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Contest 2024

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! 

Summer Contest 2024

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!


Summer 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.

  • If submitting multiple pieces, please upload as separate submissions. Multiple pieces submitted in a single document will be withdrawn, and you will be asked to resubmit your pieces separately.

  • We accept simultaneous submissions and work that has been published elsewhere. If submitting previously published work, please send a message in Submittable noting where and when your work has been published, and if it is eligible for republication. If it is accepted for publication elsewhere after submitting to Polyphony Lit, please notify us immediately but do not withdraw your submission if you are still interested in publication at Polyphony Lit. If we accept a previously published submission for publication, we will acknowledge the place of the original publication.

  • Previously published pieces are not eligible for the Claudia Ann Seaman Awards


  • Poetry must be 80 lines or less.

  • Fiction and creative nonfiction must be 1,800 words or less.


  • 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.

Additional Guidelines for Creative Nonfiction​

  • At Polyphony Lit, we look for creative nonfiction pieces that are written in the style of short personal memoirs. We are looking for pieces that are informal, flexible in form, and most importantly, personal. Personal discovery is the keystone of a personal essay. Self-revelation, human experiences, humor, and flexibility of form are all aspects that we look for in pieces we publish as creative non-fiction.

  • We do not look for op-ed pieces, critical analyses, research papers, or academic essays.

  • We would advise reading some samples of our work, in order to understand the material that we publish. Here are some samples of creative nonfiction that we have published:

  • Memories of the Boy I Didn't Know

  • responses to love

  • Holiday in a Burning City

Submission Calendar
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the Judge

Serra Nalbantoglu | 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. 


Seasonal Contests Page Art by Alex Riccobon.

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