Writing Contests

August 27, 2020

I’ve always been second best, but it feels so good to win! Did you know that the Ohio Genealogical Society sponsors a writing contest? The deadline is December 31st each year, but if you use 10 point Calibri font, you will be disqualified. There are standards that must be met after all!

Why do we write in genealogy? I’ve never met a family history library patron who does not like to talk. Some people have the talent to convert that into the written word, something that comes in handy during pandemic situations when one cannot leave the house. And, we admire our ancestors – the one who was the founder of such and such a town, the one who served valiantly in the war, the Indian princess, or the farmer who harbored slaves going northward through Ohio.

We learn to document as we write. Can I really prove what I am placing permanently on this paper? With practice, we are able to tell our story concisely – “the antislavery Civil War veteran corn planter and Wyandot wife Keren-happuch were founders of Ai”. That Fulton County village sure knew how to keep it short.

Your OGS contest submission, either to the Ohio Genealogical Society Quarterly or Ohio Genealogy News may be as lengthy as 5,000 words (including endnotes). Tell us about your family, abstract a document that might be valuable to others, explore the settlement patterns of an ethnic or religious group, or highlight some aspect of research methodology to prove a point in a case study.

Yes, we need to teach others. What is the point of compiling an article unless you can get the reader to understand, appreciate, and most importantly, remember the story described. Yes, there are awards and accolades, and of course OGS is trying to fill its pages, but we are also introducing new talent to our family history community – and, we expect the best out of you!

There are other contests out there. I did a Google search for the most ‘far out’ writing contests. No hits were in the result set, so I changed my search to ‘unusual’ writing contests. A single word can indeed be the key! The Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest put on by San Jose State University came to the forefront. Lytton is the one who started his novel with the words, “It was a dark and stormy night….” They want contestants who are destined to compile the worst of all novels – and, the best part about this contest is that only a single sentence may be submitted from the novel for judging.

The Ohio Genealogical Society Writing Contest has rules and even a style guide which also may be found under Events on the OGS website.

Only serious authors need apply. Second place will get you $50 and a one-year OGS membership, by the way!

Tom Neel, OGS Library Director