Aspiring Writers:

This is a rare opportunity to get a renowned author or literary agent's feedback on your unpublished manuscript!

Update, March 1: the winners have been announced. Click here to see the six winners and their essays.


An Essay Contest, 6 Winners Get Manuscript Critiques:

Pick one of the following stories from Book Wish Foundation's new book, What You Wish For, and write an essay of no more than 500 words about how the wishes in the story relate to the Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad. The stories were contributed for free by their authors so we could use the book's proceeds to develop libraries in Darfuri refugee camps. Essays will be judged on style, creativity, understanding of the story, and understanding of the refugees. If you win, either the story's author or the author's literary agent (as indicated below) will provide a one-page critique of the first 50 pages of a middle grade or young adult manuscript of your choosing. You will have six months to submit your manuscript, and the agent or author will have six months from submission to provide the critique. Stories you may write about:

  • "The Protectionist," by Meg Cabot. Manuscript critique by Laura Langlie, literary agent for Meg Cabot.
  • "Pearl's Fateful Wish," by Jeanne DuPrau. Manuscript critique by Nancy Gallt, literary agent for Jeanne DuPrau.
  • "Nell," by Karen Hesse. Manuscript critique by Brenda Bowen, literary agent and editor of Karen Hesse's Newbery Medal winner Out of the Dust.
  • "The Lost Art of Letter Writing," by Ann M. Martin. Manuscript critique by Ann M. Martin, winner of the Newbery Honor for A Corner of the Universe.
  • "The Rules for Wishing," by Francisco X. Stork. Manuscript critique by Francisco X. Stork, winner of the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award for The Last Summer of the Death Warriors.
  • "The Stepsister," by Cynthia Voigt. Manuscript critique by Cynthia Voigt, winner of the Newbery Medal for Dicey's Song and the Newbery Honor for A Solitary Blue.

You may submit essays about more than one story for a chance to win more than one critique. Essays and winners' manuscripts must be written in English.

To Enter:

Essays must be emailed to no later than February 1, 2012, either pasted into the body of the email or attached as a Microsoft Word, OpenOffice, or PDF file. Essays must include the name and email address of the entrant. Book Wish Foundation staff will judge the initial round of the contest and recommend finalists to the agents or authors, who will select the winners. Winners will be notified by email and announced on on or about March 1, 2012. Winners' manuscripts must be received by September 1, 2012. Manuscript critiques will be sent to winners within six months of receipt.

Essays may be published on By submitting an essay, you grant to Book Wish Foundation the right to edit, publish, copy, display, and otherwise use your essay, and to further use your name, likeness, and biographical information in advertising and promotional materials, without further compensation or permission, except where prohibited by law. The preceding applies to the contest essays, not winners' manuscripts. Winners retain all rights to the manuscripts they submit for critique.

Get a copy of What You Wish For for yourself or as a gift for an aspiring writer. Essays aren't due until February 1, 2012, so holiday gift recipients will have time to enter.

Better World Books > IndieBound > Amazon > Kindle Edition > Barnes & Noble > NOOK Book > Penguin >

Find in a library > ISBN 9780399254543 | ePub ISBN 9781101535660 | Adobe Reader ISBN 9781101534366

Learning About Darfur:

To prepare for your essay, we recommend reading the Editor's Note at the end of What You Wish For and Mia Farrow's Foreword at the beginning, exploring the online resources listed at the end of the book, and watching the following video recorded at United Nations Headquarters during a launch event for What You Wish For. The first hour of the video features Udo Janz and Grainne O'Hara from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), John Prendergast from the Enough Project, and Darfuri refugee Mohamed Yahya from the Damanga Coalition for Freedom and Democracy; the second hour is a panel discussion with nine of the authors who contributed to What You Wish For, including four whose stories are part of this essay contest (Meg Cabot, Jeanne DuPrau, Karen Hesse, and Ann M. Martin). Book Wish Foundation will donate 100% of our proceeds from What You Wish For to UNHCR to develop the refugee camp libraries.

You might also want to follow us on Twitter or Facebook, or subscribe to our email mailing list, where we often post about Darfur and our work to bring libraries to the refugees.


This contest is open to residents of the United States who are at least 13 years old. Excluded from entering are the employees, officers, directors, agents, and representatives of Book Wish Foundation, Penguin Group (USA), Inc., the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the authors of What You Wish For, and the authors' literary agencies, as well as the immediate families (spouses, parents, children, siblings, and their respective spouses) and residents of the same households of all of the preceding. Void where prohibited.

Waiver of Liability:

By submitting an essay, you agree to release and hold harmless Book Wish Foundation; the participating authors, literary agents, and literary agencies; any promotional partners; each of their parent, subsidiary, affiliate, and related companies; and each of their respective officers, directors, employees, and agents from and against any losses, damages, rights, claim, or cause of action of any kind arising, in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, out of participation in the contest or resulting directly or indirectly, from acceptance, possession, use, or misuse of any prize awarded in connection with the contest, as well as claims based on publicity rights, defamation, and/or invasion of privacy.

Winners will be required to sign an affidavit of eligibility and release of liability in order to receive a manuscript critique. The affidavit must be returned within fourteen (14) days of notification or another winner will be selected. If a winner is under 18 years of age, his/her parent/legal guardian will also be required to sign the affidavit.

Winners List:

For a copy of the winners list, visit or send a self-addressed, stamped envelope by December 1, 2012 to Book Wish Foundation, 11606 Brandon Hill Way, Reston, VA 20194-1215, Attention: What You Wish For Essay Contest.


Frequently Asked Questions:

If I haven't finished writing the manuscript that I want critiqued, can I still enter?

Yes! Winners will have six months to submit their manuscripts (first 50 pages) for critique. If you have a manuscript already written, that's fine, but you could also wait to write it until you win.

I'm a teenager. Will I really have a chance to win?

Yes! The judges will not see your age and will judge your essay on its merits. The best essays will win.

I'm a teacher. Can I share this with my class and invite all of my students to enter?

Yes! We would love that. Perhaps, you could even combine it with a lesson about Darfur, refugees, or the authors.

Can I submit an essay for each of the stories?

Yes! You can submit up to six essays, one per story, to increase your chance of winning one or more critiques!

If more than one of my essays win, can I submit more than one manuscript for critique?

Yes! If you are a multiple winner, you can submit different essays to each of the corresponding authors/agents, or you can submit the same story to get feedback from multiple people. The choice will be yours.

I'm a published author, can I still enter?

Yes, as long as you aren't represented by the literary agencies of the participants, or otherwise fail to meet the eligibility requirements listed above.

Can I write about one of the stories in What You Wish For that isn't listed above?

No. Essays must be about the six stories listed above.

Is there a flyer I can post in my bookstore, library, school, etc.?

Yes! Download the flyer here.