitting your work to the competition you agree to this process.

Copyright and further use of entries

By submitting your entry to the competition, regardless of whether you are a winner, a runner up or are not selected by the judges, you:

  1. Grant the University of Glasgow a perpetual, royalty-free, non-exclusive license at no cost to copy, edit, display, publish, broadcast, transmit and make available your entry to the public, in any format and media, (i) for and in connection with the Competition; (ii) for and in connection with the promotion of the competition (whether in this year or in future years); (iii) in our internal archives and/or reports to funding organizations; (iv) for any other reasonable purposes connected with the objectives or public engagement activities of the University of Glasgow.
  2. Agree that the University of Glasgow may (but are not obliged to) publish your name in connection with the competition and with our use of your entry.
  3. Warrant that the entry is your own original work; you are the sole legal and beneficial owner of the entry; the entry is not defamatory, illegal, immoral, offensive or otherwise unlawful; and the entry does not infringe any third-party intellectual property rights or other rights including, without limitation, privacy.


Got any questions? Email