Collegiate Contest

Virginia Outdoor Writers Association
2017-18 Annual Collegiate Undergraduate Writing/Photo Competition

Click here to download the Submission Form
Click here to download the Collegiate Rules Form

Deadline for Entries is February 9, 2018
Last years winners can be viewed in our
Essay and Photo Showcases

The Virginia Outdoor Writers Association, Inc. (VOWA) along with award sponsors Dominion Energy and Cooperative Living Magazine are proud to host again a Collegiate Undergraduate Writing/Photo Contest. The objective is to encourage young adults to write about and photograph their outdoor experiences and interests in wildlife or natural history.

The competition is open to any undergraduate student enrolled at a Virginia college or university, including two-year community colleges, public, and private post-secondary institutions, or to students who are Virginia residents attending similar out-of-state schools.

The theme for the contest essay is to write about a memorable outdoor experience or special interest. Each writer must title his/her essay and be careful not to exceed the allotted word limit of 800 to 1,000 words of his/her best, carefully edited work.

For the Best Outdoor Photo Award, each entrant may submit three of his/her very best outdoor photos in JPEG format with a 50-75-word paragraph identifying and telling us about the photo. All photographs must be sized to 1028 pixels on the longest side at 96 ppi. This is the size image that works the best in PowerPoint and shown with a digital projector or monitor. Some light sharpening can be used after an image is resized from a larger fully prepared image. A high-res image must be available if you are chosen as our winner.

Permitted photo editing includes: cropping; re-sizing; rotating the photo; red-eye removal; simple enhancement such as Auto-fix, Quick-fix, Auto-levels, etc.; filters to sharpen, blur, or reduce noise; and corrective functions to improve the natural appearance of the image, such as white balance, brightness, contrast levels, exposure, saturation, and color balance. Not permitted are techniques such as adding, removing, or replacing elements; artistic filters; and added borders or frames.

The file name for each image should have the camera number removed and photographer’s name and the image title put in its place. It is best if you copy and rename your original image so you can retain the camera number on the original image.

If you have any questions about how to size an image or rename the picture file you may contact Marie Majarov at 434-406-3164 or e-mail for help.


A cash award of $250.00 will be presented by VOWA/Dominion Energy for the Best Overall Essay, with a runner-up receiving a $100.00 award. A special award for the Best Essay Relating Specifically to the Virginia Outdoors (a story set in Virginia and written about a traditional Virginia outdoor activity such as hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, or similar pursuit) will be offered by Cooperative Living Magazine which is published by the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives (VMDAEC). The winner of this award will receive $100.00 and have his/her entry published in Cooperative Living Magazine. This award can be won by the overall winner or by another entry. Honorable mentions will be awarded as appropriate. Judging will be accomplished by a panel of professional writers/editors.

Our Best Outdoor Photo winner will receive a $50.00 cash award. Runner-up positions may be awarded as appropriate. Judging will be accomplished by a panel of professional photographers.

Winners will be introduced at a special Awards Luncheon during our VOWA Annual Meeting in Charlottesville, March 24, 2018. Winners and four guests each will be invited to the awards presentation as guests of VOWA/Dominion Energy. Additional guests will also be welcomed, but will be charged a $10.00 fee for the luncheon. This is a very special opportunity for students to showcase their writing talents before many of the best outdoor writers/photographers in our Commonwealth. Last year’s winners can be viewed on the VOWA Winners Showcase ( and Cooperative Living Magazine ( websites. Winning and honorable mention entries will be offered to various publications throughout Virginia.

All winning entries will be published on the VOWA website. In addition, Honorable Mentions may be awarded as the judges see fit and these talented individuals will also be featured on the VOWA website ( Rewarding excellence is our goal. Honorable mention individuals are invited to attend the conference luncheon at VOWA’s expense. Honorable mention guests are welcomed to attend, but will be charged $10.00 per person for the luncheon.

Contest Rules:

  1. Open to all full-time or part-time undergraduate-level college students enrolled in a Virginia college or university, including two-year community colleges, public, and private post-secondary institutions, or to students who are Virginia residents attending similar out of state schools. Contestants should not already possess a four-year degree or higher.
  2. Only non-fiction essays pertaining to the directed theme of memorable outdoor experience or special interest need be entered.
  3. Submissions must be typed double-spaced and fall between 800 and 1,000 words.
  4. Electronic submissions are required, preferably in a Microsoft Word document or compatible.
  5. Supporting photos are not required with essay entries; however they are very much welcomed if appropriate. Photographs must be in digital JPEG format.
  6. “Best Outdoor Photo” entries must be submitted in JPEG format at 96ppi not to exceed 1028 pixels on the longest side, but a larger 300ppi image must be available. Each image must be accompanied by a 50-75 word paragraph identifying and telling us about your photo. Name and image title information must be included with each digital image in the filename of the image. Do not send images with just camera file information/number.
  7. A Biographical Cover Sheet must be included with each essay and photo entry; this is a paragraph or two describing who you are, where you are from, your college, academic year (first year or freshmen, second year or sophomore, etc.), interests, and goals.
  8. Writer’s name/school/email must be on each page of his/her work, top right corner. This establishes authorship and avoids any confusion with another person’s work.
  9. A completed SUBMISSION FORM (available for download) must also be included with each entry.
  10. Submissions not following the above contest rules will be disqualified.
  11. Submission Deadline: Electronically dated no later than February 9, 2018.
  12. If there are too few quality entries the judges have the right to declare a “no contest.”

It should be an exciting contest and VOWA members look forward to receiving and reviewing your entries.

VOWA is very grateful to all the schools across Virginia who join with us to encourage collegiate undergraduate students to care about, write, and photograph our natural world. We thank Dominion Energy for their generous support of our Collegiate Contest and our Annual Membership Meeting/Awards luncheon. We thank Cooperative Living Magazine for the special awards to our collegiate contest that make our contest extra special.

Send essay submissions to: Matt Schwartz at
Send photo submissions to both addresses listed below:
Matt Schwartz at
Marie Majarov at

Both the Rules and Submission documents below (also in links on the top of the page) are in Microsoft Office 2010.  You will probably have to click on the enable editing at the top center of page to be able to save the documents.  The submission form is designed to be completed electronically.  It will open on the first entry point and you just start typing your information.  Each entry point will automatically expand as you enter information and then you just tab to get to the next entry point.

Click here to download the submission form
Click here to download the collegiate rules form