ASU's Envisioning the Future writing contest offers $300 to first place winner

ASU's Narrative Storytelling Initiative is looking for students to write about what the future will look like using knowledge from the current day

ASU’s Narrative Storytelling Initiative prompts students to share their views of the future in the first annual Envisioning the Future writing contest

With the world thrown into uncertainty as a global pandemic spreads, environmentalists and businesses are keeping a close eye on what the future holds. 

Sustainability may be the next big focus for companies wishing to survive fast-changing industries amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With shifts in business models, online communication rising and consumer habits changing, possibilities for the future could be endless. 

ASU's Narrative Storytelling Initiative is challenging students to take their current knowledge of the changing world and describe what the future may hold.

Finalists will be selected by judges for publication in a collection of work by the Narrative Storytelling Initiative.

The first-place winner will be awarded $300, the second will receive $200 and third $100. The top 10 finalists will also get a signed copy of "Environment" by Rolf Halden, a professor at ASU’s School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment.

The Global Futures Laboratory, the Environmental Humanities Initiative and the Institute for Humanities Research are collaborating to host the contest with the Narrative Storytelling Initiative.

The short story must be between 400 to 700 words and portray the author's imagination of the future in regards to current changes in the environment and society. The story must also include present knowledge of technology or science to create a realistic take on what the future could look like. 

The stories will be submitted anonymously then judged by a panel of judges with knowledge in climate science, sustainability, creative writing and environmental literature. 

“Rather than a sci-fi fantasy, we really look at this as an attempt to depict what the future can look like with some concrete sense about what we know and what we can speculate about,” said Steven Beschloss, a judge for the contest and director of the Narrative Storytelling Initiative.

Beschloss said the goal of the contest is “to really evoke people's thinking and their ideas and their creativity about what the future can and could and should look like."

“I hope that students will take it as an opportunity creatively to be able to write a good story, tell a story,” Beschloss said. 

Braedon Kantola, a participant in the contest and a master's student of sustainability solutions, was inspired to write his story based on a presentation he gave in his sustainability and enterprise class. 

The presentation discussed how disasters, specifically COVID-19, could be looked at as “a disaster of opportunity” that could be used to make the future better.

“In order to talk about the future we have to talk about what's happening currently,” Kantola said. “I really thought it was a good opportunity to bring to light the idea of a regenerative economy and co-opt businesses especially in this time of COVID-19."

Students are encouraged to write in any genre that is comfortable to them, said Joni Adamson, a judge for the contest and President’s Professor of environmental humanities and director of the Environmental Humanities Initiative. 

"(The contest allows students to) bring together a storytelling narrative with the science and technology we already have to tell the story of a better world,” Adamson said. 

The deadline for the contest is Tuesday, May 5. Details on the contest can be found on the School of Sustainability website.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with a more accurate header illustration.


Reach the reporter at mewill31@asu.edu and on Twitter @Madwill_edie.

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