Elementary Winners

Middle School Winners

High School Winners

John Estey Student Writing Competition 2022

2022 Competition Prompt

“The place in which I’ll fit will not exist until I make it.” – James Baldwin

American writer and activist James Baldwin used essays, novels, plays and poems to explore the identities of being a Black gay man. Born in 1924 in Harlem, New York, Baldwin’s lifelong passion for reading and writing began in high school, and he remains one of the most influential writers in American history. His novel Go Tell it on the Mountain and his collection of essays The Fire Next Time remain his best known works but he also wrote screenplays and poetry.

This prompt, a quote from a letter Baldwin wrote to a friend referring to placing his writing in context, is intended to be a jumping-off point, a first line from which students can write their imagining of the place in which they will fit. That place can be metaphorical, physical, or virtual; they can express their ideas in any genre (for example, poetry, essays, short stories, screenplay, etc). Submissions should be 1,000 words or less regardless of format.

Prizes for the John Estey Student Writing Competition are as follows:

  • 2 Winners from the Elementary Grade category will receive $500 each
  • 2 Winners from the Middle School Category will receive $1,000 each
  • 2 Winners from the High School category will receive $2,000 each

Submission deadline: June 17, 2022 at 11:59 PM CDT*

Please fill out the intent to participate form below to receive resources. The AWM Education team will send the submission link to those who filled out this form starting the week of May 9, 2022. 

The OnWord Student Writing Competition intent to submit form has closed.

Winners of the 2022 contest will be announced at the American Writers Museum's annual gala, OnWord 2022 on September 15, 2022.

*To submit your student’s work, please fill out the intent to participate form and you will receive a submission link from the education team at a later date. Submissions will ONLY be accepted through the submission link.

  • The 2 winners of the Elementary Grade category will receive $500
  • The 2 winners of the Middle School category will receive $1,000
  • The 2 winners of the High School category will receive $2,000
Competition Specifications

Category Selection

  • Elementary Grade Level (Grades 3-5)
  • Middle School Grade Level (Grades 6-8)
  • High School Grade Level (Grades 9-12)
Rules and Guidelines
  • Only 3 entries per category from one school.
  • Teachers will be allowed to submit entries for multiple categories.
  • A school with K-8 students can submit 6 entries (3 for Elementary and 3 for Middle School).
  • A school that is a stand alone middle school, or a high school can submit only 3.
  • If multiple teachers in a school have their students compete, the school needs to pick the top 3 for the school.
  • Winners agree to be filmed reading their work and to be featured in a press release and on the American Writers Museum website.

Contact education@americanwritersmuseum.org with any questions

Previous Winners


  • Catherine Huang – Collegewood Elementary School , CA
  • Chloe Truong – Norwood Park School, IL


  • Sophiya Subba – Whittier Elementary School, IL


  • Taskin Arisha – Castle Hill Middle School, NY
  • Aisling Panjwani – Skinner North Classical School, IL


  • Katie Liske – Marian High School, NE
  • Adina Tanner – Yeshiva University High School for Girls, NY


  • Nina Artwell – Niles North High School, IL
  • Ysa Quiballo – Niles North High School, IL