Maryland Essay Contest

Topic: Open

Deadline for application:
Friday, January 19, 2018

Awards (Adult)
First Place: $500 and published in Bethesda Magazine
Second Place: $250
Third Place: $150
Honorable Mentions: $75

Awards (High School)
First Place: $250 and published in Bethesda Magazine
Second Place: $100
Third Place: $50
Honorable Mentions: $25

All winning essays will be published on the Bethesda Urban Partnership and Bethesda Magazine websites and will be honored at a special event during the Local Writer's Showcase on Friday, April 20, 2018.

Essays must be limited to 500 words or less about a topic of the writer's choosing. Only one entry per person. Your essay must be your original work. Any essays containing material that is obscene or objectionable will be disqualified.  Previously published essays are not eligible.

Residents of Washington, D.C. and the select counties of Maryland (Montgomery, Prince George's, Howard and Frederick) and Virginia (Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William) are eligible. Current and former employees, contractors, directors, and officers of the Bethesda Urban Partnership (BUP) and their immediate family members are ineligible. Current students, relatives, or close personal friends of the judge(s) are also ineligible.

Cathy Alter
Author; Adjunct Faculty, M.A. in Writing Program at Johns Hopkins University 

Chelsea Horne 

Writer/Editor; Professorial Lecturer, Department of Literature at American University


Kathleen Seiler Neary 

Associate Editor, Bethesda Magazine



Winners will be contacted by March 20, 2018.



All entrants retain the copyright rights that they have in the essays they submit, but by participating in this contest and submitting essays, all entrants grant Bethesda Urban Partnership (BUP) the right, license, and ability to use and publish all submitted essays (in complete form or in excerpted form) on the BUP Web site, on other Web sites, and in other media.


Letters bring Maryland’s young writers and renowned authors together.

Letters About Literature (LAL) is a national writing contest for students in grades 4 through 12 sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Every year, thousands of Maryland students submit a letter to the contest. LAL encourages young readers to write to the author of a book expressing how that book changed their view of themselves or the world. Fans of any genre, fiction or nonfiction, dystopian fantasies or the classics, are invited to participate.

Interested in entering the LAL contest?

All contest entries must be postmarked by the following deadline: January 12, 2018

The LAL contest rewards state and national winners and runners-up with cash prizes. In Maryland we recognize all our finalists with a statewide ceremony where family and friends can celebrate young writers.

LAL is not just about reading and writing. The contest also inspires creativity in young people and encourages them to be lifelong readers who talk about what they read. Participating in LAL helps develop the critical reading and writing skills that students need to be successful both in school and in their adult careers.

The 2017-2018 Guidelines document has all you need to know to enter the contest and includes the official contest entry coupon. Contestants, make sure to attach your completed entry coupon to your letter! 


Educators, we can’t wait to read what your students write!


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