Living Deliberately Essay Contest

Date: 
March 15, 2017 - 12:00pm
Location: 
www.walden.org/education/essay-contest/

Live Deliberately Essay Contest

2016-2017 Live Deliberately Essay Contest prompt is announced!

“Let me say to you and to myself in one breath, Cultivate the tree which you have found to bear fruit in your soil. Regard not your past failures nor successes. All the past is equally a failure and a success; it is a success in as much as it offers you the present opportunity.”

—Journal, after 16 July 1850

“Old trees are our parents, and our parents’ parents, perchance. If you would learn the secrets of Nature, you must practice more humanity than others.”

—Journal, 23 October 1855

For your essay, in 750 words or fewer:

Consider the different meanings of trees, cultivation, and soil as Thoreau uses them in the passages above. What guidance does Thoreau offer us in these quotations about living a deliberate life full of humanity and meaning? How do you “cultivate the tree which you have found to bear fruit in your soil” and why is that important? Use specific examples to support your ideas.

SUBMIT YOUR ESSAY HERE, by March 15, 2017

Please read the Contest Guidelines before submitting.


Essay Contest Timeline and Information

Each year, the Live Deliberately Essay Contest invites youth ages 14-21 from around the world to respond to a selected quotation from Henry David Thoreau, reflecting on how his words and ideas are still alive and relevant in their lives and in the world. The 2016-2017 Contest will have 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 March 15, 2017. 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 Intern
  • Patricia Smith, high school English teacher in Virginia and Approaching Walden Alum
  • Laura Warren, middle school English teacher in Massachusetts 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).