Libraries' 'Written in the Stars' spring short story contest seeks submissions

Creative writing entries and voting open Feb. 28 to April 4
#WrittenInTheStars Where will fate lead you?
Credit: Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State University Libraries invites Penn State students, faculty and staff to submit original short stories or poetry centered on the theme “Written in the Stars” to the spring Short Stories writing contest.

Is fate beyond our control? Has all that has happened before and all that will happen next been predetermined? For this semester’s contest, the contest's editorial board wants you to channel your favorite divination methods to consider the age-old question: Where will fate lead you? Are our destinies written in permanent ink, or is there still time for us to change course? What happens when we accept — or reject — fate, or what has been “Written in the Stars"?

The “Written in the Stars” contest is open for submissions Monday, Feb. 28, through Friday, April 4. The subject of a short stories and poems hoping to be considered should incorporate the idea of fate or a clear disbelief in fate in a way that is significant to the piece. Qualifying lengths are as follows: Short-story submissions should not exceed 7,500 characters, including spaces; and poetry submissions should not exceed 6,000 characters.  

Submissions must be received before April 4 to be considered. Stories and poems accepted by the editorial board will be published on the Short Edition website, during which time the public is encouraged to vote for their favorites. From across the commonwealth, five winners will be chosen: four selected by the editorial board and one “voter favorite” winner, chosen by the public on the website. Each of the five winning student authors will receive $100 and have their story or poem published on the Libraries' 10 Penn State Short Edition short-story dispensers.

Several honorable mentions, chosen by the editorial board and community voters, also will be published on the dispensers. Any applicants from the Penn State community are eligible to win honorable mention.

During the open submission period, the public is encouraged to visit the Short Stories website to read and vote for their favorite submissions. Although only Penn State students are eligible to win prizes, all qualifying submissions will be posted for voting and comments and will be considered for use in the dispensers. 

Penn State Libraries short-story dispensers at the University Park campus can be found at: 

  • Paterno Library entrance
  • Pattee Library mall entrance
  • Grange Building entrance at Pollock Road

In addition, Penn State Libraries short-story dispensers also are at, or near:

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, some short story campus dispensers may be inoperable. For up-to-date information about dispenser access, for voting or for more information about “Written in the Stars" writing contest, visit

Questions about the Libraries Short Stories writing contests, the Libraries Short Stories online platform, or short-story dispensers’ curricular or co-curricular use can be directed to Melissa Millar, public services coordinator for Berks Thun Library, at [email protected].