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We Read: Youth Voices Writers' Contest

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Madison Public Library will once again host the We Read Youth Voices Writing Contest in collaboration with Forward Madison FC and the Wisconsin Book Festival. We are accepting submissions April 3 - June 30, 2023.

Submitting Your Story

Madeleine Bohn Youth Poet Laureate and We Read Youth Voices Writing Contest Youth AmbassadorThe theme for the 2023 Youth Voices Writing Contest is “Moving Forward - Together” and was determined by this year’s youth ambassador, Madeleine Bohn. Bohn is the City of Madison Youth Poet Laureate and was also a runner up in last year’s contest for her story, Sunlight. We are looking for stories of empathy; stories about seeking to understand each other's differences, looking at different perspectives, and moving forward together rather than apart.

“When we measure something's worth in numbers and figures, we miss out on a whole world of beautiful human connection; we highlight the lines that divide us rather than the common paths we share.” Madeleine says, “So much of empathy and of coming together relies on looking at things from another person's perspective, which is why I'm excited to see the unique ways each young writer interprets this year's focus.”

Stories, Poems, and Songs may be as short as you like -- who doesn’t love a simple haiku? -- but must not exceed the word limit for your age group. 

We Read Youth Voices Writing Contest How to Participate 2023Authors should limit themselves to their single best piece for submission. 

Submissions can be in English, Spanish, or Hmong. If you would like to submit in a different language, please contact Rebecca Millerjohn at to ensure a translator for our judges can be acquired. 

Age Groups:

  • Ages 7 and under | 250 words or less
  • Ages 8-12 | 750 words or less
  • Ages 13-18 | 1,000 words or less

Check out our 2021 Winners & Honorable mentions 

Learn about our previous contest and read the winners in our online 2021 Youth Voices Anthology

The Prizes

Submissions for the contest are judged by a community panel of judges. 3 talented writers will be recognized for their achievements by: 

  • We Read Youth Voices Writing Contest Winners 2021 at Forward Madison FCBeing recognized on the field at the August 12, 2023 Forward Madison game
  • Receiving a a Forward Madison scarf and custom jersey
  • Receiving a signed game ball from Forward Madison FC players
  • Having their stories published in the We Read Youth Voices Anthology, which will be available in every Madison Public Library location and school library location across the city
  • Featuring them at the Wisconsin Book Festival Fall Celebration.
  • Having their work be shared via social media, the Forward Madison and Madison Public Library newsletters, and other community channels. 

Winner of the grand prize also receives a $500 prize and a scholarship to attend a Young Writer's Camp of their choice through the Greater Madison Writing Project in the late summer or fall of 2023. The 2 runners up receive $250 prizes adn the age category winners receive $100 each. These prizes serve as investments in youth - the winner and their families are left to determine the best way to spend or save the funds. 

Submission Form
You can also provide the contact info of a parent, guardian, or other trusted adult.
If it is helpful to include the email address of a parent or guardian to also be notified if your piece is selected, please add one here.
If it is helpful to include the email address of another trusted adult - sibling, teacher, coach, etc - to also be notified if your piece is selected, please add one here.
Files must be less than 40 MB.
Allowed file types: gif jpg jpeg png txt pdf doc docx odt.
I certify that the attached work for the We Read youth Voices Contest is the student writer’s own original work and was written in the previous year.
(please type your signature)
​If your piece is selected to be published, you will be asked to submit an audio recording of your piece and photo of yourself by July 31st to include in the publication. 
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

About the Writing Contest

We Read Youth Voices Writing Contest Anthology 2021Since 2021, Madison Public Library, Forward Madison, and the Wisconsin Book Festival have partnered to support literacy and encourage youth to use their voices through the We Read Youth Voices Writing Contest. The competition is for aspiring writers in the Madison area aged 18 and under to submit a short story, poem, song, etc. on a preselected topic. Each year the contest is judged by a handful of judges from the community and submissions are published in the We Read Youth Voices Anthology [See 2021 Anthology Submissions].

We Read is funded by Madison Public Library Foundation, Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation, Dick Goldberg & Lisa Munro, and Jane Doughty & David Wood.