The Sixth Annual Life Lessons Essay Contest
Find out how to enter Real Simple’s yearly contest.
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
Maybe, in the course of your life, you’ve had an Erin Brockovich moment: say, the time you stood up to a bully in second grade,
or the day you ended a long-standing friendship that had turned toxic. Or maybe your acts of courage have been less dramatic
but no less powerful: moving to a new country. Daring to fall in love a second time around. Leaving a settled career to embark
on a risky new venture. Whatever your story, share it with us.
Enter Real Simple’s sixth annual Life Lessons Essay Contest and you could have your essay published in Real Simple and receive a prize of $3,000.
Send your typed, double-spaced submission (1,500 words maximum, preferably in a Microsoft Word document) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Contest begins at 12:01 A.M. EST on May 13, 2013, and runs through 11:50 P.M. EST on September 19, 2013. All submitted essays must be nonfiction. Open to legal residents of the United States age 19 or older at time of entry. Void where prohibited by law. (Entries will not be returned.)
Read This Year's Winning Essays
- And Now, for an Encore by first-place winner Adrienne Star
- Doors by second-place winner Anne Gudger
- The Hard Way by third-place winner Katherine Dykstra
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How should I format my entry?
A. Essays should be submitted in English at a maximum of 1,500 words and typed and double-spaced on 8½-by-11-inch paper. Essays exceeding this length or handwritten may not be considered. If submitted by e-mail, we prefer that you send the essay in a Microsoft Word document; however, we will also consider essays that are pasted into the body of the e-mail itself.
Also be sure to include your name, address, and phone numbers (home, work, cell) in the body of the e-mail and on any copies or attachments of the essay itself.
Q. How do I submit my entry?
A. You have two options.
- E-mail your submission to email@example.com.
- Mail your entry to the following address:
1271 Avenue of the Americas, 9th floor
New York, NY 10020
Each e-mail submission will receive a return message verifying that the essay was received. Please be aware that due to the volume of submissions, we cannot send verification that we have received your specific submission
by mail. Additionally, please note that winners and runners-up will be notified in and around January 7, 2014. If you are not contacted, you are free to submit your piece elsewhere.
Q. What happens if I go over the word limit?
A. Your essay can be excluded from consideration. And although there is no word minimum, we strongly encourage all contest participants to submit at least 1,000 words to maximize their chances of winning.
Q. Can I choose to remain anonymous?
A. Unfortunately, we cannot consider anonymous entries for this contest.
Q. My piece has been previously published. Will you consider it?
A. No. All entries must be original pieces of work and not be previously published.
Q. Should I send in photos or other memorabilia that relate to my essay?
A. Please don’t. The essays are judged on the following criteria: originality (25 percent), creativity (25 percent), use of language (25 percent), and appropriateness to contest theme (25 percent). No supporting materials will be considered, and they cannot be returned to you.
Q. Is there anything else you can tell me about how to stand out from the crowd?
A. Certainly. Here are a few pointers from the Real Simple editors who judge the contest.
- Stick to the theme of the contest. Sounds obvious, right? But every year we get many entries that diverge—sometimes wildly—from the stated topic. You may have an amazing essay in the bottom drawer of your desk, but if it doesn’t cover the contest theme, it’s not going to win.
- But don’t feel the need to parrot back the exact wording of the contest theme in your essay. For example, if the theme is “What was the most important day in your life?” try not to begin the piece with “The most important day of my life was…”
- Check your spelling. Double-duh, or so you’d think. But as many as one in five entries has multiple misspellings.
- Avoid clichés. (And please don’t try to work the phrase 'real simple' into your essay. It almost never works.)
- Try writing on a less-expected subject. Many submissions cover similar ground: pregnancies, weddings, divorces, illnesses. Many of these essays are superb. But you automatically stand out if you explore a more unconventional event. In one year’s batch of submissions, memorable writers described the following: a son leaving for his tour of duty; getting one’s braces off; and learning that an ex-wife was getting remarried.
For more information, see the official contest rules.