What kind of submissions are you looking for in ‘First Word’? And why only the essay?
The essay is a highly adaptive genre well suited to our intention of fostering a community of young writers who are not only inquisitive about ideas and arguments, and responsive to particular moods and moments, but are also adept at shaping their words in a form that suits their individual styles. Through this endeavor we hope that students will submit literary non-fiction or critical essays which reflect a nuanced understanding of the world, originality in thought and elegance in expression—the founding ideals of our flagship course ‘Introduction to Critical Thinking’.
How do I respond to the prompts provided?
To provide further clarification, for an exploratory essay on the image-based prompt you may choose to reflect on the synthesis of the natural environment and built form, the future of environmentalism as depicted in the photograph; an argumentative piece on the same topic may be a topical inquiry of the role of AI in imagining a syncretic and sustainable city. Similarly, a narrative piece on the prompt “roots” may inspire an autobiographical story of the writer that traces their family lineage and heritage to explore the metaphorical ‘roots’ of their identity, beliefs and worldview or alternatively launch an ecological interpretation investigating the future of ecosystems.
Why is First Word open only to first-year undergraduate students?
The Undergraduate Writing Programme works most closely with first-year students through the ‘Introduction to Critical Thinking’ courses that we teach. The competition is intended to celebrate the creative and literary coming-of-age of these young thinkers and writers. However, we are open to broadening the base in the coming years. So check in with us again next year!
Why don’t you allow entries in languages other than English?
In order to admit essays in languages other than English, we will need to develop the infrastructure needed to fairly judge such contributions. We intend to do this in future editions and widen our language pool as a result. For this year’s contest, our team is dedicated to providing additional support to English Language Learners who are enthusiastic about participating. If you are an ELL student and anticipate assistance during the final stage of your drafting process, we are pleased to offer an online session lasting between 15 and 30 minutes, as needed. To sign up for this, we request you contact us at least two weeks before the final deadline on 1st July. Please note that we can only provide one session for this form of assistance.
Currently, I am in my second year, although I took an ICT in the Monsoon 2022 semester. Am I eligible to send in my essay for this competition?
No, if you have not taken a year or semester off previously, you are not eligible to participate in this contest.
What if I have a pre-written essay, can I still submit it?
While we hope you will write something fresh for us, it is alright to refashion an older piece as long as the piece has not been published before and engages clearly with one of the prompts. (However, please remove the details of prior submissions before you send it to us!)
Do I need to stick to the genres already mentioned in the concept note?
No, you can surprise us! However, it needs to be an essay, it needs to be largely non-fiction (we say ‘largely’ because some narrative essays, among others, may weave fiction with non-fiction), it needs to be in English, and it needs to be text!
Can I submit an original translation of someone else’s essay?
Since we wish to celebrate student composition rather than translation through this initiative, we are unable to accept translated pieces.