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Tempe Public Library writing contest gives young and new writers platform to be heard

The Tempe Writer's Forum aspires to use competition to connect community through art and literature for eighth year


The Tempe Writer's Forum is open to adults and high school students in the Phoenix area through Feb. 14, 2022. 

Like the first drill on an otherwise untapped well, Tempe Writer's Forum hopes to bring to surface local writers who’ve yet to submit their work for publication.

The event, in its eighth year, is a writing contest hosted by the Tempe Public Library at the start of the 2022. 

Rebecca Byrkit, clinical professor of liberal studies and creative writing in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts and one of the organizers of the contest, said she aspires to use the competition to build a bridge that connects the community through art and literature.

The contest, which is open to adults and high school students in the Phoenix area, gives an opportunity for local, unspoken for artists and writers to express themselves. 

"University students, high school students and adults need to be a part of their local library, and those part of the library need to realize they’re part of a larger literary community," Byrkit said. 

What used to be a one-category contest only for those with a library card has grown over the past eight years into a competition reaching students and adults all over Maricopa County, she said.

Work is now accepted from three different genres: poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction. Contestants are separated into three categories within each genre: high school student, college student and adult.

Jill Brenner, an adult services librarian at the Tempe Public Library and one of the contest’s founders, said the idea of connecting the library to the community began as a series of writing workshops that would eventually lead to the first competition. Brenner said the contest is a good stepping stone for people who haven't entered one before. 

In recent years, a cover design competition has also become a part of the contest, where the winning design will be featured as the cover of the annual Tempe Writer's Forum magazine. 

Winners from the writing contest as well as runners-up and honorable mentions get to have their work published in the magazine. Winning submissions are awarded a cash prize.

The contest was initially created with the intention of serving the community and has proven to be of great enjoyment for those involved.

Maureen Roen, director of creative services in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, says she has played an editorial role for the magazine's submissions since the contest's inception.

"It’s been wonderful to be involved in this community opportunity for people who love writing and sharing stories, who love language and words," she said.

For high school writers in particular, it’s important to have a forum where they can practice their craft and develop their unique writing style, Roen said.

Sally Ball, professor and director of creative writing at the Department of English, sees the contest as a way for a blend of intergenerational voices to come together and earn esteem for their worth as writers.

“The Tempe Library Writing Contest is one leg of the Tempe Library’s long-standing support of writers and creative writing, and it brings the University and the community together, nourishing a local bond that comes from another shared conviction: that deep attention always teaches us, about ourselves and about each other,” Ball said.

Submissions for the contest close Feb. 14 and people can enter the contest here.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the college where Rebecca Byrkit is a clinical professor. The story was updated Feb. 13 at 9:50 a.m. to correct the error.

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Devon Mendrzycki Echo Reporter

Devon is a junior studying management. 

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