All of us, no matter our histories or proclivities, are tied to others. As the novelist Haruki Murakami writes: “A person's life may be a lonely thing by nature, but it is not isolated. To that life other lives are linked.”
What are the links in your life, dear writers? This month, in our ongoing partnership with Thrive on Campus
, we're asking you to write a personal essay centered on the concept of human connection. How do connections form or fade, strengthen or stretch? Perhaps you’ll write about your connection with a brother who has already left home, or an elderly neighbor who has lived next door since the day you were born. Or perhaps your essay will traverse the lessons of connection learned on a summer job, or the gateway of acceptance when a new member joins the family. Facets of connection are forged and tested every day—we can’t wait to read about what ties matter most to you.
KNOW THE HEART OF YOUR NARRATIVE. Oftentimes we don’t know the “main point” when we start writing and are instead guided by instinct, with some detail nudging us to investigate or reflect upon a particular experience. As we delve into this process of writing, the purpose for telling our story often reveals itself. So, although you don’t need to articulate a hypothesis or point or purpose before you start writing, at some stage it’s useful to step back and identify the following elements to your piece:
- What is powerful about the experience about which you’re writing?
- What has it taught you?
- How has it changed you?
You need not answer these questions directly in your final draft, but thinking about these questions will infuse your writing with significance.
WRITE TO YOUR AUDIENCE. Your audience for this narrative is a large, vibrant, supportive community… of mostly strangers! And strangers from across the world, no less, who don’t know the delicious smell of your neighbor's cooking, or the cadence of your father’s voice, or the way your best friend shuffles when he walks. Make sure to give your readers all the details they need to understand your experience from your specific vantage point.
FIND A UNIVERSAL THREAD. Although you are telling a story that is personal in nature, are there elements you can develop to make it resonate with a broader audience? Here are some options to consider:
- Appeal to your readers through emotion, allowing them to feel a particular experience.
- Demonstrate how the subject you’re exploring also impacts others: “This is larger than one story/one life!”
- Be particular. We relate to a story when we can step inside the shoes of the main character or narrator. Report your story with attention to specific detail and nuance.
- Show your foibles. Being honest about your weaknesses, insecurities, or mistakes cultivates empathy in readers.
BALANCE SCENE, SUMMARY, AND REFLECTION. As you develop your narrative, consider your methods of delivery. Scenes will draw in your reader, build tension, and offer telling details. Usually a personal narrative will revolve around 1-3 key scenes. Summary and reflection are also important. Summary efficiently delivers information (and can set the stage for scenes), while reflection allows you to communicate significance to the readers, building their investment in your experience.
CONSIDER TIME AS FLUID. Do the events in your personal narrative unfold chronologically (the order in which they happened)? Or do they jump around in time, according to their connection to one another and their significance? Organizing your piece in a sequence that is not chronological can build suspense and a sense of purpose in our writing. For example, you might throw us into a dramatic scene in the opening paragraph, and then back up, filling in details to help ground the first scene in a larger context. Jumping into the past is called flashback and into the future is called flashforward—two techniques to keep in your toolbox.
DEEPEN YOUR IDEAS. As you draft and re-draft your piece, return to the theme of connection and look for ways to explore and expand your ideas even further. What human ties are you illuminating through your personal narrative? How might others find meaning in your words?
Who is Eligible?
Young writers ages 13-18
600 – 1,000 words
Guest Judge: Marina Khidekel
Marina is Thrive Global's Editorial Director. Previously she was senior deputy editor at Women's Health, where she edited award-winning wellness features and oversaw the campaigns and partnerships around them. Before that, she was deputy editor of features and brand extensions at Cosmopolitan. She has held editing and writing posts at Glamour, MTV Networks, Brides and CosmoGirl, and was also the founder of Undrrated, a viral email newsletter where notable creatives such as Misty Copeland and Phoebe Robinson shared their under-the-radar culture, food and style favorites.
- Best Entry: $100 (winning piece + author interview will be featured on Write the World’s blog, winning piece will also be featured on Thrive Global)
- Runner up: $50 (runner up piece will be featured on Write the World's blog and on Thrive Global)
- Best Peer Review: $50 (reviewer interview will be featured on Write the World’s blog)
What’s Different about Write the World Competitions?
- Prizes: The winning entrant(s) will receive $100, and the best peer-reviewer will receive $50.
- Professional Recognition: The winning entry, plus the runner-up and best peer review, will be featured on our blog, with commentary from our guest judge.
- Expert Review: Submit your draft by Monday September 16th and get feedback from our team of experts—authors, writing teachers, and educational professionals.
September 9: Competition Opens
September 16: Submit draft for Expert Review (Optional. We will review the first 100 drafts submitted.)
September 20: Reviews returned to Writers
September 26: Final Submissions Due
October 11: Winners Announced
Our Album Review Competition opens Monday, October 7th.
Stay tuned for more details!
All final submissions will automatically be published on Write the World’s website.