Mt. Diablo Branch started the Young Writers Contest in 1995 for middle school students in the Mt. Diablo School District. This early contest had two categories for fiction and poetry. In 1997, the contest widened to include all Contra Costa County middle school students.
The essay/personal narrative category was added in the early 2000s, as Betty Tenney, a long-time writer club member, died and her family donated money for that award. Around 2014, another member, Lee Paulson, gave a donation to start a category for humor. We’ve combined the grades in this category due to few entries, but it is growing: 2018 was the first year we had enough submissions in this category to offer 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes.
In 2015, the branch bravely stepped into the new century by migrating the contest online, using the program, Submittable. This has enabled us to reach many more schools, teachers, and students.
In 2018, we received 344 submissions from students at 19 schools in Contra Costa County. We give cash prizes to 30 winners – $100 for 1stplace (10 winners), $75 for 2nd place (10 winners), and $25 for 3rd place (10 winners).
In addition to the 30 winners, we awarded 47 Honorable Mentions to pieces we felt had merit. We are always excited to read what these young students are writing, and to see how our contest assures them their writing is important.