Spring 2016 National Student Writing Competition: What We Fear

Want a motivator to take your students' writing to a higher level? Here's an opportunity to write for a real audience, and the chance to get published by an award-winning magazine.

To see more of Elman's work, check out her website, Fear Project

Illustration courtesy of Julie M. Elman

The YES! National Student Writing Competition is an opportunity for middle school through university students to write for a real audience—not just you, the teacher—and the chance to be published by an award-winning magazine.

Each quarter, students are invited to read and write an essay on a selected YES! Magazine article. We divide contestants into four categories: middle school, high school, university, and Powerful Voice (for authors whose essays are powerful and passionate). Winning essays in each category are published on the YES! Magazine website and in our online education newsletter.

Register here
Click here for general information about the writing competition.
Read recent featured essays here


What We Fear

This spring, students will read and respond to the YES! Magazine article, This Artist Collects Your Worst Fears and Turns Them Into Something Great. In this story, Julie M. Elman, shares how she created The Fear Project to help her cope with her own fears. That project soon grew to help others, too. Elman takes people’s stories—their actual words—about what they fear, and uses art to visually interpret those fears. Her vibrant, multi-media collages articulate what we're afraid of or dread, and make them acceptable, tangible, and part of everyday life.


The Writing Prompt

Even though it is normal to have fears, we’re often taught to hide them, or feel bad for being scared. To Julie M. Elman, creator of The Fear Project, naming our fear is part of the journey to confronting it—and possibly overcoming it.

Students are asked to respond to these two questions for their essays:

What is one thing you fear about your future? How can you lessen that fear?

For this contest, we have a special treat. Julie M. Elman will create a visual interpretation of each winning essay from the middle school, high school, university, and Powerful Voice categories.

Who is eligible?

You must be a classroom teacher—homeschool cooperative, resource centers, supervised writing groups, and schools outside the U.S. included—for your students to participate.
Student writers should be in grades 6-8, grades 9-12, college/university, or adult continuing education.

How does it work?

• Complete the competition registration form by March 4 (see link at bottom of page).
• Students respond to the YES! article with an essay up to 700 words.
• Submit up to three essays per class period, along with student release forms, by April 8.
• For each of the following categories, YES! staff will select one essay that we feel is well-written, compelling, and captures the spirit of the article:
o Middle School (Grades 6-8)
o High School (Grades 9-12)

o College/university
o Powerful Voice (for an author whose essay is uniquely powerful or thought-provoking)
• The selected essays will be featured on the YES! Magazine website and in our online education newsletter, reaching thousands of YES! readers, including over 16,000 teachers.

Common Core State Standards

This writing competition meets several Common Core State Standards for grades 6-12, including W.9-10.3 and W.9-10.4 for Writing, and RI.9-10.1 and RI.9-10.2 for Reading: Informational Text *
*This standard applies to other grade levels. “9-10” is used as an example.

What are the essay requirements?

• Respond to the article and writing prompt provided by YES!
• Provide an original essay title
• Reference the article
• No more than 700 words
• Must be original, unpublished words
• Teachers must read and submit their students' essays. Remember, the limit is three essays per class period! Please take time to read your students' essays to ensure they have met essay requirements, including correct grammar. Unfortunately, we cannot accept essays sent independently by students.

In addition, we are evaluating essays for:
• Grammar
• Organization
• Strong style and personal voice. We encourage writers to include personal examples and insights.
• Originality and clarity of content and ideas

How do I submit the three best essays from my class?

• You must be registered for the competition by March 4.
• E-mail your three best student essays as word-processed document attachments or as Google Docs (please no pdf or scanned documents) to [email protected] no later than April 8.
• Include a scanned, completed student release form
with each submitted essay. Please make sure student email addresses are legible and visible.

The next writing competition is in fall 2016. Details will be announced in September 2016 .

Questions? Please email [email protected]

Thank you for joining us!

Get Started Here:
Registration Form
Student Release Form
Evaluation Rubric


No Paywall. No Ads. Just Readers Like You.
You can help fund powerful stories to light the way forward.
Donate Now.