Healing Stories Creative Writing Contest

About the Contest

winningposterIt is with great pleasure that we announce the Second Annual “Healing Stories Creative Writing Contest” sponsored by Tuckson Health Connections in collaboration with the Department of English at Howard University.

The “Healing Stories” initiative arises out of the tragic reality of the excessive burden of poor health and premature death experienced by communities of color. Within this context, it is essential that disease prevention and medical care interventions be guided by enhanced insights into real life health related motivations, family dynamics, and community influences.

Our initiative is targeted to the creative writing community of HBCU institutions and is designed to stimulate students to create and share works of poetry and fiction that explore elements of the struggle to achieve health and wholeness as well as the burdens associated with coping with illness. Ultimately, we hope this exploration of character and circumstance will benefit both the student writers and health professionals who deliver prevention and curative services.

This competition is an opportunity for students to develop their talent, showcase their work, make an important social contribution to the healing arts, and have the opportunity to earn prize rewards. The contest will offer a $1,000 first place prize, a $500 second place prize, and a $250 third place prize in each category. Additionally, noteworthy submissions will be published on the Tuckson Health Connections website and actively promoted via social and other media.

judgesA distinguished panel of judges—and we welcome Ms. Phylicia Rashad and Ms. Jayne O’Donnell, healthcare reporter from USA Today, to this year’s panel—will evaluate the submissions and award the prizes.

The deadline for uploading submissions is April 15, 2015.

Entry Form

The deadline has passed. 


The contest is open to undergraduate and graduate students attending a recognized HBCU. Student submissions must be accompanied by a letter from an HBCU faculty member attesting that they are, in fact, students of that institution.

Official Contest Guidelines


The contest will offer a $1,000 first place prize, a $500 second place prize, and a $250 third place prize. Additionally, noteworthy submissions will be made available on the Howard University Department of English and Tuckson Health Connections websites and actively promoted via social and other media.

Contest Communications

Contest Announcement


Contact us at writingcontest@tucksonhealthconnections.com


Last Year's Winners

Congratulations to the winners of our Healing Stories Creative Writing Contest. We hope you will take the time to read through these thoughtful and evocative writing submissions on health and healing.


First Place Prize: $1,000
“Leaving Home” by Martha L. Bird, Lincoln University
In “Leaving Home,” the writer pays lots of attention to detail and avoids the little oversights a less experienced poet might have. In addition to a great economy of words and the use of beautiful and musical language, the poem employs a regular rhyme scheme without the triteness of a nursery rhyme. The imagery is strong, and it helps the poem deal with the shifting nature of reality, and ultimately, loss.
The poem bears witness to the pain and loss, thereby offering its own kind of healing.

Second Place Prize: $500
“Waiting for the Cure” by Alexis Grant, Howard University
The writing masterfully addresses the subject of the culture of fear about seeking medical treatment and subverts the reader’s expectations about the “condition” — the fear of treatment is the problem, not the diagnosis. Its voice is strong and clear and critical without being judgmental. The strength of this poem rests in the writer’s ability to communicate a legacy of trauma around “treatment” in so few words.

Third Place Prize: $250
“Dear Ancestors, Please, Get Well Soon” by Zuleka Henderson, Howard University
This poem conveys an intimacy in tone and form. The writer’s treatment of generational trauma and pain is intriguing, as is the suggested need for holistic healing. The poem’s address to the ancestors suggests that healing is possible across space and time.

Short Story

First Place Prize: $1,000 (Two entries tied for first place; no third place prize was awarded.)
“King of Kings” by Rachel Kersey, Howard University
“What Pains You” by Layla Reaves, Howard University

“King of Kings” is deeply imbued with emotion and tenderness without being overly sentimental. It captures a range of human emotion and experiences as it depicts pain, illness and loss. Most striking is its treatment of healing. Within the portraiture of terminal illness, where there is no possibility of healing for the patient, the narrative also offers an idea of emotional healing for those afflicted in other ways (in this case the surviving family). In many ways, the story is about the numerous other things that ail us as people, as families, or fissured family units, and it explores the paradox of healing through loss. It’s a wonderfully touching piece. The use of the “king” motif is impressively sustained.

“What Pains You” is filled with resonant imagery and beautiful metaphors. While the narrative is, at times, unclear in terms of voice, the ambiguity and haze add to the supernatural elements and theme present throughout. The story, in subtle ways, offers a look at unconventional modes of healing and other ways of knowing. More importantly, it forces a look at the tension between holistic and conventional approaches and it engages a community’s treatment of that tension. The story, however briefly, opens up a space for that binary to be troubled.

Honorable Mention
“Hiatus” by Imani Richardson, Morgan State University
“Bill & Clara B.” by Henry Ramey, North Carolina A&T State University