Calling All Young Writers: Do You Have a Story? We Want to Publish It!

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is sending out a final call for submissions to the Spark a Story national short story writing contest, which closes October 7. For high school students, creating an original short story may seem daunting, so to help young writers produce top-notch entries, we answer some common writing questions:

  • Have writer’s block? Some of our most acclaimed writers, including renowned author Lois Lowry, came together to share their strategies for overcoming writer’s block and producing fresh, engaging work. Linda Sue Park, author of A Long Walk to Water and A Single Shard, suggests writing a little bit every day.
  • What makes a great story? Who else better to ask than Bruce Nichols, Senior Vice President and Publisher of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Trade Publishing? Bruce sat down with us to talk about ways to get your story noticed and ultimately, published. His first piece of advice: write a lot.
  • What is the best length for a short story? There’s no “best” or “standard” length for a story; each narrative is different, some have less dialogue than others, and some are more descriptive. For Spark a Story, we’re requesting stories be no longer than 5,000 words.

HMH is home to many of the world's great authors and stories, from J.R.R. Tolkien's tales of Middle-earth to Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. We believe in the power of a good story to take us to new places, spark our minds, and change our lives. That's why we launched Spark a Story, to find the best and brightest writing from young authors across the country.   If you are in any grade in high school, whether you have already written many short stories or are considering writing one for the first time, we want to read your work!

Entries for the Spark a Story contest are reviewed by HMH trade editors; the short stories must be works of fiction and will be judged on creativity, originality and overall quality of writing. Winners will be published in an anthology next year and receive a cash prize.

For a full list of FAQs and the official rules, please visit: