High School Contest FAQs

Look here for answers to your questions about the Eighth Annual Narrative High School Writing Contest!

Contest in Review

Who can participate in the contest?

We invite poetry submissions from all US and international high school students, grades 9–12. Students will submit their work to their teachers, who will submit their students’ poetry via our Submission Portal starting on January 4, 2023. Winners and finalists, along with their teacher representatives, will be asked to provide identification.

When’s the deadline?

The submission deadline is February 1, 2023, at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. The contest results, including winners and finalists, will be announced in mid-April.

What’s the prompt?

“It is difficult to get the news from poems,” wrote William Carlos Williams “yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” In our era of fake news and extremist opinions, when the internet affords everyone a platform from which to shout, what is the state or meaning of truth? We are looking to you—through your art—to write to the prompt TRUE OR FALSE?

What in your life, your view, outside your window or in your heart strikes you as most true, or false? Is it possible to hold multiple truths at once—even if they conflict—in a typical day or moment at school and life? Is truth relative to what is false, and vice versa? Can either stand in isolation? In other words, does morality play a role in these definitions?

Can you capture in a poem a moment when truth or lies are pivotal to the outcome? You may turn toward the metaphorical or the literal, the small or the large, the individual or the systemic. Lean into that space of self-questioning and ask others to join you. We each have something to learn, and something to teach. We challenge you to express your ideas without using the terms true and false—or at least to use them in an artful way. Take us on a journey that is distinctly your own. Shine some light on the corners we’ve left in the dark, and tell us what we’re missing.

We invite you to write a poem, 10 to 50 lines long, in response to the prompt: TRUE OR FALSE?

Is there a fee to enter the contest?

Entering the contest is free. If you haven’t already done so, take a minute to create a Narrative account for free access to all the stories, poems, and essays we publish.

How do I submit?

Students must share their previously unpublished submissions—meaning that anything posted on your personal blog or on social media is not eligible—with their high school English teachers, who will submit poems via our Submission Portal starting on January 4, 2023. The deadline for submissions is 5:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on February 1, 2023.

How should I format my poem?

Your poem should be in 12-point type, single-spaced, and 10 to 50 lines long, excluding line breaks. Your poem must be in English.

What else should I be sure to include in my poem?

Pick a situation or story that truly resonates with you. If it has heat for you, it’s much more likely to have heat for your reader. We encourage you to focus on using vivid images and effective line breaks. Choose your words wisely. If it can be said in three words, don’t use six. Your poem doesn’t need to rhyme, but it should have rhythm. Read your poem aloud to test it for its musicality. Tell us a story, paint us a picture, bring us into your world.

Why can’t I submit video or audio of a spoken-word performance?

We want to encourage you to take the time to express yourself through the written word, and we very much want to meet you on the page. That being said, winners will have the opportunity to read their poetry for our popular Narrative Outloud podcast.

How will the winners be chosen, and when will they be announced?

All judging will be blind—meaning the names, grades, and school affiliations will be removed, and entries will be sorted randomly—and will be done by Narrative’s editorial team, led by Narrative cofounder/editor and New York Times–bestselling author Carol Edgarian and Narrative poetry editor and executive editor of Copper Canyon Press Michael Wiegers. This year's guest judge, legendary poet, activist and educator Naomi Shihab Nye, who just completed her term as former People’s Poet Laureate, will select the ultimate winners and finalists. A first-, second-, and third-place winner, along with several finalists, will be announced in April. Narrative editors will mentor winners prior to publication in the magazine. Cash prizes totaling more than $1,000 will be awarded.

What awards will the winners receive?

The winning author will be presented with a $500 award. The second-place winner will receive $200, and the third-place winner will receive $100. Each finalist will receive $50. The schools of the winners will also receive special recognition. The winning works will be published in Narrative, alongside many of today’s great writers. The winners and finalist will also have an opportunity to perform at our first Virtual Poetry Slam hosted by Carol Edgarian and Nye that will later be broadcasted on our Narrative Outloud podcast.

Is it okay if I get feedback on my work from my teacher for revision?

Yes! We believe that great writing comes through vigorous revision. Of course, the final product should represent your original work and voice. We do not tolerate plagiarism of any kind.

Will finalists from each school receive anything?

The schools of finalists will receive special awards, to be announced this spring.

Some Answers for Teachers

How many of my students’ works am I allowed to submit?

Each English or writing teacher will be allowed to submit the work of ten students, with one poem per student and each student's work submitted separately. Each school may submit the poems of no more than thirty students.

Am I allowed to edit my students’ work?

Of course, within reason. We encourage teachers to review their students’ drafts and to create space for peer editing, just as long as the students’ work remains their own. You might direct your students to Narrative’s targeted student resources for this contest, which include writing tips to help your students set pens to paper, a Writers & Mentors Videos, and a Reading Guide for Poetry of exemplary written works. We also urge both you and your students to familiarize yourselves with the array of works already published in Narrative’s virtual stacks—like that of last year’s guest judge and Pulitzer Prize winner Jericho Brown—to gain an understanding of the quality of writing we publish.

Read work by last year’s contest winners.

When you and your students are ready, please submit to our Eighth Annual Narrative High School Writing Contest via our Submission Portal, which will open on January 4th, 2023. Check back here for the live link.

I have a question!

If there’s something we haven’t covered, feel free to reach out to us at @email. We love to hear from students and teachers.

Narrative High School Writing Contest | Recommended Reading
Video Tutorials with Carol Edgarian | Explore by Theme | Writing Prompts