A Literary Magazine and Writing Contest for High School Students in Union County, Arkansas
Writers’ Ink is a creative writing contest designed for high school students, grades nine through twelve, in Union County, Arkansas. The magazine is accompanied by a literary magazine of the same name in which the winning contest entries and honorable mentions are published each year. The contest and magazine were founded in 1997 by the English faculty of South Arkansas Community College in cooperation with local high school English teachers and administrators. The first contest was introduced in September of 1997, and the first volume of the magazine was published the following April with 80 entries.
The 2014-15 contest attracted 341 entries, involving five high schools and eleven English teachers. Cash prizes were awarded in all six categories for a total of $1,350. Thirty-two submissions were published in the magazine: 14 poems, 10 short stories, and 8 essays.
In all, the contest has attracted 4,908 entries over the past 18 years, involved several dozen teachers from every high school in the county, and generated $21,500 in prize money.
If you are planning to enter the Writers' Ink contest this year in hopes of winning a cash prize and getting published in the literary magazine that accompanies the contest, you may need help in choosing and developing a topic for your poem, short story, or essay. Your English teacher may give you some tips and assignments to point you in the right direction, but if you are working on your own, you may wish to use the creative writing ideas at this web site.
For details on this year's contest, ask your English teacher for a copy of the student handbook and the submission form. The handbook will provide the contest rules, the submission guidelines, the deadline for entering the contest, and the judging criteria used to select the winners and the honorable mentions. A submission form will need to be filled out for each contest entry. If you are a home-schooled high school student, you may compete in the contest, but you will need to recruit a full-time English teacher in one of the high schools in Union County, Arkansas, to serve as your sponsor.
Notice that this web site is divided into three main areas: poetry, short fiction, and essays. Within each of these subdivisions are tips, topics, and complete writing assignments for the genre along with some models to give you an idea of what the finished product may look like. Click on the buttons and links to navigate your way through the material. If you find an idea that you like, feel free to use it, but do not pattern your poem, story, or essay too closely after any of the models. If you do, you will be guilty of plagiarism. Simply choose a topic or assignment, and write about it from your own experiences and/or creative imagination. Good luck and good writing!
If you are planning to enter a poem in this year’s contest, you may wish to begin by watching the slideshow entitled “What the Judges Look for in Poetry.” It explains and illustrates the judging criteria used in the contest, and it points out what to avoid when you are writing poetry. Once you have in mind the kind of writing that the poetry judges value, you will be ready to look for an idea or a poetic form that will fit an idea that you already have. Simply click on the links below to begin exploring this section of the website.
- Cause-Effect Poems
- Clothing Poems
- Poetry Assignments Available on the Internet
- Snapshot Poems
- The Container Poem
- The Highway Poem
- This Day in History
- Writing Poetic Parodies
If you are planning to write a short story for this year’s contest, you may wish to begin with the article entitled “Common Problems in Fiction.” In this article, you will learn how to avoid the most common mistakes that fiction writers make, especially in first drafts. Once you have these potential pitfalls in mind, you can more intelligently develop a good idea for your short story from the links below.
- Common Problems in Fiction
- First Lines
- Historical Fiction
- Science Fiction
- Story Starters, General
- Story Starters, Spooky
If you are planning to write a personal essay for this year’s contest, you may wish to begin with the article linked below, “Writing Personal Essays: The Basics.” Then you may wish to browse the various assignments linked below, read the sample essays, and consider your options. Remember that your essay may be published in the magazine, so try to avoid highly personal topics that might embarrass you, your friends, or your family.
- Basics of Writing Personal Essays
- Easy Essay Ideas
- Essay Assignment - Nature
- Essay Assignment - Mysteries
- Essay Assignment - Food
- Essay Assignment - Roles People Play
- Essay Assignment - Ruts, Routines and Rituals
- Essay Titles Ready to be Developed
The Writers’ Ink Contest and Magazine
The English faculty of South Arkansas Community College is proud to announce the continued funding of Writers' Ink, a literary magazine designed especially for high school students in Union County, Arkansas, the college's primary service area. The 17th volume was published last April and attracted an interesting variety of quality manuscripts. Again, this year all ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth graders are invited to write and submit poems, essays, and/or short stories for possible publication in Writer's Ink.
To accompany the 18th volume of the magazine to be published in the spring of 2015, the college will again sponsor a contest to recognize the best student writers in two divisions--ninth/tenth grades and eleventh/twelfth grades--and in three categories: poetry, essays, and short fiction. The best writers in each category of each division will receive a cash prize, free copies of the magazine, and a handsome award certificate suitable for framing. First-place winners will receive $100, second-place winners $75, and third-place winners $50.
Your teacher will remind you of the writing contest during the school year and of the deadline for submitting original manuscripts. Your teacher will also suggest creative writing assignments that will generate the kinds of poetry, essays, and short stories suitable for the magazine. Begin planning now to enter the contest and to submit your best work for inclusion in the 18th volume of Writers' Ink.
Student authors should:
1. Submit only original, previously unpublished material. Plagiarized or highly derivative work will be disqualified. Only students whose work has been certified as original by their English instructor will be eligible for the contest and publishable in the magazine. In essay submissions, students may quote outside sources only sparingly and according to the documentation rules prescribed by the Modern Language Association in its latest handbook. Note: research papers and academic essays are not accepted.
2. Use standard English in essays and fiction except when quoting sources or characters who use non-standard English, dialects, or foreign words and phrases. Poetry is a freer form of expression, and students may take more liberties with language.
3. Adapt to a general audience by avoiding profanity, racial slurs, sexist references, and other offensive language. Avoid also graphic violence, explicit sexual material, and other types of potentially offensive subject matter.
4. Use conventional word spellings in essays and fiction as prescribed in the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, unless it serves the student author's purpose to imitate a non-standard speech pattern used by a person or character. Again, poetry is a freer form of expression, and students may use unusual spellings or coin words for artistic purposes.
1. All contest entries must be submitted in digital format to facilitate preparing the magazine for the printer. Each student=s work must be saved in Rich Text Format and submitted to the English teacher as he or she specifies. The English teacher will compile all of the entries and save them to one disk or flash drive for submission to the contest coordinator. When typing their stories, poems, and essays, students should use a standard 12-point font and should avoid using unnecessary features such as bold type, borders, graphics, etc.
2. An individual may submit no more than one poem, one essay, and one short story for publication for any volume of the magazine. Given this restriction, an individual may make up to three submissions per volume of the magazine. Each entry should have a title.
3. Poems should not exceed 30 lines in length. Essays and short stories should not exceed 1500 words in length.
4. Each entry must be clearly labeled with the student's identification number in the upper left-hand corner. Nowhere in the manuscript should the student's name appear. Once the winners have been selected by the judges, the manuscripts will be matched with the ID numbers and the student author's name attached to the appropriate poem, essay, or short story for publication.
5. All submissions must be received by the magazine coordinator at South Arkansas Community College no later than February 20, 2015
1. All contestants must be enrolled at a public or private high school--grades 9 through 12--in Union County, Arkansas, or must be a Union County resident being schooled at home in high school-level studies and sponsored by a local person employed as an English teacher in a public or private Union County high school.
2. All submissions to will be screened first by the student author's English teacher. This first screening will ensure that the manuscript meets editorial guidelines and submission requirements.
Once the manuscript has been submitted to the contest coordinator at South Arkansas Community College, the English faculty at the college will do a second screening to select the best manuscripts in the three categories of poetry, essays, and short fiction. All of these entries will be published in the magazine.
From those entries that survive this second screening, the judges will choose the best of the best. These contest winners will be so designated in the magazine and will receive the announced prizes. In each of the three categories first, second, and third place prizes will be awarded. In the case of a tie for first, second, or third place, prizes of equal value will be awarded to all recipients. If any prize category does not attract enough publishable submissions, the judges may choose not to award prizes in that category.
3. To guard against plagiarism as much as possible, each student writer will sign a Pledge of Originality form, stating that he or she has submitted his or her own work according to the editorial guidelines and the rules of submission. The student writer's English teacher will also sign the form, certifying that to his or her knowledge the poem, essay, or short story is entirely the student's work and is entirely consistent with the student's other work and with the student's ability. These forms will be labeled with the student's contest identification number and kept separately from the manuscripts to preserve the anonymity of contestants until the judges have selected the winners. No submissions will be accepted without a completed Pledge of Originality form to accompany it. By signing this form, students also grant South Arkansas Community College first North American serial rights should their composition(s) be included in the magazine as well as permission to publish the work on the college=s web site.
4. Student authors should not submit a previously published poem, essay, or short story. The only exception to this rule is work published in some form on the student's campus, for example, in a high school newspaper.
5. Because one of the main purposes of this literary magazine is to encourage students to write and to keep growing as writers, contestants should submit only work that they have written during the 2014-15 school year. The judges will make an exception to this rule if a student wishes to take a paper written after the deadline for last year's contest and revise it for submission this year.
6. The judges will use the following criteria:
a. How well has the writer employed imagery to create clear pictures in the mind of the reader?
b. How well does the form of the poem complement its meaning? (For example, a serious subject would not normally be written as a limerick--a poetic form usually reserved for humorous purposes.)
c. How well is the poem unified around one clear image, concept, or dominant feeling?
d. How well has the poet avoided sentimentalism and cliché?
e. How creative is the poet in helping readers see everyday things in a new perspective or strange things in a familiar light?
a. If setting is important, how well has the writer set the stage for the action?
b. How well are the characters developed?
c. How well is the plot constructed?
d. Is the writer's choice of narrator (point of view) appropriate?
e. Whether openly stated or merely implied, is the theme an organic part of the story? Does it grow naturally out of the events, or does it seem artificially tacked on?
f. Has the writer employed language creatively and artistically to tell the story?
a. Has the writer demonstrated a strong sense of purpose and audience?
b. Is the essay unified around a clear thesis?
c. Is the essay well organized? Does the organization of the essay grow out of the relationships among and between subject, purpose, and audience; or does the essay appear to have been poured into an artificial structure?
d. Is the essay developed with specific, well-chosen supporting material?
e. Is the style in which the essay is written appropriate to the writer's purpose and audience?
f. Has the writer chosen words and combined them into sentences and paragraphs logically, accurately, and concisely?
For purposes of this contest, the following definitions shall apply:
1. A poem is a literary composition that uses poetic language to treat its subject in an extraordinary way. Poetic language emphasizes sound more than prosaic language and may include rhythm, rhyme, assonance, alliteration, and sharp images created through the use of figures of speech and sensory language. A poem is usually written in lines and stanzas rather than sentences and paragraphs. It looks and sounds quite different from prose, the language in which essays, articles, reports, letters, etc. are written. A poem may tell a story; capture a moment in time; create a vivid word picture of a person, place, or thing; express an emotion, or achieve any of a dozen other purposes. Whatever else it does, a good poem forces the reader to see the subject in a more concentrated, dramatic way than a prose treatment.
2. Short fiction or what is commonly called a short story is narrative writing that comes from the writer's imagination in the form of sentences and paragraphs. The fiction writer may use some poetic devices to tell the story, but the emphasis is on the story rather than the language in which it is told. Usually, the story is a brief account of some fictitious event that may or may not be suggested by the author's observations or experiences in real life. The typical short story consists of plot (the author's choice of events in the narrative), character (the persons that take part in the story), setting (when and where the story takes place), point of view (the author's choice of a narrator for the story), and theme (the idea behind the story). A good short story aims for a single effect and leaves a single, powerful impression.
3. The essay is a short work of nonfiction, written in prose (sentences and paragraphs), in which the author explores some subject from a personal point of view for the purpose of sharing with readers the author's perspectives, insights, experiences, opinions, etc. on a specific subject. Again, the writer may use poetic devices such as sensory language or figures of speech, but the emphasis is on the message more than on the medium. The essay genre for purposes of this contest does not include research papers or other academic papers such as poem explications or literary analyses.