The Telling Room's Annual Writing Contest

Open to All Maine Writers, Ages 12-18

About the Contest

Our annual, themed, creative writing contest allows youth from all over the State of Maine to show off their writing chops! The contest runs from mid-December through January each year. A panel of professional writers selects one grand prize winner in February. The contest is OPEN NOW and closes at 11:59pm EST on Thursday, January 31, 2019.

Writing Contest Rules

  • All submissions must be related to the annual theme (see below for more information on this year's theme).

  • Entrants must be from Maine, and be between the ages of 12 and 18.

  • Poems must be 40 lines or fewer, in any form. Fiction and nonfiction prose should be 750 words or fewer.

  • Submitting to our contest constitutes an agreement to be considered for publication in our annual anthology.

  • Flash fiction, short fiction, personal essay, persuasive or opinion essay, feature journalism, poetry, and other forms of creative writing are considered. 


  • The grand prize winner will receive a $200 award.

  • The winning piece will be published in our spring anthology.

  • The winner will also be invited to share the prize-winning piece at BIG NIGHT, The Telling Room's year-end celebration, in front of a crowd of 300-400 people.


Submit here!



The 2018-2019 Contest Theme: VOICES

This year's writing contest theme, VOICES, acts as a great canvas to explore the many ways we encounter our world, each other, and ourselves. What do you have to say? What is your voice? What makes your characters' voices unique? What do they say?

Prompt Ideas and Inspiration

Great stories, essays, and poems contain unique voices that introduce readers to a specific angle on the world. This creative writing contest urges you to showcase your voice! Is your voice strong, timid, paranoid, hilarious, desperate, defiant, instructional, stubborn, sticky sweet, contrarian, angry, exuberant, wistful, pained, embarrassed, quiet, loud?

What is unusual about how you see the world? What is your character’s unique spin on the world or a tiny corner of it? Who are you addressing, and what are you trying to convince your audience to feel, or to do? Follow your own voice (or your narrator’s) wherever it takes you and give it your whole attention until your writing is done.

Here are some prompts from us to get you started, but you’ll do your best writing once you abandon our prompts and get immersed in your own writing’s voices.

"Why would you say that?" s/t/he/y said. (and write about what happened right before this quote, or right after)

What is the last thing you'll say tonight?

What are the consequences of silence?

Who is responsible for the suffering of your family member or friend?

“I use my voice for...”

Write about when:

  • your voice was heard
  • your voice was not heard
  • someone else’s voice spoke clearly inside you or your character
  • a voice was roaring loudly within you or your character
  • there was confusion between different voices
  • someone’s voice inspired you or your character
  • the voice within you and the voice you spoke to others were not the same
  • you were silent and regret it or did the right thing
  • you spoke out and regret it or did the right thing

Try a character study (and the character may be you if you are writing nonfiction or poetry) and then use these voices in your writing:

How do you sound when…

  • you’re tired
  • you’re alone
  • you’re super excited about something
  • you want something really badly
  • you know you shouldn’t do something
  • you’ve been wronged, cheated, or betrayed
  • you’ve won
  • you’ve lost
  • you have a long struggle ahead of you
  • you use your private voice that only you can hear


Congratulations to the 2017-18 Writing Contest winner, Husna Quinn!


Dressed in Red
Husna Quinn

The tapping of her scarlet
pin heels
fills the family room.
Her radiant red
dress illuminates
the faded gray shapes
of objects surrounding her.
My gaze
from just outside the door
follows her coal black eyes.
Glimpsing the art
attached to the wall
she halts her steps,
ambling toward a conflicting frame.
Unlike the others,
neat rows of traditional prints—
drummers, dancers, and artists—
the family portrait
scarcely hangs onto the wall.
The left side of her faint red lip
tugs upward
as she observes the smiling faces
trapped in the photograph.
Her aura breathes “vile stepmother”
but her attire screams “fleeting lover.”
As I watch from my post
in the black shadows,
my father saunters toward her
and embraces her pear-like body.
He pecks her red lips,
hugs her,
and rests his head on her neck.
It is a scene so natural and tender,
yet it has failed with my mother.
I close my eyes to them
and imagine my mother coming home
later that night.
With rehearsed countenance
she will imprison my father
in her arms.
She will hold him, and hold him,
long enough
for our validation of the embrace.
Detecting a lipstick blemish,
she will discreetly scold my father
advising him to be
more vigilant
in the children’s presence.
I open my eyes and see
the color drained from the room,
the portrait still crooked
on the wall.


When she wrote this poem, HUSNA QUINN was an eighteen-year-old senior at Deering High School and an Early Study Aspirations student at the University of Southern Maine. She worked with the Publishing Workshop at The Telling Room, her student government, and the National Honor Society. Husna was inspired to write this poem because she noticed that there is not enough literature that examines infidelity from children’s points of view although they experience it within their families.


Brooks Miller wins the 2016-17 writing contest!

We are thrilled to announce that Casco Bay High School student Brooks Miller is the winner of our 2016-17 statewide writing contest.  A panel of judges chose his poem out of over 200 entries from all corners of Maine. Brooks will be published in the May 2017 issue of Maine Magazine and will be awarded a $200 cash prize at our 2017 Big Night Event.

Thank you to the many talented writers who submitted stories and poems this year. We loved reading them and look forward to hearing from you again next winter!

Here is Brooks' winning poem:


Of a Conversation We Cannot Finish

Dear Grandfather,
Dear Professor of Biology,
Dear Ex-Wild-Life Society President,
My Christian Zealot,
Today, I pose a question:
You’re the smartest man I know
And despite all the knowledge you have,
You still pledge to a god who hates your grandson?

Your words are a bug in my ear
–No, not just a bug–
You speak, and bugs crawl on my skin.
There's no substance to your words
Like hot water without tea,
Hot water diluted with turned milk.

With anger behind your words
You tell me I look like a girl.
Stunned and embarrassed in the parking lot of a hotel,
My identity is in question.
You tell me to cut my hair,
Your words wasting air.

“Your generation has an interesting identity.”
“Your generation emasculated.”
“Your generation phone addicted.”
“Your generation social media inflicted.”
And yet we are the most active
Wielders of the Internet. How can you doubt us?

You and I are hatred, we are opinions,
Hatred and opinions that tear us from love.
Words like shots, we hurl at each other.
We are a dove with a bullet in its heart.

But as we drive to the wrong theater
Between our laughs and radio

I hate small talk,
Little talk, the pointless talk,
The “how is the weather” talk,
The work break-room talk,
The worst kind of talk.

I like big talk.
Big talk, deep talk,
The "do you fear death?” talk,
The perfect silence talk,
The good talk.

I’m sorry but we need an intervention.
This has gone on too long and we need to talk.



Listen to Siri Pierce, our 2015-16 grand prize winner!

Siri Pierce, Portland - "Wings"


Listen to Lizzy Lemieux, our 2014-15 grand prize winner!

Lizzy Lemieux, Gorham - "The Presumpscot Baptism of a Jewish Girl: After Hanel Baveja"


Listen to the winners of the 2013-14 contest read their work:

Kaitlyn Knight, Rome - "I Am Not Wild"

Alicia Thurston, Topsham - "Astriferous"


Listen to the winners of the 2012-13 contest read their work:

Meghan Lane, Rockport - "Prelude in A Minor"

Mary McColley, Berwick - "Lapti"