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Kartchner Caverns Writing Contest

Spring 2021 Submissions are now open! The Spring Writing Contest will close on May 1, 2021. 

Sharpen your pencils, underground explorers! Kartchner Caverns wants to hear YOUR story, from the stalagmites to the stalactites!

The dark silence and dripping formations of caves have captured the imaginations of writers, poets, and even scientists throughout the centuries. Finding its way into many stories and folktales, the cave has served as a place of mystery, fear, wonder, or refuge for any character who dared venture inside. Now, the legacy of caves in literature continues with you.

Write a short story or poem in which a cave(s) plays a prominent role in the work. The nature of the role is up to the author, but its prominence must be obvious. If the surface setting of Kartchner Caverns State Park inspires you more, then you are welcome to have our desert grassland habitat play the prominent role instead.


  • There are a few things to keep in mind when writing and submitting your work:
  • Any genre is welcome EXCEPT for historical fiction based on the discovery story. That story has already been written, and no fictional representation of any of the people involved will be published without their permission.
  • One entry per author (i.e. either one poem or one story, not one of each)
  • Serious themes or ideas may be explored, but entries must remain family friendly (i.e. PG). Any entry not deemed suitable to showcase in our Discovery Center will not be considered.

After You’ve Submitted:

  • A panel of rangers and volunteers will read all the entries and are responsible for deciding the winners of the contest.
  • The number of winners will also be decided by the panel based on factors such as number and variety of entries.
  • Winners will receive three cave tour tickets and have their work showcased both online and as a physical copy in our Discovery Center!


Please direct questions, comments, or concerns to our contact ranger:

Ranger Zia
(520) 586-4117


Fall 2020 Winners

Poetry Winners

How Thoughts Caverns Form by Nicholas Sollitto, Asheville, N.C.

Nicholas Sollitto is a creator, writer, and biologist whose blood is accompanied by black murky water, lily reeds, and river rocks. His writing is a direct product of time spent under the watch of grand evergreens, on the swift current of back-country rivers, and conversing with the ebb and flow of isolated beaches. The work of his that is included here peels back the deciduous bark that protects his being.

Read Nicholas's poem.

Climbing by Mel Bynum, Tombstone, Ariz.

Mel Bynum is a 2004 Graduate of Kent State University, a wife, and mother to two adult sons.

Read Mel's poem.

Short Story Winners

A Paradise in A Cave by Claire Martin, Queen Creek, Ariz.

My name is Claire Martin and I am 11 years old. I wrote this story because I think it will inspire young kids to dream big and imagine. I can imagine this as a picture book with a cartoon character and a whole bunch of stalagmites and stalactites. I live in Queen Creek, AZ with my mom, dad, two sisters, and dog, I've grown up with lots of love in my household. Everybody deserves this love and can get it in their dreams.

Read Claire's story.

Sisters Under the Skin by E.C. Stever, Salmon, Idaho

Eric Stever writes Science Fiction and Fantasy, and lives along the River of No Return in Idaho. His work has been published in many speculative fiction magazines, and his first novel was nominated for Idaho's Book of the Year. He got the idea for this caving short story after a very muddy cave trip in Central Nevada where he found three different cowboy boots stuck in the mud.

Content warning: language, disturbing imagery 

Read Eric's story.