GV students have opportunity to win big in writing contest


GVL / Bri Conway

Payton Brazzil, Staff Writer

Grand Valley State University students currently have the opportunity to showcase their literary works in the Oldenburg Writing Contest to win a cash prize. 

The contest offers students a chance to submit their works to win a first-place cash prize of $100, a second-place prize of $75 or a third-place prize of $50. The prizes are funded through an endowment fund from the English, writing and classics departments. 

The contest was named in honor of a former chair of the English department, E. William Oldenburg, who died in 1974 in a car accident while driving to campus. Oldenburg was a literary scholar, writer, poet and actor. His areas of focus are represented by the categories of the contest. 

Current students can submit one piece per seven categories. Several categories are restricted by year, such as an exclusive first-year student option or graduate student option. 

Professor Rachel Anderson’s role in the contest is to coordinate the reading and decision-making process, along with answering questions from prospective students. 

Anderson said professors from the English, writing and classics departments judge the contest blindly, on general excellence. 

“I know most judges have a holistic approach that weighs the quality of the writing to the originality of the ideas of the paper or story,” Anderson said. “All categories are judged by more than one judge and they need to agree on a winner and I guess one of my additional duties would be as a tiebreaker if needed.” 

The contest usually receives around 120 pieces across all of the categories. Poetry tends to lead with most submissions over the years, and drama usually has fewer, Anderson said. 

Professor Kurt Bullock, who judges the poetry for the contest, said he has always been amazed at the consistency of judging. 

“The choices may not line up perfectly between both or all three judges, but the judges always tend to favor the same set of writings,” Bullock said. “We’re almost unanimously in agreement about the best of the overall work submitted. It’s rewarding to see that faculty judges from multiple departments routinely hold similar criteria for the qualities and characteristics of award-winning work.” 

The rules of the contest are listed on GVSU’s website, along with the categories and the past contest winners. 

Submissions are due by March 18, 2022 through GVSU’s website.

In April 2022 the awards will be made at the English department awards ceremony. 

“It’s rewarding to read the creative and scholarly work of students from across campus,” Bullock said. “I’m always stunned by the depth and insight I find within the writing I have the pleasure of considering.”