*This post has been updated.

The pandemic has been tough on everyone, particularly children, but bravery, perseverance and brilliance deserve to be celebrated. In trying times, hope always shines through.

In that spirit, we’re launching a writing contest to honor amazing kids like you.

Did you earn a new belt in martial arts? Nail a gymnastics move? Cope with a friend moving away? Deal with the illness or loss of someone you loved?

Share a challenge you recently faced and how you overcame it.


Open to Wake, Durham and Orange county students in 4th-5th grade.

Essays must be 250 words or less.

Submissions accepted November 1-22. More information and link to submit here.

Must be submitted by an authorized adult (parent, caregiver, teacher, etc.)

Winners will be announced on December 15, 2021.


1st-3rd place winners: $50 Target card for 1st, $25 Target card for 2nd, $10 Target card for third. All will receive a Lulu bookmaking kit, notebook, pencil, bookmark, signed book written by each judge (Dream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon by Kelly Starling Lyons, Escape from Hurricane Katrina by Judy Allen Dodson and How to Build a Story . . . Or, The Big What If by Frances O’Roark Dowell), The Word Collector (the birthday book donated from Book Harvest) and a T-shirt donated by Quail Ridge Books.

4th-10th place winners: Books mentioned above, a Lulu notebook, pencil and bookmark and a T-shirt.

Writing Tips:

Start your story strong by using a hook to grab your reader. 

Paint a picture with your words. 

Take your time with descriptions. Stretch out moments so we can feel what’s happening.

Add figurative language like metaphors, similes and onomatopoeia. 

Show your emotions. Ex: Instead of saying you were happy, write a scene where you’re grinning and jumping up and down. 

Share what the experience meant to you. How did you grow? change? What will you always remember? Did family, friendship, determination, hard work, team spirit, patience make the difference?


Piedmont Laureate Kelly Starling Lyons and children’s book authors Judy Allen Dodson and Frances O’Roark Dowell


Lulu, Book Harvest, Quail Ridge Books, United Arts Council of Raleigh & Wake County, Raleigh Arts Commission, Durham Arts Council, Orange County Arts Commission,

Questions about this contest should be directed to: Kelly Starling Lyons at email@kellystarlinglyons.com.