Welcome, Writers!

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.

Submissions must be received by 11:59 pm Eastern time Sunday, July 1, 2018.

Submit your entry here.

Teachers: Use this flyer to promote the Royal Nonesuch Humor Writing Contest in your class!

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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 1, 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!

Finalist Judges

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

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

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

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.

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