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Creative Writing Festival

UW-Whitewater Creative Writing Festival


We are happy to announce the High School Creative Writing Festival for the year 2019 and to invite teachers and writing students to attend and participate in the 35th annual festival at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Each year approximately 750 students and teachers participate in the festival. We are pleased to be able to offer teachers and students this day of stimulating exposure to the writing of their peers and the chance to hear their work discussed and evaluated by professional writers in a college setting. The Creative Writing Festival is available to those in grades 9-12.

Date: Wednesday, December 2, 2020 | 9:00 a.m. - 5:45 p.m.


Register Online Opens Soon!

Registrations with submissions accepted online until 10/20/20; without submissions 11/30/20, noon.
We do accept walk up registrations (without submissions, only) the day of the event, if not sold out. Walk-up registration will be available to download here after the online registration closes.

$30.00     Students with Submission and attendance fee

$25.00     Student attendance fee (students not submitting a manuscript)

$40.00     Teacher with submission and attendance fee

$35.00     Teacher attendance fee (teachers not submitting a manuscript)

Students who do not wish to submit a manuscript for evaluation in a workshop are still welcome to attend the Festival. These students are encouraged to participate in discussions of the work being considered in the various workshops. Students may not submit a manuscript for evaluation if they do not attend the Festival. Please submit one check from the school or adviser to cover all students attending. A catered luncheon is included in the teacher's fee. Students will be "on their own" for lunch. Student luncheon options, both on and off campus, will be included in the packet received at check-in. 

Prizes and Refunds

Prize money has amounted to approximately $800 in previous Creative Writing Festivals. It is anticipated that this year's Festival will award a comparable amount. Awarding of prizes will depend on the number and quality of submissions per genre. We regret that it will not be possible to give refunds to those who are unable to attend.

Received an Award, Sponsorship or Discount?

For those participants who will be receiving a sponsorship to attend this event: Register and use the promo code your sponsor gave you. The sponsorship will be deducted from your invoice.  Any remaining balance remains the participant's responsibility. Any cancellations will result in the sponsorship funds being returned to the supporting organization.

Any qualifying discounts given by the event will not be applied after you have paid in full. Be sure to use the promo code at check out to receive your discount. You will be charged if you do not qualify for requested discount at the start of event.

A processing fee will be assessed if a refund is issued due to overpayment on your account.

Questions, received an award/scholarship without a promo code or want to use two promo codes? Please call Continuing Education Services at 262-472-3165 or email

Want to Sponsor a Registrant?

You can sponsor a registrant and cover all or partial fees. We have received requests in the past from schools, companies, organizations, friends and family members that would like to send their chosen registrant to a specific event. If you would like to sponsor a registrant, you can request a promo code that you may give to your chosen registrant. Click here for more details.

2020 Keynote

Danez Smith

Danez Smith

Danez Smith is Black, Queer, Poz writer & performer from St. Paul, MN. Danez is the author of "Don't Call Us Dead" (Graywoldf Press, 2017), winner of the Forward Prize for Best Collection, the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award, and a finalist for the National Book Award, and "[insert]boy" (YesYes Books, 2014), winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Labda LIterary Award for Gay Poetry. Danez is a member of the Dark Noise Collective and is the co-host of VS with Franny Choi, a podcast sponsored by the Poetry Foundation and Postloudness. Danez's third collection, "Homie", will be publised by Graywolf in Spring 2020.

  • A participant may submit in only one category (poetry may have up to three titles per submission). See category chart below.  
  • Participants will submit  one file online using the Creative Writing Festival - Submission and Proof of Originality Form.  A link will be available in the confirmation receipt and email once registration is completed.
  • All manuscripts must include author's name, title of piece, be double spaced and adhere to file name requirements, and to category page lengths.
  • Submission must be saved as a pdf or mp3 file (not to exceed 25,000 KB) with category code, last name and first name as the file name.  Codes are found next to categories below.  Example:  P.Doe.Jane would be the file name for Jane's poetry submission.  
  • Files exceeding 25,000 KB must be posted on a website and link provided in a pdf for submission.  YouTube can be used.
  • Song Lyrics entries must submit recording of the song with song lyrics.  It is is suggested to post recording on website and provide song lyrics in a pdf for submission.
  • Submissions must be received by Tuesday, October 20, 2020. Entries submitted after deadline will not be considered for review.
  • Each school is limited to 25 submissions. There is no limit to the number of students you may bring.
  • Participants should bring at least 20 copies of their manuscripts to take to the session where their work will be evaluated.
  • To ensure the continued quality of the Festival experience, we limited the number of participants to 350.
  • Submitting students must attend the session they are assigned to and listed in the program handed out at check-in.
  • Students should pick up their annotated manuscripts at the end of the workshop session time to which they were assigned.
  • At times a facilitator is unable to attend their assigned session, due to unforeseen circumstances.  We will do everything possible to find a replacement and prevent needing to cancel a session.
  • UW-Whitewater is required to report any submissions that indicate neglect, abuse, violence towards others, or self-harm.
  • Children's Literature (CL)- Maximum: 10 pages
    • Works written and appropriate for children ranging from toddler to roughly age 10. No topic restrictions other than appropriateness. Work may also include illustrations.
  • Drama or Screenplay (DR)- Maximum: 15 pages
    • A work (fiction or non-fiction) written in a fashion that can be performed; i.e., primarily comprising dialogue and some stage/screen direction and exposition.
  • Essay Expository or Personal (EE/EP) - Maximum: 5 Pages
    • Non-fiction, non-poetical short works. Genres generally include, but are not limited to: Personal Narrative (tells a story), Descriptive (paints a picture in words), Expository (factual explanation or definition of a specific topic), and Persuasive (attempts to persuade reader to a specific point of view).
  • Humor (H) - Maximum: 10 pages
    • Can be in virtually any format (fiction, non-fiction, short drama, essay, etc.) as long as its primary aim is to provide humor and/or humorous entertainment.
  • Poetry (P) - Maximum: 3 poems (one pdf file for all three)
    • A piece of writing that employs some combination of lyrical, metrical, rhythmic, illusory, or imaginative power, frequently employing vivid or suggestive language/imagery or literary devices like similes and metaphors.
  • Prose Poem/Flash Fiction (PF) - Maximum: 3 pieces
    • prose poem is a non-poetical piece that still embodies certain poetic qualities such as prominent rhythms, imagery, compactness, and intensity, though without necessarily rhyming or following a set metrical pattern.  Flash fiction is an extremely brief (generally no more than a few hundred words) piece of prose fiction.
  • Fan Fiction/Science Fiction/Fantasy/(FS)- Maximum: 10 pages
    • SciFi (science fiction) is prose fiction based on imagined future technological and/or scientific advances, frequently employing significant social or environmental changes, space travel, time travel, and/or alien life forms.  Fantasy, also prose fiction, employs magical or supernatural qualities of the characters, plot, setting, or theme. While fantasy can employ any time setting, it is frequently set in worlds resembling ancient or medieval Earth.  Fan Fiction, a new but growing genre, is a work of fiction set in a pre-existing world created by another author. For example, popular  fan fiction works use the characters from a TV/movie series like  Star Trek or  Harry Potter, but use those characters in new ways or takes them on new adventures that are imagined by the  fan fiction author.
  • Short Fiction (SF) - Maximum: 10 pages
    • Prose writing that presents imaginary people and events.
  • Song Lyrics (SL)- Send taped music or CD & hard copy of lyrics
    • Words set to music, often resembling a poem that can be sung.  Submissions must include music.  It is suggested to post music to website and provide link in song lyric submission.
  • Tales of Terror & Mystery (TT)- Maximum: 10 pages
    • Like fantasy fiction, tales of terror often incorporate supernatural beings, events, and settings, but differs in that its primary intent is to induce horror or terror. Tales of terror need not employ supernatural elements, though in a non-supernatural setting, the genre still creates an aura of eeriness or fright. Tales of mystery can employ many of the same elements as tales of terror, but its impact is intrigue rather than terror, or it offers an outré tale, or it can simply be a piece of crime fiction like a murder mystery.
  • Teacher (T)
    •  All creative writing by teachers
  • Special Workshop: Teaching the Poetry of Lorine Niedecker (SW)
    •  All students who signed up for workshop.  Your submission cannot be the same piece submitted to primary workshop.

Festival Schedule

Time Event
8:00 - 9:00 am Check-In, Hamilton Room (in the University Center)
9:00 - 9:50 am Convocation, Hamilton Center
10:00 - 10:50 am Workshops
11:00 - 11:50 am Workshops
12:00 - 12:50 pm Lunch
1:00 - 1:50 pm Workshops
2:00 - 2:50 pm Workshops
3:00 - 3:50 pm Workshops
4:00 - 4:50 pm Workshops
5:00 - 5:45 pm Awards Ceremony, Hamilton Room

Special Lorine Niedecker Workshop

Special Lorine Niedecker 'Poetry of Place' workshops for students and teachers!  Students can submit poems or short prose in the spirit of Lorine Niedecker to this workshop in addition to the primary workshop they register for at no additional charge.  This submission cannot be the same piece submitted to the primary workshop.

For the Students

  • Workshops are designed for students in grades 9-12.
  • Students' work will be discussed in the sessions.
  • Workshops are limited, and student writers will be assigned in advance to the workshop in which their work is critiqued.
  • Non-submitting participants may attend any session of their choice as long as there is a seat available in the session.  If no seat is available they will need to find another session to attend.
  • Each submission will be carefully read and considered.
  • A professional writer will make written comments on the original manuscript.
  • Because of the great number of entries in some categories such as poetry, our faculty cannot always discuss every work submitted.
  • At check-in, participants will receive a copy of the schedule designating the workshop assigned and its location.
  • Lunch for the participants will be on their own.  Please feel free to bring your own lunch or money to purchase lunch at various  dining facilities on campus.
  • Deadline: Tuesday, October 20, 2020.

For the Teachers

UW-Whitewater staff members and visiting writers will coordinate special teachers' writing workshops to be held concurrently with the students' workshop. A session on the teaching of creative writing will be conducted and a workshop for teachers will be offered if there is sufficient interest. Teachers who want to submit their own work for consideration in a Teachers Writing Workshop should submit their work by submission deadline.  Lunch for the teachers will be included in the fee.

Identification & Proof of Originality

Each applicant submitting work will verify proof of originality through online registration system.  Students attending Special Workshop: Lorine Niedecker will also need to submit work, in addition to submission to primary workshop.  The online registration link will be provided to you in your registration confirmation.

Confirmation Emails

Once you register, a confirmation email will be sent to your email account. Contact if you do not receive this confirmation email. Historically email accounts used from and are blocked from receiving notifications from us or may end up in your spam folder. You are able to register using these accounts; however, you will not receive emails from us. Please make sure you have a working email address on file with us to be able to receive important announcements and updates about this event.

Parking Information

If you are driving independently to the festival, visitor parking passes are available at the Visitor Center and parking is available behind it in Lot 7.  Permits are required to park in campus lots.  Busses will be allowed to drop off students in the roundabout of Lot 12 and Lot 2 and will be directed where to park.  More information on parking can be found on the  Visitor Center website.

A campus map can be  found here.