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P=Poetry, N=Nonfiction, F=Fiction


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N – Our 3rd Annual Personal Narrative Writing Contest – for High School Students

November 17, 2021 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

We invite middle and high school students ages 11-19 to tell a short story about a meaningful life experience in 600 words or fewer. Contest Dates: Oct. 13 to Nov. 17, 2021

When you think of The New York Times, you probably think of front-page news, but The Times also has a long tradition of publishing personal narratives, and you can find new ones online nearly every day if you know where to look.

In fact, over the years there have been columns dedicated to personal narratives on themes from love and family to life on campus, how we relate to animals, living with disabilities and navigating anxiety.

For this contest, you are invited to write a personal narrative of your own about a meaningful life experience.

We’re not asking you to write to a particular theme or to use a specific structure or style, but we are looking for short, powerful stories about a particular moment or event in your life. We want to hear your story, told in your unique voice, and we hope you’ll experiment with style and form to tell a tale that matters to you, in a way you enjoy telling it.

Take a look at the full guidelines and related resources below.  And, consider hanging this PDF one-page announcement on your class bulletin board.

This contest begins on Oct. 13, 2021.

Students ages 11 to 19 anywhere in the world attending middle or high school can participate. Students ages 13 to 19 years old in the United States and the United Kingdom, and students ages 16 to 19 years old anywhere else in the world, can submit their own entries. Younger students can have an adult submit on their behalf.

  • Your narrative should be a short, powerful, true story about a meaningful experience from your own life.

  • It must be 600 words or fewer, not including the title.

  • You must be a student ages 11 to 19 in middle school or high school anywhere in the world to participate. For students in the United States, we consider middle school to begin in 6th grade. Students in lower grades cannot participate. For students outside the United States, students must be 11 years old to have their work submitted to this contest.

  • Your essay should be original for this contest, meaning, it should not already be published at the time of submission, whether in a school newspaper, for another contest or anywhere else.

  • Keep in mind your audience. You’re writing for a family newspaper, so, for example, no curse words, please.

  • Submit only one entry per student.

  • While many of our contests allow students to work in teams, for this one you must work alone.

  • All entries must be submitted by Nov. 17, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. Pacific using the appropriate contest form above.

Please read through all the official eligibility and submission rules before submitting your narrative. If you have questions, please see the Frequently Asked Questions section below.



New York Times
United States