Welcome, Writers!

Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand…” including us! Our sides are still aching from laughing at last year’s winners, so the Royal Nonesuch is taking a break for a while. In the meantime, please check out our Facebook page and marktwainhouse.org  for updates and information about other upcoming writing programs.

Be sure to read past entries for the Royal Nonesuch Humor Writing Contest further down this page!


2018 Winners

2018 Royal Nonesuch Humor Writing Contest Winners

Adult Author

$1000 First Prize:

Development Notes On God’s Pitch For Everything That Ever Was Or Shall Be, by D.R. Beitzel

D.R. Beitzel is a writer and cartoonist in Brooklyn, New York. He has contributed to MAD Magazine, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and some other publications. Beitzel is also the creator of The Bagheads, an animated short produced by Frederator Studios. Visit him online at drbeitzel.com.



$500 Second Prize:

Squirrel Pie and the Golden Derrière, by Scott Carpenter

Scott Dominic Carpenter teaches literature and creative writing at Carleton College in Minnesota. He’s the author of Theory of Remainders: A Novel (named to Kirkus Reviews’ “Best Books of 2013”) and of This Jealous Earth: Stories. His shorter work has appeared in a wide variety of venues, including South Dakota Review, The Rumpus, Silk Road, and various anthologies. Visit Scott online at sdcarpenter.com.


$250 Third Prize:

Hey, Barbie, What’s Your Sign? by Sarah Zimmerman 

Sarah Zimmerman is a freelance writer, Physician Assistant in Women’s Health, mother of two, wife of one, and co-owner of a vegan ice cream business out of Detroit, MI. She has been published on satirical websites The Belladonna Comedy, Robot Butt, The Haven, The Dot, and Sammiches and Psych Meds, and on Ravishly, Pregnant Chicken, Together Guide, Parent.Co, Mom.Me, The Mighty, and more. Read her blog at bigtroubleblog.com.



Honorable Mentions:
Incontinence: The Problem with Seeing a Man about a Horse by Alan Maislen

Understudy to a Matinee Jesus by Joe Dornich

MAGAP U.S. Exceptionalism by Jackie Pick


Youth Author (18 years old or younger)

$1000 First Prize:

Advice to an Incoming Freshman, by Alisa Luu.

Luu is a student at Mission San Jose High School in Fremont, California. In her cover letter she wrote, “This piece was written as a parody of Mark Twain’s Advice to Youth (where my opening paragraph was taken from).”

$500 Second Prize:

Fractured Fairy Tales by Avah Dodson

Ten-year-old Dodson has written three books available on Amazon: a fantasy novella, a nonfiction book about cats, and a toddler picture book. Her short works of fiction, poetry, and humor have appeared in Skipping Stones Magazine and BAZOOF! Magazine, among others. She lives in California with her family and two tabbies.

$250 Third Prize:

Cold Turkey by Grace Regnier

16-year-old Regnier was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She now lives in Parker, Colorado with her family, a cranky Calico, and a poorly shorn Golden Retriever. This is her first entry in a humor writing contest.

Honorable Mentions:

The Art of the Deal: A Beginner’s Guide to Becoming President in 2018 by Camille Doherty

Sample by Julian Tucker

2018 Rules

NOTE: There will be no Royal Nonesuch contest in 2019. Do not send submissions; they will not be read.



The Mark Twain House & Museum Royal Nonesuch Humor Writing Contest is sponsored by The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut.  Proceeds benefit the museum’s preservation, education, and outreach programs.


Adults: Must be 18 years or older at the date of submission.

Young Writer: Must be younger than 18 at the date of submission.


The Mark Twain House & Museum Royal Nonesuch Humor Writing Contest is open to anybody worldwide. Staff, volunteers, trustees, ambassadors, and other affiliates of The Mark Twain House & Museum and their immediate family members are not eligible.


Submissions will be accepted from February 15 through 11:59 pm Eastern Time Sunday, July 15, 2018. Late entries will not be accepted.

Submissions must be original work created by the submitter and may not exceed 7,000 words. Entries longer than 7,000 words will be disqualified.

All submissions must be in English.

Entrants may submit more than one essay, but each entry must be accompanied by an entry fee.

Entry Fees:

All submissions must be accompanied by an entry fee:

Adult: $23 per entry

Young Writer: $10 per entry

Entry fees must be paid at the time of submission. Entry fees cover only one submission and are non-refundable.


All submissions will be reviewed by Mark Twain House & Museum staff and volunteers. The final round will be reviewed by our Royal Nonesuch Finalist Judges. The decision of the Finalist Judges is… well, final.

Notification of Winners:

Winners will be announced on September 10, 2018.


The following prizes will be awarded in both the Adult and Young Writer categories:

First Prize: $1,000

Second Prize: $500

Third Prize: $250

Honorable Mention winners receive a $100 Gift Certificate for the Mark Twain Museum Store.


Winners retain ownership of their submitted work. The Mark Twain House & Museum reserves the right to publish each submission, in full or in part, to a public forum, with proper credit given to the author. No compensation shall be given to the submitter by The Mark Twain House & Museum for publishing any submitted work.

About The Mark Twain House & Museum:

The mission of The Mark Twain House & Museum is to foster an appreciation of the legacy of Mark Twain as one of our nation’s defining cultural figures and to demonstrate the continuing relevance of his work, life and times. A National Register Historic Landmark, The Mark Twain House & Museum operates as a non-profit 501(c)(3) foundation. Mark Twain built the house in 1874 and lived here with his wife and children from 1874 to 1891. During his time here, Twain wrote such masterpieces as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Updated February 15, 2018

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Q: Can I submit more than one entry?

A: Yes. However, each submission requires a separate entry fee.


Q: Does my essay have to be in the style of Mark Twain, or about Mark Twain?

A: No; while this is a humor-writing contest, we are looking for your voice! Make us laugh – preferably uproariously!


Q: May I submit previously published work?

A: Yes, provided it has not won another humor-writing contest.


Don’t see the answer to your question? E-mail us!

Previous Winners

2017 Winners

Adult Division

First Prize: “Great House Therapy” by Susan Harlan

Second Prize: “This Too Shall Pass: 10 Weeks in French” by Corinne Purtill

Third Prize: “The Land of Rough Draft” by Brenna Harvey

Honorable Mention: “Hot Yoga or How to Self-Administer Your Own Stroke”   by Keith Stewart

Youth Division

First Prize: “I Have a Problem” by Trevor Louis

Honorable Mention: “Tranquility of the Mind” by Hyowon Kang

2016 Winners

Adult Division

First Prize: “Devil Child” by Patricia Favreau-McKinley

Second Prize: “Riding the Moon” by Susan Daniels

Third Prize: “God Does Not Love Me and Beyonce Equally” by Kellie Wood

Honorable Mentions: 

“Steam Irons of Seoul” by Robert Perchan
“The Queen is Dead, Long Live the Queen” by Patricia Staino
“The Hustle” by Amy West

Youth Division

First Prize: “Vasco Da Gama’s Treasure” by Elijah Rusk

Second Prize: “The 100-Person Punishment” by Charlotte York

Third Prize: “How to Catch a Boyfriend” by Jessica Powers

Honorable Mentions:

“The Real Camping Experience” by Daniel Brooks
“The Forgotten Jump: A Day in the Life of an Equestrian Amnesiac” by Elizabeth Chung
“My Triceps” by Henry Thomas

2015 Winners

Adult Division

First Prize: “Boobs” by Marina Mularz

Second Prize:  “The Efficiency Expert” by Graham Towers

Third Prize:  “Oh, Here!” by April Kelly

Honorable Mentions:

“The Death Button” by Scott Carpenter
“Family Jeopardy” by Elisabeth Dahl
“And Starring God as Morgan Freeman” by Ben Greenfield

Young Adult Division

First Prize:  “The Hegemony of Bistlethwait” by Nate Jacobs

Second Prize: “Huck and Jim Encounter the Slim” by Elizabeth Kaliff

Third Prize: “RAP-UNZEL” by Brooke Echternacht

Honorable Mentions:

“The Young Person’s Account of The Mugging or: I Too Want to Figure Out My Sexuality” by Andres Cordoba
“Apocalyptic Overcooked Potatoes” by Peter Schmit
“Mass Exodus of Conservatives Following Recent Supreme Court Decisions” by Jesse Zhou

2014 Winners

Adult Division

First Prize: “And the Oscar Goes to Jail” by Yaron Kaver

Second Prize: “Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex But Couldn’t Spell” Melissa Fay Greene

Third Prize: “NORAD Murray Tracker” Briana Haynie

Honorable Mentions:

“Postcards from Shakespeare” by Allison Williams
“Archangel Blues” by Josh Dobbin
“Hooked” by Alice Nguyen

Young Authors Division

First Prize: “The PR Campaign” by Jane Song

Second Prize: “The Longest 3 Hours and 28 Minutes in History” Melanie York

Third Prize: “Dragon vs. Mustache” by Solomon Martin

Honorable Mentions:

“The Price of Rug-Knitted Lies” by Charlotte York
“Escaping the Flood: A Detasseler’s Nightmare” by Madeline Pauline Schmit
“Fifty Grades of Shay” by Peter Schmit

  • "If Mark Twain were alive, he'd be happy about this contest, because he'd win it."

    — Andy Borowitz