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What do you wish you knew then?

We've all learned a thing or two in our time on this Earth. So, if you could have a conversation with your younger self, what you would say? What bits of wisdom would you impart?

For this contest, we want to see a personal essay of 1,000 words (or less) with insights you'd give your younger self written in first person point of view with an inspirational slant. The age of your younger self should be clear. We're looking for your authenticity to come through in your writing.

Your entry should be aimed at an adult audience and should be suitable to print in a magazine or anthology such as Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Deadline: June 30, 2023

What's a Personal Essay?

ThoughtCo defines the personal essay as "a short work of autobiographical nonfiction characterized by a sense of intimacy and a conversational manner." Grammarly adds, "Personal essays relate the author’s intimate thoughts and experiences to universal truths. They aren’t simply a retelling of events, though—that falls more in the realm of memoir or autobiography. They conclude with the author having learned, changed, or grown in some way and often present some truth or insight that challenges the reader to draw their own conclusions." Check out this post on the IFW Blog for more insight in writing a personal essay.

Why Enter an IFW 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 who will share insights into successfully writing in this genre.

Enter Today!

Free Critique

Winning entries will be workshopped in our live webinar by our judge to help writers understand what worked and what could be improved to make it submission-ready.

What's our judge looking for?

Our judge will be grading entries based on these criteria:

  • Authenticity
  • Age of your younger self
  • Inspirational in some way
  • Vivid imagery 
  • First person point of view
  • Tight writing

Of course, don't forget to check your grammar, punctuation, and spelling before sending in your submission. Only send your best work!

Here's what else you need to know...

  • Your entry can be no longer than 1,000 words.
  • Your entry must be a true story and written in first person point of view.
  • Entries must be previously unpublished and not currently under contract with a publisher.
  • Target readers are adults.
  • Entries must follow manuscript submission guidelines as stated on our Contest Rules page HERE.
  • No sexually explicit, pornographic, or gratuitously violent entries will be accepted.
  • Entries must be submitted via our online form by midnight Pacific Time on June 30, 2023.
  • There is a $19 reading fee per manuscript to enter the contest.
  • You will receive a link to the submission form via email after your purchase is completed.
  • You may enter more than one manuscript but each entry requires a $19 reading fee.
  • Every writer who enters will be invited to the online workshop (it's free!) where the winning entries are critiqued. (Non-entrants pay $7.)

Submissions will be judged on clarity, potential in the market, and your ability to match standard manuscript format (double spacing, one inch margins, no creative use of fonts).

The winning entries in this Essay to My Younger Self writing contest will be announced at a live online workshop within 90 days after the contest closes. All contest entrants will 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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