About the Contest

We're looking for your short stories, comic strips, and artwork inspired by dreams and nightmares. Send us your submissions by Sunday, March 17, 2024, at 11:59 PM ET for a chance to win!

  • Five winners will be selected in two age categories: 13–15 and 16–19. 
  • One winner in each category will be awarded $250, one runner-up in each category will be awarded $100, and three honorable mentions in each category will be awarded $50.
  • Written work of up to 2,000 words will be accepted as will comics or narrative art of up to five letter-sized pages (8.5 x 11 inches).
  • See all terms and conditions.

Apply Now!

Looking for Inspiration?

Visit The Fate of Frankenstein now at the Polonsky Exhibition of The New York Public Library's Treasures! This special display, on view until June 2024 at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, tells a story about Mary Shelley's groundbreaking gothic sci-fi masterpiece, which today is the most widely read novel from her era.

The items on display in The Fate of Frankenstein are taken from NYPL's special collections, which inspire scholars and artists from all over the world who come to the Library to write, research, and create. While these extraordinary, rare, and often unique items can’t be checked out, access to them is free: all you need is a library card and a project idea.

At the Library, we believe that what teens have to say matters. Through our free programs and events, our dedicated Teen Centers, and the opportunities we offer to have your work published, we provide an array of ways for you to make your voice heard. Now, with our special Frankenstein Short Story Contest, we invite you to be inspired by the Library’s special collections.

How Mary Shelley Wrote Frankenstein

Many stories have been inspired by nightmares. One of the most famous is Frankenstein, by the English writer Mary Shelley. Over 200 years ago, when she was 18 years old, she was visiting Switzerland with friends during a cold and rainy summer. Looking for ways to entertain themselves indoors, they read aloud from a book of ghost stories and decided to have a contest to write their own. 

Mary Shelley took the game very seriously but found herself uninspired. Later, after she got into bed and shut her eyes, while she was not yet fully asleep, a chilling vision appeared in her mind’s eye. She saw a scientist at work on a grisly project: a monster made up of dead body parts—artificially brought to life! As the monster’s body twitched and stirred, the scientist became horrified by what he had done and tried to escape—but the monster followed him . . .

Mary Shelley’s waking dream was so disturbing that she opened her eyes in terror. She tried to get rid of the images in her mind but could not. Then her thoughts turned to the story-writing contest, and an idea came to her: “I have found it! What terrified me will terrify others; and I need only describe the spectre which had haunted my midnight pillow.”

What Mary Shelley then wrote was the basis for what became, through much more writing and revision, her first novel, which was published a year and a half later, in January 1818. Since then, Frankenstein has inspired countless other works, including theatrical, film, and comic book adaptations.