The Storytellers of Tomorrow

The 7th Annual "Storytellers of Tomorrow" High School Creative Writing Contest

The contest has closed. Results will be announced by Monday, February 7, 2022.

The Ringling College of Art and Design Creative Writing Program was created to support, empower, and honor young writers. It’s an exciting time to be a writer thanks to the increasing number of narrative possibilities that new technologies and media offer. We believe that well-told stories can speak truths and communicate ideas in a way that nothing else can.

To that end, we’re inviting all high-school-age students to submit unpublished, original English-language stories of up to 2,000 words in length for the 7th Annual “Storytellers of Tomorrow” Contest. The sole criterion for earning prizes in this contest is simply overall quality, meaning that well-edited, engaging, and evocative stories have the best chance of winning over the judges. 

Submission Guidelines

All high-school-age students writing in English may submit one entry (maximum) in each of the following categories via the Google form which will be available only during the contest’s submission window.

Submission Category 1: Literary Stories
Examples of this type of writing? Short fiction, flash fiction
Examples of writers who work in this vein? Tim O’Brien, O. Henry, John Green, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Robert Olen Butler, Amy Tan, Sandra Cisneros, and Lorrie Moore

Submission Category 2: Genre Stories
Examples of this type of writing? Horror stories, fantasy stories, mystery stories, science fiction, thriller stories
Examples of writers who work in this vein? Neil Gaiman, Edgar Allen Poe, J.K. Rowling, Ursula K. Le Guin, George R.R. Martin, Philip K. Dick, and Patricia Highsmith

Submission Category 3: Nonfiction Stories
Examples of this type of writing? Autobiographical essays, personal essay, 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? Lauren Hillenbrand (Unbroken), Jeannette Walls (The Glass Castle), Oliver Sacks (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat), John Burroughs (“In Mammoth Cave”), Chuck Klosterman (Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs), Jorge Luis Borges (“Blindness”), E.B. White (“Once More to the Lake”), and Annie Dillard (“Seeing”)

How to Submit:
Submit this Google form from October 15, 2021 to January 15, 2022

Submission Period
October 15, 2021 – Jan 15, 2022
(Winners will be notified in February 2022)

The Ringling College of Art and Design Creative Writing Program faculty  

Entry Fee

Prizes in Each Category

1st prize

  • $1,000
  • 1:1 consultation about your writing with bestselling author and editor Brooke Vitale
  • iPad for each first-place 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


How do I submit work?
Click on the SUBMIT YOUR WRITING HERE tab on the main contest page. The Google form is located there. Submissions sent in any other manner (snail mail, email, etc.) will not be considered.

Do I need to use special formatting for my contest entry?
Please double space and use a 12-point font, and include your name as well as the title of your piece. Here is a good example of a professional standard format.

Will the contest entries be published?
The top winner in each category may be offered the opportunity for their work to be published in Shift, the Creative Writing Program’s literary arts journal. Authors retain all rights to their stories whether they accept this possible publication opportunity or not.

What if I win first prize but don’t want my work published?
That’s a decision we will respect.

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 three–one literary short story, one genre story, and one nonfiction piece.

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 TodayReader’s DigestBoy’s LifeSeventeen, etc.)? That’s published. The same is true with posting your piece in online forums, blogs, and websites (personal ones or Wattpad). And 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, 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.

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.

  1. Failure to follow the contest guidelines
  2. Poor editing/proofreading
  3. 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’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.

I’m 10. Can I enter?
If you’re chronologically younger than most high school students but you’re in a full-time high school program, then yes, you can enter the contest.

I’m 45. Can I enter?
If you’re chronologically older than most high school students but you’re in a full-time high school program, then yes, you can enter the contest. Please note–for the purposes of contest eligibility, working on your GED isn’t the same as being in a full-time high school program,

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. So the circus’ closing in 2017 had zero effect on Ringling College.

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.”

Winners of the 6th Annual Storytellers of Tomorrow Contest!


First Place—“Slow Winter” by Adelina Rose, South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities (SC)

Judges’ Comments: “This domestic story hooks us with the first sentence and keeps reeling us in with the consistent and compelling voice of the first-person narrator. Through details and snippets of reported dialogue, the writer inhabits the character of a middle-aged mother and paints a full picture of a family and a neighborhood. A quiet but satisfying conclusion fulfills the promise of the opening.”

Second Place—“Not the Bird but the House” by Avalon Felice Lee, Notre Dame High School (CA)

Judges’ Comments: “This story of troubled twins in foster care captures their humanity while also suggesting their volatility. The writer focuses on the present moment but doles out just enough backstory to keep the story humming with tension.” 

Third Place—“Moonflower” by Christina Li, Milliken Mills High School (Ontario, Canada)

Judges’ Comments: “This story of three generations captures the ‘happiness and sorrow’ of the immigrant experience and the power of memory. The writer doesn’t sugarcoat the tensions between mothers and daughters, yet the story leads readers to a believable transcendent moment.” 

  • Honorable Mention—“Stages” by Dedeepya Guthikonda, Edina High School (MN)
  • Honorable Mention—“Something About Living” by Ben Herdeg, The Hotchkiss School (CT)
  • Honorable Mention—“The Cut” by Tanisha Shende, Bergen County Academies (NJ)
  • Honorable Mention—“Coins” by Alex Aradas, South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities (SC)
  • Honorable Mention—“Leonie” by Angela Wei, Groton School (MA)
  • Honorable Mention—“Compared to You” by Miranda Clapp, Sarasota Military Academy (FL)
  • Honorable Mention—“A Letter to Burn” by Sara Fazioli, Saint Francis High School (CA)
  • Honorable Mention—“Poppy’s Piety” by Deklan Baker, Florida Unschoolers (FL)
  • Honorable Mention—“A Trip to the Gallery” by Andra Fofuca, Blyth Academy (Ottawa, Canada)
  • Honorable Mention—“Trinkets for the Dead” by Sidney Gard, The New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts (LA)
  • Honorable Mention—“Gamed” by Yejin Suh, Glen Rock High School (NJ)
  • Honorable Mention—“Widow” by Natalie Hampton, Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (TX)
  • Honorable Mention—“Rules for Visiting My Grandmother” by Andrea Salvador, Trinity College/The University of Melbourne (Australia)
  • Honorable Mention—“Ten Things to Do Before I Die” by Fiona Brooks, Castilleja School (CA)
  • Honorable Mention—“The Coming Storm” by Ryan Linney, Blue Valley North High School (KS)
  • Honorable Mention—“Gardening” by Dana Blatte, Sharon High School (MA)
  • Honorable Mention—“The Jar” by Briana Chen, Cherry Creek High School (CO)
  • Honorable Mention—“Inconvenient Brilliance” by Kenna Geary, Washington Liberty High School (VA)


First Place“Sappho and the End of the World” by Annabelle Helms, East High School (IA)

Judges’ Comments:This touching, melancholy story is a poetic post-apocalyptic elegy that draws the reader in with its lush language and then keeps us engaged with clear, simple declarative action and characters we can deeply empathize with.”


Second Place—“The Light Doesn’t Fall Like it Used To” by Miriam Alex, Nashua High School South (NH)

Judges’ Comments:The story’s staccato structure challenges the reader to focus and its use of the second person pushes us right into this contentious relationship between your Aunty and you. As the mystery unfolds, so does the story’s effective eeriness, weird, but very human finale.”


Third Place—“All the Stars in our Sky” by Vivian Schwarz, Highland Park Senior High (MN)

Judges’ Comments:The story feels like a modern fairytale, although there’s little that’s overtly fantastical in this sweet tale of chronic love and affection. Here again the second person point of view is expertly deployed, turning the tale into a love letter full of specific, telling dialogue between characters who feel alive and true.” 


  • Honorable Mention—“The Bone Spirit” by Amanda Kay, Santa Clara High School (CA)
  • Honorable Mention—“How to Grieve as a Witch” by Amy Li, Richmond Hill High School (GA)
  • Honorable Mention—“Waters of the Sky” by Carissa Horst, Elizabethtown Area High School (PA)
  • Honorable Mention—“Sirens” by Emma MacGregor, Newark Academy (NJ)
  • Honorable Mention—“Nodus Tollens” by Grace Stephens, The Kinkaid School (TX)
  • Honorable Mention—“The Rules” by Lara Blanton, Morristown Beard School (NJ)
  • Honorable Mention—“Strangled” by Lauren Siegel, Newark Academy (NJ)
  • Honorable Mention—“Mon Petit Moineau” by Sierra Sonberg, Dallas Center-Grimes High School (IA)
  • Honorable Mention—“Clairvoyance” by Tanisha Shende, Bergen County Academies (NJ) 
  • Honorable Mention—“Elf” by Tina Huang, Phillips Exeter Academy (NH)
  • Honorable Mention—“A Wendigo in Little Tokyo” by Yejin Suh, Glen Rock High School (NJ)
  • Honorable Mention—“The Daffodil Story” by Maeve Brennan, Marymount School of New York (NY)


First Place—“On Circles” by Carolyn Lau, Herricks High School (NY)

Judges’ Comments:A lot of this year’s submissions worked well in terms of content and voice, and this piece was no exception. The author’s facility with structure, though, was next-level. It’s almost architectural on the page, and the prose and verse sections complement each other beautifully.”


Second Place—“Backstage” by Neva Ensminger-Holland, Interlochen Arts Academy (MI)

Judges’ Comments:Using Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development as a framework for this intensely personal piece was a smart choice. We appreciated the fluidity of the language, and how effortlessly the author shifted from an academic, almost clinical voice to a more personal—sometimes devastatingly simple—style.” 


Third Place—“The Bad Things List” by Sara Carmichael, Interlochen Arts Academy (MI)

Judges’ Comments:Very clean, effective use of language. Although this piece is (of course) fuller and more fleshed out than an actual list, the author excelled at mimicking that structure. Telling such a weighty story in so few words, in such concise paragraphs, is no easy task, but this was handled beautifully.” 


  • Honorable Mention—“Oh Honey” by Rose Gowans, South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities (SC)
  • Honorable Mention—“Sit in the Corner and Think About Murder” by Katie Davis, South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities (SC)
  • Honorable Mention—“The Girl’s Guide to Being a Vessel” by May Hathaway, Stuyvesant High School (NY) 
  • Honorable Mention—“Abstract of an Unwritten Research Paper on the Self” by Miriam Alex, Nashua High School South (NH) 
  • Honorable Mention—“Leucojum Vernum, Spring Snowflake” by Natalia Tapia Moreno, United World College Maastricht (Netherlands) 
  • Honorable Mention—“摺紙鶴​:Paper Cranes” by Ralph Lam, Phillips Academy Andover (MA) 
  • Honorable Mention—“A Family Portrait in Liminal Spaces” by Regina Cassese, Interlochen Arts Academy (MI)


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Patron Type # of Items Type of Material Borrowing Time
Student 40 Books 3 weeks
CDs and CD-ROMs 3 days
DVDs and Blu-Ray 3 days
Magazines (unbound) 3 day
Magazines/Annuals (bound) 5 days
Videogames* 7 days
Faculty and Staff 40 Books 6 weeks
CDs and CD-ROMs 3 days
DVDs and Blu-Ray 7 days
Magazines (unbound) 3 day
Magazines/Annuals (bound) 5 days
Videogames* 7 days
Trustee, Alumni, Cross College Alliance, and  15 Books 3 weeks
Ringling College LibraryAssociation Members CDs and CD-ROMs 3 days
DVDs and Blu-Ray 3 days
Magazines (unbound) 3 day
Magazines/Annuals (bound) 5 days
Videogames* N/A
PreCollege 5 Books 3 weeks
CDs and CD-ROMs 3 days
DVDs and Blu-Ray 3 days
Magazines (unbound) 3 day
Magazines/Annuals (bound) 5 days
Videogames* N/A
Local Teacher 15 Books 3 weeks
CDs and CD-ROMs 3 days
DVDs and Blu-Ray 3 days
Magazines (unbound) 3 day
Magazines/Annuals (bound) 5 days
Videogames* N/A
Chartwell’s and Follett employees located at Ringling 15 Books 3 weeks
CDs and CD-ROMs 3 days
DVDs and Blu-Ray 3 days
Magazines (unbound) 3 day
Magazines/Annuals (bound) 5 days
Videogames* N/A
*The video game collection supports the research and teaching of the Game Art & Design program. Video games may not be checked out by Alumni, Ringling College Library Association members or Family members.


The Alfred R. Goldstein Library features a wide variety of quiet, group study, and work process spaces. Looking for a quiet study area? Make your way up to the 3rd floor to look for a book in the Research Collection or peruse the new art magazines while relaxing in comfortable seating. When the weather is nice, you can take your coffee from Roberta’s Café on the first floor to one of the four terraces to work outside and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. Looking for meeting space to get together with a group? Check out the group study rooms, which are available on all three floors of the Goldstein Library. The 10 group study rooms are available to students on a first-come first served basis, or available for booking by Ringling College faculty and staff for group and class meetings.

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The library remains closed to all non-Ringling College visitors, including the general public and alumni, until further notice.

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