Ocean Essay Contest

Ocean Essay Contest

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    Williams-Mystic/Joseph Conrad Ocean Essay Contest

    Submissions for the 2016 contest are closed; submissions for the 2017 contest will open in late summer 2017. Until then, we encourage prospective contest entrants to explore our semester program, which is open to college sophomores, juniors, and seniors. 

    Eligibility: Undergraduates of any major in good academic standing at an accredited college or university are eligible. High school seniors may also submit.

    Entry Fee: None.

    The Essay: Submissions of either fiction or nonfiction should be between 1,000-5,000 words. Submissions may be about any topic and in any genre as long as the ocean or a major body of water is the primary setting or aspect of concern. The essay may be nature writing, environmental or political activism, literary or historic scholarship, or simply good storytelling. If submitting poetry, please send a minimum of six poems. The submitted work must be in English and unpublished at the time of submission, though it may be under consideration. It may have been submitted for a course.

    Prize: $400 winner, two $50 honorable mentions

    Deadline: TBD (2017 contest not yet open)

    Guest Judge: Professor T. Scott McMillin, Oberlin College (2016)

    Submission Format: Paper manuscripts only; no email submissions accepted. Mail to: Williams- Mystic/Joseph Conrad Essay Contest, Williams-Mystic, Mystic Seaport Museum, 75 Greenmanville Avenue, Mystic, CT 06355. Cover letter must include your full name, email, home college/university, year of intended graduation, title of submission, and word count. Since entries are judged solely on the quality of the writing, only your last name must appear at the header of each page of your entry, along with the page number. You may enter as many times as you wish.

    Acknowledgment: Williams-Mystic will email each applicant to confirm the essay’s arrival. This prize is competitive; please be patient as to our final decision. Honorable mentions will be recognized.

    Philosophy and History of the Prize: Williams-Mystic aims to encourage writing about the world’s oceans or major water bodies. We also wish to encourage promising writers to seize the opportunity, as part of their college career, to study about the sea, travel on the ocean, and live at Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea, the largest maritime museum in the world. Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) was one of the greatest of  maritime authors. He wrote both fiction (Typhoon) and nonfiction (The Mirror of the Sea). Among other tall ships, Mystic Seaport owns and maintains the Joseph Conrad (1882), pictured above, which is a historic ship that circumnavigated the world with young people.

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    2016: Simon Ladner, Ocean Springs High School (MS), with “The Sound”; Honorable Mention: Heriberto Coronado of Johnny Economedes High School (TX) for his short story, “The Sailor,” and Zaria Glenn of Ardrey Kell High School (NC) for her piece, “The Devil’s Water.”  See press release with judge’s comments here.

    Past Winners

    2015: Chloe Geffken, Colby College, with “In the Absence of a Telephone Ringing”; Honorable Mention: McKayla Whitley, J.D. Leftwich High School, with “Riding out the Wave” and Nikolas Oliver, Randolph College, with “The Water Birth of Jay Gatsby”  See press release here.

    2014: Nikki Fisher, Southern New Hampshire University, with “Solitude of a Siren”; Honorable Mention: Agatha Fenech, Cedar Falls High School, with “A Sea of Perspective: The Many Roles of the Sea in Lord Jim” and Hannah Glaser, Northern Virginia Community College, with “Divide”

    2013: Felicity Sheehy, Yale University, with “The Selkie”; Honorable Mention: Emily Klopfer, Yale University, with “The Two of Us on Kachemak Bay” and Maria Isabella Regina D. Francisco, Dartmouth, with “Tulong (Help)”

    2012: Ema Williamson, Millersville University, with “The Glass Trumpet”; Honorable Mention: Belle Baxley, Williams College, with “Blue Sister.”

    2011: Ophelia Hu, Amherst College, with “Untitled, first two chapters of  a novel”; Honorable Mention: Lauren Howe, Hamilton College, with “”Past, Present, and Future: The Effects of the Death of the Swift River Valley.”

    2010: Blair Braverman, Colby College, with “Useless Bay”; Honorable Mentions: Katie Jewett, Stanford University, “To Those Who Tend the Nets,” and Brittany Buonocore, Colgate University, “Letters from the Old Purple Sea.” Blair’s piece was later published in Orion: http://www.orionmagazine-digital.com/orionsample/sample/?pg=82#pg82

    2009: Kaitlin Webber, Bates College, with “Song of the Selkie”; Honorable Mention: Nicole Wooten, University of North Carolina with “End to Begin.” Kaitlin later joined Williams-Mystic for the Spring 2010 semester.


    Past Guest Judges

    2015: Professor Edward Melillo, Amherst College

    2014: Professor David Carlon, Bowdoin College

    2013: Professor Anissa Wardi, Chatham University

    2012: Professor Steve Mentz, St. John’s College

    2011: Professor Heidi Kunz, Randolph College

    2010: Professor Jennifer French, Williams College