Got questions? We’ve got answers!

*If you can’t find the answer to your question here, just reach out to us!

General Questions

Q: Who should enter this contest?

A: Writers of all ages, backgrounds, and experience levels (educators, parents, students, and beyond!)


Q: Who am I writing for?

A: Teens and young adults, ages 10 and older, who are struggling or striving readers. You’re writing to create “just-right” books for these readers: books that are interesting and relevant to teens and young adults, but which use approachable language and formatting.


Q: How many stories can I submit?

A: You may submit as many stories as you’d like within the contest submission period.


Q: Can I submit one story to multiple award categories?

A: Yes. You can submit the same story to as many different categories as is relevant to your content. You may also submit multiple stories to the same category.


Q. How do I identify which category I’m submitting for? I don’t see options besides “fiction” and “nonfiction.”

A. When submitting your story, include the category(ies) you’ve chosen in the Title line, following the title of your work. See the submissions process for more information.


Q: Can I use my own illustrations and photography?

A: Yes. Please be sure to use your own images or images from open-source, free-for-commercial-use platforms (ex. Pixabay.com).


Q: Will my story be published in the Story Shares library even if I don’t win?

A: Yes, as long as our panel of judges deem it adheres to our guidelines.


Q: How will I be notified if I win?

A: You will receive an email.


Q. How do I submit?

A. First, sign up here. Then, write your story offline (in Microsoft Word), and be sure to adhere to our guidelines. When complete, label your story - in the title line - with the category it's for. Return to the submissions page to upload your Word document, and click submit. For more details, you can view the submissions process here.


Q. Who’s judging my story?

A. We have an amazing panel of judges, filled with authors, educators, and entrepreneurs who are sending ripples across the literacy field. You can learn more about them here* (*judge page coming soon!)


Q: Do stories need to be written in English?

A: Yes.


Q: My story is longer than the word limit found in your guidelines. Can I still submit?

A: The goal is for these stories to be accessible, and for this, the format and length are crucial. If your submission is slightly longer than the 15,000 word limit for the Diversity and Character-Based categories, it will still be considered. However, for a greater chance of winning, we recommend you go back through to remove unnecessary words and elements. If it is much longer, you could also consider breaking it into a two-part series. *For the Texas Award, stories must adhere to the word limit: between 1,000 and 2,000 words.


Q: I’m a teacher and would like my students to participate. Can they?

A: Yes! In fact, many of our previous contest finalists were students.


Q: I’ve never written a story in my life. Should I still try?

A: Absolutely. We’ve been told by many of our authors (who’ve gone on to write several books) that Story Shares is where their writing journeys began. You’ll be surprised what you’re able to do if you set your mind to the task and your pen to the paper!


Q: Can I enter if I am not a resident of the United States?

A: Yes, as long as your country of residence does not have laws that prohibit it. Find more details in our Official Rules.


Q: I submitted my story weeks ago and the status still says “pending.” When can I expect an update?

A. We receive a very large number of submissions per contest and are unable to guarantee a response to your submission before our September 10th announcements.


Q. My story was not accepted into your library at this time. Can I submit another story?

A. Absolutely.


Q. Am I eligible to enter if I have won previous contests?

A. Yes! We’d love to read more of your work.


Guideline Questions:


Q: What should I write about?

A: A subject that you know well (or have researched) that has appeal to a wide audience of teens/adults. We’ve provided tips, prompts, and  inspiration for our award categories here.

  • Texas Award: find detailed ideas and guidance for the Texas category  here.


  • Diversity Award: Our diversity category is intended to be broadly defined and open to individual interpretation. We are looking to add variety to our library with stories that showcase a wide range of individuals and experiences in an authentic, culturally relevant way. Possible content to include could be characters and experiences pertaining to the LGBTQIA community, people of color, people with disabilities, gender diversity, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities. These are only some examples, so you shouldn't feel limited by what’s included here. We would love to read about what diversity means in your unique experience. Also, we are looking for examples of diversity where characters are not defined by their “differences.” Ex.) A handicapped character navigating the highs and lows of high school just like her differently-abled peers. While we also accept and see the value in stories that highlight character differences (examples: a black student being victim to racism through bullying), it’s important that our library also showcase diverse characters as unique personalities living mundane, ordinary lives, with their differences being a detail of their stories but not a definition of them.


  • Character-based Award: We’re looking for stories that highlight the richness of the human experience. These stories should feature strong, flawed, relatable, and complex characters, which drive the plot as they navigate the drama and intrigue of the everyday.


Q: What does it mean to be a struggling reader?

A: There are many reasons why someone might be considered a struggling reader. For our purposes, a struggling reader is a reader who is behind their age or grade level in reading for any number of reasons. For example, an adolescent might have challenges reading because he/she has a specific learning disability, such as dyslexia, which affects the ability to decode words. Organizational challenges, memory or attention challenges, processing disorders, a developmental disability, and autism are some other possible reasons for reading difficulties. The term also applies to English Language Learners who are still acquiring language, vocabulary, and new reading skills. In addition, many students in low income or impoverished environments are beginning readers.


Q: What is a reading level and how it is defined?

A: There are many different ways of measuring / categorizing reading level. The different systems aren’t standardized or exactly aligned. For our library purposes, we use grade level equivalents and Lexile levels. You can learn more about how to make sure your story falls within our intended levels at the bottom of our guidelines page, here.


Q: What does “high-interest” mean?

A: The key to high-interest is writing about age-appropriate, relatable content. This applies to characters and plot. Since our readers are teens and young adults, characters featured should be teens and young adults. Plotlines should focus on events/milestones/day-to-day challenges and other experiences that are relatable to teens/adults. The look and feel of text is also important. Graphics, if used, should be mature and compelling.


Q: Language: is it okay to use strong/explicit language in my writing? Is swearing okay? Are controversial/difficult topics okay to write about?

A. The short answer is: yes. We do not want to limit your story-telling by placing restrictions on language/content. However, there are a few things to consider: does your strong/explicit language serve a purpose, other than shock value (for example, adding emotional intensity to a particular scene, or making a character seem more relatable, etc.) And, when handling a difficult topic, does your story ultimately offer readers a healthy perspective overall? For example, we’ve received several stories in the past dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts, some of which we have published in our library. Those that were not published tended to romanticize suicide as an option, while those that we published showed readers that getting help is key. *If we like your story but feel that parts of it should be scaled down, we will reach out to you about making some alterations.


Q: Could I create a series for the contest?

A: Yes! A series is a great format for striving readers.


Q: Do you accept poems, plays, and other formats beyond short stories?

A: Any style of writing is acceptable so long as it falls within our guidelines, and is both interesting and approachable for struggling readers.


If you don’t see the answer to your question here, just reach out to us!