Leave a reply

Listen up Minnesota student writers: Nine fresh writing competitions are calling for your attention—and work. Whether you’ve entered a writing contest in the past or you’re waiting for the perfect opportunity, now’s the time to get crafting and submit. These nine contests cover the gambit of ages, topics, and genres, which means no student is left out. That’s right, there’s no excuse not to enter! So put down your phones, pull up a chair, and check out this listing of Minnesota student writing contests for Spring 2018:

Frankenstein Project – Novella Contest 2018

Theme: One or more fundamental themes of the Mary Shelley novel Frankenstein

Age: Any person living in southeastern Minnesota/SELCO library region

Contests participants are asked to write a novella on a Frankenstein theme, like vengeance and futility or creativity and the responsibility of what has been created. Submissions must be between 20,000 and 50,000 words. The contest is free to enter and includes monetary prizes and publication in an anthology. Deadline for submissions: March 4, 2018.


Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis – Student Essay Contest 2018

Theme: Should the Federal Government increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour?

Age: All high school students living in the Ninth Federal Reserve District

Essays must be limited to three pages on the topic and under the direction and supervision of a teacher. Monetary prizes for 30 finalists, along with first, second, and third cash prizes and a paid summer internship for the first prize winner. Teachers can also receive cash prizes. Deadline for submissions: April 20, 2018.


Minnesota State Fair – K-12 Competition

Theme: Reports and Creative Writing

Age: K – 12

Teachers or students submit work as an exhibit. Online registration begins May 7, 2018. Students may submit a variety of items; projects executed at home and school are welcome. Projects include drawings, paintings, reports, and creative writing. Entry is free. Deadline for submissions: August 7, 2018.


Twin Cities Juneteenth Celebration and Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s Youth Drawing and Essay Contest 2018

Theme: What Juneteenth means to you or your family or Why is Juneteenth an important historical event?

Age: 11-18

Juneteenth celebrates the end of African slavery in the U.S. Entrants must write a 250-word essay on one of the above themes. Contest is free to enter. First and second place winners are awarded prizes and honored at the Annual Juneteenth Celebration on June 16. Deadline for submissions: June 1, 2018.


2018 Lutherans for Life Minnesota Essay Contest

Theme: From Age-to-Age the Same and Bible verse Isaiah 46:3b-4

Age: Lutheran students in grades 6 – 12

Students must write a life-affirming essay on the topic, no more than 400 words for grades 6-8 and 750 words for grades 9-12. Monetary awards are given to top winners, along with advancement to the national contest. No entry fee. Deadline for submissions: March 18, 2018.


The Great River Shakespeare Festival/Maria W. Faust Sonnet Contest 2018 (Winona)

Theme: Sonnet (see information below)

Age: Youth Category, ages 17 and younger

According to the website: “Sonnets may be written in Shakespearean, Spenserian, Petrarchan or Non-Traditional rhyme schemes, but each must be in the fourteen-line, iambic pentameter form.” Best youth category for this contest awards three winners, who will receive cash prizes. No fee to enter for youth category. Deadline for submissions: June 1, 2018.


The Great American Think-Off Writing Contest 2018

Theme: Which plays a greater role in shaping one’s life: success or failure?

Age: All ages

Essays must be no longer than 750 words. Four winners receive cash prizes and an invitation to a live debate on June 9 in New York Mills, MN, to answer the question. No fee to enter. Deadline for submissions: April 1, 2018.


2018 SCSC Writing Contest (South Central Service Cooperative & Minnesota State/Mankato)

Theme: Conservation and Sustainability

Age: Students in grades K - 12

Write a poem, fiction, or nonfiction piece that relates to the theme. Word length varies. The contest was created to recognize talented young writers in south-central Minnesota. Awards include publication in an anthology and copies for themselves and their school. Additional prizes may be awarded. Entry fee of $3 per submission, multiple submissions accepted. Deadline for submissions: March 19, 2018.


Lake Superior Writers 2018 Annual Contest

Theme: Rescue

Age: Must be 18 or older – open to college students

The LSW 2018 Annual Writing Contest covers multiple genres, including poetry, short-short fiction, short fiction, and creative nonfiction. Monetary prizes and publication for winners. Entry fees are free for members of LSW; $35 fee for nonmembers. Deadline for submissions: April 1, 2018.


Good luck to all contestants!

Image by photosteve101




Leave a reply

In today’s world of loose rules and anything-goes sentence structure, bad grammar often gets a pass. But using effective grammar is essential for readability, credibility, and clarity in writing. If you think you could use a grammar refresher, look no further. These five tips will help you hone and improve your grammar—so you can give your readers a satisfying, stammer-free experience.

Take a Class

Why not enroll in a grammar refresher course? They’re fun and challenging and help sharpen this important writing skill. Recommended classes include the Editorial Freelancers Association's Grammar Combo course, ed2go’s Grammar Refresher, and Media Bistro’s Grammar and Punctuation. You might also check with a local college or community education program for onsite grammar refresher classes.

Download a Grammar App

There are many grammar apps out there, so why not take advantage of this useful tool? Grammar apps do everything from point out errors in your writing to offer quizzes and games to make learning fun. Some of the most popular grammar apps include Grammarly, Oxford A-Z of Grammar and Punctuation, and Grammar Up, but an online search will reveal many more.

Explore a Grammar Site

Websites set up to assist with grammar can be a great resource for those especially interested in learning more about the mechanics of good writing. Three to consider are GrammarCheck, Daily Grammar, and Purdue Online Writing Lab. These sites include newsy information on today’s use of grammar as well as helpful hints to keep your grammar spotless—and spot on.

Invest in a Good Style Guide

This is a must if you’re a writer. Style guides give rules for how editors (self-editors too!) should handle all kinds of grammar-related issues—from basic mechanics to word usage. For tips on choosing a style guide, check out Allena Tapia's article on the subject. Style and usage books, like the classic On Writing Well by William Zinsser and Strunk’s The Elements of Style, offer important grammar help for writers, too.


You’d be surprised at how many grammar tips you can pick up by just reading a book. Plus, reading is an entertaining and informative way to hone your craft. So go ahead and read to your heart’s content. But instead of reading as a reader, try reading as a writer. Your grammar won’t just improve; so will your overall writing.

Don’t let your grammar fall by the wayside. Take it seriously, and make your writing as professional and crystal clear as it can be.


Leave a reply

Want to get more exercise this year? Join the crowd. Getting in shape has long been a top New Year’s resolution. But writing, like other sedentary jobs, isn’t exactly conducive to improving fitness. The good news is you can use one of your innate talents to get yourself moving: creativity. Try these tips, and see how easy it is for you to slip exercise into your daily writing schedule.

Exercise at Your Desk

Just because you’re working at your desk doesn’t mean you can’t be exercising too. Between tasks, try doing arm pumps, leg lifts, body stretches, and shoulder rolls. For a full list of ideas, check out WebMD's desk workout guide.

Get Fit Before You Sit

Why not start the day with exercise, before you even begin writing? You’ll get your daily fitness out of the way, put your body and brain in working order, and feel energized and ready to write your best.

Rely on a Friend

For many people, getting inspired to exercise requires a companion. If that describes you, enlist a spouse, friend, or even your dog to be an exercise partner. Find someone who’s dependable and motivating so you won’t let each other down.

Restructure Your Lunch Break

Used to sitting at your desk while you eat? Try something new this year. Head to the lunch room for a change of scenery, then walk the stairs afterward. Or, take your lunch outside and finish with a stroll around the block.

Write It on the Schedule

If you keep a daily task list, include an exercise session in the schedule and make it as important as everything else on the list. Out of sight, out of mind, but “exercise” written in large print is a great way to remind you to do just that.

Take Five between Projects

It only takes five minutes to get a healthy spurt of exercise. Situps, pushups, lunges, squats, jumping jacks, you name it—you can work in plenty of exercise breaks between projects without infringing on your writing time.

Drink Up

Water isn’t just a hydrator; it boosts metabolism, aids digestion, cleans the body of toxins, and helps you lose weight. Plus, water encourages activity by motivating you to get up from your chair to use the restroom.

Becoming a nonsedentary writer is easier than you think. Resolve to meet your writing and fitness goals, and make this year the one you succeed at both.


Leave a reply

If you’re thinking about doing some charitable giving this holiday season, why not give the gift you know best—writing? There are many ways to put your talents to work for others, and doing it for free actually benefits you too. Volunteer work not only teaches new skills, it improves self-worth and confidence and provides an outlet for networking. You might even land some paying gigs in the process!

Ready to give a little year-end writing for free? Here are 12 ideas to get you started:

1. Write Grants for Nonprofits

If you’ve never done grant writing in the past, it’s never too late to start. Seminars and courses on grant writing are widely available, but you might also find a grant writing mentor to guide you through the process. Check with your favorite nonprofit for volunteer grant writing opportunities or go to volunteermatch.org for ideas.

2. Volunteer Your Editing Skills to Schools

Students of all ages and backgrounds could use a little writing help, and many teachers welcome writers to share their expertise. See how you can help a school in your community by volunteering your writing and editing skills—or just visiting to discuss your profession.

3. Guest Blog for a Website

Whether you get a link back to your website or not, guest blogging is a great way to volunteer your talents to another writing professional or startup business. Be willing to blog about whatever would help the website gain exposure and readers.

4. Write for a Community Newsletter

Newsletters contain valuable information for the community. If you have a newsletter you like to read, why not contribute to it? Animal rescue groups, arts councils, chambers of commerce, and other local organizations put out newsletters regularly. Find one that interests you and get crafting!

5. Write a Letter to an Inmate

Check with local and regional prison and correctional facilities for direction on writing letters to inmates. Or, see if a local church has a prison outreach program that encourages inspirational letter writing.

6. Draft a Response to a Newspaper Editorial

Did you read an article recently that got you thinking? Newspapers like to print responses to their editorial pieces from readers. You won’t get paid, but you will get noticed—and read.

7. Contribute to a Nonpaying Magazine

Nonpaying magazines may not be your first choice when it comes to submitting your work, but your contribution can pay off in more ways than monetary reward. You’ll help the editors fill their calendar, support your peers, and give readers the gift of the written word. Submit to a nonpaying children’s magazine or e-zine, and impart your knowledge for the benefit of the next generation of readers and writers.

8. Host a Writing Workshop

Got kids in the neighborhood who like to write? Invite them over for a fun day of writing activities. Play word games, write stories based on a popular theme, or have the kids rewrite a favorite fairy tale. You might also volunteer to host a writer’s workshop at your public library or other venue.

9. Help Fundraise with Free Content

Fundraisers help a worthy cause or an individual in need. Write content to help fundraise, and see how your writing can bring in money to improve the lives of others. If you don’t know where to fundraise, look online for fundraising options where you’re work might be needed.

10. Write a Review

Holiday books and movies are popular this time of year. Volunteering to write a review helps people decide which one to pick. When writing a review, avoid going on a rant. Try to find the positive in everything, but be honest about your opinions and experience. You might also write a review on a new restaurant in town.

11. Tutor for Adult Learners

Want to help adult learners become better writers? Sign up to offer tutoring help. Check with the library or a community center for information on volunteer tutoring work.

12. Volunteer with Distributed Proofreaders

If you like to proofread, volunteering with Distributed Proofreaders might be just the ticket. Distributed Proofreaders welcomes help from anyone who enjoys working with words. You’ll help proofread public domain e-books as part of Project Gutenberg and can do it a page at a time or whatever fits your schedule. For more information, go to https://www.pgdp.net/c/.

Image by Shayla

Leave a reply

The holidays are fast approaching—which means it’s time to get writing! Put aside any thoughts of a pre-holiday writing break and get ready for some festive and productive fun. Holiday writing is plum full of opportunities that can bring bounds of joy, not to mention some well-earned cash. Try these ideas, and prepare for holiday season 2017 the writer’s way:

Get Ready for the Winter Olympics

Craft a story or article about the 2018 Winter Olympics, just around the holiday corner. Write about the host country of South Korea, a new sport being added, a rising star athlete, or whatever angle strikes your interest. Olympic topics are engaging, plentiful, and lucrative.

Write a Holiday Recipe

Got a unique holiday recipe you’d like to share, like a festive cookie or a favorite dish from your great-grandma’s recipe box? Food publishers are always on the lookout for tasty holiday fare. Be sure to test your recipe out, write it well, and include mouthwatering pictures.

Go on a Shopping Spree

This one will pay off big; you’ll get a jumpstart on holiday shopping and first dibs on the inventory, plus you can sell a piece about your shopping experience—like tips on finding the perfect gift, how to beat the rush, where to shop, and ways to get the best deals this season.

Write Your Personal Gift List

The holidays are all about giving and receiving. Focus on receiving for a minute and consider what might boost your writing potential in 2018. A new style book? A different desk or lamp for your office? Don your thinking cap and put together a gift list that’ll help further your career.

Draft a Holiday Game

If you enjoy playing games during the holiday season, here’s an idea: create one of your own. Draft holiday trivia questions or a word game or puzzle. Holiday games and puzzles are in high demand, especially in the children’s market. And who better to write an intriguing game than you!

Research Holiday Writer Events

Lots of events for writers come to town during the holidays. See if one of your favorite authors is scheduled to speak, look into a writer’s workshop, or attend a local bookstore’s holiday event. Listening and learning from the pros can go a long way in enhancing your writing efforts.

Don’t let the holidays slide by without taking advantage of the many opportunities available to utilize and hone your craft. Try these activities, and prepare for a productive season of writing.

Image by Negative Space


Leave a reply

Every writer produces work they’re not proud of. But if you feel stuck in a pattern of bad writing, don’t get discouraged. Chances are you’re not losing your mind—or your talent. In fact, good writing gone bad could be due to something much simpler and easier to fix than you think. Here are some possible culprits that could be harming your work and what to do about them:

Your Office Setup

Is your desk chair comfortable? How about your office—is the temperature too hot or too cold? How’s the lighting? Do you have enough space to spread out your research? All these things can affect comfort level, which in turn can harm your writing quality. Try rearranging your office or investing in better equipment if necessary. Make your workspace one that makes you feel good and inspires you to write your best.


Hunger pangs aren’t just loud and annoying; they can compromise your brain power. When you’re hungry, you may feel lightheaded, tired, and fuzzy. Get your mind in good working order by making sure you’re satiated. Food boosts creativity, focus, and mental acuity. And while you’re at it, drink up. Staying hydrated keeps you energized, so be sure to sip on water throughout the day.

Unsolved Personal Problems

Has something been nagging at you, like an argument with a friend or an upcoming stressful event? Whatever’s distracting you, get it off your mind so you can devote your brain to your work. If you can’t address the problem immediately, jot it down in a notebook to deal with later. Then refocus your attention on your writing. You can return to your troubles after a good writing session—and maybe they won’t seem so bad after all.

An Overworked Mind

Sometimes bad writing days are the result of overwriting. If you haven't had a break lately, it could be time to take one. Breaks can do wonders for writers; they offer an opportunity to refresh, rejuvenate, and brainstorm for new ideas. Set your work aside, and catch a movie, have a lunch date with a friend, or go on a mini-vacation. You’ll return with a renewed sense of enthusiasm that will show in the quality of your writing.

Lack of a Mentor

When writing goes sour and you can’t figure out why, consider consulting a writing mentor or friend. Often it takes another set of eyes to figure out where you’re going wrong. It could be that your writing isn’t as bad as you think or that it just needs a few tweaks here and there. On the other hand, another writer can help you fine-tune your work and clear up any major writing problems you don’t see.

It's easy to blame yourself when the quality of your work slips. But what’s wrong with your writing could have nothing to do with your talent. Give the above ideas a try, and get back to crafting the quality stuff you’re used to.

Image by Jerry Bunkers

Leave a reply

Fall is almost here, but are you prepared for a new season of writing? Whether you’ve been punching away at the keyboard all summer or not, autumn is a great season to refresh, recharge, and renew your writing life. Here are five tips to help you get ready for fall writing—and produce some of your best work yet:

Collect Fresh Ideas

Think about the summer and what you learned or experienced in the last few months. Tap into your senses to discover a new twist on the changing colors, air, and pace of this time of year. Attend a lecture or do some reading. Ideas are everywhere; find something unique to share.

Write a List

Goals are important for successful writing because they keep you organized, on task, and productive. Put together a list of them. Make it as detailed as you can, knowing you can alter your list as needed. Then put it somewhere visible to serve as a reminder and motivator.

Make Some Useful Purchases

Need a new writing desk? How about a new dictionary or a style book? Now’s the time to buy. There’s a full inventory of office and school supplies available, many at discounted prices. Take advantage of the deals and get your writing tools updated.

Join a Group

Writing groups are an ideal way to advance your craft, network, and keep you inspired to write. Find a group online or in person and get connected. You might also join a writing organization related to your genre. Many writing organizations have national and local chapters.

Prepare a Schedule

After the unstructured months of summer, it can be hard to get back to a routine. Take the time to prepare a schedule—and a plan for following it. Decide when you’ll write during the weekdays and weekend. Spend a day or two trying out the new schedule to see how it feels.

Fall is one of the best times of year to get serious about your writing. In fact, many writers create some of their best work during the autumn months. Let the above tips help make this writing season a success for you.

Leave a reply


Semicolons get a bad rap for being a punctuation mark that’s outdated, pointless, and confusing to use. But many of those arguments have no merit. In fact, semicolons can serve an important purpose in writing, no matter what it is. Knowing how to place semicolons in the right spot for the right reason, though, is key, and can make this underrated punctuation mark a writing tool worth your time and attention.

Here are five things you need to know about semicolons. Use them mindfully, and see why there’s nothing semi about them.

They’re Effective for Emphasis

If you want to emphasize your point by reinforcing it with a similar thought, the semicolon can help you out. For example, “She never works late; only a crisis would keep her at the office past five.”

They’re Best When Not Noticed

Don’t let the semicolon stand out and distract the reader. Instead, slip it in where it won’t be noticed. Too many semicolons are noticeable. Just one strategically placed within a paragraph on a page is all you need for a subtle break from the usual punctuation.

Sometimes They’re Better than a Period

Semicolons can often be replaced by periods, but sometimes a semicolon is a better choice. If the sentence needs splitting up but doesn’t make two different points, try the semicolon. It might be just the connector you need.

Sometimes They’re Better than a Comma

That’s especially true for complex lists—like those that already include commas. Example: She did three things this morning: read the paper; planned her trip to Washington, DC; and made a yogurt, berry, and granola parfait. Choose semicolons over commas with transitional adverbs, too: She knows how to knit; however, she only learned the skill yesterday.

They’re Nothing to Fear

Don’t be afraid of semicolons. They won’t make you look like an amateur. In fact, semicolons are completely acceptable and even a good thing when used properly. Practice using the semicolon and get comfortable with it. You’ve got nothing to lose, other than your fear.

If you’ve wondered whether you should use a semicolon, wonder no more. It’s a useful punctuation mark that’s full of value and function. Go ahead and get on the semicolon bandwagon; just be wise with it for the most impact.

Image by SpeedyGonsales

Leave a reply

Health and wellness is all the rage these days, so it’s no wonder people are making career choices in fields related to healthcare. As a writer, you can too. Not only is health writing a lucrative niche, you’ll gain important knowledge about how to keep you and your family healthy. Plus, it’s easy to get started as a health writer. There are various paths you can take to work your way up to a health writing expert. Here are a few that’ll put you on the right and robust track:

Begin with Schooling

Many study programs are available to help you learn the ropes of health writing. One of the most well-known and respected options is the Essential Skills Certificate program from the American Medical Writers Association. The AMWA also offers a variety of individual online classes in health writing. Another idea is to take courses through a local college on subjects related to health, like pharmacology or nutrition, to acquire background knowledge for writing in the health field.

Be a Self-Learner

Not the student type? With a little dedication and perseverance, you can learn to be a health writer on your own. Start by getting to know the world of healthcare. Read about health topics online, pour over health journals at the library, do some research on health topics that interest you, or talk to people in the health and medical fields. Then starting writing and submitting your work. Build a name for yourself as a health writer, and enjoy the perks that come with your newly acquired expertise.

Draw from Experience

Many successful health writers got their passion from experience. Maybe they’re longtime health and fitness nuts, perhaps they’ve been dealing with a lifelong medical issue, or possibly they know someone in the field who inspired them.  If you have any life experiences with health, use them to your advantage as a writer. Dig into your repertoire of health knowledge and start writing about it. You might be surprised at how much information you already have that can help educate the public.

Join a Group or Association

Sometimes your writing peers can be your biggest career boosters, so make a point to make contacts in the health writing world. Become a member of a health writing association, like the American Medical Writers Association, the Association of Healthcare Journalists, or the National Association of Science Writers. Look for local chapters and attend meetings and events. Or, join a private writing group of like-minded health writers. The important thing is to make a point to get connected!

Health writing is a fun, lucrative field with endless possibilities for writers. If you’ve wanted to delve into this high-opportunity niche, don’t hesitate. You’ll set yourself up for a thriving career for years to come.

Image by Nick Youngson


Leave a reply

As writers, we don’t have to be told to sit down and write. It’s what we do and what we enjoy doing. But asking kids to write can be a whole different story, especially during the summer season when school's out. If they don’t have to write, why would they want to?

Actually, there are plenty of reasons. Writing during the summer is a great way for kids to practice their skills without being graded or judged. It’s a chance to write about topics they enjoy and explore their creativity in a leisurely fashion. Writing can also be highly therapeutic for kids; it helps them manage stress and promotes mental well-being. And here’s the best part: getting kids to write during the summer might not be so hard after all.

Try these five writing activities for a fun way to keep your kids thinking, creating, and engaged this summer:

Find a Writing Camp or Class for Kids

Kids love camps, and writing camps are filled with fun projects, social time, and learning. Check with local colleges, community education, writing organizations, or the public library for offerings.

Host Your Own Writing Workshop

Can’t find a camp or class nearby that suits the kids? Why not host your own. Make up writing projects and invite their friends over to join in. Add some snacks, and watch your writing workshop take off.

Journal with Your Kids

Journaling isn’t just fun; it’s a way to express and communicate your feelings. Get your kids to open up via a two-way journal. Start by writing a journal entry individualized to your child. If he likes thunderstorms, write about a thunderstorm memory. Then get your child to respond back.

Fill a Box with Writing Prompts

You’ve probably experienced writer’s block more times than you can count. Sometimes getting kids to write is simply a matter of finding the right topic. Fill a box with writing prompts and have them pick until they find an idea that inspires them.

Take It Outside

Writing indoors can be stifling. Have your kids grab notebooks, pens, and a lounge chair, and head outdoors to write. You can supply the encouragement—and the lemonade.

Don’t think your kids won’t enjoy dabbling in your profession this summer. Give them a fun way to explore their writing talent, and watch them grow and thrive at an art that will serve them well for years to come.

Image by Carissa Rogers