ICL Writing Contest Rules

Submission Requirements: Any original, unpublished piece not accepted by any publisher at the time of submission is eligible.

• Each entry must be accompanied by a non-refundable reading fee of $19 (credit card or debit card).

• The entry fee will also entitle you to free entry to an instructional and educational webinar with the judge of the contest to be held after the winners have been chosen. You will have access to the replay for a limited time as well. Non-entrants must pay for their ticket to the webinar.

Entries are submitted online: We have developed a safe and secure web page for your contest entry and manuscript submission. It is easy to use.

• An "unpublished piece" means not published anywhere as of yet. That means anything from on your own blog, someone else's, or through a magazine or book. The idea is to get you writing, stretching, and following submission guidelines.

• You will first be directed to the section requiring the pre-payment of a $19 reading fee. You can enter as many times as you want, but each manuscript must be entered individually with its own reading fee.

• After your purchase, you will be sent to the manuscript entry page. Bookmark that page!

After you pay your entry fee, you will be sent an email with a link to the submission page. If you are not ready to upload your manuscript or you are not directed to the submission page immediately after your purchase, please check your email for the link to the submissions page. You do not need to pay the fee more than once per entry.

When your manuscript is ready, use the submission form linked in the email to upload your entry.

•The contest is open to writers 18-years-old and up. No minors may enter the contest.

•We cannot return submissions; please retain a copy of your manuscript.

• All submissions must meet the entry deadline outlined in the contest. Entries must be typed double-spaced.

• Entries should be text only and may not include illustrations or photographs.

• No cover page is required for this contest. Each page should have a page number in the lower right corner.

• We cannot stress strongly enough how important it is to proofread your entry before it is submitted. Carefully go over everything. Make sure you’re following these rules, just as you would have to follow a publisher’s submission guidelines.

NOTE: Once you click the submit button, that’s it! If you send something incorrectly or without your name, etc., you must go through the process of submitting again, which includes another fee. You will want to avoid that by proofreading and taking your time to make sure everything is correct.

• Entering this contest means you acknowledge and agree that ICL may read aloud and (kindly) critique all winning entries during the webinar held after the deadline. In addition, any positive comments made in the chat or about the webinar may be used as testimonials.

• No entries containing violence or derogatory, racist, or sexist language or situations will be accepted, at the sole discretion of the judges. No employees, relatives of employees, or former employees of the Institute or its divisions are eligible.

International Submissions: If you are purchasing with an address outside of the US, please allow 1-2 business days to process your registration and receive the submission link. If, after 3 business days, you do not receive the submission link in your email, please contact learn@instituteforwriters.com.

Winners and Rights: The winners will be announced at the webinar, in our Facebook group and in any upcoming newsletters, which receives first rights to the prize-winning manuscripts, after which all rights revert to the authors. We do not own your work product in any way, shape or form. However, we reserve the right to first publication of the winning entries in our newsletter and as soon as we've done that, you're free to send to anyone you wish. We do not hold the rights after the winners have been published in those places, which is approximately seven weeks after the announcement is made during the webinar that follows the closing of the contest.

Judges: All entries will be read by faculty and editorial staff members of the Institute of Children’s Literature. Winners will be notified by email approximately 90 days after the close of the contest if not by other means. Once the winners are announced, all non-winning entries are released for submission elsewhere.

Each entry must be uploaded in the following format:

  • Double space your manuscript.
  • Margins should be one inch all around.
  • Use Times New Roman or Courier, 12-point font.
  • Include your first and last name in the upper left corner of every page. (Do not include any other contact information on your manuscript.)
  • Word count only goes on first page.
  • Number all pages in the lower right corner.
  • Saved as a PDF or a Word doc named: YourFirstName_YourLastName_Contest1.doc
  • Please replace "YourFirstName_YourLastName" with your actual first and last name.
  • If you are entering the contest more than once, please add a 1, 2, or 3, etc. to the end of your document name. (i.e. YourFirstName_YourLastName_Contest1.doc and YourFirstName_YourLastName_Contest2.doc)

In the upper left hand corner on every page include your name. The word count only goes on the first page. (No cover page or other contact information is required on your manuscript.) Entries that do not follow this format are subject to disqualification. 

We received this question in our ICL Facebook group (which you can join here):

Question: "I know it should be double-spaced, but is it OK to add the extra space between paragraphs (or stanzas for a poem or something)? Or is it just all double-spaced with no break between stanzas? I didn't see this in the contest rules."

Answer: As most things we do, this rule is meant to teach. The rule is to teach that there is a proper format. We hope that our contestants will be compelled to learn what that is, and submit correctly. Then, when they are submitting to a publisher, they will have had a good lesson and won't mess up when it's even more important. If an entry is sent in, for example, with a single-spaced, run-on sentence, that would be eliminated. Double-spacing and then formatting so there is more space to differentiate between stanzas makes perfect sense. If it's not a poem or rhyming story, the correct format is as follows in the images below.

And remember, we're not out to "get you." We don't want to disqualify anyone and you'd have to really not follow the rules to be disqualified, like send in your full-length novel manuscript for a 500-word contest, or send a submission written in Vulcan.


• Rights: The Institute of Children's Literature will have first rights to the prize-winning manuscripts to publish on their website and/or in their newsletter, after which all rights revert to the authors.

Watch this video to see how to use the submission form:


I just want to sincerely thank you for the webinar, as it helped me to look at my entry with a new set of eyes. My manuscript now looks like it's been attacked with all my pencil scratchings--replacing, deleting, rearranging--I've got scribble marks and notes everywhere!

Vicki, contestant and attendee to the free post-contest lesson/webinar

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