Live Deliberately Essay Contest

Thanks to all who entered the 2017-2018 Live Deliberately Essay Contest!  We more than doubled last year's record number of entries, with more than 2400 submissions!

Results will be announced around April 27, so please check back to read the winning essays!  Below is the prompt to which this year's contestants responded:

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?


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 is usually March 15. Each essay is reviewed by at least two readers and results are 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).