A Guide to the Young Authors Contest



SoMLA provides this image, via their official Twitter, containing their logo & guidelines for this year’s contest.

Jonathan Castle, Writer

Every year, like clockwork, students all across Maryland begin writing their submissions for the Young Authors Contest. Students can submit a short story, poem, or both! If you’re interested in entering, the following contains some tips, inside information, and a behind-the-scenes look at Maryland’s Young Authors Contest from the students who enter it and the teachers who organize it.


First, the judging. How does it work? Who makes the decisions? How is a winner chosen? Renate Owen, one of Oakdale High’s librarians and a YAC organizer, offered some intriguing insight: “There is a panel of judges. All the judges prejudge [the submissions] individually, then they come together and discuss them, and which one should rise to the top.”


She continues, “[The judges] look at the rubric [and the] overall feeling [of] the story. Did it move us? Was it emotionally moving? Or was it adventurous? Or was it just so well written [that] it puts you in another world?” 


While these qualifications can seem intimidating, authors often surmont the challenge over time. Owen has personally witnessed this during her tenure at Oakdale: “I’ve been here [since] Oakdale opened. I’ve seen people not win but then, [a couple years later, come back and win]. So they grow, and they learn [by] working with others who look at your piece before you submit it. That’s actually the goal of this, to get [students] into that process.”


This sentiment was echoed by students as well. “It’s a good chance to get your work out there and meet like minded people,” noted OHS Sophomore Emmanuel Johnson.


“Last year I entered my story and earned first in my grade level, [which] helped me feel better about what I can write [and] made me feel comfortable sharing more.” 


That’s great for students who want to workshop their writing skills, but what about students who aren’t interested in pursuing writing? Owen says there is a space for them too: “It’s a bragging point, really. You can put it on your resume, you can put it on your college application. We’ve had several students win the state title, which is something that is really nice to be able to say on your resume.”


Entries from the Young Authors Contest are due on the 30th of November. Short stories can be between 800 and 2000 words, poems can be 25 and 300 words. A cover letter signed by your parents is required, and there are guidelines on what can or cannot be included in the entries. If you want more information, you can join the schoology group using the code: VJR8-M77T-99S8J, or by speaking to an English teacher or Ms. Owen in the Media Center. 


There is still plenty of time left to enter, so take advantage of it. And for those who choose to enter, the Oakdale community wishes you the best of luck!