Senior wins New York Times award for 2022 personal narrative contest

February 15, 2023 — by Mitchell Chen and Skyler Mao
Photo by Annie Liu
Adam Xu is one of 13 winners selected for their outstanding 100-word personal narrative.

Each year, the New York Times hosts a 100-word personal narrative contest for high school students across the world to tell a miniature memoir about a meaningful moment in their lives. Out of the 12,000 entries, senior Adam Xu’s personal narrative was one of 13 winning pieces selected as winners by the judges. 

“There were 12,000 submissions so I wasn’t expecting anything at all,” Xu said. “I actually completely forgot about it. I only found out about it when they emailed my parents, and it was definitely very exciting. The New York Times is a great publication and I was happy to be selected.”

Xu first learned about the opportunity from Creative Writing teacher Amy Keys. The 100-word narrative concept sparked  their interest, as they wanted to write something fun as well as share a humorous experience with others. However, writing the memoir was no easy task. Xu went through numerous revisions trying to get their narrative to the required word limit. They had to utilize their writing abilities to make every word concise and well thought out, while embodying their experiences in a small amount of text.

“The challenge of it was that it had to be written in fewer than 100 words,” Xu said. “I had to cut it down and make sure that it made sense. I also wanted to make sure every word was perfect.”

Xu wrote a humorous narrative of how their broken wrist, bound by a colorful cast, gave them celebrity-like recognition in first grade. The memoir demonstrates the power of writing to convey a multitude of expressions.

“The prompt was to address any experience from my life, no matter how big or small, so I decided to do something that was kind of funny,” Xu said. 

Despite the time dedicated to the piece, Xu wasn’t expecting any substantial recognition due to the vast amount of submissions. They were pleasantly surprised when the final standings came out and they were selected as a winner.

“Overall I’m just super excited about the work and it’s really awesome for it to be published in the New York Times,” Xu said. “In the future I want to write more works, especially in cross-genres like prose and poetry and submit them to various literary journals and publications.”