To enter the Listen to a Life Contest, a young person 8-18 years old interviews an older person over 50 years (cannot be a parent; may be a grandparent, older friend, mentor, neighbor, assisted living or long-term care resident, etc.) The young person then writes a 300-word essay (maximum) based on the interview.
Get ready by doing a little reading…
Check the contest rules. You can also read Why Enter?
Read past winning stories to see how to craft an appropriate essay. The judging committee isn't looking for a laundry list of dates and life facts. Rather, they're looking for an evocative, creative story that captures the essence of a person's life, or a critical moment or experience.
Finally, young and old can read and discuss the award-winning book Dream: A Tale of Wonder, Wisdom & Wishes, by Susan V. Bosak. A multilayered story told by a wise old star, it's about hopes and dreams across a lifetime, in the past and into the future. We even have intergenerational activities you can do. The book sets the stage for a great interview.
Do your interview by listening to a grandparent/grandfriend's life story. Learn about their hopes and goals through their life, how they achieved goals and overcame obstacles, or how dreams may have changed along the way. As you're listening, focus in on a significant life experience – it may be big or small, but it has to mean something to the person being interviewed. What life advice can the older person share? The judges are looking for an evocative, creative story that captures the essence of a person's life, or a critical moment or experience.
To help with your interview, we have Life Interview Tips and sample Life Interview Questions (you don't have to use the questions; they're designed to give you ideas and inspiration).
WARNING: Entries MUST be based on an actual interview the young person completes in person, over the phone, or via the Internet with a living older adult. An entry cannot be based on a story the young person has been told by another person or has overheard. It must also be a true, real-life story, not creative fiction. Failure to follow these rules will result in immediate disqualification. Please read all the contest rules.
Now you're ready to write your story – 300 words maximum. Remember, the judging committee isn't looking for the person's whole life story (which is impossible to do in 300 words), but an essay that captures a theme, moment, or experience that's important in the older person's life.
No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. One entry per team (i.e. young person and grandparent or grandfriend). Entries must be 300 words or less, be a true story about an older person's life, and will be judged by a committee based on the following criteria: 1/3 writing quality, including creative presentation; 1/3 content depth and evocativeness; 1/3 appropriateness to theme, particularly the ability to capture a timeless idea, insight, or theme (big or small) based on real-life experience.
You can submit your completed entry online or by mail/fax. Only receipt of online entries can be acknowledged. Contest closes March 23, 2018.
Prompt: Write a story that includes the words county fair, lemonade, and prize.
Isabella loved the county fair, with all the flashy colors, the sounds of music and laughter, and the cotton candy smell. After trying a few rides and earning prizes at the ring toss, she noticed a small crowd near the ferris wheel. People were gathered so tightly she couldn’t see what was happening.
Isabella and her elder brother Michael made their way as close as possible and stretched their necks. People were gasping and laughing, whispering and yelping.
Mr. Murphy, the school principal, burst out of the crowd, dripping wet. He was laughing too, wringing his soaked baseball cap and putting his glasses back on.
"How's the water, Mr. Murphy?" Mayor Johnson asked, holding a lemonade.
"Just fine, just fine!" the wet principal answered cheerfully. "You'll find out soon enough!"
Mayor Johnson's smile faded, and he looked worriedly around him, provoking another round of laughter. "I can't be next, I'm in charge of the tank. Now we need a new volunteer! Any volunteer?"
As people moved away from the dunk tank to mingle and talk, Isabella wondered who would be next. She secretly hoped it would be her second grade teacher.
"Michael, look!" she said, louder than she intended. A raccoon had climbed in and stood on the chair.
"We have a volunteer!" The mayor’s loud voice overpowered the crowd's. "Three tickets give you five balls!"
Several people lined up to try their luck.
"How did it get in there?" Isabella whispered to Michael.
Before she could wonder any longer, she heard a big splash. A soaking wet raccoon dashed between her and Michael, holding Mr. Murphy's leftover candied apple in its mouth.