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Polyphony Lit Winter Contest 2024:
Unveiling Illusions

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(Banner artwork by Alex Riccobon)

The theme for this contest is “Unveiling Illusions.” There will be one winner and two finalists. For more details on the contest prize, see below! 


Lies, dreams, deception, magic. The concept of falsehood masquerades under a plethora of guises, appearing as blessings in some moments and insidious curses in others. Illusions like hopes and ideals are what drives the lives of many, yet it can’t be denied that an illusion broken is painful. With this in mind, what illusions do you want to convey? What facets of illusion, the good and the bad, resonate with you the most?


At the same time, you might explore whether it is better to reside in the illusion or break out of it. Curiosity may kill the cat, but ignorance can also kill. From embracing deceit to leaving the allegorical cave, how might illusions be dealt with? How should they be dealt with?


Writing itself is an illusion, after all. To create palaces of literary lies, false countries from roses and rhymes… Telling a story allows you to choose which truths and which fantasies to include. Yet, sometimes a deeper truth is expressed through the most fantastical of fabrications, inexpressible realities manifested in larger-than-life characters or plots that defy all common sense. 


So, what’s real, and what isn’t? What matters more? You decide the story you want to tell about falsehood, the illusions to be unveiled.

Looking for examples that Polyphony Lit has published already? Then check out The Second Mona Lisa is Not Real But by Yun-Fei Wang and in our gummy bear world by Vivian Huang.

Interested in honing your poetry-writing skills for the contest? Then try taking our poetry workshop, Around the World of Poetry in 80 Days. This workshop will help you to brainstorm, draft, and revise poems of your own!


Polyphony Lit Winter Contest Guidelines

  • Submissions will open on January 1st and will remain open until February 29th or until we reach our submission cap of 200 submissions.

  • Please note that this is a separate submission category from Polyphony Lit Volume 20.​ Submissions to Polyphony Lit Volume 20 will receive feedback from the editors, but for the seasonal contests, only the winning submissions will receive feedback from the judge.

  • If you have already submitted your work to the Volume 20 category, then please do not send the same submission to the Winter Contest category.

  • If you submit to the Winter Contest category first and your work is declined, then you may submit it to the Volume 20 category after the Winter Contest is finished.

Writer Qualifications

  • High school students from anywhere in the world are eligible to submit.

  • We do not accept submissions from any editors who currently serve on the staff of Polyphony Lit.

  • Works must be written in English.

  • Submit a maximum of three pieces.

  • We accept simultaneous submissions and work that has been published elsewhere. If your submission is accepted, you must note if the work was previously published. If it is accepted elsewhere after you submit to us, you must notify us immediately. In this case, if we accept it for publication, we will acknowledge the site of the original publication.

  • Pieces that have been published elsewhere are not eligible for the Claudia Ann Seaman Award for Young Writers.

  • All submissions that have not been previously published are eligible for both the Polyphony Lit Editors Choice Award and the Claudia Ann Seaman Awards.


  • Submissions must be 1,800 words or fewer, double-spaced.


  • Do not put your name on the piece, as all work is blind juried.

  • Submissions longer than one page should have the page number inserted at the top (right or left side) of every page, as it would help our Judge specify the location for their commentary.

  • We accept submission in .doc, .docx or .rtf formats.

  • We prefer common conventions:

    • Color: Black & white

    • Font Size: 12 pt throughout, including titles

    • Font Type: Times or Times New Roman

    • Margins: 1-inch at the top and bottom, and 1.25 inch at the left and right. One space after periods. There should be no extra returns after paragraphs unless you have a meaningful reason for the extra space.

Using Submittable

  • Please upload submissions through Submittable. We do not accept email submissions or hard copies via mail.

  • Upload only one piece per submission file; to submit more than one piece, make more than one submission file.

  • There is a $5 submission fee.

  • There is a submission cap of 200 submissions, so we may close submissions for the Winter Contest before the deadline if we receive 200 submissions. We recommend submitting early, to ensure that you do not miss the deadline.


There will be one winner and two finalists. The winners/finalists will receive:

  • Publication in Polyphony Lit Volume 19

  • Eligibility for the Claudia Ann Seaman Awards

  • Editorial feedback from the Contest Judge

  • Social media posts announcing the winners

  • An honorary emblem next to the published work on the website

  • A full scholarship for Polyphony Lit’s "How to be a Literary Editor" course. Upon completion of the course, students will be eligible to join the editorial staff of Polyphony Lit!

Please note that only the three winners will receive feedback from the Judge. However, if your work is declined for the Winter Contest, then you may submit to the Volume 20 category and receive regular feedback from our editors.


Contest Judge

Serra Nalbantoglu is a high school junior from Westport, Connecticut. She enjoys reading dystopian novels and romance novels, but she particularly loves writing poetry. Her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. She is an editor for her school’s literary magazine, and in her free time, she trains in ballet, loves to read, and spends times with her family. 


Contest Judge

Sophie Lin is a writer from the Midwest published in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, JUST POETRY, and the Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards, among other awards and publications. Apart from writing, she also enjoys programming (read: mulling over a bug for hours) and composing music on FL Studio. She's excited to read submissions for this year's Winter Contest and wishes you all the best of luck!


Contest Reader

Vaidehi Ghotkar is a high school senior who recently moved to Georgia, United States, from India. As someone who deeply resonates with the world of art and writing, she's extremely grateful to be a Junior Editor at Polyphony Lit and be a part of such a vibrant community! Apart from this role, she's also an art editor for The Jhumka Review and a student researcher at the NYAS Junior Academy. When she's not binge-reading a dark fantasy book series, you can find her idly sketching in her journal, solving calculus problems (for fun), and creating yet another Spotify playlist. 

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Contest Reader

Aisha Weththasingha is a high school poet in California graduating in 2026. She has been nationally recognized by the Scholastic Writing Awards. When she isn't jotting down image descriptions in her trusty notes app, she's either reading, ice skating, or snacking on olives.

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Contest Reader

Ruby Seidner is a fifteen-year-old high-school student who has been published in We Write Here, The Coterie Youth Mental Magazine, The Global Youth Review, and The Alcott Youth Magazine. She is an avid reader, and academic perfectionist. When she is not reading, writing or studying you can most likely find her eating dark chocolate or watching any number of bad sitcoms.


Contest Reader

Anshi Purohit is a high schooler from Maryland who has work published or forthcoming in literary magazines such as the Eunoia Review, LEVITATE, and Mobius Lit. She has published two books, was recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and is the founder of Sonderful Writings literary magazine. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading while drinking (too much) coffee and listening to music.

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