Guest post: ‘Write across America’ children’s writing competition by Dal Burns

I’m delighted to welcome back multi-genre author Dal Burns to talk about his ongoing children’s competition ‘Write across America’.

Write Across America

Sponsored by DramaWorksInc., Write Across America means exactly what it says. We mean to create a network of young writers, spanning the entire United States and to so do using the technology that all youth understand. That technology includes blogs, web sites, Facebook, Google+, Twitter and even texting, and we must reach them from the platforms they best understand.

On the face of it, Write Across America is a simple writing competition; an ongoing competition. We will reward young writers in three ways: Publication of their work on our blog, cash prizes and publication in an eBook. We say that this is ongoing because when we tie off one competition, pay out the three $100 prizes and begin the editing process for the eBook, a new competition starts immediately. The competition then runs in stages and the outcomes are perpetuated as follows:

  • Students submit a story to our email,, in compliance with the rules
  • The story is critiqued and the critique sent to the student, perhaps with suggestions to improve the quality of the writing or the grammar. These critiques will be gentle in tone as we wish to encourage the writer to keep working
  • When a story is at a basic level, we will include it in our blog ( and ask our readers to vote for or against the story
  • Once we have a sufficient number of entries, perhaps one hundred and twenty or so, we will tie off the blog
  • The three best vote-getters will be awarded a prize of $100 each
  • The best stories will be edited and published in an eBook tentatively titled, “Let the Young Speak”, which we will publish to the eReaders in ePub format. Royalties on all sales will be distributed to the writers, based on sales and the number of stories each writer has in a given book.
  • The competition begins again
  • As the competition grows, we will seek out more sponsors to assist with the expenses and more authors to help us with the workload of editing and publishing

The sub-text of this competition is also quite simple. We want young writers to pay attention to each other and to link into a network of writers, using the technologies that most already use. We can link these writers through our Twitter feeds, our blog and our use of social media sites. Bringing these young writers together will, we believe, form bonds that will encourage them to use technology as a means to furthering their careers as well as their social contacts.

Secondarily, we will create a different competition on Twitter. Older students will be able to submit what we call ‘Ultrashorts’ to us, to be sent out over our Twitter feed. These will be complete stories in one hundred and forty characters. A difficult challenge but one I am sure young adult writers will meet handily. Prizes and publishing opportunities are currently being considered for this competition.

Our expectation of teachers, librarians and authors is that they will be promoters and supporters of our competition. We need them to get the word to students and perhaps help them to formulate and edit their stories. By these means, we hope to encourage students to use their libraries more effectively as resources for their stories and to use librarians to help them to understand how useful a library really is to their career path.

We started our blog on October 1st and we are accepting stories. Our first stories are on the blog and readers are voting. We are underway.

We have a Twitter account, @WriteAcrossUSA, and are promoting the blog and Twitter feed through several Facebook pages. We are currently evaluating how best to use Google+.

Financially, this is easy for schools. There is no dollar cost to them. We want to use schools and libraries as a conduit to inform our young writers of our existence. Once a librarian or teacher has shown the writer the value of our competition, we do the rest. We have paid for the entire setup of the competition and have contributions from like-minded individuals to pay for the prizes and donate time and expertise to run the whole competition, from blog to eBook. If, at some point, a corporation or non-profit pays for some of the costs, we will indicate that on our blog.

We also intend to work on having well-known authors visit school libraries to talk about their work and their process in putting together a successful book. This may be down the road a way but we believe it can happen.

In conclusion, what we want to see is a series of eBooks by young writers, rapidly climbing the Kindle, Nook and iPad / iPhone sales charts. We’d love to discover the next Christopher or Christine Paolini but mostly we just want to see young writers getting together and making their mark in the world. We believe this is a worthy goal.

And the official stuff (as the saying goes):

  • Students submitting stories to the blog must be under eighteen years of age
  • There is no limit to the number of entries a student may submit, though there are no resubmissions of an accepted story, for subsequent competitions
  • Each story must be no more than 600 words long and can be on any subject
  • Each emailed submission will be critiqued and the critique sent to the student. The submission email address will be
  • Suitable short stories will be posted on our blog,
  • Readers of the blog stories will be allowed to comment and vote for stories. Each comment will be vetted by the editors prior to posting
  • Stories from the blog deemed to be of suitable quality and subject matter will be published in an eBook of short stories.  Students may have more than one story accepted for the eBook
  • Royalty payments will be made on books sales, commensurate with the number of stories included from each author. This eBook will be available for purchase at Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook
  • The three most-voted for stories in the blog series will be awarded a cash prize of $100 each
  • After the three prizes are awarded and the eBook published, the competition will start again
  • The timing of the publication of the eBook and the awarding of the cash prizes will be determined by the editors and will depend solely on the number of stories that are submitted and the votes cast. The more stories and votes submitted, the quicker a new round will begin
  • Once the 600-word competition has been firmly established, a second competition will be initiated. Designed for the older student, the stories submitted cannot be longer than 140 characters. A character in this instance includes numbers, letters, punctuation marks and spaces. The competition will be given the name, Ultra-shorts. These stories will be initially published on Twitter and the Write-Across-America blog and may be published in eBook format at a later date. Prizes will be awarded for the most-voted stories through tweets and the blog. More details on this competition will be available soon
  • Email any enquiries to

What a wonderful opportunity (shame I’m far too old and no longer study (officially, anyway))… thank you Dal! You can watch a wonderful video ( with Dal (and his English accent! :)) explaining the basics and read Dal’s other guest post and interview on this blog.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me at with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with erotic thriller, romantic suspense and self-help author Toni Weymouth – the two hundred and forty-fifth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords.

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