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.



This year's theme, 20/20, is a look into our year ahead and what seems clear to us about it, and what we see in hindsight. The theme is also a celebration of who we are right now in this year of 2020, Maine's bicentennial year. The theme 20/20 allows us to explore the many ways we encounter our world, each other, ourselves, the Other, the unknown. Through the clear lens of 20/20 vision, we peer into the remarkable side of the ordinary, and the reality of our dreams. 



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

  • Entrants must be from Maine, and be between the ages of 11 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 your writing between 8:00 AM on December 12, 2019 and 11:59 PM on January 31, 2020. If we do not receive your submission in this window, it will not be considered. 


Congratulations to 2019-2020 Writing Contest winner, Logan Wilbur!

Congratulations to Logan Wilbur of Bass Harbor, a student at Mt. Desert Island High School! Logan’s short story “Back When” was selected out of a pool of entries that came in from young writers all across the state. You can read her piece below, and may have heard it on WERU-FM at 8:45am on Tuesday, May 5th, 2020. Her work will also be published in our upcoming anthology in June, and she will receive a $200 cash prize. Way to go, Logan!

Here is Logan's winning story:


Back When

It’s a day like any other.

I drum absently on the faded cash register. It’s just Mags and me working today. Packs of cigarettes plaster the wall behind our counter. Their bright colors contrast the grey, callused hands of the working men pointing out their brand of choice. The ads are all cowboys, cars, and beautiful girls. Inside the store, a washed-out woman pulls a plastic bottle of vodka from the shelf. She limps over concrete to Mags, the cashier she calls nurse.

“I’m here for my prescription,” jokes the woman. Mags could’ve been a doctor. She was getting a degree, but ran out of money halfway through. She’s sixty-three now and spends her off-days looking after a mess of grandchildren. When it’s slow she lets me study. “Ya gotta get into a good college and find a job ya can retire from,” she often reminds me.

Mags likes it when the store’s full. Plenty of these folks see grocery shopping as a social function. I like when the only buzz you hear is the fluorescent lights. I draft proposals on waxy bits of receipt paper. While stocking cans of soup and soda I puzzle over problems and ways to solve them. I mentally weigh trade-offs while I set cheap, pesticide-coated vegetables on the scales.

Every now and then a tourist swings open the battered glass door. They’re easy to spot, pausing outside the door like they’re scared the floor will turn to quicksand. They rarely buy anything from stores like ours, and mostly ask for directions.

“Back Beach? Are people still spreading rumors that place exists?” Mags laughs from behind the register. “Sorry, honey, there isn’t anything like that ‘round here.”

“Oh, well, thanks, I guess,” says the tourist, bored, already looking away like Mags is a GPS. “I’ll get going then.”

“Have a good one, sweetie!” When the door swings closed Mags chuckles and starts to ring up a Bud Light and a one-dollar muffin. “Gotta save some spots for the locals, don’t we?”

And the customers smile, not bright and shiny like the models in the cigarette ads, but it still feels good to laugh.

“That’sa wicked short list,” huffs a regular with a salt and pepper beard.

“Mm-hm. That’s why we gotta look aftah it,” she shrugs, nodding at the next family walking in.

“Still, I don’t figure how things got this way.” He grumbles, hand trembling to get back to its cigarette. “Back when the sea was full of fish it seemed like there were a hundred beaches, all empty and clean. Now they’re all clogged up with tourists and trash.”


“Well, what else ya gonna do? Hasn’t killed us yet! That’s what I always say.” He chuckles, gingerly rolling a shoulder back and massaging his knee. He’s been too old to work on the side of a building for a while now.

“We all do the best we can. That’ll be six fifty-nine.” Mags sighs, and glances at the wall behind us. “It’ll all work out. It always does.”

And the patrons believe it, just like they trust what those cigarette ads promise.

As their livers, lungs, and planet start to decay, they count on it.

I try to keep busy.