Winners Announced

Song Writing Competition 2021

lyrics — Strike a chord.

Since the early utterances of human language, we’ve been putting words to music—belting anthems of change, humming hymns of hope, crooning lyrics of love. Songs can tell stories, evoke emotion, even deliver lessons. Before the written word, songs served as a historical record, passing information down through the generations. And, we now know that music stimulates more corners of the brain than any other activity, firing even those neurons damaged by stroke or disease. This month, write a song of your own—and record it if you’d like! We’ll select a winner for best lyrics and best performance. 
Song Writing Guidelines
LET FEELINGS PERCOLATE. “Music is the shorthand of emotion,” wrote Leo Tolstoy. And WtW member Danielle Salt had this to say about the art form: “Music is the words left unspoken, the tears never fallen, the thoughts unconscious. The grief never grieved, the loss never found… It’s sunshine on a quiet morning… water on parched ground… the first notes of love… the requiem of hope. The quavering wishes, hidden away. Life burning bright.” Music is emotional, dear writers. That’s why a song can transport us back to a specific time and place, it can remind us of someone special, and can make sense of something for us when nothing else can. So as you consider what to write about, let your own feelings surface; use them as fuel.
WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW. You might think your own experience isn’t interesting—but have faith that to someone else, your perspective is unique, enthralling, song-worthy! Writing about what you know gives an authenticity to your song that allows listeners to connect with its message.
LESS IS MORE. Songs sit awkwardly between narrative and poetry. It’s easy to get tied up in wanting to say too much. Work out what it is you want to convey—a message, a feeling, a story—and then say it concisely. Usually less is more.
RHYTHM OVER RHYME. Strive for a rhythm that works rather than forcing a rhyming scheme. Rhythm is what reels in a listener, keeping them humming your tune long after the last note.
READ LYRICS ALOUD. Read your draft aloud throughout the writing process and check for flow. Your song should have a regular beat. Music needs to have a pulse! That doesn’t mean you can’t stray now and then but that should be the exception rather than the rule.
SING, STRUM, HUM, WRITE. REPEAT. Because good songs involve much more than just words on paper, take time during the writing process to sing, hum, or strum along to your lyrics. You might find that what seemed like a great refrain is actually a little clunky, or that the chorus doesn’t sound as catchy when sung. Make changes, and then start humming again.
CUT UP, TAKE OUT, AND REARRANGE. Perhaps that verse would work better as a bridge? Or that riff would sound better at the very end? Perhaps the rhyme, though clever, takes away from the meaning you want to convey? Try moving around parts and pieces of your song to see whether a new arrangement improves the effect you’re going for. And remember, less is more so if in doubt, take it out!
LET A DRAFT REST. Like any writing process, songs can benefit from pressing pause. When you get to a stopping point, feel stuck, or suffer from terrible writer’s block, walk away from your draft! Take a walk, chat up a friend, cook a meal… leave your song behind. You’ll find that after a break, you’ll be able to hear your song through fresh ears.
HOW TO RECORD AND SUBMIT A VIDEO FILE (OPTIONAL). This month, we'll award a prize for the the best lyrics and best original song performance. If you’d like to create an audio/video version, you may use any platform of your choice—simply copy the link within the text of your submission. Some options to consider:  Please note that these are public platforms and are not affiliated with WtW. If you need assistance getting started, please contact  
Who is Eligible?  
Young writers ages 13-18  
50-500 words
Is previously published work eligible?
Our monthly competitions are designed to get you writing across a range of genres throughout the year, so we encourage you to  write a new work for each  competition, but we will also accept work that has been previously shared with a small, local audience (for instance, a piece that was published in a school journal).

How to Enter 
  1. If you haven’t yet, sign up for a free account for Write the World as a young writer here
  2. Hit the “Start Writing” button above! 
  3. Draft your entry! Hit “Save” to return to it later. 
  4. The first 100 people to submit a draft by February 8 will receive an in-depth review from one of our Expert Reviewers—authors, writing teachers, and educational professionals—that you can use to revise your final entry. The “Submit for Expert Review” button will be clickable if slots are still available—click it to have your draft reviewed. (Note: you can still enter the competition if you haven’t received or don’t want to receive an Expert Review!) 
  5. When you are ready to submit your entry, hit the "Submit as Final" button (You can revise, re-publish, and mark any version as your "final submission" until the deadline.

Guest Judge

Michael Lydon is a writer and musician who lives in New York City. Author of many books, among them Rock Folk, Boogie Lightning, Ray Charles: Man and Music, and Writing and Life. A founding editor of Rolling Stone, Lydon has written for many periodicals as well, the Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, and Village Voice. Michael is also a songwriter and playwright and, with Ellen Mandel, has composed an opera, Passion in Pigskin. A Yale graduate, Lydon is a member of ASCAP, AFofM local 802, and on the faculty of St. John’s University.

  • Best Entry: $100 will be awarded for the best lyrics and best original song performance. (winning piece + author interview will be featured on Write the World’s website and blog) 
  • Best Peer Review: $50 (reviewer interview will be featured on Write the World’s website and blog) 
What’s Different about Write the World Competitions? 
  • Prizes: The winning entrants will receive $100, and the best peer-reviewer will receive $50.       
  • Professional Recognition:  The winning entries, plus the best peer review, will be featured on our blog, with commentary from our guest judge.             
  • Expert Review: The first 100 writers to submit drafts by Monday, February 8 will get feedback from our team of experts—authors, writing teachers, and educational professionals—to guide the revision process. 
Key Dates 
  • February 1: Competition Opens  
  • February 8: Submit draft for Expert Review (Optional. We will review the first 100 drafts submitted.)      
  • February 12: Reviews returned to Writers  
  • February 16: Final Submissions Due
  • February 26: Winners Announced  
Upcoming Competition
Our Op-Ed Competition opens Monday, March 1st.
Stay tuned for more details!  
Writing Guidelines
The power of our writing goes hand in hand with responsibility. Make sure that you’re supporting other people through your writing rather than pulling them down. The types of content that will be removed from the site include, but are not limited to:   
  • Anything that may be deemed hurtful, defamatory or discriminatory in nature.
  • Anything deemed explicit or gratuitously violent.
  • Anything referencing self-harm. 
  • Any commercial posts and/or spam. 
  • Plagiarism (see more at our Writing Guidelines page). 
  • Personal contact information—including usernames on social media or other platforms. This is to protect the privacy of our members.
  • Links to any external websites, with the exception of links to citations as part of an essay, or including links to illustrations or audio as part of a Write the World competition or prompt.
If a writer posts content that violates our terms or goes against our guidelines, we will remove the post and contact the writer when necessary.  Please refer to our Writing Guidelines and site’s terms for further information.

Due Dates
  • Feb 8 - Drafts Due for Expert Review

  • Feb 16 - Competition Deadline


Meet Best Peer Review Winner Miriam Reichenberg

March 30, 2021

Song Writing Competition Best Peer Review winner Miriam Reichenberg (US) proves how helpful it is to have a solid grasp of the genre in which you are reviewing. In Miriam’s case, her understanding of the inherent musicality of a song allowed her to edit for flow and rhythm, even in the absence of instrumental accompaniment! 

Miriam gives us her reviewing tips as well as her current song recommendations!

Read More!

Meet Best Performance Song Writing Competition Winner Katherine Xu

March 22, 2021

In creating the video for “Top of My School,” Katherine Xu (Canada) started out with witty, relatable lyrics and a catchy, hummable melody. But it was the addition of a few friends on Zoom and a natural setting that gave it that extra bit of magic, resulting in a first-place Best Performance win in our Song Writing Competition

Discover her inspiration for this song, how she went about creating the video, and her musical inspirations! 

Read More!

Meet Best Lyrics Song Writing Competition Winner Eliza Rhinelander!

March 16, 2021

In her song “Calliope,” Eliza Rhinelander (Canada) carries on the tradition of such works as Wicked; Boy, Snow, Bird; and Circe by putting a new spin on a classic tale. Her clever take on a Greek myth resulted in a first place win for Best Lyrics in our Song Writing Competition—a feat that’s all the more impressive considering this is the first full song Eliza’s ever written! 

Learn about Eliza’s inspiration, song writing process, and what’s next for her music career!

Read Now!

Song Writing Competition Winners Announced!

February 26, 2021

Though it’s a bit of a cliché to say that music transports us, that doesn’t make it any less true. And the lyrics and performances you submitted to our Song Writing Competition transported us to your worlds—your points of view, your emotions, the meaningful moments in your lives. Something that, in this time of so much isolation, is more necessary than ever. 

Guest Judge Michael Lydon shares his winning picks and tells us why they were so impactful!

See the Winners!

Q&A with Guest Judge Michael Lydon

February 8, 2021

Whether you’re submitting lyrics or lyrics AND a performance to our Song Writing Competition, musician and music journalist Michael Lydon has the tips you need to take your entry to the next level! Plus, he gives you the scoop on what it was like touring with the band Rolling Stone and his early days as a co-founder of the magazine Rolling Stone!

Read Now