The Essay Contest has closed. You may read the winning essays here.


The Modern Word is proud to host its first annual High School Essay Contest.


The student will prepare an essay on the topic, "Who is the most influential writer of the twentieth century? Why?"

The essay should be between 500-750 words, and must be submitted electronically to The Modern Word at the following email address: Entries should be submitted as a Microsoft Word attachment, or as text in the body of the email itself.

Entries will be reviewed by a panel of three judges: Allen Ruch, Editorial Director of The Modern Word; Robert DiYanni, Chairman of The Modern Word Literary Advisory Board; and Jill Sverdlove, CEO of Gotham Writers' Workshop. Entries will be judged on depth and presentation of argument, creativity and originality, and acceptable use of proper mechanics such as grammar and spelling. Students are encouraged to use the resources of The Modern Word and the Web to research and prepare their essay.

Entries must be submitted by January 31, 2001.

The essay contest is open to students in the United States only. Students must be in the 10th, 11th, or 12th grade or the equivalent, and may be in public, private, or home-school environments. All essays must include the student's name, address, phone number, and email address, as well as the school attended and the name of the student's English instructor.


Three prize winners and seven honorable mentions will be selected. Each of the three top prize winners will receive a Britannica 60-volume hardcover set of The Great Books of the Western World, donated by the College of the Humanities and Sciences. The three winners will also be awarded the following prizes:

First prize: $1500.
Second Prize: $750.
Third Prize: Enrollment in an online writing course of the student's choice at Gotham Writers' Workshop ($400 value).

Additionally, each of the three winners' English instructors will receive the Great Books Foundation's 50th Anniversary Series, a set of nine anthologies featuring works by classic and modern authors valued at $150. Each of the nine volumes is arranged by theme and includes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

All ten essays will be posted on The Modern Word, and will remain online for one year.


The Modern Word Essay Contest is sponsored by The Great Books Foundation and Gotham Writers' Workshop. Cooperating Co-sponsors include Channel Thirteen/WNET New York,,, the Center for Educational Innovation, and the College of the Humanities and Sciences.

Featured Links


Great Books Foundation -- The homepage of the Great Books Foundation. Contains links to their student programs.

Gotham Writers' Workshop -- Their homepage contains a wealth of useful links for writers.

-- Thirteen/WNET New York. The homepage of Channel Thirteen, New York City's PBS station, offers a host of services for teachers, administrators, parents, and adult educators. -- The's homepage for students and teenagers.

Humanities and Sciences Academy -- Official homepage of the Humanities and Sciences Academy and Institute.

Student reources:

The Libyrinth -- The Modern Word's gallery of twentieth-century author sites.

NorthernLight -- An excellent literary search engine.

Yahoo Literature Index -- This page has hundreds of links for literature and fiction of all types.

Schrock Literary Guides -- A page from Kathy Schrock's Educational Web guide, this page contains dozens of K-12 links for readers and writers.

Voice of the Shuttle -- Woven by Alan Liu, this page is based from the University of California and serves as a "Web Page for Humanities Research."