Five days from now is our contest deadline–now is time for the “tinker stage” of writing.

You can find details for our poetry contest here. As you revise your poems before submission, we recommend you read this post, by Sharlee Glenn, which explains the kind of poetry we’re looking for. You might also want to check out this post, which details the revision process involved in the poem “Ultrasound.”

Prose contest details can be found here. And I have a few final ideas for you as you revise your contest essays. You’ve got the honest heart; you’ve structured the pieces of your story in a cohesive way. Here are some more things to consider:

-The end and the beginning. Read what our brilliant editor-in-chief Kathryn Soper’s says about endings and beginnings. Go back and evaluate your ending and beginning, and then revise them if necessary.

-Read the essay aloud to yourself. Or to someone else. Listen to how it sounds. If there’s a phrase that feels awkward when you read it aloud, rework it.

-Check out the adverbs. See if you can cut them or convey the same meaning with a stronger verb. Angela Hallstrom has a great discussion on this subject in this post.

-Also pay attention to prepositional phrases. Too many of them make sentences clunky. Notice where the clunkiness is, and rework it.

– Read what Kathyrn Soper says about our literary aesthetic, “happy literary” and “faithful probing.” Think about that as you revise.

-Find a buddy who will read and edit for you.

I’m sure there are many, many polishing tips I have missed. All you great writers out there, please share with us your favorite ones.

And then send those essays in!


  1. Justine

    December 26, 2008

    Another helpful hint is after reading your essay aloud as you suggest, try to re-write the entire thing, as if you were starting from scratch (that means no peeking at the original!). I’ve found that I often like certain sentences or paragraph structures better in the re-write that I can insert into the original. Just a thought!

  2. Shauna

    December 27, 2008

    The tinker stage is where I hope to be by your next contest. This blog has inspired me to put on paper all the thoughts and ideas whirring around my head I have “been meaning to write” for many years.
    Each day, I “practice”.
    Thank you for inspiration.
    Bring on the winners.

  3. Emily M.

    December 27, 2008

    Shauna, woohoo! That makes me so happy. Two years ago I was polishing my essay for the Segullah contest. I hadn’t written anything since college, and had never been published. But the contest gave me a goal to work towards, which helped motivate me. I had felt like any writing talent I had was in mommy hibernation, and this was just what I needed to help me: something to boost my confidence, and remind me how to write, and why I love it.

    So, to anyone who hasn’t written an essay since college, but would like to: if you’re not planning to enter this year, start writing now for next year!

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