Exercise Your Write Short Story Contest for Teens

January 25, 2021 | By Baltimore County Public Library

Update, March 22: Contest Winners

View the list of winners and their home branches below.

Middle School

  • First Place—"The Three Girls" by Gabrielle Sutherland, Grade 8, Loch Raven 
  • Second Place—"Stealing Back the Future" by Ivy McKnight, Grade 6, Cockeysville 
  • Third Place—"Just Another Day" by Harleen Kaur, Grade 8, North Point 
  • Staff Pick—"The Three Girls" by Gabrielle Sutherland, Grade 8, Loch Raven 

High School

  • First Place—"Someone Like Me" by Anna Virgilio, Grade 11, Parkville-Carney 
  • Second Place—"I Said No" by Faith LeBrun, Grade 11, Essex 
  • Third Place—"Echoes Through Time" by Hannah Harris, Grade 9, Hereford 
  • Staff Pick—"Everyday Superheroes" by Dean Troy, Grade 10, Cockeysville 
Exercise Your Write Graphic

The world is in a period of enormous social change and teens have the opportunity to express their views—and share their experiences—more than ever. What’s more, their voices are being heard. 

Baltimore County teens currently in grades 6 through 12 are challenged to submit an original piece for the library’s “Exercise Your Write 2021” short story contest. 

The competition was designed for teens to utilize their creativity and voice while writing about social justice, inequity, civil rights and the experiences of marginalized communities. 

Choose a Quote 

Entrants select one quote from the list below—or choose a quote, lyric or phrase of your choice from a book, poem, short story, essay, article, song, speech, etc.—and create a short story based on their interpretation of the quote and its meaning to them.

  1. “You sometimes don’t know you exist until you realize someone like you existed before.”―George M. Johnson, "All Boys Aren't Blue"  
  2. “You say that you love your children above everything else. And yet you are stealing their future.”―Greta Thunberg, "No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference"  
  3. “One of the things I hate most in life is people telling me to calm down, as if I’m some out-of-control lunatic who isn’t entitled to have feelings.”―Erika L. Sánchez, "I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter" 
  4. “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”―James Baldwin, "The Fire Next Time"
  5. “Receiving an award for playing a superhero is amazing, but it’s even greater to acknowledge the heroes that we have in real life."―Chadwick Boseman, 2018 MTV Movie and TV Awards 

Entry Requirements

Participants can submit entries by visiting www.bcpl.info/eyw. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, February 28.

  • One entry per participant; all entries must be written by one author. 
  • For participants under 18.
  • Entries are not to exceed 1,000 words and must be typed or written legibly in English. 
  • A title page must be included with author’s name, grade, title of work and chosen quote. The author’s name should not appear anywhere other than the title page. 
  • The title and page number should be included in the upper right-hand corner of every page, except the title page.  
  • The written entry can be a complete story or the first chapter or segment of a longer story. 

Judging Criteria and Categories

There are two judging categories: middle school and high school. Judging is based on:

  • Content
  • Style
  • Voice
  • Word choice
  • Structure
  • Clarity of story
  • Deliberate use of the contest theme and quote

Announcement of Winners 

Winning authors will be notified by phone and email by Friday, March 12. Winning short story authors and titles are announced on Baltimore County Public Library social media platforms. Winners will receive a bound book that includes all the winning short stories.


There are first, second and third place prizes in each category, as well as a “staff pick” selection. All entrants receive a certificate of completion. Each winner receives a VISA gift card. 

  • First place: $100 
  • Second place: $75 
  • Third place: $50 
  • Staff Pick: $25  

More Information  

Email yfe@bcpl.net for more information. 

Category: News