WriteNow! 2020-2021

Submissions for the 2020-2021 WriteNow! High School Writing Contest are now open!

Click here to read last year’s winning entries.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: Wednesday, February 17, 2021, 11:59 PM

Students in the Northeast Metro Area, grades 9-12, are invited to submit their original, creative writing to the annual WriteNow! High School Writing Contest hosted by White Bear Center for the Arts. You may enter writing in several different genres: poetry, short story, persuasive essay, and creative nonfiction. Winning entries will receive cash prizes!

NEW! This year, White Bear Center for the Arts will offer a WriteNow! online course, FREE and accessible online for all area high school students. You may join this asynchronous class whether you want to enter the contest or just learn about writing! These lessons will be accessible for students to work on at their own pace, on their own time. Students will receive instruction and exercises to practice their writing and improve their skills. Additionally, you will have opportunities to share your work with fellow writers at a live, online writing club beginning later this winter.
Registration will open soon.


  • Entries will be judged in two categories: grades 9 & 10 and grades 11 & 12.
  • Submissions must be your own, original work. Plagiarism will result in disqualification.
  • Likewise, all research included in your submissions must be properly cited.
  • Profanity is not permitted and will result in disqualification.
  • All entries must be submitted electronically, in one form; Each entry must include a title, category, and an attachment in Microsoft Word or PDF format.
  • Do not include your name or any other identifying information in your entries.
  • You may submit writing for multiple contest categories (see guidelines below)

Click here for entry form


1 Poetry – Express your feelings!

Create a poem to express emotion and feeling with sensory description, imagery, and metaphor.

  • Your poem can also explore new ideas or express your ideals.
  • Poetry often uses powerful words, short phrases, and broken sentences.
  • Rhyming, metered poetry is welcome, but so is free verse.
  • Types of poetry include haiku, song lyrics, sonnet, limerick, and more!

Examples: Lucille Clifton, Emily Dickinson, Natasha Threthewey, Rita Dove

Up to 3 poems may be submitted per student
No word requirement

2 Short Story – Use your imagination!

Write an original, creative, fictional story which uses setting, plot, and narration.

  • Setting appeals to the senses and transports your reader into the scene. Use descriptive, concrete language to create vivid imagery and bring readers into the world of your story.
  • Plot is the series of events or character decisions that bring your story from beginning or end. Plot is commonly developed through rising action, conflict, and resolution. Stories usually narrate a change over time to reach a conclusion.
  • Narration is how you tell your story. Your story may be told from first, second, or third person perspective and may include inner monologue, dialogue, stream-of-consciousness thoughts, etc.
  • Fiction sometimes fall into a genre such as science fiction, fantasy, mystery, but can also depict more commonplace circumstances. You are welcome to submit a piece in any genre!

Examples: “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, “State Change” by Ken Liu, “All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury

One short story may be submitted per student
1500-word minimum, 2500-word maximum (note word count at the end)

3 Persuasive Essay – Stand for something!

Make an argument about the topic of your choice.  In your essay you can advocate for a cause, attempt to change the reader’s mind or behavior, or assess the value of a policy, idea, or product. Please support your position with factual, research-based information and proper citations. Your paper can vary in length, but the 5-paragraph format is a common and useful format for persuasive essays.

  • Paragraph 1: Introduce your argument with a thesis statement that supports your position.
  • Paragraph 2 – 4: Introduce opposing points of view and include evidence for these opposing points. Refute the opposing points of view and support these arguments with new evidence.
  • Paragraph 5: Summarize your thesis and reiterate your support for your position.

Examples: “The Game That Can Give You 10 Extra Years of Life” by Jane McGonigal (TedTalk),  “Rules and Traditions; It Takes a Tribe” by David Berreby, “Why You Procrastinate” by Charlotte Lieberman, “In Praise of the F Word” by Mary Sherry,

One persuasive essay may be submitted per student
500-word minimum, 1500-word maximum (note word count at the end) 

4 Creative Nonfiction – Tell a true story!

Tell a thoughtful story about someone or something real. You can also meditate on real events. Creative nonfiction comes in many forms.

  • Personal essays describe something that has happened in your life.
  • Journalism utilizes interviews, research, and facts to tell the story of current events and happenings in the world.
  • Biographies tell someone’s life story, often someone famous or a figure from history.
  • Observational essays bring a meaningful place or event to life on the page.
  • Profile essays describe a person and their impact. This can be someone from your life or community.

Examples: “Black in Middle America” by Roxane Gay, “Notes of a Native Son” by James Baldwin, “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” by Gloria Anzaldua

One creative nonfiction work may be submitted per student
500-word minimum, 1500-word maximum (note word count at the end)


If you need inspiration, we have included some optional prompts for you to work with, in any genre!

  • View some of our art exhibitions (CLICK HERE) and write a piece inspired by an artwork that speaks to you. What does the artwork make you think or feel? What does it remind you of? The artwork could depict a scene in your short story, or perhaps it will inspire poetry.

  • 2020 has been a difficult year, to say the least. Write something to express your thoughts and feelings about the current times. Maybe you need to express your feelings through poetry. Maybe you want to make an argument about something in current events. Go ahead and speak your mind!

  • Write about an artist. You could include an artist as a character in your short story. Perhaps create a poem about, or from the perspective of, an artist. You could also write a creative nonfiction piece about the life of an artist, or a persuasive essay about the value of an artist or artwork you love.

  • Write about a change in perspective. This can be a nonfiction piece about how you have changed your mind or beliefs, or it can be a story in which a character’s perspective is shifted. You can also narrate your shift in perspective as part of a persuasive essay – and build ethos, pathos, and logos in the process.


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