You’re invited to enter the Lyrical Language Lab’s first free verse poetry contest for kidlit writers! 

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CONTEST: The Lyrical Language Lab KIDLIT POETRY CONTEST 2024

WHAT TO SUBMIT: A kidlit free verse poem (suitable for elementary, middle grade, or young adult) 

THEME: “Summer Snapshot” – open to interpretation

LENGTH: Maximum 100 words (not including title)


WINNERS ANNOUNCED: Longlist July X; Shortlist July X; Winners August X

Please read the rules and guidelines carefully before entering the contest.


First Prize


Second Prize


Third Prize


7 Honorable Mentions

$25 Amazon gift card

All winners will have their poem, photo, and bio included on the 

 Winners’ Page on this website.


  • Contest entries will be judged anonymously in three rounds of judging.
  • ROUND 1: Judges will narrow entries down to a longlist of at least 20 titles. The longlist will be posted on this website on July X
  • ROUND 2: Judges will narrow down longlisted entries to a shortlist of 10 titles. The shortlist will be posted on this website on July X.
  • ROUND 3: Judges will choose the first, second, and third place winners from the shortlist. The remaining seven entries on the shortlist will receive honorable mention.
  • Winners will be posted on this website and emailed on August X

Here are just some of the things the judges will be looking for:

  • Adherence to the “Summer Snapshot” theme.
  • Appealing to the chosen age group
  • Thoughtful use of poetic devices (metaphor, sound devices, white space, etc.)
  • Surprising/lovely use of language
  • Distinctive voice
  • Evocation of a mood, time, or place
  • Logical progression / organization
  • Clarity of intention (not so abstract as to obscure any meaning)
  • Overall craft of writing


  • Entrants must be 18 years of age and over.
  • The contest is open to entrants worldwide. Void where prohibited.
  • Entries are permitted from both agented and unagented writers.
  • Multiple entries are permitted, but each entry must be submitted with a separate form and a separate fee.
  • Previously published work is not eligible.
  • Poems generated by AI are not eligible.


  • Your poem must be written for and appeal to the children’s literature market (e.g., elementary, middle grade, young adult, ages 0-18).
  • Your poem must be written in free verse. Metered poems and prose will be disqualified.
  • Your poem MUST have a title, which cannot be “Untitled.” The title is the identifying information used by the judges.
  • Your poem must be a maximum of 100 words (not including the title).
  • Your poem must be previously unpublished in any form (except for publishing on personal blogs) and must not be currently under contract.
  • Your poem must be written in English.
  • As a general guideline, use single-spaced 12pt font. But since this is free verse, you are free to use white space,  indenting, different font sizes, and/or other text treatments, if that is what your poem calls for. 
  • Poems should be submitted as doc, docx, or PDF files.
  • Your uploaded document should include only three things: 1) PayPal Transaction ID, 2) poem title, and 3) poem. Do not include your name or any other information on your uploaded document.
  • Once your poem is submitted, it cannot be changed, edited, or altered. You may, of course, withdraw your work, but there are no refunds given.
  • Please add to your safe sender list in your email provider. Winners will be notified by email. 


  • The decision of the judges is final. The judges will not be able to answer specific questions about your poems, poems of other entrants, or their decisions as judges, nor enter into any correspondence with entrants regarding the contest. 
  • The judges cannot provide individual feedback on poems. 
  • The contest organizers have the right to change the judge(s) at their discretion.



  • Longlist results will be posted on this website on July X (poem titles only).
  • Shortlist results will be posted on this website on July X (poem titles only).
  • Winners will be posted on this website and notified by email on August X (names and poem titles).
  • Please add to your safe sender list in your email provider. Winners will be notified by email. In case of bounced emails, another winner may be chosen.


  • You retain full copyright of your poem. For winning poems (the shortlist), a copyright notice will be included anywhere your poem is published publicly. 
  • For shortlisted entrants: By entering the Lyrical Language Lab KIDLIT POETRY CONTEST 2024, you give permission for us to print your name, poem, photo, and/or bio on the winner’s page of this website and on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. 


  • No refunds can be issued for any reason. Before paying and uploading your poem, please be sure you have read and followed the rules and guidelines. The document you upload should include only three things: PayPal Transaction ID, poem title, and poem. Do not include your name or other identifying information on your document.



The following will cause an entry to be disqualified:

  • The entry fee was not paid.
  • The poem is written for the adult market.
  • The poem is written in metered verse or another format that is not free verse. 
  • The poem has no title or is titled “Untitled.”
  • The uploaded poem document does not include the PayPal Transaction ID and/or the title of the poem.
  • The poem is not written in English.
  • The poem was previously published (other than on a personal blog).
  • The poem is not the author’s own work.
  • The poem was generated by AI.
  • Entrants will not be notified if their entry is disqualified.

meet the judges


Founder of Lyrical Language Lab, poet, teacher



Poet, Today’s Little Ditty anthologist, poetry blogger



Poet, picture book author, LLL co-teacher



Poet, kidlit developmental editor, LLL co-teacher


submit your poem!

Ready to
SUBMIT your poem?

Follow these steps:

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A title is required. Be sure to add it where indicated.

Hit the Enter Now! button to remit payment.

Submit ONE poem using the form below.

Within 24 hours, you'll receive your first lesson via email!

Subsequent lessons will arrive in your inbox on alternate days.

lyrical language lab
2024 poetry contest

$ 10

This is not a reading fee. 

Entry fees are used to fund awards and cover admin costs.

Note: The business name on the PayPal link is 

Wordspark Language Services.

free verse resources

Here are my top tips for writing free verse for young people.

Follow along as I revise a kidlit free verse poem.

Start at minute 9:21 for analysis of a kidlit free verse poem.

recommended reading

Ask your librarian for books of poetry for kids and teens! Here are some the judges like:

  • Today I Am a River by Kate Coombs (7+)
  • Grace Notes: Poems about Families by Naomi Shihab Nye (10-adult)
  • When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano (7+)
  • Good Luck Gold and More by Janet Wong (10-adult)
  • All the Small Poems by Valerie Worth (all ages)

Here’s a sample of a summer-themed free verse poem. Like many poems, it evokes both a single moment in time and a deeper sense of history and memory. I would place this at upper elementary to young adult.