Saturday, February 25, 2012

Teen Events: Writing Contest

This May marks the fourth anniversary of my library's annual Teen Summer Writing Contest.  When we first started the competition we had no idea how popular it would become but were pleasantly surprised by the response this program garnered.
Last summer we received over 100 individual entries from teens around the country.  We have even received an entry from England!  Since our writing contest has been so popular I thought I'd share a quick "how to" for any library looking to host a Writing Contest.


  1. Judges
    • Have 3-5 judges who are qualified to evaluate entries. You want an odd number to break any ties.  
    • The academic background of our three judges contains two BAs in English, two MILSs and an MA in Creative Writing.
  2. Ages/Grades
    • Determine what ages/grades you will judge and how they will be divided.
    • Our contest accepts entries from students grades 6-12/ages 11-18 separated into two age groups "Middle School" and "High School".  "Middle School" is grades 6-8, ages 11-15, while "High School" is grades 9-12, ages 15-18.  If a student could qualify for both categories we allow them to choose which age group they which to enter.
  3. Type of Entry
    • Determine which types of entries you will accept.  Poetry? Short Story? Both?
    • We accept both poetry and short story.  For both poetry and short story entries you will want to set a world limit.  You will also need to determine before beginning the contest if short stories can be excerpts of larger pieces or fan fiction.  My library's competition does not accept either.
  4. Dates
    • You want to give students two to three months to work on their submissions so make sure to advertise early.
    • We start accepting submissions in May but choose a submission deadline of late July.
  5. Legal Stuff
    • In the entry form make sure to cover who has ownership of the material after it is submitted to the contest.  Also make sure to include a statement that must be initialed or signed certifying originality of the submitted work.
    • My library takes ownership of submissions so that we have the right to publish winners in bound manuscript.
  6. Announcing Winners
    • Give yourself enough time to read all the entries!  We learned the hard way that it is VERY difficult to read 100+ submissions in just two weeks.
    • Be prepared to make honorable mentions in categories with exceptional submissions.
    • Hold a ceremony to announce winners.
That's basically it.  Just make sure all of the information a teen needs is in the Entry Form.  Click here for a link to my library's Teen Summer Writing Contest entry form from Summer 2011.