Our Recommended Youth Story & Essay Writing Contests

Story Reading

Our Recommended Young Writers Contests

Besides our own Story, Poetry, and Essay Contests for youth and teens, we'd like to share others. Hopefully, it will encourage you to stay motivated to write more–and perhaps win!

The contests below are mainly from California.

For those of you from other California regions or states, there are a few here that allow anyone to participate regardless of where you live!

Of course, this is NOT a comprehensive list. We have limited our contest list to

  • 3rd grade through 8th, OR
  • 9th-12th grades we trust and love to promote

High school writers have more opportunities so we'll have a separate post for them soon.

By the way, the contests presented here were selected because

  • they have an excellent reputation
  • the have been established for many years, and
  • our own students have participated in them, and at times have won

Safety First

Young writers,

Please make sure you work with your parents so they can submit the contest with their email on your behalf. 


Contests are often a team effort. Parents who help search and vet the contests will be able to ensure that their child, and you, will have the best possible experience.

Read the Rules

Young writers, part of winning these contests requires that you read the rules.

Tip: We recommend

  • printing the rules on paper.
  • confirm that you completed the requirement
  • and then checking each rule off with a pen.

Note that some contest officials will reject submissions if they see that you did not pay attention to their rules. 

Usually, there are not many rules, so it's not that difficult.

Besides This List, Where Else Can I Find Contests?

Informed students know that participating in local organizations and their contests, such as the ones below, may greatly improve their chances of winning.

Why? Because they have lower competition! 

You can often find Essay, Poetry and Story Contests from your Local

  • Neighborhood Newspaper 
  • Libraries, and
  • Writing Clubs. 

Also, ask if there are writing contests from

  • your parent’s company
  • community service clubs (like Rotary Club, Scouts), and
  • non-profit organizations

Tip: Do a Google Search for "Writing Contests near me." Check beyond the first page search results.

How often do these contests occur?

Each site varies, but many are annual. Please check their contest submissions timeline for the most up-to-date information.

Tip: Sign up for our newsletter to be notified when these websites announce their latest contest.

Let me know what contests you've entered. We'd love to know your experience! 

Do your best, and good luck!

Royd Hatta

Writing Coach

[email protected]

Sister Cities International's (SCI)

(YAAS) Young Artists and Authors Showcase

Screenshot 2023 04 03 at 12.54.03 AM

Teen & Young Adult:  Ages 13-18

For Mid-Peninsula students residing in San Carlos through Sunnyvale.

Offers CASH Prizes: $1000 for each Category (Art, Poetry, Essay, Story, Photography) 

Tip: You may submit something for each category, but you need to fill out the category form each time. (Wow. So you could potentially win for each category? Cool!) 

Typical submissions dates: March - April 29th

For more information contact: [email protected]

Palo Alto Weekly Annual Story Contest

Teen 12-14 (Grades 7-9)

Young Adult 15-17 (Grades 10-12) 

Offers Prizes

Typical submissions dates: December to March



For more information contact: [email protected]

This is our first suggestion for students who want to submit to a story contest. Royd used to work at the Weekly ages ago. Besides that, the judges are often famous authors, and the quality of submissions is high. This popular contest has been around for more than 30 years so there are often many entrants. Kudos to you if you place!

Stone Soup

Ages 14 & under.

Stone Soup is a magazine established in 1973 in Santa Cruz! It's main mission is to promote youth story writing and art. Young writers and artists,  or "children who are not yet in high school,” can submit their work, though I recommend reading a copy of their magazine. You may see that it favors realistic fiction, though other genres apply. 

Stone Soup Magazine • Story Submissions:

Typically, 2-5 pages long. They say they have limit of 10,000 words, but they hint that length is a bit long for their magazine. Perhaps try for 3000 words.


Stone Soup's main contests page:


Flash Fiction Contest - Monthly


Book Contest - Annual



This a contest for a short novella. Winners will have their book published.

Here are some of the details pulled from their website:

Length: For fiction submissions, the minimum length is 20,000 words. For poetry submissions, the minimum length is 40 pages, with no more than one poem per page. There is no maximum word or page limit.

Age Limit: For this contest, we will accept manuscripts written by those age 14 or under.

Deadline: Sunday, August 21, 2022 11:59 pm (Pacific Time)

Entry fee: $15.00

Submissions of multiple manuscripts by the same author are accepted but you must submit each as an individual entry and pay the fee each time.

Results and Prizes: We will select two winning manuscripts—one in fiction and one in poetry—to be published and distributed by Stone Soup in both print and ebook forms, available for sale on Amazon, in the Stone Soup store, via our distributors, and advertised along with the rest of our books to libraries and other vendors.

Bookshop Santa Cruz Contest


Ages 6-9

Ages 10-13

Ages 14-17


Offers Prizes

Bookshop Santa Cruz is an institution when it comes to indy bookshops, so much so that nearly every author makes this a major stop on their promotions tour.

This story contest has been running for decades, and the placeholders will be published in a Story Contest book. Here are some details from their website: 

"Entries may be on any subject and in any genre—including fiction, poetry, nonfiction, biography, autobiography, humor, mystery, science fiction or fantasy. Word count limit is 2100. Each entry must be an original work, submitted in the appropriate age group: 6–9, 10–13, and 14–17. First, second, and third place winners from each age group receive Bookshop Santa Cruz gift certificates. Plus, the winning entries are published together in a collection each November."

Bluefire $1000 for Exactly 1,000 Words Flash fiction Contest - Due FEB 1

Emerging Writers
$1,000 for 1,000 Words Middle and High School Creative Writing Contest. The Leyla Beban Young Authors Foundation awards two top prizes of $1,000 for previously unpublished flash fiction, exactly 1,000 words long, by students worldwide in grades 6-12 (one prize for grades 6-8 and the other for grades 9-12). Winners may be published online and in the sponsor's annual Bluefire journal. Submit one entry via the sponsor's online submission form by February 1.


Jack London State Park Story Contest

For 6th-8th graders

The Information below refers to the 2023 Annual Young Writers Contest.

Please check the website below for the most current writing prompt and contest rules.

The first place winner receives $250, second place gets $150 and third place gets $100. All the winners are also given a voucher to the park’s gift shop for a free Jack London novel of their choice.

Jack London was known for his naturalistic style of writing and his focus on realism. He also stood out with stories that cast animals in the main role and he “spoke” from the animal’s point of view. Great examples of this include Call of the Wild and White Fang. Your writing prompt this year is to:

"Create a story where your main character(s) are animals with animal qualities (like Buck in Call of the Wild). Tell your story from the animal’s perspective."

Your story must follow the guidelines and regulations spelled out in the contest flyer, and you need to complete an entry form for your story to qualify for the contest. Click here for the Contest rules and entry form.

This contest is open to middle schoolers everywhere!

More information on the contest rules can be found on the park’s website at jacklondonpark.com. Stories must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on Friday, March 31.

Bowseat.org: Ocean Awareness Contest


Annual Arts and Writing Contest for the Environment.  

Ages 11-18. 

“The 11th annual Ocean Awareness Contest is a platform for young people to learn about environmental issues through art-making and creative communication, explore their relationship to a changing world, and become advocates for positive change. Students ages 11-18 from around the world are invited to participate.
The Contest deadline is June 13, 2022.”

CATE: California Association of Teachers of English

This teacher's organization holds an annual writing contest based on a writing prompt or on class essays and stories. Teachers are encouraged to submit their student's work. Young writers, ask your teacher if your work is ready to submit to this contest as well.


Awards will be given in six divisions: 

Grades 3-4;

Grades 5-6;

Grades 7-8;

Grades 9-10;

Grades 11-12;

and College.


From their website:

2021-22 Writing Prompt

Deadline for submissions: April 1, 2022


What does California dreaming mean to you?

In an essay, story, poem, or memoir, consider responding to one of the following prompts, or an idea of your own:

  • What dream do you have for California?
  • How do you envision the future of this state?
  • How might your own dreams offer a vision for California?

* “California Dreamin’” is a song by the Mamas and the Papas

(Songwriters: Michelle G. Phillips, John E. A. Phillips). You may want to look up the lyrics.

St. Mary's River of Words Poetry & Art Contest

St. Mary's College in Moraga, California, hosts a well-established natural environment themed contest for young writers as young as kindergarten. Placeholders and others will be included in an anthology for the year. 

Note that Poems and Art works are accepted. Short stories are not.

What's nice is that young writers and artists can submit as many poems or artworks as they like.

Our tip: This contest is brilliant as it was probably created with social media in mind! View their Twitter and Instagram posts for the impressive quality of the art and poetry.

There is a strong focus on watersheds, such as bays, rivers, stream, and lakes. We encourage you to experience a local area with water as inspiration. Connect your poetry or art with how we live and consider the environmental problems that we inflict on it. Consider what solutions we all can do to preserve our natural environments. 

Here's their video:


  • The contest is open to K–12th grade students, ages 5–19. Students must be enrolled in school to be eligible. All entries must be submitted by a parent, guardian, educator, or facilitator unless the student is 18 years old or older.

Open submissions: Around Oct 15 - Dec 1.

Website: stmarys-ca.edu/row
Email: [email protected]

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/riverofwordssmc/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/riverofwordssmc?lang=en

Art Gallery: https://www.stmarys-ca.edu/row-2020-2021-art-winners

The Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) Biographies Contest

Just because we teach English, Literary Analysis, and other courses related to writing that doesn't meant we don't like math or the sciences. On the contrary!  

Here's a wonderful essay contest that encourages youth and teens to interview a woman in the mathematics field. Once you've done your interview, you'll need to write an essay. You can view all the previous winners on their contest site.

Here's the essay contest info from their Contest page:

The Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) seeks to increase awareness of women's ongoing contributions to the mathematical sciences.  The essay contest described below is sponsored by AWN and Math for America:

Contest Topic: Biographical essays of “contemporary women mathematicians and statisticians in academic, industrial, and government careers.”  Your essay should be based primarily on an interview with a woman currently working in a mathematical career. The submission must be in essay form, not just a transcript of your interview.

Submission Deadline: December 1 to January 31 via an online submission form (see website below). DEADLINE IS JANUARY 31 EACH YEAR

Who Can Submit: Students grades 6-12 and undergraduate students.

Submission Length: The essay should be approximately 500 to 1000 words in length.

Prize: Winners will receive a prize, and their essays will be published online at the AWM web site. Additionally, a grand prize winner will have his or her submission published in the AWM Newsletter.

For More Information:




  • The contest is open to K–12th grade students, ages 5–19. Students must be enrolled in school to be eligible. All entries must be submitted by a parent, guardian, educator, or facilitator unless the student is 18 years old or older.

Open submissions: Around Oct 15 - Dec 1.

Website: stmarys-ca.edu/row
Email: [email protected]

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/riverofwordssmc/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/riverofwordssmc?lang=en

Art Gallery: https://www.stmarys-ca.edu/row-2020-2021-art-winners

Other Contest Lists:

Here are some websites that have a collection of contests for young writers to submit to.

We recommend perusing these lists as they serve as a filter from nefarious or ad-intense websites. That said, please be cautious about sharing your email.  

Young writers, please read each contest carefully with your parents. And whenever possible, allow your parents to submit your work. 

Finally, note that many "Young Writer" contests are actually for high school students, but you may find some that are for 3rd graders and up. 

Tip: Many of these lists can be filtered to show deadlines. Often you'll see due dates with a few days! If you have a poem, story, or essay already written then feel free to submit your work.

If you do not have work ready to go, then look to about a month or more in advance. Choose a handful that seem to fit your genre, style, or interests and work towards those. In this way, you'll have plenty of time to revise and edit. It's tough to polish work where you have to submit the next day. We all need time for our writing to sit and allow our eyes and minds to see our work with fresh eyes.

If you submit your work, we'd love to know!

Do your best, and good luck!


This list is our first choice. We like how it's organized, and its brief comments on what the contest is about, thereby some saving time.


TCK Publishing: Young Writers & Teens List

This site actually has a Young Writers (elementary) focused list. Still, you may have to sift through some that are meant for 9th grade and up.


Reedsy: Young Writers & Teens List

Though you may find many the due dates on the list as "expired," note the organizations anyway for future reference. 


We are Teachers:

This has a list of popular, national contests, mainly for 9th graders and up, but they do have 3rd graders and up contests. It's worth checking out.


Check the articles below

Silence in the Shadows