Pictures are worth a thousand words; your words could be worth a thousand bucks.
Welcome to the 2018 Royal Nonesuch Humor Writing Contest. This page has all the information you need to learn about the event and enter; the writing must come from you!
Cash prizes will be awarded to the top three entries in both the Adult and Young Author categories.
The 2018 submission deadline has passed; winners are listed below!
2018 Royal Nonesuch Humor Writing Contest Winners
$1000 First Prize:
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.
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.
The Art of the Deal: A Beginner’s Guide to Becoming President in 2018 by Camille Doherty
Sample by Julian Tucker
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.
All submissions must be sent through the online portal Submittable.
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.
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!
Michael Ian Black
Michael Ian Black is an actor, comedian, and writer best known for The State, Stella, Ed, Vh1’s “I Love the…” series, Wet, Hot American Summer, and The Jim Gaffigan Show. He has written several award-winning books for children and adults. Michael regularly tours the country as a stand-up comedian. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and two children.
Susan Harlan’s humor writing has appeared in venues including McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Awl, The Toast, The Billfold, Avidly, Queen Mob’s Tea House, The Hairpin, The Belladonna, Janice, and The Establishment. Her column for The Toast entitled “Great House Therapy” won the 2017 Mark Twain House and Museum Royal Nonesuch Humor Writing Contest, and the book based on this column, Decorating a Room of One’s Own, will be published by Abrams in October 2018. She is also the author of Luggage (Bloomsbury, 2018), and she teaches English literature at Wake Forest University.
Hank Herman is the author of Accept My Kid, Please! A Dad’s Descent Into College Application Hell, an acclaimed memoir, and Super Hoops, a series of basketball novels for kids. His award-winning humor column, “The Home Team,” has been running for more than 20 years and is still going strong. Hank also co-writes the Hearst Newspapers blog “Beagle Man,” alternating posts with his dog, Kemba. Hank also leads writing workshops at his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, and at Trinity College and Norwalk Community College.
Julie Schumacher is the author of the national bestseller Dear Committee Members, winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor; she is the only woman to have won the Thurber Prize. Her other works include The Body Is Water, finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, five novels for younger readers, and Doodling for Academics – a Coloring and Activity Book. She is a professor of English and the director of the Creative Writing program at the University of Minnesota.
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
First Prize: “I Have a Problem” by Trevor Louis
Honorable Mention: “Tranquility of the Mind” by Hyowon Kang
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
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
“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
First Prize: “Boobs” by Marina Mularz
Second Prize: “The Efficiency Expert” by Graham Towers
Third Prize: “Oh, Here!” by April Kelly
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
“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
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
“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
“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