The Slam: The Slam Master's Rant

The Slam Master's Personal Soapbox made from ones, zeroes, and a home-grown proclivity for pontification.

A Contest of Quills

September 30, 2012

At this time of year, dear Slammers, your faithful editors at The Slam are faced with an excruciatingly difficult decision: We must look over all the wonderful poems, stories, and creative nonfiction pieces that have found their way onto The Slam over the past year, and choose just a few special Slammables to feature in CICADA magazine in our annual Best of The Slam. The choice isn't easy, especially with so many factors to consider: along with literary merit, we want to have a healthy mix of styles, subjects, and genres, along with a diverse array of authors. And of course we have to work within strict space limitations -- if you think the 800-word limit on The Slam is harsh, try squeezing all of the year's best Slammables into a few magazine pages!

Eventually, of course, the decision is always made. This year's Best of The Slam pieces will soon be revealed in the January/February issue of CICADA -- but in the meantime, we think that our Slammers are just too talented to keep to ourselves! We decided that this would be the perfect time to highlight other upcoming contests for teenage writers. While you are waiting for this year's Best of The Slam to be unveiled, try your hand at one of these nationally respected competitions, all of which have deadlines coming up within the next few months:

Scholastic Writing Awards
The Scholastic Awards are one of the oldest writing competitions for young authors in the US. Acclaimed writers such as Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, and Joyce Carol Oates all got their start with Scholastic prizes. Now in its 90th year, this competition accepts entries from teens in grades 7 through 12 (whether from public, private, or home schools) and offers eleven different writing categories, including Poetry, Short Story, and Personal Essay, as well as more unusual categories such as Humor and Science Fiction. Graduating seniors are also invited to enter Writing Portfolio collections of up to eight works. National winners in all categories receive cash prizes, and the national portfolio winners receive hefty $10,000 scholarships.

Deadline: December 15th

Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize
This annual poetry prize is sponsored by the prestigious literary journal the Kenyon Review, and is open to high school sophomores and juniors. All styles of poetry are accepted, and both winners and runners-up see their work published alongside professional poets in the pages of the Kenyon Review. The top finisher also receives a full scholarship to the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop, an intensive two-week summer program for writers ages 16 through 18, taught by leading authors and poets.

Deadline: November 30th

River of Words International Poetry Contest
The River of Words competition focuses on poetry about nature and the environment. This contest accepts poetry of any style and is open to students ages 5 through 19 from anywhere in the world. Around 100 finalists receive prizes each year, and four grand-prize poets are awarded expense-paid trips to the annual Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Deadline: December 1st (US), February 1st (International)

There's no time like the present, dear Slammers! Visit these competitions' websites today to read samples of past winners and get a feel for where your own work might fit. Every competition is different, and every set of judges has different preferences and requirements, so make sure you read the rules carefully and follow them to the letter -- here at The Slam we can be sticklers for word counts, age requirements, and correct punctuation, but contest entries can be disqualified for much less! Don't let a long list of contest rules deter you, though. At the end of the day, it's good writing that counts, so always submit your best work. You may be surprised at how far you can go!

And don't forget, the best way to speed the time while waiting anxiously to hear the contest results is... to write! As you expand the scope of your writing, keep submitting your poems and prose right here to The Slam, where your fellow Slammers are always ready to offer the encouragement and feedback you need to get to the next writing award!


Ann Pedtke
Slam Master

P.S. Have you heard about other upcoming writing competitions that might be of interest to your fellow Slammers? Let us know! Has your writing placed in a recent competition? Tell us at! We are always eager to brag about our Slammers and will be thrilled to highlight your accomplishments right here on The Slam.