Writing Contests for Teens: Enter, Win, Learn

Writing Contests for Teens

When I was in high school, my sister and I used to play a little game. We’d write poems to each other in the style of William Carlos Williams. The poems proved most useful in injecting some love into a crap situation. For example:

This Is Just to Say

By Shana Thompson

I have taken
your shoes
that were in
your closet

and which
you were probably
to school tomorrow

Forgive me
they are now muddy
but so comfy
and so cute


Award winning, eh?

Well, I’ve never won any awards for my poetry. But maybe you’ve got something to share with the world. There are lots of writing contests for teens, and most of them are legit. It’s not just poetry, either! You can enter your short stories, examples of journalism and your prose. Be sure you read the instructions carefully, and don’t submit your work to anything that would accept my poem. With that in mind, here’s info about nine of the best writing contests for teens.

Exit Earth: Short Story Competition

Admit it. Since Trump’s election, you’ve had at least one vision of what the world will be like when he pushes the Red Button. I know you did because we all did. Now you can write about it. When you win, you can use your prize to buy supplies for your underground bunker.

Exit Earth is a short story writing contest for teens and it’s sponsored by Storgy magazine. The website states the theme beautifully: “We are looking for fiction that explores life – be it past, present, or future – on, or off – this beautiful, yet fragile, world of ours. Dystopian or utopian, realist or fantasy, horror or sci-fi, comedy or romance…”

Entries are due on May 31, 2017, and will be reviewed by judges including Diane Cook. She’s a former producer of This American Life and is the author of Man V. Nature.

It costs £10 to enter, but you can use PayPal to convert the currency to USD. The website includes specific instructions on how to format and send your entry, so be sure to read them first. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prizes are £1,000, £500 and £250, respectively, as well as publication in the magazine.

Exit Earth: Short Story Competition

Deadline: May 31, 2017

Entry fee: £10

Prize: Up to £1000 and publication

Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Student Contest

This is kind of a neat little contest because you can get your friends in on it, too. I’ll give you the details of the contest, but I’m not going to offer any advice on how to split the prize.

This is an annual writing contest for teens sponsored by Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs. They’re a non-profit that advocates ocean awareness and conservation, and they do a lot of projects with schools. This year, they’d like submissions from you on the topic of “Ocean Pollution: Challenges and Solutions.” and while the topic is pretty specific, they’ll take pretty much any kind of entry. You can enter poetry, prose or even visual art, and you can enter as an individual or a group.

There are two age categories for entry. If you’re in grade 6 through 8, you’ll enter a different category than grades 9-12, but the prizes are a bit different, too. The younger crowd’s first place award is $1,000 and the older crowd wins $1,500.

The deadline for entry is June 19th. Make sure you read the contest page, because there are requirements for formatting as well as for a “reflection” piece that you’ll need to submit.

Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Student Contest

Deadline: June 19, 2017

Entry fee: None

Prize: Up to $1,500 for grades 9-12; up to $1,000 for grades 6-8

One Teen Story

This one’s not technically a contest, but it’s an open call for submissions. If your submission is published, they’ll pay you $500. They only publish 4 stories each year, so it’s quite competitive.

One Teen Story is a daughter publication to One Story Magazine. One Story  has an interesting format. They’ll send one story each month to subscribers. Beginning this year, One Story subscribers will also receive One Teen Story, so you’ll get plenty of exposure once you’re published.

The magazine is currently looking for stories that explore the teen experience, topics like family or friendship. As always, read the submission guidelines. The website explicitly states that they’ll shred your paper submission as soon as they get it in the mail, so don’t send one. You’ll also be asked to adhere to word counts and offer proof of your age.

One Teen Story

Deadline: ongoing

Entry fee: None

Prize: Pays $500 upon publication

L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest

I’m a huge fan of weird fiction. I love sci-fi and fantasy – not the George R.R. Martin kind, but the H.P. Lovecraft kind. And I love that this contest was established by L. Ron Hubbard. If you don’t know who LRH is, maybe this contest’s not for you. But if you do, start writing! This contest is quarterly, is judged by published authors, and has great prizes. Plus, it’s free to enter.

This isn’t specifically a writing contest for teens. Anyone can enter as long as they’re not a professional writer. The website specifically tells entrants what the definition of “professional” is, so be sure to check out the guidelines carefully. Don’t enter your children’s books or your poetry, but do enter your short stories or novellas up to 17,000 words in length.

Every three months, prizes of $500, $750 and $1,000 will be awarded, but there’s also an annual grand prize of $5,000 for the best submission.

L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest

Deadline: Quarterly

Entry fee: None

Prize: Up to $1,000

Princeton University Contests for High School Students

These writing contests for teens are specifically for writers in the 11th grade, and are judged by members of the Princeton University Creative Writing faculty. So even if you’re not a winner, maybe you can turn a head over at Princeton? Who knows, but even if entering the contest doesn’t make you a shoo-in for admission, you can at least earn some pocket money.

Princeton University actually offers two competitions. One in poetry and one for the best ten-minute play. They have different deadlines, so be sure to visit the website for more info.

The prizes are nice, at $100, $250 and $500. They won’t pay your tuition, but maybe now you can afford that elbow patch sport coat you’ve been eyeing.

Princeton University Poetry Contest and Ten Minute Play Contest

Deadline: Varies by contest

Entry fee: None

Prize: Up to $500

Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest

so much depends

the poem you

to enter a

and maybe, perhaps

That’s a good one, too, isn’t it? If I were a bit younger I’d enter it into this poetry writing contest for teens. Nancy Thorp was a poet who attended Hollins University, the sponsors of this contest. The contest is now in its 53rd year, and is open to girls in 110th or 11th grade. You can submit up to two poems, and the first prize is awesome: you’ll get $200 plus free tuition to the college’s summer creative writing program.

The deadline for this year’s contest has passed, but it’s an annual competition which usually ends in October. Check the website periodically for information on deadline updates.

Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest

Deadline: Usually October

Entry fee: None

Prize: Up to $200 plus tuition for a summer writing camp

Hemingway Festival Writing Contest

Here’s another writing contest for teens which is sponsored by a university. The University of Idaho wants fiction or creative non-fiction, poetry and academic essay entries from high school juniors and seniors. The contest usually runs from October until January, with winners announced in February.

The contest is open to everyone, and there’s a variety of prize categories, including a couple for residents of the state and county. Check out the website for details. It’s free to enter, and prizes range from gift cards to the University of Idaho Vandal store to $500 cash.

Hemingway Festival Writing Contest

Deadline: January

Entry fee: None

Prize: Up to $500 for the grand prize winner

Aerie International Contest

Want a jury of your peers? This magazine is curated, edited and published by high school students. They’re looking for entries in poetry and prose, as would love your foreign language poem. Be sure to include an English translation.

You can contribute up to 5 pieces each year. They like for your work to be fewer than 1500 words, and they’ll only get one time rights to your work. That means that after they print it, you can submit it elsewhere.

If you win the contest, they’ll give you $100, as well as a copy of the publication. Your teacher can get a copy as well, check out the submissions page for details.

Aerie International Writing Contest

Deadline: February

Entry fee: None

Prize: $100 and copies of publication

The Adroit Journal

This contest is open to both high school students and undergrads. It’s an annual contest, and they’ll choose two winners to receive $200 each. Winners also get copies of the judges’ latest books; I’ll leave it up to you to do with that info what you like.

You can submit up to 6 poems or 3 works of prose, but make sure that your total word count isn’t more than 3,500 words. It’s always a good idea to check out writers who have won in the past, and you can read the past winners’ works right from the contest website. It does cost $12 to enter this one, but there’s a fee waiver if you absolutely need one.

The Adroit Journal

Deadline: 2017 deadline to be announced

Entry fee: $12

Prize: $200 and a healthy dose of self promotion by the judges


In closing, I’ll leave you with this haiku. It’s an original, and I’m thinking of entering it into a contest. Let me know what you think.

There are so many
Writing contests for the teens
Good luck and have fun

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