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Halloween-Themed Writing Contest Available to K-12 Writers


October 21, 2020

With Halloween creeping up on us, Jeff Puryear, the Manager of Montana Young Writers, announced the most recent task in a line-up of writing contests for students in Montana: Tales from Halloween. Writers are invited to compose a piece of micro-fiction with Halloween or Halloween night as the backdrop. Submissions are being accepted from October 5 through October 30.

Puryear, who is an Assistant Professor of Gifted Education in the University of Montana's (UM) Department of Teaching and Learning, explained that the Halloween-themed task invites writers to try their hand at writing micro-fiction. Sometimes referred to as flash fiction, micro-fiction is a type of storytelling that requires getting a point across in a very short amount of time. Because of the short length, this genre highlights the writer's ability to develop a plot and characters efficiently.

William Highsmith, who wrote for Writer's Digest in 2011, described flash fiction as requiring a smart approach. "In 100 or 500 or 1,000 words, you have to get inside your reader's head, have an intellectual and emotional impact, and stop," without leaving your reader wanting and wondering what just happened.

According to Highsmith, the best flash fiction stories feature a clear vision, few characters, the verbal efficiency of a poet, and descriptions that show rather than tell. "This rule of writing is especially important in flash fiction because the writer's goal is to maximize the impact of each passage [and will call on the writer to] paint characters and action with small, vivid scenes," Highsmith wrote.

The Montana Young Writers (MYW) contests are intended to spark the creativity of K-12 students through a series of diverse writing tasks across the school year. All K-12 students in the state of Montana are eligible to submit. Student submissions will be assessed within four grade groups (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12) with top performers and their schools being recognized for each task. Top performers over the course of the school year will be invited to a dedicated writer's workshop to be held in the summer of 2021 at UM.

Each grade group has a different maximum length requirement. There is no minimum for any of the groups.

• Kindergarten to 2nd grade: 100 words maximum

• 3rd to 5th grade: 250 words maximum

• 6th to 8th grade: 500 words maximum

• 9th to 12th grade: 1000 words maximum

Anyone with inquiries about the contest is encouraged to contact Dr. Puryear by email:

As the date for each new task comes around, classroom teachers and student writers can access the task topic by visiting the website: At the site, writers will be asked to create an account in order to submit their writing. The MYW uses Submittable, a submission management system for the literary world and beyond, to accept and review any submissions.

As a means of clarification when he shared the contest calendar, Puryear stated that there is no requirement for students to have taken part in previous tasks in order to submit in active events. Students can participate as much or as little as they would like. Task Dates for 2020-2021 are as follows (start / end):

• Task 1: August 31, 2020 / October 2, 2020 (closed)

• Task 2: October 5, 2020 / October 30, 2020

• Task 3: November 2, 2020 / December 18, 2020 (6th-8th and 9th-12th only)

• Task 4: December 21, 2020 / January 29, 2021

• Task 5: February 1, 2021 / February 26, 2021 (6th-8th and 9th-12th only)

• Task 6: March 1, 2021 / March 26, 2021

• Task 7: March 29, 2021 / April 30, 2021 (6th-8th and 9th-12th only)

Since the topics will be released on the start date listed for each month, returning to the website will be required.

When asked how the MYW program came into being, Puryear explained: "I started this year as part of efforts to provide enrichment opportunities for students in the state of Montana. My area of specialty is gifted education, and I focus on creativity and talent development in my research/advocacy, so facilitating these sorts of events touches many bases for me; Montana Young Writers isn't directly linked to any other organization."


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