"This is the perfect moment for ‘What Comes Next?’ We're at home, which is a good place to write. And we know that real change is required now: just as the covid crisis shows we can't duck or spin biology, so the climate crisis is a reminder that physics and chemistry set the tone. Our job is to figure out how to respect the limits they've put in place--and that's a function of the imagination above all.
So put yours to work!"

Bill McKibben

Submission Categories

Short Story: up to 2,500 words.
Adult: age 21+
Youth / Young Adult: age under 21

Essay: up to 1,000 words.
Adult: age 21+
Youth / Young Adult: age under 21

Graphic Story: up to five pages.

Age as of June 23, 2020

You may enter only once in each category - Short Story, Essay, Graphic Novel


Up to 20 points can be earned in each of the five criteria below. Winning Entries will:

  1. Exhibit the highest quality work in the chosen genre.
  2. Demonstrate the ability to think about the future of Central Vermont in an innovative and captivating way.
  3. Describe a compelling vision that serves as a focal point for community cohesion.
  4. Motivate the reader to take positive actions toward confronting and adapting to and or reducing the severity of climate change. Writers will imagine the broad range of potential disruptive impacts from climate change and Covid 19.
  5. Help the reader imagine a future in which we feel at home, counter to today's assumptions about everyday life.

This competition's subject frame is the greater Montpelier, Vermont area and will assume a firsthand knowledge of the local layout and culture and a concrete vision of how change would occur here.

2020 Timeline

Launch date: April 22nd (Earth Day)

Deadline for Submission: June 30th

Announcement of Finalists: August 6th

Public Voting: August 6th - 27th

Announcement of Winners: September 11th (Patriot Day)


A professional panel of writers, teachers and publishers will use the judging criteria to select five finalists in each category. The public will vote online to determine the five winners. Each winner will receive a $500 prize.

Competition Jurors

Rita Banerjee, VCFA Director, MFA Writing and Publishing
Simeon Chapin, VSECU Community Impact Officer
Barbara Conrey, Architect Board Chair, SMC
Rickie Gard Diamond, Author
David Dobbs, Author
Bronwyn Fryer, Writer, Former Editor Harvard Business Review
Joy Gambill, Librarian State of Vermont
Paul Gambill, Director Community Engagement Lab
Gregg Gossens, Architect Gossens/Bauchman
Nancy Graff, Author & Editor MA Americcan Cultural History
Pat Hinkley, RN,MA, author & counselor, Board Member, SMC
Don Hooper, Co-Founder, SMC
Ellen Lovell, Author, Poet, President, Marlboro College
Catherine Lowther, Advisor, Goddard College
Stephen Macarthur, Publisher Rootstock Publishing
Bill McKibben, Author, Activist Co-Founder 350.org
Kerrin McCadden, Teaches Writing Montpelier High School
Tino O'Brien, Consultant Organizational Development
Katie Rasmussen VCFA Director, MFA in Writing for Youth
Susan Ritz, Author A Dream to Die For
Gus Speth, Environmental advocate, Co-Founder, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Resources Institute. Poet.
David Schutz, Curator, The State of Vermont
Amy Seidl, UVM Professor, Environmental Writer
Brian Shupe, E.D., VNRC
Tom Slayton, Environmental Commentator, Editor, Birder

The moment we start imagining a new world and sharing it with one another through story is the moment that new world may actually come.

Brit Marling


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