Institute for Writers presents



Expect the unexpected! 

Have you ever been on a trip that didn't go as planned?

Maybe you got hopelessly lost on a road trip. Maybe your passport was stolen in a foreign country. Maybe you got an unexpected bump to first-class and your trip got even better from there. Maybe your latest trip to the grocery store became an unplanned adventure.

Whatever your unexpected adventure, we want to hear about it. It's time to write a personal essay showcasing your own trip that didn't quite go as planned. 

This should be a essay that would be suitable for publication in a magazine. Your story should be engaging and make us feel like we're on this trip with you. 

Deadline: July 31, 2018

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What is a Personal Essay? defines a personal essay as "a short work of autobiographical nonfiction characterized by a sense of intimacy and a conversational manner." Find Your Creative Muse adds, "A personal essay is a glimpse of the writer’s life. The writer describes the personal experience using the scene-building technique, weaves a theme throughout the narrative, and makes an important point. There must be a lesson or meaning. The writer cannot just write an interesting story."

We want to see personal essays that are engaging, written in first person, and let the reader into your world. Your entry will show how effective your communication skills are, as well as the originality of your thoughts. We don't want to see any tired cliches here! 

Why Enter?

 $1,300 Cash Prizes 

  • 1st prize = $650 
  • 2nd prize = $350 
  • 3rd prize = $100 
  • 4th prize = $100 
  • 5th prize = $100 

Online Workshop 

All entrants are invited to a FREE instructional online workshop with our esteemed judge and the Director of Institute for Writers.

Free Critique

Winning entries will be workshopped by our judge to help writers understand what worked and what could be improved to make it submission-ready.

Here's what you need to know...

  • Entries can be no longer than 1,000 words and suitable for a magazine publication.
  • Essays should be written in first person.
  • Target readers should be adults.
  • Entries must follow manuscript submission guidelines as stated on our Contest Rules page HERE.
  • Entries deemed pornographic or gratuitously violent will be disqualified.
  • Entries must be submitted via our online form by midnight Pacific Time on July 31, 2018.
  • There is a $19 reading fee per manuscript to enter the contest.
  • You may enter more than one manuscript but each entry requires a $19 reading fee.
  • Every writer who enters will be invited to the online workshop for free where the winning entries are critiqued. (Non-entrants pay $7.)

Submissions will be judged on clarity, originality, potential in the magazine market, and your ability to match standard manuscript format (double spacing, clear contact information, no creative use of fonts).

The winning entries in this Unplanned Trip Essay contest will be announced at a live online workshop within 90 days after the contest closes. All contest entrants will be invited free of charge. (Non-entrants may attend for a nominal fee of $7.)

This is a great opportunity to build your writing and submitting skills!

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