Authlete Instructions

Authlete Instructions

  1. You will be assigned a single word.
  2. Use the word to write a kid-appropriate poem in under 36 hours.
    • Be sure to comply with all poem requirements.
    • Be sure to review and revise your poem before submitting. Submitted poems that do not meet the requirements — particularly with respect to length and word usage — will be rejected and you will need to edit and resubmit prior to deadline.
  3. Submit your poem via e-mail by the posted deadline.
    • You will receive a confirmation email.
    • If you miss the deadline, your opponent will be awarded ten extra votes in the Public Vote for each hour your poem is late, up to 50 total votes. (NOTE: This is significant!)
  4. Your poem will be posted online. (You and your opponent share a dedicated page for your match-up.)
  5. Voting begins as soon as the page is opened to the public!

Poem Requirements

  1. The assigned word must be used at least once somewhere within the body of the poem.
  2. The assigned word must be used exactly as written — usage in any other form (different tense, different grammatical form, as a proper name) does not satisfy the usage requirement.
  3. Every poem must have a title.
  4. Poem length limits will be in place for each round. All lines other than completely blank lines (THIS IS NEW AS OF ROUND THREE OF 2015) count toward the limit.
    • Rounds 1 and 2: 8 lines maximum
    • Rounds 3 and 4: 16 lines maximum
    • Rounds 5 and 6: any number of lines is permissible
  5. No custom fonts, illustrations, or photos.
  6. Use of italics, bold, and underline is okay.
  7. Custom indents (e.g., indent every fourth line by 80 pixels at the left margin) are okay. More delicately arranged concrete/shape poems require advance approval to ensure that they can be implemented with reasonable effort.
  8. The name of the region to which each authlete is assigned (Humor, Empathy, Logic, or Passion) has nothing to do with the writing challenge itself. These names are used for organizational reasons only.
  9. Poems should be appropriate for kids. As of March 11th, the age distribution of kids comprising the Classroom Vote is as follows:

    • Along with your poem, please also indicate what age ranges (0-5, 6-8, 9-11, 12-14, and/or 15+) are the most appropriate readership for it. Poems will be tagged by age (see mini-graphic below) to make it easier for classrooms to find and vote on matchups with poems that are more targeted to them. Use your best judgment, and when in doubt be more inclusive. Based on the distribution, you’ll likely want to avoid tagging your poems as exclusively for ages 0-5 or 15+, as this is likely to exclude the vast majority of official classroom voters who are aged 6-14. You can also simply indicate “All Ages”.

Final Thoughts

From this event’s inception in 2012, authletes have contributed all kinds of works to #MMPoetry, ranging from descriptive to active, normal to extraordinary, serious to fun, dark to light, and more (see POEMETRICS™ for more on these). I think there is room for all of it in the world, as we never know what kind of poem will meet a young reader at the exact moment they need to laugh, cry, think, scream, or something else.

I’ve said in various places before that #MMPoetry will never represent the pinnacle of kids’ poetry — that no contest ever could, especially one involving prompts and clocks. All that our authletes can do is write, write hard, and write their best before time is up.

But whether inside or outside of this competition, I do think that what all kids’ poets (including me) can strive to write more of — and what we can all help kids to read more of — is what Lee Bennett Hopkins calls poetry with a capital P. When in a recent interview Matt Forrest Esenwine asked Lee what keeps him going, Lee ended his response with this:

“Then there is that thing called ‘poetry’. Damn it sometimes. It envelopes me — my life, my heart. It is food, drink, manna, stuff that makes life worth living. I live to pass the poetry … that stuff with the capital ‘P’.”

Coming from someone like Lee, I think that that line speaks for itself, so I won’t even try to elaborate. I can only try to echo and amplify it. So authletes, when you get your word, whether it seems intuitive, reasonable, odd, or impossible to turn it into a kids’ poem, try to write something worth the 36 hours of life you’re giving up to write it … Something worth the 36 seconds we’re giving up to read it. Whether it starts with a p or a P, just give it your absolute best. We have a unique chance here to get more poetry in front of more kids than would otherwise have interest or occasion to read it. Let’s deliver an experience worth their attention.

Good luck! And write good. ;)

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  • Matt Forrest

    Thanks for sharing the link, Ed! And best wishes to all of this year’s authletes!

  • Joseph Miller

    Thanks for putting this together and best wishes to all my fellow authletes!

  • Damon Dean

    Thanks Ed for clear and obvious fences so well built. Good fences make good neighbors. Or grazers. Or something like that.

  • Jackie

    Best of luck everyone and now a possibly silly question but when you say…’The name of the region to which each authlete is assigned (Humor,
    Empathy, Logic, or Passion) has nothing to do with the writing challenge
    itself. These names are used for organizational reasons only.’ Does that mean that we DON’T have to write to the theme of that group?

    • Ed DeCaria

      Correct. You do NOT need to write to the theme of your bracket. After all, asking for a passionate poem using the word dispassionate — for example — would just be cruel.

      • Jackie

        Thanks Ed – that makes things a tad easier!

        • Ed DeCaria

          I circumspect you’re right. (Or something like that.)

  • Guest

    Do we submit our poem via email?

  • Maureen Lynas

    Thanks for having me! Good luck everyone.

  • Carol Samuelson-Woodson

    Hi, Ed, and thanks for the instructions. I emailed my poem (Flight B) to you this evening at 9pm Pacific Daylight time. Still haven’t received a confirmation email 45 minutes! later. Should I be worried? Also, since my Yahoo mail is the primitive version, I can’t do much with formatting an email or with Word. So I sent it both ways: pasted into the email as well as as a Word Doc attachment. The attachment looks better, as it will do italics; whereas, the email version will not. Hope you received!!!! My first year and I’m jittery.

    • Ed DeCaria

      I got it. Just sent reply about 10 minutes ago to the address from which you sent it.

      • Carol Samuelson-Woodson

        I hesitate to bother you at this busy time, Ed, even to say thanks. But, thanks! I feel better now.