Writing and Illustration Contest

The Duke TIP Writing and Illustration Contest invites all 4th–6th Grade Talent Search participants to submit a creative short story, an illustration, or both!

The writing component takes place first, and the illustrations are based on writing contest winners.

Part Open Date Close Date
Writing Contest 12/1/2018 1/22/2019
Illustration Contest 3/12/2019 4/12/2019

Part 1: Creative Writing Contest

2019 Writing Contest Prompt: The Big Surprise

Your family surprises you with a last-minute trip to a National Park*. You are so excited you can’t stand it. After a full day of fun and lots of exercise, your family stops to rest, drink water, and have a snack. Unfortunately, you are so busy talking about the day and sharing favorite experiences that you fail to notice that the rest of your group has moved on.

Although the route is well marked, you cannot find your group. What does your family do? Are you alone or do you discover other people during your adventure? What else do you see?

Tell us a story about how you feel, what you experience, and how you and other people in your family react to and find a solution to the unexpected situation.

*Note: The National Park system includes 418 areas. Areas are located in every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. These areas include national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, and scenic rivers and trails. Pick your location and recount your adventures!

Keep in mind

  • The story should have a beginning, middle, and end.
  • All language and story content should be appropriate for posting on the Duke TIP website.
  • The story may be told in either first- or third-person.

Submission requirements

  • Your story must not exceed one thousand words (excluding the title).
  • Stories must be typed on 8.5- by 11-inch white paper, double-spaced. A parent or other person may type your entry, but it must be typed exactly as you have written it to maintain the integrity of your original work.
  • Your submission must include a cover sheet (details below).
  • You must submit two copies of your story, stapled only in the top left corner. No report covers or card stock, please.
  • Include the title of your story on the top of each page.
  • Do not print your name or TIP ID on the pages of your story. Your name and TIP ID should only appear on the cover sheet.
  • You may have a teacher, parent, or other adult review your story and make general suggestions (but not specific corrections) regarding format or grammar.

Cover sheet requirements

Your cover sheet must include:

  • your name
  • your Duke TIP ID number
  • your parent’s email address (required for submission confirmation)
  • your parent’s phone number
  • your grade
  • the number of words in your story (excluding the title)
  • the name, city, and state of the school you attended when enrolling in Duke TIP
  • the name, city, and state of your current school, if different from your enrolling school
  • the title of your story

Do not worry about us losing track of your entry. Instead of your name, we assign a special receipt code to every entry to ensure that judging remains anonymous.

What your story should have

An excellent story will include many, if not all of the following:

  • appropriate vocabulary to create a visual picture of the events, location, and individuals involved in the incident
  • a clear beginning, middle and end
  • very limited punctuation, spelling, or grammatical errors (remember, computer spell-checks do not catch all errors)
  • one or more characters who are unique and interesting to follow
  • struggles, uncertainty, and page-turning momentum in the plot
  • a point, theme, or message to the story
  • an immersive setting that makes the readers feel as if they are there with you
  • a conclusion that brings the overall story theme together, events to an end, and makes sense
  • only your own original thoughts and ideas

Submission checklist

Check these things before your mail your entry:

  • Have you included a cover sheet with all required information, including word count? See above for a full list of items to include.
  • Is the title of your story on the cover sheet and on the top of each page?
  • Is your story typed and printed on 8.5- by 11-inch white paper? Remember, only staple in the top left corner.
  • Have you included two copies of your story, both meeting the requirements?
  • Have you made sure that this story is your own work and that you did not copy anything from another source (e.g. a person, book, movie, game)?
  • Did you follow the rules of grammar and mechanics? Did you double-check your work for spelling and punctuation errors?
  • Have you made sure that your name does not appear in the text of the story or on the margins of the pages?

Where to submit

Once you have checked your submission to make sure you meet all the guidelines, please mail your entry to:

2019 Duke TIP Writing Contest
Duke Talent Identification Program
300 Fuller Street
Durham, NC 27701


The postmark deadline for the writing contest (Part 1) is January 22, 2019.

Part 2: Illustration Contest

When the second portion of the contest opens on March 12, 2019, 4th–6th Grade Talent Search participants will be invited to submit an original two-dimensional artwork that effectively illustrates the first-place story from the student’s same grade level. For example, if you are a fourth grader, your illustration should depict the fourth-grade first-place story.

Awards and prizes

First-, second-, and third-place winners are selected for each grade for both parts of the contest. All winners and their enrolling schools receive cash prizes:

  • $200 for first-place
  • $100 for second-place
  • $50 for third-place

All winners are highlighted in Navigator, the 4th–6th Grade Talent Search's online magazine, and first-place entries are posted to our website at the conclusion of each part of the contest.

To be eligible to receive a cash prize, the student must be a US citizen or a US permanent resident with a Form I-551 (Permanent Resident Card or Resident Alien Card), also known as a green card.

Additional contest details

The Duke TIP Writing and Illustration Contest is a benefit of participation in the 4th–6th Grade Talent Search and is open to current participants only. Students can only submit one entry for each part of the contest each academic year. Due to the large number of entries received, Duke TIP is unable to provide feedback or return individual submissions. However, we will provide a confirmation of receipt by email.