Storytellers of Tomorrow Writing Contest


What are the three submission categories?

  • Submission Category 1: Literary Stories
    Fiction, usually set in the real world, that emphasizes style, character, and theme over plot
    Examples of writers who work in this vein? Henry, Flannery O’Connor, Toni Morrison, Lorrie Moore, Jhumpa Lahiri, John Green, Colson Whitehead.
  • Submission Category 2: Genre Stories
    Horror stories, fantasy stories, mystery stories, science fiction, thriller stories
    Examples of writers who work in this vein? Edgar Allen Poe, Ursula K. Le Guin, Philip K. Dick, George R.R. Martin, N.K. Jemisin, Gillian Flynn, Eric LaRocca.
  • Submission Category 3: Nonfiction Stories
    Autobiographical essays, personal essays, creative nonfiction (including very well-written, story-based travel writing, nature writing, science writing, and/or biography)
    Examples of writers who work in this vein? Barbara Ehrenreich, Lauren Hillenbrand, Jeannette Walls, Bill Bryson, Michael Pollan, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Andrés Reséndez.
  • Submission Category 4: Micro-Roleplaying Games
    “One-shot” collaborative storytelling games where participants create and control fictional characters, navigating a shared narrative guided by rules
    Examples in this genre? “The Witch Is Dead,” “Trashkin,” “Sad Vampire Boyfriend,” “Crash Pandas,” “Pride and Extreme Prejudice.”

Will the contest entries be published?
No. There is no publication component to this contest..

Am I giving up any rights by submitting?
No. You still own your work, 100%.

Can I submit to more than one category?
Yes. Though each piece can only win a prize in a single category so please send different pieces if you’d like to contend in more than one contest category.

Can I submit more than one entry for a single category?
No. It’s one entry per category per person. The maximum amount of entries anyone can send is four–one literary short story, one genre story, one nonfiction piece, and one micro-rpg.

You say you want “unpublished” work. What does that mean?
If you wrote something for a school assignment, that’s fine. If your piece ran in your school newspaper or school literary magazine, that’s fine too.

If your piece ran in a national periodical of any type (USA Today, Reader’s Digest, Boy’s Life, Seventeen, etc.)? That’s published. The same is true with posting your piece in online forums, blogs, and websites (personal ones or something like Wattpad or AO3). If your piece was included in any textbook or anthology, that too counts as being published.

If you have any questions about this, please email us to ask.

I want to send in something different than a traditional short story. Can I do that?
Absolutely. While many submissions will be traditional short stories, we are also quite open to graphic narratives, scripts, picture book manuscripts, comics, and other literary forms/blends.

I’m a poet. Can I submit a poem?
You may submit anything you choose up to 2,000 words long (save for games, which are limited to 600 words), though poetry without an extremely strong narrative component likely doesn’t fit well in any of the submission categories. This is primarily a prose narrative contest.

How should I format my entry?
If you’re submitting prose or a game, please submit a double-spaced document in a 12-point font. Please title your work, both in the file name and in the document itself. If you’re submitting a script, poem, manuscript for a graphic novel, or some other format, you have a little more leeway, but please make sure your work is clear, clean, and in-line with industry standards.

What type of stories/subjects/themes do you want?
That’s entirely up to you, though a familiarity with the genre/style you’re writing in will surely be of help to you.

What are the judges REALLY looking for?
High-quality writing that engages the reader.

What are the common issues with most submissions?
Here are three of the top reasons most entries don’t make the cut.

  • Failure to follow the contest guidelines
  • Poor editing/proofreading
  • Cliché ideas/plots


I’m not an American citizen. Can I still submit?
If you’re a high-school-age student enrolled in a high-school curriculum and you’re writing in English? Yes.

I don’t live in the United States. Can I still enter?
If you’re a high-school-age student enrolled in a high-school curriculum and you’re writing in English? Yes.

I’m homeschooled. Can I enter the contest?
If you’re a high-school-age student enrolled in a high-school curriculum and you’re writing in English? Yes.

Is Ringling College associated with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus?
John Ringling was involved with the launching of the institution in 1931, but beyond that, we have no relationship to the circus beyond the association of his name. The circus’s closing in 2017 had zero effect on Ringling College.

Are there creative writing programs that actually teach game writing, script writing, picture books and graphic novels?
We do! We have courses focusing on tabletop games, video games, comics, picture books, and scripts in every medium! Check us out at here.

I’ve got a question that doesn’t seem to be answered anywhere. What do I do?  
Send in your question via email to with the subject line “Contest Question.”


Creative Writing Program
Dr. Ryan G. Van Cleave
2700 North Tamiami Trail
Sarasota, FL 34234

Prizes in Each Category

1st prize

  • $500
  • 1:1 consultation about your writing with a literary agent or editor
  • iPad for each winner’s high school writing teacher
  • Ringling College Creative Writing T-shirt


2nd prize

  • $100
  • Ringling College Creative Writing T-shirt


3rd prize

  • $50
  • Ringling College Creative Writing T-shirt

Honorable mentions

  • Ringling College Creative Writing T-shirt

Judges’ Award

One full-tuition scholarship to Ringling College’s 2024 summer PreCollege program ($6,950 value)