Carnegie Mellon University
September 18, 2012

News Brief: Carnegie Mellon Accepting Submissions for Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards

Contact: Shilo Rea / 412.268.6094 /

Fourteen years ago, Carnegie Mellon University English Professor Jim Daniels started a writing contest - the Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards - to bring students together to talk about race. Each year, the contest encourages local students to explore their personal experiences with race and discrimination through poetry and prose.

"The awards prompt students to think about Martin Luther King, Jr. and race in the context of their everyday lives," said Daniels, the Thomas Stockham Baker Professor of English who directs the awards program. "It brings people of all races together and gets them to tell their stories. And, it's hard to hide in a good poem, or a good essay."

Open to all high school and college students in the Pittsburgh-area, the awards committee seeks personal narratives dealing with individual experiences of racial or cultural differences or personal reflections on King's legacy that rely on concrete detail.

Both prose and poetry entries will be accepted. Fiction and nonfiction prose pieces should be less than 2,000 words and double-spaced. Entrants may submit up to five poems.

Selected entries will be published, and their student authors will be invited to read their work at Carnegie Mellon on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013. Cash prizes will also be awarded.

Kristin Kovacic, a teacher at Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12, has had her literary artist students participate in the awards since they began. "This contest is unique in that it doesn't ask the usual questions about Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy," she said. "Rather, the CMU contest asks our students to reflect on encounters with race and difference in their own lives, and this, we find, is much more challenging psychological work. And, the writing that emerges from this work is naturally concrete and emotionally fresh."

Interested students can submit entries as Microsoft Word attachments (.docx preferred) to or by mail at MLK Writing Contest, Department of English, Baker Hall 259, CMU, 5000 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15213.

Entries must include the student's name, school, age, title of work(s) submitted, category of work(s) submitted (fiction, poetry, nonfiction), email address, home address and home phone number. The deadline for the 2013 awards is Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012.

To read winning entries from previous years, visit