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South Carolina Honors College

  • Sunset near Kiawah Island, S.C. on the marsh. Photo taken by Clint McKoy.

South Carolina High School Writing Contest

The South Carolina Honors College at the University of South Carolina invites your students to enter for cash prizes and a publishing opportunity. We are proud to showcase selections from past South Carolina High School Writing Contests. These featured submissions from high school juniors and seniors are edited by Honors students in our SCHC 384 course.

About the S.C. High School Writing Contest

The S.C. High School Writing Contest is open to South Carolina high school juniors and seniors in public, private and home schools. Students will submit written works addressing the topic question, “How should we improve the state of South Carolina?”

We welcome submissions in all creative genres, including fiction, drama and poetry. We also welcome straightforward essays and other kinds of writings – diary entries and letters, for example. After a student submits their work, about 20 finalists will be chosen. Finalists will have their work reviewed by the 2024 writing contest judge Carla Damron. The entries of finalists and winners will be showcased by the South Carolina Honors College on its website. Cash prizes of $1,000, $500 and $250 will be awarded to the first, second and third place winners.

Note: All applicants must be residents of South Carolina. Submissions must be within 750 words. If you have questions about the writing contest, please contact us here.

2024 – 2025 Contest Deadline

The deadline to apply for South Carolina High School Writing Contest is Monday, October 7.

 

Meet this year's judge: Carla Damron

Carla Damron headshot

This year's finalists will have their work reviewed by the 2024 writing contest judge Carla Damron.

Damron’s crime fiction novel, The Orchid Tattoo, about domestic human trafficking, received four literary awards, including the 2023 National Indie Excellence Award in suspense. Her women’s fiction work The Stone Necklace (which deals with grief and mental illness) won the 2017 Women’s Fiction Writers Association Star Award. Damron holds an MSW and an MFA in creative writing. She lives in South Carolina with her husband Jim and a large family of rescue animals.

 

FAQ

No. We accept poetry, fiction, drama, short stories and combinations of those genres. Some students have chosen to submit entries written as letters and diary entries. But essays are acceptable as well.

Submissions will be judged for their originality, creativity and writing style. We encourage creativity, but not at the expense of clarity. It’s important to respond to our prompt in a way judges can understand.

We hope to have results about which students are finalists by mid-November. We will let each of you know personally, by email, whether or not your work was chosen.

Yes, in both the junior and senior categories combined.

The first-place winner (chosen from the junior and senior classes) will receive the Walter Edgar Award, which includes $1,000. The prize is generously funded by South Carolina Honors College alumnus Thad Westbrook and named for the well-known University of South Carolina history professor, author and public radio host.

The second-place winner (chosen from the junior and senior classes) will receive the South Carolina Academy of Authors Award. Generously funded by the South Carolina Academy of Authors, the second-place prize includes $500.

The third-place winner will receive the Pat Conroy Literary Center and South Carolina Academy of Authors Award. The third-place prize includes $250.

Honorable Mentions may be given. There are no cash awards for Honorable Mentions.

No. The money is yours to do with as you wish.

The contest is a partnership presented by the South Carolina Honors College at the University of South Carolina, the Pat Conroy Literary Center, the South Carolina State Library, the South Carolina Academy of Authors and the South Carolina Writers Association.

 

Yes. You do not have to be college-bound at all to enter the S.C. High School Writing Contest.

No. While we recognize the value of spoken word literature, the contest is based on writing skills. Perhaps your spoken word work can be written. 

Yes. Otherwise we have no idea if the writer is making up facts.

Rather than using footnotes, we suggest a more reader-friendly method, i.e., South Carolina has more rabid wild animals prowling its neighborhoods—44 percent more—than any other state, according to a 2014 report from the U.S. Rabid Wild Animal Department.

It is okay for your teacher to proofread your work, but you should indicate following your submission that you received the help. This is a writing contest, not an editing or grammar contest. We are interested in hearing your voice and your response to the prompt.

You can simply write: “I want to thank Ms. Laura Ingalls Wilder, my English teacher, for proofreading my final draft.” Or, “I want to thank Mr. Atticus Finch, my government teacher, for encouraging me to revise the ending.”

If your submitted work is entirely your own production, you may indicate that at the end: “I received no proofreading or editing assistance. This submission is entirely my own work.”

This year's finalists will have their work reviewed by the 2024 writing contest judge Carla Damron. Carla Damron’s crime fiction novel, The Orchid Tattoo, about domestic human trafficking, received four literary awards, including the 2023 National Indie Excellence Award in suspense. 

We prefer Word documents and have no preference about fonts, though one that is easy to read is helpful.

No. The form you complete online will serve as your cover page. It’s nice, but not necessary to have your byline at the top of your submission.

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