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Tell me a true story!

Humans crave stories. That's why even ancient cultures have such rich storytelling traditions.

With this basic need to connect through stories, it's no wonder narrative nonfiction is a popular way to teach kids about historical figures and events. Are you more likely to remember a list of facts or a story that includes facts? For us, it's story all the way!

This contest is your chance to show us your skills at crafting a narrative nonfiction picture book manuscript! Your manuscript should be about a true event or real person but told with storytelling elements including but not limited to character development, inciting incident, rising tension, climax, and resolution.

Your narrative nonfiction picture book manuscript must be aimed at 6-8-year-olds with a beginning, middle, and end for your chance to win! Remember, a good picture book manuscript has plenty of illustration opportunities. Entries must be no more than 800 words. Submissions must be previously unpublished and not under contract.

We can't wait to hear your true stories!

DEADLINE: September 30, 2023

What is a narrative nonfiction?

Narrative nonfiction uses storytelling elements to share true events with the reader. A narrative nonfiction picture will feel like a story, but all of the facts are well-researched verifiable. Nonfiction author Melissa Stewart explains it this way:

"Narrative nonfiction appeals strongly to fiction lovers because it includes real characters and settings; narrative scenes; and, ideally, a narrative arc with rising tension, a climax, and a resolution. The scenes, which give readers an intimate look at the world and people being described, are linked by expository transitions that provide necessary background while speeding through parts of the true story that don’t require close inspection.

The art of crafting narrative nonfiction lies in pacing, which means choosing just the right scenes to flesh out. Narrative nonfiction typically features a chronological sequence text structure and is ideally suited for biographies and books that recount historical events. It also works well for books that describe the process of doing science."

Why Enter an ICL Writing Contest?

 $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 where we'll announce the winners and provide tips for writing in this genre.

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.

Enter Today!

Suggestions from our judge:

  • Pick topics that will connect with young readers.
  • Dig into research and cite your resources.
  • Draw readers in with a fresh, narrative voice.
  • Keep read-aloud-ability in mind.
  • Bring topic to a satisfying close and know what you want readers to understand by the end.

Here's what you need to know...

  • This contest is to write a narrative nonfiction picture book manuscript for 6-8 year olds.
  • Entries must be no more than 800 words
  • Entries must be a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end.
  • Include your resources at the end of your manuscript.
  • Entries must be unpublished and not under contract.
  • Do not submit illustrations or photographs with your entry. This contest is for text only.
  • Proofread your entry to ensure it matches the industry standard manuscript format (double spacing, clear contact information, no creative use of fonts).
  • Entries must follow manuscript submission guidelines as stated on our Contest Rules page HERE.
  • Entries must be submitted via our online form by midnight Pacific Time on September 30, 2023.
  • 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.
  • Add our email address ( to your list of contacts and/or safe senders so you can receive the email with the free entry information to our online workshop where we announce the winners. (Non-entrants pay $7.)
  • The minimum age to enter the contest is 18 years of age.

Submissions will be judged on clarity, originality, how well they adhere to the theme, potential in the market, and appropriateness for the age range.

The winning entries in the ICL Narrative Nonfiction Picture Book Contest will be announced at a live online workshop within 90 days after the contest closes. All contest entrants will be notified of the event details by email and 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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