Announcing Our Inaugural Short Story Contest

May 1, 2018

Do you have a story burning inside you? Are you up for a challenge? Do you like prizes?


If so, you’re in for a thrill, because we’re hosting our first short story contest, and we hope you’ll grab your pen (or laptop) to compete!


But first I’m sure you’d like to hear about all the prestige and loot you could gain as a result of your literary genius.



First Place Winner will receive:
• $75 Amazon gift card
Theme Mastery: How to Write Meaningful Stories without Being Preachy, a course taught by Josiah DeGraaf (worth $147)
• Publication on the Story Embers website


Second Place Winner will receive:
• $30 Amazon gift card
• Two minicourses from Ink Slinger Academy (worth $20)
• Publication on the Story Embers website


Runner up will receive:
• $20 Amazon gift card
• Acknowledgement in the announcement post


Official Rules

Please read our guidelines carefully and refer back to the list before entering. We reserve the right to disqualify entrants for not following our criteria, and our decisions as judges are final.


• Word count (excluding the title and byline) must be no shorter than 1,000 and no longer than 8,000. The genre is up to you, though we will ask you to select a category for review purposes when you enter.
• The story must be a work of fiction (not a memoir) and seek to teach as well as delight. We aren’t interested in sermons, but we also don’t want stories that have no purpose except to entertain.
• The story must be original and unpublished. If the piece has previously been posted online (on a personal blog or elsewhere), that classifies as published. Story Embers retains exclusive use of the winning stories for three months after publication, but once that time span has elapsed, the rights revert back to the authors.
• Entries must be submitted as Microsoft Word documents. Type your story’s title at the top of the page with your name below it, skip a space, and begin your material. Use 12 pt. Times New Roman, left-align text, and italicize words of emphasis. Do not indent paragraphs. Apply single spacing between sentences and double spacing between paragraphs.
• A $5 submission fee must be tendered at the time of entry. This fee is nonrefundable.
• Only one entry is allowed per person. Once a story has been submitted, we will not accept edits or exchanges, so be sure to polish your work thoroughly and attach the correct document.
• Entrants must be subscribers to our newsletter. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you may do so by taking the writing rank score and signing up for our free resources (link in the sidebar).
• Entries that contradict our statement of faith or contain objectionable content will be disqualified.


Judging Process

Stories will be evaluated on the basis of style/mechanics, theme, characters, and overall uniqueness. Josiah and I will be serving as judges. We’ve been working together for two years in various capacities, and our different but complementary skill sets make us a dynamic editorial duo.


Josiah is the summit & marketing director at Story Embers, the program director of The Young Writer, and a literature nerd who fell in love with stories at an early age. Because he’s fascinated by human motivations, he enjoys putting normal people in crazy situations (did he mention he writes fantasy?) and forcing them to make difficult choices. He will be zeroing in on themes, the motivations behind characters’ actions, and the events that push the protagonists toward the climax. He’s eager to be enthralled by your stories!


I’m the blog and graphics director here at Story Embers. Although I began as a writer, my penchant for noticing typos and obsession with syntax compelled me to wield a red pen rather than a black one. I’m proudly a gold member of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders & Editors Network and have been certified by the Christian Editor Connection. Over the years, I’ve worked on a variety of projects for individual clients, publishers, and organizations. I love aiding writers in achieving their aspirations to captivate and change the world through fiction. I’ll be focusing on the nitty-gritty details of storytelling—from grammar to showing vs. telling to breathtaking prose. I can’t wait to see the magic you weave with your words!


How to Enter

This year’s contest closed at 11:59 p.m. EDT on June 30, 2018. Thanks for your interest! Winners will be announced on or by August 24, 2018. If you place in the contest, we’ll contact you a few weeks prior to that. Otherwise, due to the volume of submissions we receive, we won’t be able to follow up with you on the status of your entry.


Have a question about the contest? Email brianna@storyembers.org or drop a comment below.


  1. Julia N.

    Hmm…I would really like to try to do this! Hopefully I can think of something good enough to enter! XD

    • Brianna Storm Hilvety

      I hope you get an idea and that I see your name among the entries! 😉

    • Julia N.

      Thanks! I do have an idea now. We’ll see how the actual writing goes. It’ll be a good writing challenge, I think! I’ll do my best and hopefully enter! 😀

  2. Joel H.

    Hi, is there an age requirement for this contest?
    Also, here you say 1,000-8,000 words, but when you click on the “statement of faith” it says Fiction must be 1,000 to 6,000 words, which is correct?
    Thank you!

    • Brianna Storm Hilvety

      The contest doesn’t have an age requirement.

      Our guidelines for regular story submissions are different from the contest rules. We wanted to allow people to enter longer stories if they wished. 🙂 So your entry needs to be 1,000–8,000 words.

  3. Bailey Gaines

    One of the guidelines says we need to be subscribed to the newsletter. I’ve been getting emails from Story Embers (the last one was How to Fix Three Deserving-to-Be-Destroyed Scenes, I think). Does that mean I am subscribed?

  4. Jacob

    This looks fun! I’ll have to pick a cool story idea and try this out 🙂

  5. Micah

    This is awesome! Thank you for hosting this thing 🙂
    …Are PG-13-level curse words permitted? They’re sparse, and they only appear in dialogue where I think a character would have naturally said it.

    • Brianna Storm Hilvety

      We might disqualify a story for that, yes. Our content restrictions for regular submissions prohibits profanity, and that applies here. We have several teens in our audience and wouldn’t want to expose them to bad language. So, if you can remove those words from your story, I’d recommend doing so.

    • Micah

      Totally understandable! I’ll take them out. Thanks! 🙂

  6. Buddy J.

    I think I might… If I am a member of the forums am I subscribed to the blog?

    • Brianna Storm Hilvety

      No, a forum account is separate. You can subscribe to our newsletter by going to the Resources page and entering your name and email. 🙂 I hope you decide to enter a story!

    • Buddy J.


    • Buddy J.

      I’m not seeing where I can sign up.

    • Buddy J.

      All I’m getting is “Resources” toward the top of the page, “Search” on top of the quiz which is on top of the Guild Login which is on top of the writing contest link. The rest of the white page is black.

    • Brianna Storm Hilvety

      That’s odd. Did you try refreshing the page? It’s showing up fine for me. If you still aren’t able to see the signup box, let me know and I can manually subscribe you to our newsletter.

    • Buddy J.

      Refreshing didn’t work… Would you mind? Do I need to send you any info, or do you have it?

    • Buddy J.

      Will do!

  7. Elizabeth

    So… you don’t want sermons. What about allegories? 🙂

    • Brianna Storm Hilvety

      Allegories are difficult to do well, but I wouldn’t consider them sermonic, so you could certainly try. 😉

  8. Katriel

    Hi there. I have two questions.
    1. Can the story be about anything as long as it teaches a lesson and is a work of fiction?
    2. Can I use personified objects as characters?

    • Brianna Storm Hilvety

      1. Your story can be about anything, but it doesn’t need to teach a lesson, per se. It just needs to have some kind of theme or message to make readers think.

      2. If personified objects are necessary for your story, then yes. 🙂

  9. Sesame

    Can we have illustrations?

  10. Sam

    Is the title and author included in the word count?
    I’ll probably be cutting down a 12,000 word story for this and, if I do, will want to max out the word count if I can. 🙂

    • Brianna Storm Hilvety

      As the rules state, the title and byline (author’s name) are excluded from the word count.

      Best of luck at trimming down your story! 🙂

    • Sam

      Thanks! I wondered if it was in the rules and I missed it.
      I looked at the story earlier today, and it’s really only 8,400 words. Yay!

  11. Jacob

    So, how does this PayPal thing work? When I go to pay the fee, do I just enter in my payment info and stuff like a normal purchase?

    • Brianna Storm Hilvety

      After you submit your story via the entry form, you’ll be redirected to PayPal.

  12. Jacy Wilkinson

    I have a question. Does the title and byline have to be 12pt. as well or can they be bigger?

    • Brianna Storm Hilvety

      All text needs to be 12 pt., including the title and byline.

  13. Shiloah Peterson

    What are the chances of winning?

  14. Jacy Wilkinson

    Sorry, I have another question. When it’s like the end of a scene and somehting new is going on can I put three little stars like this?


    And then write more below?

    • Brianna Storm Hilvety

      Yes, marking a scene break with asterisks is perfectly acceptable. 🙂

  15. Sesame

    Can we rewrite a story from the Bible? Like add more to it and make it different but it’s essentially the same story… or is that not really fiction?

    • Brianna Storm Hilvety

      If you’re putting your own spin on it (maybe by adding characters or events), then I think it could count as fiction.

    • Sesame

      Okay great!

  16. Moira S.

    In the Statement of Faith, it says that American spelling and grammar must be used. If I am unaware of certain spellings and do it the Canadian way, will it matter too much?

    • Brianna Storm Hilvety

      We won’t disqualify a story for that, so you don’t need to worry. 🙂 If your story wins, I’ll just change the spelling/grammar to conform to American rules so that it’s consistent with the site.

  17. Katthewriter

    *nervoucly chews on fingers* i really want to enter, but i hope i can get my story done in time, with the ending i’m hoping for! 0_0

  18. Christianna Hellwig

    Question. Can I put my title in bold? It is rather silly but after reading the comments I discovered my title had to be the same size as the text and, well, I like big bold titles. Could I at least make it bold? 🙂 If not, it’s not an issue, I just thought I’d try; alas, you crushed another of my delights which is to indent paragraph starters. One clarification more. You said to put words of emphasis in italics. I often like to put verbatim thoughts in italics as well, is this acceptable? I didn’t know whether that statement excluded the use of italics for anything else.
    I have to say, I don’t think my story has a chance, it being my first real short story and with all these talented writers around who have so much more experience, but I’m so grateful for this challenge that has pushed me to go above and beyond anything I’ve ever written before. I’m pretty happy with my story and so glad that you all put me up to the task. Many Thanks.

    • Brianna Storm Hilvety

      You can put your title in bold if you wish. I prefer bold titles too, but I didn’t specify one way or the other because I was trying to make the formatting guidelines as simple as possible and focus on the essentials. 😉

      Haha! I’m sorry the prohibition against paragraph indents made you sad. I mandated that because we don’t indent paragraphs in any of our posts here at SE (instead, we insert a space between paragraphs). This saves me the time of having to remove the indents from a submission prior to publication on the site. 😌

      Yes, italicizing direct thoughts is acceptable—and advisable. 🙂 Sometimes people emphasize words by underlining or bolding them (which is incorrect), so that’s why I asked entrants to use italics for that purpose.

      Aww, I’m glad you’ve decided to participate in the contest, Christianna! And I’m so happy to hear that we motivated you to challenge yourself. 😊 Whether you win or not, you can be proud of yourself for bravely finishing a story and doing your best, which will ultimately sharpen your skills as a storyteller. I look forward to reading your entry!

  19. Moira S.

    Oh no! I was scrolling through the comments after having entered my story and saw that you said to someone that the title and byline needed to be 12 pt. I had naturally assumed I could make them a 14 pt. Does it disqualify my story?

  20. Hannah Robinson

    Does it matter if the story is in past tense or present tense? I usually write in past tense, but when I wrote this one, I decided to give present tense a go because it feels more immediate and urgent… and later realized it might not be acceptable. I know authors who are very strongly opposed to stories in present tense and wanted to make sure it wouldn’t dramatically lower my chances of winning if I submit a present-tense story.
    Thank you for your time!

    • Brianna Storm Hilvety

      You can use whatever tense you wish as long as it’s consistent throughout the story.

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