Rural Teen Writing Contest 2024: Representing diverse genres, identities thru rural stories

“They give me a lot of hope for the presence of rural connections and identities in publishing.”
Dr. Chea Parton

Another year goes down in history for the Literacy In Place Rural Teen Writing Contest as Chea Parton continues to give voices to diverse rural perspectives with this year’s theme of Eat, Dance, and Be Rural.

Deborah George, Laurel Aronian & Rita Chandra
Deborah George, Laurel Aronian & Rita Chandra
Chea Parton
Chea Parton

Parton is a visiting assistant professor of Curriculum and Instruction in the Purdue University College of Education Transition to Teaching program. Parton comes from a rural background herself, hailing from Gaston, Indiana. She studied as a rural undergraduate and graduate student at Purdue, as well as teaching there after graduation. Parton then continued as a rural doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin.

Parton created the inaugural Literary in Place Rural Teen Writing Contest in February 2023. The contest invites students to submit fiction or nonfictional pieces that illustrate rural life. “We had much more poetry and personal essay than we did in the inaugural year,” Parton said when asked about how the contest has evolved from last year. “We’re also seeing more creative genres such as sci-fi and fantasy featuring rural places and communities, so that’s wonderful.” 

This year’s first-prize winner was Deborah George, a high school junior and author from the Midwest and the director of programs for young writers’ organization SeaGlass Literary. For her story “The Sweetest Memories,” George won an author visit from award-winning rural author and physical therapist Monica Roe (Wilderness Ridge series, Rural Voices), a class copy of Roe’s book Air, publication on the Literacy in Place website, and an episode featuring George’s story on Parton’s Reading Rural YAL podcast.

“I’m thrilled to have won the Rural Teen Writing Award,” George said. “My story was inspired by my grandma and great-grandparents, and I’m happy to have honored them in a unique way.”

High school junior Laurel Aronian was the runner-up for her poem “So Long, Schoolhouse.” Aronian has received many awards for her writing, including 2023 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and YoungArts Merit Award for singing and songwriting. Aronian won a signed copy of a book of her choice written by any of the contest judges, publication of her poem on the Literacy in Place website, and a feature on Parton’s Reading Rural YAL podcast

An honorable mention went to Riya Chandra for her personal essay “Brownish,” which was published on the Literacy in Place website. Chandra is a junior at Trinity Preparatory School and writes nonfiction. “I am beyond ecstatic to be able to share my writing with the world!” Chandra said in response to her honorable mention.

Next year’s contest theme will be Calling (Us) Home: Rural Homeplaces, Languages, & Identities. “The theme is decided by the guest judges each year, and this year’s judges really knocked it out of the park,” said Parton. The submission portal will open on the Literary In Place website from July 1 to December 1, 2024, with winners announced in February 2025.

Source: Chea Parton,

Writer: Rebekah DeMoss,