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High School Writing Competition!

Chairperson Matt Schwartz Email:

Rules and Submission Form Downloads:
High School submission form e-mail for form
HS Contest Guidelines-Rules 2019

Deadline February 1, 2019

Writers Encouraged to Enter Statewide High School Writing Contest 

The Virginia Outdoor Writers Association, Inc. (VOWA) is sponsoring a High School Writing/Photography Competition for 2019, our 26th Annual Competition. The goal of the competition is to reward high school students for excellence in communicating their personal experiences in the outdoors. The competition is open to all Virginia students in grades 9 through 12, including home-schooled students.

The theme of this year’s contest is: A Memorable Outdoor Experience. Any experience by the writer/photographer with hunting, fishing, camping, canoeing, hiking, birding, or other outdoor activity should be the predominant subject matter. Athletic events or competitions are not an eligible subject matter

Prizes will be $300.00, $150.0, and $75.00 for first, second and third places. Contest sponsor is Dubby’s Fishing & Hunting of Harrisonburg. Winners will be announced and awards presented at the Virginia Outdoor Writers Association annual membership meeting at the DoubleTree Hotel in Charlottesville on March 16, 2019. Winner and four guests (parents, a mentor, or a teacher) will be invited to the awards presentation as guest of VOWA/Dominion Energy. Additional guests will also be welcomed, but will be charged a $10.00 fee for lunch. The winning entries will be read or presented by the students at the awards program during the Annual Meeting. The three top essays and photographs will be published on the VOWA web site, and may be published in other publications or web sites. In addition, Honorable Mentions may be awarded as the judges see fit and these selected individuals will also be featured on the VOWA web site ( Any Honorable Mention winners will be invited to the awards ceremony as VOWA’s guests, but any guests they bring will be charged a $10.00 fee for lunch.

Essays should be written in Microsoft Word format and attached to an e-mail. The submissions can be made between now and the February 1, 2019 deadline. For more information, and to see past winners and their winning essays go to

General Competition Guidelines for essays for 2018-19: 

  1. Open to all Virginia students in grades 9-12, including those students home schooled.
  2. Essay theme: “A Memorable Outdoor Experience.” Non-fiction stories only. Writers will create their own title for the article—something other than using the words of the theme listed above.
  3. Student’s name, grade/school, and home town must be printed in three lines at the top righthand corner on each page of the entry.
  4. Word Length: 750 to 1,250 words, not including title. Entry must be typed, doubled-spaced, indent five spaces for each new paragraph, Calibri or Times New Roman font in 12 or 14 pitch. No introduction to entry.
  5. Electronic submissions are required; send as a Microsoft Word or plain text attachment to the competition coordinator listed below.
  6. Include the designated submission form—age, grade, and school or specify if home schooled. Also include a short biographical sketch, which will be included with the winning essays on the VOWA web site.
  7. By submitting the article to the competition, permission is granted by the parent/guardian(s) and student for VOWA to post or publish the article in publications or web sites as deemed appropriate by the VOWA Competition Judges. Compensation is limited to writer credit to the student author to reward and recognize writing excellence, and for VOWA use to promote the competition throughout the year.
  8. Include a complete mailing address and evening telephone number, and an e-mail address (if available), for correspondence purposes only.
  9. Submissions not meeting the competition guidelines and criteria will be disqualified.
  10. Submission can be made from now to February 1, 2019.

Complete the submission form and send via email along with essay as specified in Guidelines to:

E-mail subject line: HSContest (followed by your high school name)

If you have questions please email Mr. Schwartz at: 

General competition guidelines for photographs.

For the Best Outdoor Photo award, each entrant may submit three of her/his best outdoor photos in JPEG format with a 50 to 75-word paragraph identifying and telling us about the photo. Photographs should be sized to 1028 pixels on the longest side at 96 ppi, as this is the size image that works best in PowerPoint and shown with a digital projector or monitor. If you are unable to do this, a larger image that we can resize is acceptable. 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. 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.

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; 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.

Good luck and enjoy the great out of doors! 

The submission form is in Microsoft Word and is designed to be completed electronically. It will open on the first entry point and you just start typing your information. Tab to reach the next entry point. Each entry point will automatically expand as you enter information.