Return to Headlines

Viral Voices Writing Contest

Coffee and Quills presents the Viral Voices Writing Contest

This is a wild, unique, historic time, and what do writers do in wild, unique, historic times? They turn their experiences into fiction, or poetry, or some type of art that tries to make sense of it all. There’s a fiction writer named George Saunders; he’s one of Mr. Cole’s all-time favorites, and one you should definitely read. He also teaches Creative Writing at Syracuse University. Here’s a bit of a letter he recently sent to his class at Syracuse:

We are (and especially you are) the generation that is going to have to help us make sense of this and recover afterward. What new forms might you invent, to fictionalize an event like this, where all of the drama is happening in private, essentially? Are you keeping records of the e-mails and texts you’re getting, the thoughts you’re having, the way your hearts and minds are reacting to this strange new way of living? It’s all important. Fifty years from now, people the age you are now won’t believe this ever happened (or will do the sort of eye roll we all do when someone tells us something about some crazy thing that happened in 1970.) What will convince that future kid is what you are able to write about this, and what you’re able to write about it will depend on how much sharp attention you are paying now, and what records you keep.

So, here’s your task (if you’re up to it, and if you’ve got time. But let’s be honest...you’ve binged Tiger King and probably a lot more...you’ve got time):

Write something that attempts to make sense of all of this. The pandemic, the social distancing, the hoarding of toilet paper and hand sanitizer and masks...any or all of it. Your submission can be:

  • A short story (maybe a series of fictionalized journal entries or emails or text messages that tells a story? maybe a story set in a place hit hardest by COVID-19? maybe a story that begins, “It’s spring of 2021 and the world is still in quarantine.” I’m just spitballing here…)
  • A poem (maybe challenge yourself to write a poem that includes the words “distance,” “home,” and “virus”? maybe something that deals with the inner turmoil everyone is feeling right now?)
  • A podcast (maybe you interview people affected, or share a narrative with sound bites?)
  • A screenplay (and if you need some inspiration, watch 28 Days Later, one of Mr. Cole’s favorites...after getting your parents’ permission, of course)
  • Anything else that includes text and that will help someone 50 years from now better understand what is happening right now.

DEADLINE: Sunday, May 24th at midnight
SUBMISSIONS: Email submissions to Club President Emma Fecteau (
7839223834@student.ucps.k12.nc.us) or Mr. Cole (joshua.cole@ucps.k12.nc.us). Maximum 2 entries per student.

***The winning entry will earn a PANDEMIC PRIZE PACK!