FAQ


Look here for answers to your questions about the Sixth Annual “Tell Me a Story” High School Contest!

Who can participate in the contest?
For the first time, we’re inviting poetry submissions from all U.S. and international high school students to participate in our contest who are ages fifteen to eighteen by January 6, 2021. Students will submit their work to their teachers, who will then submit their students’ poetry via our Submission Portal. Winners and finalists must provide proof of age.


When’s the deadline?
The submission deadline is February 4, 2021, at noon PST. 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 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 can 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. Be sure your poem is ten to fifty lines long. Now, go!

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Students must share their previously unpublished submissions—meaning that anything posted on your personal blog or on social media is not eligible—with their high school English teachers, who will submit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 on each student’s behalf by February 4, 2021. Teachers can submit their students' work here.

How should I format my poem?
Your poem should be in 12-point type, single-spaced, and ten to fifty lines long. Your poem must be in English. Your name, school, English teacher, class period, and email address should be typed in the top left corner of the page.


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 on video and in 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. Salvadoran poet and Narrative Prize winner Javier Zamora will select the final winners, with the help of Narrative cofounder/editor Carol Edgarian and Salvadoran poet Javier Zamora. 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 and finalists will be announced in mid-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 the four finalists will receive $50. The schools of the winners will also receive special recognition. 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 a reading of their work on the 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.


Will finalists from each school receive anything?
The schools of finalists will receive special awards.


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 submission per student.


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 a Poetry Tutorial and a Reading Guide for Poetry of exemplary written works.


Read work by last year’s contest winners here.


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.

Ready to submit your students’ work? Head over here.