Writing Contests

Image: Student in the writing center


The Center sponsors several writing contests for students in fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. These contests are open to students in all majors. The contests offer cash prizes and the opportunity for students to have their work judged by professional writers. Students also learn the process for submitting their work via the same system that most professional contests and journals use.

Lindsay-Crane Creative Nonfiction Contest

Hiram’s creative nonfiction contest has been offered for 20 years. Creative nonfiction is “Factual and literary writing that has the narrative, dramatic, meditative, and lyrical elements of novels, plays, poetry, and memoirs,” as defined by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP).

2021 winners:

Judged by Rachel Wilkinson

  • 1st place: “The Girl in the Red Room” by Lauren Hildum
  • 2nd place: “A Kind of Beast” by Margaret Stehno
  • 3rd place: “Bird Universe” by Rho Robinson
  • Honorable mention: “Normal is Relative” by Leanne Dormer

Vachel Lindsay Poetry Prize

Named after American poet Nicholas Vachel Lindsay, who attended Hiram College from 1897 to 1900, the Vachel Lindsay prize recognizes the best poem or the best group of up to three poems in any form on any subject.

2019 winners:

Judged by Ali Black

  • 1st place: “sonnet cycle for a high school basketball game in northeast Ohio” by Matt Mitchell
  • 2nd place: “Demolition Begins in Earnest” by Alexia Kemerling
  • 3rd place: “you are the rebel king” by Katie Whisler
  • Honorable mention: “The Fifth” by Hannah Hilty

Barbara Thompson Award for Short Fiction 

Barbara Thompson was a 1977 Hiram College graduate. Barbara was a biology major who loved to read and write. The contest was originally sponsored in her memory by her mother, Ruth Thompson, and her husband, Paul Ottens ’76. Ruth and Paul felt it was appropriate to honor Barbara’s name with an award that emphasizes writing and would benefit a Hiram student.

In 2010, Barbara’s brother and sister-in-law Doug and Robin Thompson became co-sponsors of the award with Ruth.  Upon Ruth’s death in 2018, Doug and Robin assumed sole sponsorship of the contest.  The award has been given since 1994.

2019 winners:

Judged by D.M. Pulley

  • 1st place: “Summer of the Cicadas” by Alexia Kemerling
  • 2nd place: “Dream Crusher” by Hailey Toporcer
  • 3rd place: “Portal” by Matt Mitchell
  • Honorable Mention: “She Lives in My Lap” by Yidiayah Box
  • Honorable Mention: “Plague of the Heart” by Lani Pace

ECHO Student Literary Competition

The ECHO Student Literary Competition is hosted by Hiram College and is open to undergraduate students at Bethany College, Heidelberg University, Hiram College, Marietta College, University of Mount Union, and Muskingum University. Entries are judged by faculty members from the six participating colleges and universities, and faculty do not read entries from students at their own institutions.

2019 ECHO winners:


  • 1st place: Matthew Mitchell, Hiram College, for “a portrait of the day Phife dawg died,” “Appalachian gods don’t believe in me,” and “my parents need to stop playing the eagles when they are drunk & dancing”
  • 2nd place: Alexia Kemerling, Hiram College, for “Erosion,” “Keep Out: ‘America the Beautiful,’” and “I decided to help my father”
  • 3rd place: Jenna Durant, Muskingum University, for “Why I Wish I Was Paul Simon,” “Fresh Canvas, Blank as Winter,” and “Astral Projection from a Front Stoop”
  • Honorable mention: McKenzie Caldwell, University of Mount Union, for “The Willows,” “what they told you about the loony bin was wrong, it’s the e r you gotta look out for,” “Elsewhere”

Creative Nonfiction

  • 1st place: Matthew Mitchell, Hiram College, for “Harmonicas Playing Skeleton Keys”
  • 2nd place: McKenzie Caldwell, University of Mount Union, for “The Missing Link”
  • 3rd place: Alexia Kemerling, Hiram College, for “The Way Things Seem”
  • Honorable Mention: Faith Harrison, Hiram College, for “Hi, My Name Is”
  • Honorable mention: Elita Jones, Muskingum University, for “The Rain 


  • 1st place: Katie Whisler, Hiram College, for  “Impressionism, in Effect”
  • 2nd place: Callie Levan, Hiram College, for “Shallow Water”
  • 3rd place: Kelly Miller, Hiram College, for “Sunflowers”
  • Honorable mention: Ryan Ditrick, University of Mount Union, for “Regicide”
  • Honorable mention: Alexia Kemerling, Hiram College, for “Finders Keepers”
  • Honorable mention: Matthew Mitchell, Hiram College, for “Portal”