Healing Stories Creative Writing Contest

About the Contest

It is with great pleasure that we announce the Fourth 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, fiction, and memoir or autobiography 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.

A distinguished panel of judges — including actor and artist Malcolm-Jamal Warner and USA Today Health Reporter Jayne O’Donnell — will evaluate the submissions and award the prizes.

All entries must be submitted before 11:59pm EST April 1, 2017.

Entry Form

The contest is closed.

UPDATE: Winners will be announced May 1 (instead of April 15 as previously posted). Please check back to read the winning short stories, memoirs and poems then.


The contest is open to undergraduate and graduate students attending a recognized HBCU. Students will be required to provide an official university-issued email address for an HBCU faculty member who can be contacted to verify that the student is, in fact, matriculating this semester at the institution.

Official Contest Guidelines

Entry Deadline

Entries must be received before 11:59pm EST on April 1, 2017. Submissions received after that will not be accepted.


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.


Contact us at writingcontest@tucksonhealthconnections.com


2016 Winners

Congratulations to the 2016 winners of our Healing Stories Creative Writing Contest. Students from Alcorn State U, Bowie State U, Dillard U, Ft. Valley State U, Hampton U, Howard U, Huston-Tillotson U, Lincoln U, Miles College, Morehouse College, Norfolk State U, North Carolina A&T U, North Carolina Central U, Tuskegee U, U of Arkansas, Pine Bluff, and Wiley C competed in this year’s contest. We added a new category this year Memoir/Autobiography, and we are happy to share the winning entry for that category. We hope you will take the time to read through these thoughtful and evocative writing submissions on health and healing and that you will consider applying or encouraging someone to apply to the contest next year. Happy reading, and be well!


1st place: “Collective Memory and Group Therapy” by Dominique James (Howard University)

The role of generations in this poem was thoughtful and endearing. In this poem, the elder doesn’t simply telling the young speaker what to do. They figure it out together. The poet’s use of language was playful but complex. Turns of phrase like “her feet choked in too small shoes” and “a fist finally breathing” show the writer’s promise and growing command of word play. Here’s a poet to watch.

2nd place: “Optics” by Zia Thompson (Howard University)

This poem’s strength is its use of language. The writer shows show control and precision in phrases like “written of you in permanent ink,” which adds complexity to the telling of a simply story, all the while providing ample space for the reader to feel for the narrator without succumbing to the empathetic impulse.

3rd place: “The Healing Bracelet” by Jacqueline Hugee (Norfolk State University)

This poem just kept getting better as it progressed. By the end, it was characterized by fresh language and memorable imagery. It almost cries out to be a short essay that tells a powerful story about healing.

Honorable Mention: “My Greatest War” by Devon Kidd (Morehouse College)

This poem’s strength is its sustained use of metaphor. The topic is so important and is told from an interesting, almost defamiliarized perspective. The narrative voice is contemplative without being cliché and too revealing. At its best moments, there is so much gentle power and clear but unstated emotion in this poem.

Short Story

1st place: “Jagged Little Girl” by Khaliah Peterson (Howard University)

This writer is full of talent and discipline. The story is well paced and full of perfectly placed clever rhetorical flourishes. Narrated through stream-of-consciousness, it is a non-traditional short story. Its depth and rich content more than make up for its decision to eschew techniques like dialogue and setting. Read it, and you’ll see why “Jagged Little Girl” was clear and away everyone’s immediate favorite.

2nd place: “A Star in the Night Sky” by Alayah Caple (Hampton University)

This story made perfect use of all the right techniques for a short story. It’s clear that the writer takes her craft seriously and can execute literary devices with precision. “A Star in the Night Sky” is a touching, nicely detailed portrait of the emotional and physical pain of cancer and the toll it takes on the family. Even as it tells an all too common story, it is still moving. As hard as the reality of the story is, the mother’s effort to move her family toward healing, amid her debilitating illness, is authentically portrayed and well narrated.

3rd place: “Fragile” by Madison Turner-Nelson (Hampton University)

This was a clever, well-imagined story that was fun to read, even with a narrator who probably thinks too highly of himself. It makes good use of character development and elements like the rise and fall of a story, the story’s imagery and narration make it easy for the reader to picture the story as it is happening. Most notably, it tells a familiar but seldom told story of college love where the unrequited impulse is informed by unmatched intellectual ability.


1st place: “The Light’s Not the Same” by Nia Crawford (Bowie State University)

This memoir made good use of dialogue, detail, and color. It was a light hearted, even fun way to explore some very serious subjects around heart disease and mental health. It’s pacing and tone were dead on, and the use of “magical realism” added some dimension to its telling. In this sense, it challenged the genre and moved between non-fiction and fiction in compelling ways. You could almost feel the fear that paralyzed the narrator before she finally champions wellness.