Challenge into Change Writing Contest

Write to heal. Share to inspire.

The Women’s Initiative seeks to honor women who have transformed life challenges into change.

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Do you have a Challenge into Change story to share? Challenge into Change is a forum for real-life stories about women overcoming personal struggles to find growth and healing.

  • First-time writers encouraged to enter

  • Essays and poetry welcome—500 words or less

  • Cash prizes to winners

  • All eligible entries published

  • Authors honored at Virginia Festival of the Book

Submission deadline is December 12, 2019

Contest Guidelines

Our focus is on celebrating each woman’s story. Perfect grammar and spelling are not required.

□ I live in central Virginia.
□ My entry is no more than 500 words.
□ My entry is about a woman and her challenge into change (either myself or someone I know).
□ This is my own original work.
□ This is a true story.
□ My entry does not contain obscene, sexist, racist, inciting or salacious language.

All contestants who submit an eligible piece for publication will receive a free book and can purchase more.

How to Contribute Your Story

OR, if you prefer to submit a paper copy:

Compile your…

  1. ENTRY FORM—signed and completed

  2. BIO—80 words or less to be included in book

  3. ESSAY OR POEM—500 words or less

and choose one of the following options:

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Once we receive your entry, we’ll confirm receipt by phone or email. If you don’t hear from us by December 13, please contact us at: or (434) 872-0047

One entry per person, please.

Tips for Writing


  1. What do I want to write about? (What goal was achieved?) For example:

    • How I started a business

    • How I became educated

    • How I overcame depression

    • How I got out of an abusive relationship

  2. What was the turning point? Sometimes it is gradual. But still there will be a point at which the change is identifiable—when you realized you were not the same.

  3. What kind of change was it? Was it a change in attitude and understanding or a change in circumstances or both? (It’s often both.) Who or what made the difference?

  4. What does the new Self feel like? How is life now different?


Your poem will probably be much less than 500 words, but you will enjoy finding just the right words to say what you want to say.

  • Poems do not need to rhyme. In fact trying to make a rhyme can hinder you from saying what you need to say.

  • Create images with words of the person who once was, and of the person now new.

Poems can be thing changes into another just as you have changed. Here’s Charlottesville’s own Rita Dove describing a sunset:

“The sun like a dragon spreading its tail,
Burns the blue air to ribbons”

Perhaps you, too, have felt yourself to be something other than yourself and yet yourself. See if you can find the words and tell us!


Read Past Winners' Work

2015-16 Contest

2015-16 Contest

2016-17 Contest

2016-17 Contest

All eligible entries will be in the Challenge into Change book. Click on the image of the books to read excerpts of past winners.


Call or email us: 434.872.0047 or

Para leer sobre los lineamientos en español del concurso, dé click aquí.

Challenge into Change Celebration
at 2019 Virginia Festival of the Book

Our Challenge into Change Celebration at the Virginia Festival of the Book was an evening of so much inspiration, courage, and wisdom. Thank you to the 200 people who joined us, including LaTanya McQueen, the authors who contributed stories, and all of those in the community who bore witness and supported these extraordinary women's stories of transformation and healing.

We are honored to announce this year’s winners:
First Place, Sheron Sinclair, “She Calls Me, ‘Momma’”
Second Place, Olivia Corianna Winston, “Normal Girl”
Third Place (tie), Mariam Anwary, “More Than They Think”
Third Place (tie), Xochilt Diaz, “Cómo Transformo un Desafío en un Éxito Personal” (“How I Transform a Challenge into Personal Success”)
Third Place (tie), Alison Main, “Saved”

Get Your Copy of the Book

The 2018-19 Challenge into Change book includes the incredible essays and poetry of this year’s 70 participants. Copies are available for a suggested donation of $10 to The Women’s Initiative at our Main Office, 1101 East High St., Charlottesville. The office is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 9am-5pm; and Tuesday & Thursday: 9am-8 pm.