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Live Deliberately Essay Contest To Win

We are delighted to announce the 2017-2018 Live Deliberately Essay Contest prompt!


Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked,

in which you can walk with love and reverence.

—Journal, October 18, 1855

Essay Prompt: In an essay of 750 words or fewer, describe a time in your life when you pursued a path that was “narrow and crooked,” but felt like it was the right path for you. In what ways are/were you able to, as Thoreau advises, walk that path with “love and reverence?” How has navigating that path shaped you into the person you are becoming?

To participate in the 2017-2018 Essay Contest, please read the Contest Guidelines and then submit your essay here. The deadline for submission is Midnight (EST) on March 15, 2018.


Essay Contest Information and Timeline

Each year, the Live Deliberately Essay Contest invites youth from around the world, ages 14-21, to consider a selected Henry David Thoreau quotation and accompanying prompt. Contestants are asked to write a thoughtful essay that uses personal experience and observation to demonstrate how that year's quotation and prompt relate to their own lives and to the world around them. Like Thoreau, these young people use the power of their words to convey vivid stories, personal conviction and human compassion.

The contest has three age groups: 14-16, 17-18, and 19-21. One winner will be identified in each age group and will receive a $250 cash prize, plus an autographed special edition of Walden.  Essays may also be selected to receive Honorable Mention in each age group, which will be awarded with an autographed special edition of Walden.

The deadline for essay submission for the 2017-2018 contest will be March 15, 2018. Each essay is reviewed by at least two readers and results will be announced by the end of April.

Please read the Contest Guidelines for more information about the Contest and some tips to help you write your essay.

For information about past contest winners and to read their essays, click here.

The Live Deliberately Essay Contest is guided by the talented members of the Essay Contest Advisory Board:

  • Sam Corron, Walden Woods Project's Social Media and Communications Coordinator
  • Lindsay Dent, high school English teacher in Georgia and Approaching Walden Alum
  • Susan Licher, Walden Woods Project's Education Programs Assistant
  • Jessica Moore Kaplan, Boston-based editor and producer
  • Patricia Smith, high school English teacher in Virginia and Approaching Walden Alum

Additionally, our contest is made possible by a number of thoughtful volunteer Guest Readers during each review cycle.  To learn more about the roles of both the Advisory Board and the Guest Readers, download the Live Deliberately Essay Contest Volunteer Opportunities (PDF).

It may be the best deal in real estate: $100 for a three-bedroom home in the Historic District of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. With 9-foot ceilings, window seats, a white picket fence and "beautiful natural woodwork throughout," it sounds like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

The only catch: You have to win an essay contest that will cost you $100 to enter.

When Matthew Brownfield's job as a software programmer was outsourced to the Philippines early in 2009, he had to look for work elsewhere and wound up moving to Virginia. Though he and his family had only lived in the house for half a year, he had no choice but to put it on the market just as real estate prices were taking a nosedive. After five months and few showings, Brownfield rented the home.

When the renters moved early this year, Brownfield put the home back on the market but the result has been the same. So he and his wife Rachele realized they would have to get "creative and look up unconventional ways" to sell the house. Brownfield tells ABC News that "we wanted to do something that would hopefully help our family that was affected by the economy and help another family as well."

They came up with the idea of the essay contest and Brownfield's own experience inspired the questions for it:

• How has the Economic Downturn affected you and your family? • Why would receiving this house help your situation more than others?

Submitting an essay costs $100. If Brownfield gets 1,000 entries, the lucky winner, to be decided by him and his wife, will get the nearly 100-year-old home as a prize on June 15. Brownfield describes it as "beautiful, updated, in great shape and ready to be lived in."

If the contest does not attract that number of hopeful essayists, then the winner will get half of the money that is raised and the Brownfields would put the other half toward their mortgage.

Brownfield owes $88,000 on the Cedar Rapids house and he wants to pay his realtor's commission and some taxes in addition. So while more than 1,000 entries would of course be helpful, that number is designed to meet his "main goal" which "was to help our family get out from under the mortgage and then help another family. I saw how [the economy] affected us and I thought 'how can I turn this into a positive?'"

He has a long way to go. He has yet to get a single entry. But he is hopeful, telling ABC News: "I think there is a thousand people in America that have been so affected by the economy that they would take a shot at paying $100 entry fee where the potential is there that they could win a home."

For those who might consider Cedar Rapids a little too remote, Brownfield paints an appealing portrait. The house "has this gentleness to it, with flowing fields of grain not far away."

(In addition to the website hosting the contest, Brownfield also has a Facebook page devoted to it.)

  • A family is getting creative to help sell their Iowa home through an essay contest.

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