Torch Memorial Prize for Creative Nonfiction

About Rafael Torch: 

Rafael Torch died in December, 2011, at the age of 36, after a courageous four-year attempt to overcome sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. A native Chicagoan, Rafael graduated from Antioch College and obtained a Master’s Degree in Humanities from the University of Chicago in 2005 where he received numerous acclaims for his writings including the Illinois Arts Council Literary Award. Rafael dedicated his life to impacting lives of high school students. As a teacher at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, The Latin School of Chicago and The Meadows School in Las Vegas, NV, Rafael influenced hundreds of minds as he challenged his students to rise to their greatest potential. His students had a profound impact on his life and he cared for them deeply. Rafael was also a committed, passionate writer who drew upon personal experiences to find inspiration. Rafael, whose award-winning work and vivid essays have appeared in many journals including Crab Orchard Review, Antioch Review, North American Review,wrote with honesty, insight and wit. At the time of his death, Rafael’s immediate family included his beloved wife, Emily Olson-Torch and 4-month-old son, Rocco James. (adapted from Chicago Sun Times)

Contest Information:

You may submit only one piece of creative nonfiction, no longer than 30 pages in a Word document. All contact information should be entered in your cover letter. No names or addresses should appear on manuscripts, please. Your piece will be assigned a log number so it can be “read blind.” Simultaneous submission to other journals or competitions is not allowed. Payment will be required as part of the sign up procedure which will provide you with a one-year subscription of North American Review.

First Prize: $500.
Enter online: Submittable
Deadline: April 1, 2017
Judge: To Be Announced

Submissions open November 2016

2016 Torch Prize:

The essay winner of the 2016 Torch Prize is Wendy A. Gaudin. Her essay titled “Beauty”, will be featured in the 301.4 Fall Issue of the North American Review.

The essay runner up of the 2016 Torch Prize is Lynn Casteel Harper. Her essay titled “The Golden Hour”, will be featured in the 301.4 Fall Issue of the North American Review.

Judge: Patricia Hampl

Illustration by: Jared Rogness


2015 Torch Prize Winner Clinton Peters

clinton crockett peters

“Before gunships, stolen children, ribbons, and sextants, Australia was the land of gnomes with giant feet that used to lie down and shade themselves with their ankles in the broiling heat of day. It was the home of dogmen, whales with fangs that ate frigates, and lithe, bare-breasted, shimmering mermaids. It was the twin city of Eden, where angels reclined in fields of spice and gold and sandalwood. . .”

The essay winner of the 2015 Torch Prize is Clinton Peters. His essay titled “Rabbits and Convicts”, was featured in the 300.4 Fall Issue of the North American Review.

Clinton Crockett Peters has an MFA from the University of Iowa and is pursuing a PhD in creative writing.  His work has been published in Shenandoah, Hunger Mountain, Fourth Genre, DIAGRAM,  and others. Visit and follow him on Twitter

Judge: Eula Biss

Illustration by: Jared Rogness