FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions
- Eligibility and Deadlines
- Contest Guidelines
- Submitting Letters
- Judging Process
- Additional Information
- Who is eligible to participate?
Letters About Literature Texas is open to residents of Texas. Students must be in grades 4 through 12 during the 2020-2021 school year to participate. Students younger than 13 years of age (as of November 4, 2020) must obtain and upload a permission form signed by a parent or legal guardian to be eligible for entry (download permission form here).
- Can a student participate if their family is stationed abroad?
If the student is a resident of Texas, they may apply in the state of their legal residence.
- When can the student submit his/her letter?
Entries will be accepted online starting November 4, 2020.
- What is the deadline to submit letters?
Letters must be submitted by December 17, 2020, 5:00 p.m. (CST).
- Can a student submit more than one letter?
No. Only one entry is allowed per student each contest year. Each student may only apply in one state and competition level.
- What can disqualify an entry?
- Personal contact information such as an address, email or phone included anywhere in the letter, including the header or footer. These entries cannot be distributed to judges and must be disqualified.
- Not meeting or exceeding the word count; entries must be at least 400 words and no longer than 800 words (including date, greeting, body of the letter, closing and name/signature).
- Not formatting the entry as a letter with a date, greeting, body of the letter, closing and name/signature.
- Submitting multiple entries or submitting in multiple states; students may only submit one letter. Students should submit their letters using the online entry form for the student’s school address or, if submitting individually, the student’s home address.
- Students under 13 not submitting a hand-signed parent permission form; all students under 13, regardless of their grade, must submit a permission form hand-signed by their parent or legal guardian to participate (download permission form here).
- Submitting previously published or plagiarized work, or work that the student has submitted to other contests.
- Submitting an entry in the incorrect level of competition, which is based on the student’s grade.
- Submitting a hand-written or illegible letter; at this time Letters About Literature Texas does not require entries to use a specific font or font size, but does require that all entries be typed and legible.
- What are the competition levels?
Level I: grades 4-6; Level II: grades 7-8; Level III: grades 9-12.
- What are the prizes and recognition for winners?
Texas winners receive $100 and will be honored at the 2021 Virtual Texas Library Association Conference.
- Is there a word limit for the letters?
Yes, entries must be no fewer than 400 words and no more than 800 words (including date, greeting, body of the letter, closing and name/signature).
- May letters be submitted in a language other than English?
No. At this time, only letters submitted in English are eligible.
- May a student write to an author who is no longer living?
Yes, and many do.
- What form of literature should students select?
Students should select a fiction or nonfiction book, book series, essay, play, poem, short story, or speech
(excluding song lyrics) that they have read and about which they have strong feelings. We ask that teachers not assign a particular work to students; rather, allow students to choose a piece of literature that speaks to them personally.
- May students write a letter to God about the Bible?
For the purposes of this contest, please address all letters about the Bible (or any other religious text) to the known or attributed human author of the particular book of the Bible (or comparable portion of another religious text) read by the student.
- Will letters winning letters be?
The winning letters at all three levels will be published on the Texas Center for the Book’s website. If the entry is selected as a state winner, the student’s parent or legal guardian will be contacted for permission to publish the student’s name, hometown, state and/or letter.
- Where should entries be submitted?
All entries must be submitted via the online submission platform.
- Can entries be submitted by mail rather than online?
All entries much be submitted via the online submission platform.
- How do I submit an entry?
If you are a student or parent, please see the students' page for instructions on submitting your entry. Teachers should see the teachers page for instructions, as well as the teacher’s section of this FAQ. A video walkthrough of the online submission process for students, teachers and parents is embedded in the instructions section of each online submission form and is also available at this link: https://youtu.be/DEjkwyfTPY4 (Note: This video is from the 2018-2019 entry year, but it still contains the essential submission information.)
- Do I need a permission form to enter?
Students younger than 13 years of age (as of November 4, 2020) must have a permission form hand-signed by a parent or legal guardian in order to participate.
- How should home-schooled students enter?
Home-schooled students may enter individually with parent assistance or may enter with teacher assistance—whichever makes the most sense for their situation. If submitting with teacher assistance, the form will ask for a teacher name and email.
- Do letters need to be written before beginning to fill out the online submission form?
No. The online submission platform automatically saves your progress until you click the submit button. You will have the option to type your letter directly into the online submission platform or to upload a file with your letter (file types accepted: pdf, doc, docx, txt, rtf, jpg, jpeg, gif, tif, tiff, png, wpf, odt, wpd and svg).
- Can I submit artwork (video, picture or audio)?
Submitting artwork with the letter is optional. Please note that these materials will not be considered during the contest judging process.
- What should I do if I need to update my entry or made an error when completing the form?
Within the online submission platform you may review your submitted entries and request permission to edit a previously submitted entry. Edits may not be allowed after the deadline. You may also contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com with any issues.
- I’m having trouble with the online submission platform. What should I do?
For technical assistance with online submissions, please visit https://submittable.help or contact Submittable support at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Who judges the letters?
Judges include authors, publishers, librarians, literary professionals and educators.
- What criteria are used to judge the letters?
Letters are evaluated based on (1) how well they address the audience ( the author) and the purpose/theme of the contest; (2) grammar; (3) letter structure; (4) personal and reflective content; (5) and creative and unique expression.
- How does the judging take place?
With online submissions, the bulk of the judging is done online with qualified, statewide judges.
Round 1: Entries are evaluated for basic eligibility and by how well they address the audience and the purpose/theme of the contest. The judges ask these questions: Is the essay in letter format, and does it address the author of the work? Does the essay address the contest theme of how an author’s work changed the reader’s view of self or the world? Is personal reflection evident in the letter? Entries that are book summaries or fan letters will be eliminated. Entries that are not in letter format and are written about the author, rather than to the author, will be eliminated. Letters that meet the criteria above will advance to Round 2.
Round 2: Entries are evaluated for grammar and writing. Judges ask: Is the essay written in a clear and organized way with specific details to support the essay’s main ideas? Does the essay express ideas creatively, communicating a unique or powerful point of view? These letters are evaluated with the Letters About Literature rubric, which examines all five criteria (addresses audience and theme, grammar, structure, content and expression), and they receive a numerical score. Letters that are formulaic, without evidence of a writer’s voice, will be eliminated. Single-paragraph letters and those with significant grammatical errors will also be eliminated. Letters that meet the criteria above will advance to Round 3 and 4 level judging.
Round 3 and 4: Letters that advance past the first and second round are evaluated by a day of live and in-person judging at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission; entries are evaluated with the Letters About Literature rubric, which examines all five criteria (addresses audience and theme, grammar, structure, content and expression) and receive a numerical score.
The top 10-20 entries in each level are then evaluated again with the Letters About Literature rubric, which examines all five criteria (addresses audience and theme, grammar, structure, content and expression) and receive a numerical score.
- Who notifies the Texas winners and when?
The Texas Center for the Book Coordinator notifies the winners by the end of February.
- What educational value does Letters About Literature have for my students?
Research supports the link between reading and writing: children who read, write better; children who write, read more. Letters About Literature challenges students by asking that they write to a particular audience (the author of a book rather than a teacher) with a specific purpose (to explain or describe his or her personal reader response to the work). By encouraging personal reader response and reflective writing, the contest encourages meaningful reading and helps to create successful writers.
- Does Letters About Literature meet curriculum standards for reading and writing?
Literature can be a tool to help students achieve curriculum standards relative to reading comprehension and writing persuasively, especially if the instructor challenges students to move beyond mere self-to-text connections and focus instead on critical thinking and creative expression.
- What is the best way to engage my students with Letters About Literature?
Letters About Literature asks students to connect personally with a work that has changed their view of themselves or the world. The letters with the best reflective, personal writing are from students who have directly chosen a book that they have read and about which they have strong feelings. Teachers should not assign a particular work to students. We also encourage teachers to help students focus their letters on personal reflection and the impact of the book on the student, rather than primarily summarizing the book with book report elements or including many questions to the author. For more resources for teaching with Letters About Literature, please see the educator resource page.
- How do I or my students submit entries with the online submission platform?
There are several options for classes submitting entries with the online submission platform. Please note that if any of your students are younger than 13 years of age, a permission form hand-signed by their parent or legal guardian is required to submit their entry.
- Teachers with older students and a computer lab may prefer to have students create their own Submittable account and submit their entry themselves. When completing the online entry form, these students should select that “a student” is completing the form with “teacher assistance” and enter the school name and the teacher’s email address in the appropriate fields.
- The online submission platform also supports teachers entering submissions on behalf of their students. When you start the form, you will be prompted to set up an account. Please use your contact information. When you complete the address form, please enter your school address with the school name in “Address Line 1.” The form will save this address and autofill these fields each time you complete the form. On the next page of the form, please select “a teacher” is completing this form. You will need to enter the student’s name, age, grade, level of competition, some details about the work the student selected such as title and author and the student’s letter.
- If your student is younger than 13 years of age, you will be prompted to submit a signed parent/legal guardian permission form before you can submit the entry. Once you click "Submit," you will be redirected to the beginning of the form and may begin submitting the next entry immediately. If at any time you wish to review the entries you have already submitted, click your name on the top right and click "Submissions." Each submission's title will be the student's last name. To view a submission, click the student's last name. When viewing the submission, you also have the option to download, request permission to edit, or withdraw the submission.
- Can teachers create one account and have all their students submit their entries with the same account? We do not recommend that teachers do this. In order to submit entries at the same time, students must be logged in to separate accounts. If you submit all the entries with the same account, you must complete the form and submit an entry before beginning to submit the next entry. This method is therefore time consuming, as well as potentially confusing.
- What should teachers need to do if they have students younger than 13?
Regardless of how you submit the entries, each student younger than 13 as of November 4, 2020, will need a permission form signed by the parent or legal guardian to participate. If you submit all the entries in the online platform on behalf of your students, each time you complete the form for a student younger than 13, you will be prompted to upload a copy of the permission form to continue.
- Do you have certificates of completion for students who enter?
Yes. You may download or print certificates of completion for your students for their Letters About Literature submission. Those are available on our educator resource page.
- If I have a child who wins, will that child's name and/or letter be published?
If the entry is selected as a winner, the student’s parent or legal guardian will be contacted for permission to publish.
- My child is in third grade but reads on a higher level. Can he/she still enter?
Unfortunately, no. Our official rules state that a student must be in at least grade 4 to enter.
- Are the letters delivered to the authors?
In some cases, winning letters are shared with the author. In general, students who wish to send their letters to the author will need to send them directly to the author, as well as to Letters About Literature. NOTE: Letters About Literature does not provide authors’ addresses.
- Is a letter ever disqualified for plagiarism?
Yes. If a student copies significant phrases from past winning letters, the letter will be disqualified. The reader-response concept of this writing assignment makes plagiarism less likely. In some cases, our judges may question the authenticity of a letter. If there is a question that an adult might have written a letter for a student, the teacher or the parent will be contacted to confirm the work is the student’s own.
- What if a student fabricates personal details, like having a sibling, in order to make his or her letter more appealing?
If the details provided by the student within the letter are fabricated and not factual, the letter will be eliminated from competition. Letters About Literature encourages students to think critically about their personal reaction to a book’s character or conflict. Letters About Literature may trigger creative thoughts in a young reader’s mind, but the student’s letter must be honest and factual, as well as creative and original.