Young Southern Student Writers

Contest Information

Contest Rules

  1. Eligibility:  Students from schools (K-12) in the Chattanooga area, as well as home school students, are eligible to enter the YSSW contest.  Each entry must be the student's original work, and it must not have been previously submitted to another contest or competition. Submission of the entry is an indication of acceptance of and adherence to these rules. Teachers from public and private schools must submit at least 5 student entries to be eligible to have a winner. No submissions with fewer than 5 entries will be considered. Home-schooled students' entries will be grouped by age range and category; submissions from home-schooled students should be sent by an adult to ensure compliance with these guidelines.
  2. Submission:  Entries must be submitted via the online submission process. (Link available at the bottom of this screen.) Entries must be submitted by the students' teacher(s). 
  3. Format:  Microsoft Word or Rich Text Format documents. Acceptable file extensions are .doc, .docx and .rtf. No PDFs or Pages documents will be accepted. Entries MUST be written in English, single spaced, and printed in a standard font (e.g., Times, Times New Roman). No cursive or decorative fonts, please! No illustrations or drawings.
  4. Categories:  Entries may be submitted in either or each of the two categories—prose (fiction or nonfiction) and/or poetry—at the elementary level (K-5th grade), middle school level (grades 6-8), and high school level. Students may enter only one submission per category. Maximum length for prose submissions is 1,000 words; maximum length for poetry submissions is 50 lines.
  5. Deadline: Entries must be submitted electronically by the students’ teachers by the end of the day on Monday, January, 14, 2019. Entries received after the deadline will NOT be considered.
  6.  Judges:  UTC faculty graciously read and enjoy every submission. UTC English faculty and graduate students read and evaluate all entries on the basis of creativity, content, and style to select the outstanding writer(s) in each category from each school. Judges are instructed to select one winner per every 15 students in each category in each grade.  Specifically, grade levels, arranged by school, with 16 or more entries in a category will have two winners; those with 31 or more entries in the same grade level will have three winners.
  7. Winners:  A winner in each category will be named from each participating school that has at least five entries in that category

What do our judges value?

We enjoy reading poems, stories, and creative nonfiction works that show off the student’s unique approach to the writing task and topic. Surprise us! 


Our poetry judges tend to look for an interesting image, rhythm that’s more complex than standard end rhyme, or a surprising or unexpected topic, idea, or meaning.


Our prose judges often look for fiction and creative nonfiction that’s complete with a beginning, middle, and end, has an interesting character or setting, or engages with an unexpected central conflict or topic.


Still not sure what to submit? Read the work of past winners in the Winners Books section below.

Get Inspired!

Consider this Short Guide to Imaginative Thinking to be an essential tool for sound educational practice, particularly in the area of creative writing. Please take some time to review this downloadable file and consider how you may inspire your student writers. 


Once you're certain that you've followed all submissions guidelines for this contest, click on the button below. If you teach multiple grade levels and/or are submitting for both categories, you will submit separate files/documents based on grade level and category.


Submit Students' Entries

Awards Ceremony

YSSW contest winners will be recognized and awarded medals at the YSSW Awards Ceremony in April. Stay tuned for location. Likewise, winning entries will be featured in an online publication. Teachers of these YSSW contest winners will be notified with more information as we approach the awards ceremony. Questions:  Call the Southern Lit Alliance office at (423) 267-1218 or email Dr. Wilferth at

Winners Books

  • 2017-18 Winners

Kindergarten - 5th Grade Winners

Middle and High School Winners

  • 2016-2017

Kindergarten - 5th Grade Winners

Middle and High School Winners

  • 2015-16 Winners  

Kindergarten - 5th Grade

Grades 6 - 12

  • 2014-15 Winners

Kindergarten-5th Grade

Grades 6-12

  • 2014-15 Winners

Kindergarten-5th Grade

Grades 6-12

YSSW 2013 Winners