Welcome to Narrative’s Sixth Annual “Tell Me a Story” High School Contest! This page is for students and teachers and will serve as the epicenter of all contest information and activity.

The submission period for our Sixth Annual “Tell Me a Story” High School Contest has officially closed. Our editorial team has begun to read submissions from around the globe and we cannot wait to share this year's winners and finalists with you in April! We'll be in touch then with the exciting news.


Contest in Review

This year, for the first time, we’re inviting poetry submissions from all U.S. and international high school students (aged fifteen to eighteen) to participate in our Sixth Annual “Tell Me a Story” High School Contest! We are eager to hear from as many voices as possible.


Poetry has been called “the voice that is great within us,” and yet there is no single way to write a poem. Particularly during these times of isolation and separation, we’re seeking new voices who will not only delight and inspire us but, through your poems, will encourage all of us to see the world anew.


2021 “Tell Me a Story” High School Contest Rules and Guidelines


Who can enter?
Students worldwide ages fifteen to eighteen are eligible to submit to the contest. (Winners and finalists will be asked to provide proof of age.)


How do I send my work?
Writers will submit work through their English teacher, who will upload the work on the contest submission page. Each teacher may submit the work of no more than ten students with one poem submitted on behalf of each student. The contest is free to enter.


When’s the deadline?
The contest opens January 6, 2021, and the submission deadline is February 4, 2021, at noon PST. All submissions must be previously unpublished, either in print or online (including on social media). Winners, along with their teachers, will be notified in mid-March. The contest results, including finalists, will be announced in mid-April.


What’s the prompt?
In the era of stay-at-home orders and COVID-19, we want to invite you to Escape. Your Escape poem might be about a literal taking off, or it might be an imaginative flight of fancy; it could be centered on something big or small; it might be fearful or brave. Escape might entail getting to a specific place or time, or it could be about a person or feeling. It might involve running toward something, or away. Escape could mean a trip outside yourself, or a journey within. Is there a companion in your escape plan? Is there an adventure you’re longing to take? What words or images come to mind when you hear the word escape? What circumstances are you itching to get away from? We want to know where you start from and where you go. Write a poem that takes your audience on an escape that only you can write—in your unique voice. Be sure your poem is ten to fifty lines long. Now, go!

How will the winners be chosen, and when will they be announced?
All judging is blind—meaning the names, grades, and school affiliations will be removed and entries will be sorted randomly by Narrative’s editorial team. Salvadoran poet and Narrative Prize winner Javier Zamora will select the final winners, with the help of Narrative cofounder/editor Carol Edgarian and Michael Wiegers of Copper Canyon Press. In March writers of the winning entries will work closely with our editors to refine and record their work—in other words, to be mentored and to engage in all aspects of a professional publishing process. Winners, along with finalists, will be announced with fanfare in April 2021.


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 of four finalists will receive $50. The schools of winners will also receive special recognition and prizes. The winning works will be published on NarrativeMagazine.com, alongside many of today’s great writers. The winners will also have an opportunity to perform their work on 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 Salvadoran poet Javier Zamora, two of the contest’s judges. Also be sure to explore our Reading Guide for Poetry, made just for you!

For more information and FAQs, head over here.