Seventh Annual Narrative High School Writing Contest

To help guide you, we're reposting a video featuring last year's winners and former guest judge Javier Zamora sharing their thoughts on inspiration and writing.

The Seventh Annual Narrative High School Writing Contest is now closed.

Contest Overview

We’re inviting poetry submissions from all US and international high school students, grades 9–12, to participate in our Seventh Annual Narrative High School Writing Contest! We are eager to hear from as many voices as possible. We’re eager to hear from YOU!

Contributing students in last year’s Sixth Annual Narrative High School Writing Contest covered the globe: indeed, we received submissions from nineteen countries, including South Africa, India, China, Serbia, Poland, Taiwan. Within the United States, we heard from young poets in 39 states and 174 cities—an amazing outpouring of poetry. This year, we urge new students to add their voices to the chorus.

Poetry has been called “the voice that is great within us,” yet there is no one way to write a poem. Particularly during these times of upheaval and reflection, we’re seeking emerging writers who will offer new perspectives that invite each of us to see the world anew.

2022 Narrative High School Writing Contest Rules and Guidelines

Who can enter?

Students from the US and internationally, grades 9–12, are eligible to submit to the contest. Winners and finalists, along with their teacher representatives, will be asked to provide identification.

How do I send my work?

Writers will submit work through their English teacher, who will upload the work through the contest Submission Portal. Each teacher may submit the work of no more than ten students—with one poem per student and each student’s submission made separately by their teacher. Schools may submit a maximum of thirty submissions in total. The contest is free to enter. Teachers may submit their students’ work via our Submission Portal.

When’s the deadline?

The contest opens January 4, 2022, and the submission deadline is February 4, 2022, at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. All submissions must be previously unpublished, either in print or online (including on social media and blogs). The contest results, including winners and finalists, will be announced in April.

What is this year’s prompt?

When you hear the phrase “Blind Spots” it conjures the notion of seeing. In our world today, there is much we are asked to see, as humans, that we can’t quite capture. Can you point to a blind spot in your life or in the lives around you? Those obscured places just beyond one’s vision, in the past, present, or future. Blind spots come in all shapes and sizes—and in your poem we look forward to reading how your unique experience and identity sculpt those edges.

Perhaps there’s a memory forgotten or a question left unanswered, a miscommunication with someone you love, a conversation lost in translation. Or, zoom out a bit: what blind spots might you share with your family, your friends, your city, your country, the world?

Can you capture in a poem a moment or story when you or the world around you was blind to something important? What happened that made things a bit more clear? You could 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. 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: BLIND SPOTS.

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

For fairness, all judging of submitted poems will be done with names, grades, and school affiliations removed, and, further, entries will be sorted randomly by Narrative’s 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. Guest judge Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Jericho Brown 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 winners will also receive special recognition and prizes. The winning works will be published in Narrative, alongside many of today’s great writers. The winners will also have an opportunity to perform their work for our popular Narrative Outloud podcast.

Need help getting inspired?

Check out our Poetry Tutorial Video with Narrative cofounder/editor and bestselling author Carol Edgarian and last year’s guest judge, Salvadoran poet and Narrative Prize winner Javier Zamora. Also be sure to explore our Poetry Guide, made just for you!

For more information, head to our FAQs.