These 4 Pittsburgh writing contests give kids a creative outlet at home

With Pennsylvania schools closed until further notice, local families have been seeking out educational opportunities during the coronavirus outbreak. These three Pittsburgh writing contests will keep literacy skills sharp for kids from kindergarten through high school while sparking creativity and provoking thoughtful family conversations.

Ralph Munn Creative Writing Contest

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s annual Ralph Munn Creative Writing Contest is accepting submissions now through April 19. Allegheny County high school students in grades 9-12 are invited to submit original works of prose or poetry. Prizes will be awarded in both categories, including $250 first-place prizes and $100 second-place prizes.

The top submissions in both categories will be published in the “2020 Ralph Munn Creative Writing Anthology,” a book of creative work distributed to all Allegheny County public and school libraries. All writers will be invited to the Teen Media Awards, a special event celebrating the work of local teens on  Aug. 15.

City Theatre Young Playwrights Contest

Middle and high school students can see their words come to life on stage through City Theatre’s Young Playwrights Contest. Winning one-act plays will have their world premiere at the EQT Young Playwrights Festival, which will celebrate its 21st anniversary in 2020.

Budding playwrights will receive valuable feedback from a literary committee comprised of Pittsburgh theater professionals and a nationwide network of working artists. In the past, students have applied the feedback they received and resubmitted their play the following year — often taking a winning spot on the second try.

Another encouraging statistic: most contest winners had never written a play before. To help students stay connected to family and friends while social distancing—and polish their writing skills—City Theatre staff recommends that kids read their plays-in-progress out loud via FaceTime or Skype.

Students in grades 7 to 12 who are residents of western Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia are eligible to enter the contest. Submissions are due April 30.

#messageforhope Contest

In response to the opioid public health crisis, the FBI Pittsburgh Division partnered with key community stakeholders to form the Heroin Outreach Prevention and Education (HOPE) initiative.

With the support of the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, WQED has partnered with the HOPE initiative to launch a new writing contest for Pittsburgh Public Schools kids in grades 6 to 8. The contest was designed to inspire students to use their writing to promote safe, healthy coping strategies and raise awareness about the dangers of substance use and self-medication.

Original stories should be based on one of these scenarios that can lead to unhealthy substance:

  • Relieving boredom or curiosity about drugs or alcohol
  • Fitting in, making friends, or keeping friends
  • Easing physical or psychological pain
  • Relieving pressure to perform or academic stress

Three winning writers will be selected to receive Amazon gift cards. They will be recognized at a Pittsburgh Penguins game and recorded for broadcast on The Saturday Light Brigade and SLB Radio’s Youth Express.

Submissions should be 250-500 words and must include at least five illustrations. Entries can be submitted online or postmarked by mail by March 31.

PBS KIDS Writers Contest 

And don’t forget to finish up your entry for the PBS Kids Writers Contest! WQED has partnered with the EQT Foundation for the past 11 years to present its contest to kids throughout Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Over that time, WQED has received more than 12,000 story entries and connected with hundreds of teachers, librarians and students.

Kids in grades K-5 can submit original illustrated stories. WQED will select local winners, and kids and families will be invited to a Winners Celebration at the WQED studio. Prizes include the opportunity to record their winning story for broadcast on SLB Radio. With stay-at-home orders in place, families can email their stories and illustrations directly to Michelle Imler at instead of mailing a hard copy. The deadline is March 31.

Kids will find lots of support with online resources, including writing prompts, activity sheets and previous winning entries. Special recognition will be given to stories that focus on STEM stories.