Jonathan Haupt photo by Milton MorrisOpen to all Palmetto State high school juniors and seniors, the annual South Carolina High School Writing Contest was created in 2013 by Steven Lynn, dean of the South Carolina Honors College at USC; writer and editor Aïda Rogers; best-selling writer Pat Conroy (the competition’s original judge); and Jonathan Haupt, then director of the University of South Carolina Press and now executive director of the nonprofit Pat Conroy Literary Center. 


It is fitting then that Haupt was invited to return to the project to serve as the competition’s judge this year. In addition to Conroy, previous judges have included Walter Edgar, Nikky Finney, Pam Durban, Mary Alice Monroe, and Marjory Wentworth.

“It was my tremendous privilege to have helped Steve Lynn and Aida Rogers shepherd this important contest through its early years, and I’m beyond honored to be invited back to judge the 2020 competition,” Haupt said. “Opportunities like these can begin to give shape to the arc of a writing life for burgeoning storytellers. And this contest has always done such a masterful job of letting us know what’s on the minds and in the hearts of our young writers as they survey the present and look toward the future. It’s all the more important now that we recognize and listen to their voices.”    

The writing contest’s topic is “How should we improve the state of South Carolina?” Submissions of up to 750 words are welcome by September 25 in all creative genres, including fiction, drama, and poetry, as well as straightforward essays, diary/journal entries, letters, or other literary forms. 

After students submits their work, 15-20 finalists will be chosen. Those finalists will have their work reviewed by the 2020 writing contest judge. Cash prizes of $1,000, $500, and $250 will be awarded to the first, second, and third place winners.The entries of finalists and winners will be showcased by the South Carolina Honors College on its website.

The SC Honors College at USC partners with the Pat Conroy Literary Center, the South Carolina State Library, the University of South Carolina School of Library and Information Sciences, the South Carolina Academy of Authors, and the South Carolina Writers Association to present the annual statewide contest.

Learn more and submit entries at

About 2020 the South Carolina High School Writing Contest Judge:Jonathan Haupt is the executive director of the nonprofit Pat Conroy Literary Center and the former director of the University of South Carolina Press, where he created the Story River Books fiction imprint with Pat Conroy, named by Garden & Gun magazine as one of “the top ten things to love about the South.” Haupt’s book reviews and author interviews have appeared in the Charleston Post and Courier, Beaufort Lowcountry Weekly, Beaufort Lifestyle magazine, Savannah Morning News’ Beaconmagazine, the Southern Review of Books, and Southern Writers Magazine’s Suite T blog. He is co-editor with Nicole Seitz of the anthology Our Prince of Scribes: Writers Remember Pat Conroy, the recipient of more than a dozen book awards. He is also host of Live from the Pat Conroy Literary Center,a monthly author interview podcast on the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network, and associate producer of the TELLY Award-winning SCETV author interview program By the River.

Haupt serves on the boards of the South Carolina Academy of Authors and the Friends of South Carolina Libraries and on the advisory board of the South Carolina Humanities and the affiliates committee of the American Writers Museum. Under his leadership, the Conroy Center has been honored as South Carolina’s first affiliate of the American Writers Museum, second American Library Association Literary Landmark, and winner of Beaufort’s 2019 Civitas Award for Tourism Leadership. Earlier this year, Haupt was recognized with the Doug Marlette Literacy Leadership Award presented by the Pulpwood Queens, the largest book club in the U.S.