Rules and FAQ

(Make sure you read the contest overview first.)

Submission Rules


Genre: Any

Length: 500 words or less

Language: Written in or translated to English (if translated, word-count will apply to the original).

Content: Poems with content deemed inappropriate, racist or otherwise offensive will be disqualified. No cuss words, please. DO NOT INCLUDE YOUR NAME ANYWHERE IN THE POEM ITSELF.

Format: PDF or Word attached to submission. Label file with your name and poem title.


Genre: Any (e.g. animation, documentary, narrative, fiction, experimental)

Length: 3 minutes or less. Those running over will be disqualified.

Language: English (or with English subtitles). Extra points for captions.

Content: Films with content deemed inappropriate, racist or otherwise offensive will be disqualified. No cuss words, please.

Include: Title and credits for any information, images, audio or video clips that are not your own.

Format: Save film as “Your Name Ocean Fest entry” as file name. Upload film in mov, f4v or other common format via DropBox, Google Drive, SharePoint or other online file sharing service. You can also upload to YouTube or Vimeo and enter the URL on your submission. (Can’t access YouTube? The Digital Media Lab at the Tacoma Public Library main branch can help you!)


What: Graph, data visualization, infographic, data storytelling – we are looking for a clear, dynamic visual representation of ocean-related data. This can include pie or bar charts, scatter plots, line graphs or any other visual way of representing a series of numbers.

Data: Data can be hard data from a reputable source (e.g. number of orcas in Puget Sound every year since 1970) or self-collected from a survey (e.g. how many times your neighbors have seen orcas, how important they see them on a 1-10 scale, etc). You must cite the source. Extra points for each data set used.

Presentation: Data can be presented in one or more graphs, hand-drawn or computer-generated. Be creative and visual!

Go further: Extra points for math functions like difference, average/median/mean, prediction/probability, Overlay or compare data.

Format: Submit as: scanned pdf of a hand-drawn document; electronic file such as xls, doc, jpg; URL for online interactive visualization e.g. Microsoft Sway, Tableau Public. Label file with your name and Ocean Fest Story Contest. You must also upload your data source, either as a spreadsheet, list, screenshot or other common format.

Text: Up to 100 words per graph (apart from labels) may be included to give context or explanation to the data story.

See the Story Resources page for ideas and examples.


Is there a fee?

No. The contest is free to enter.

Can we submit as a group (e.g. for a video)?

Entries can be submitted by individuals or groups. Groups must name each member involved, as well as one contact person. Prizes must be split among group members.

Can I submit more than one entry?

Students may submit only one entry per category (one poem, film or graph set), but may submit to any or all categories in their grade division.

What else do I need to submit?

SPONSOR: All students MUST name an adult sponsor (e.g. a teacher, librarian, parent) to confirm entries are their own work. This sponsor MUST be responsive to email.

RELEASE: All participants must also upload a signed release form (available on the submission page after entries open). Please email if you need a form mailed to you.

How do I know you got my submission?

You will receive a confirmation email within a week of submitting. If no email is received, please contact All submissions will receive a Round Table pizza coupon in the mail to the address given in the form.

All finalists and winners will be notified by email before they are publically announced.

Who are the judges?

Our judges include past Tacoma poet laureates, film industry professionals and math/science/data professionals. All judging decisions are final.

What are the judges looking for?

Imagination, depth of ideas, originality, good use of voice, effective communication of ideas, a cohesive and coherent theme, engaging writing, accuracy of ocean issues/facts, adherence to competition theme, and mentioning Tacoma in some way

Plus in Poetry: Variety of literary techniques and word use, precision of words, good use of form and overall quality

And in Film: Variety of shots and angles, clean editing, use of audio to tell story, overall quality

And in Graph: Accuracy of scale, appropriate use of graph type, two sets of data (see Rules), storytelling, visual creativity, mathematical accuracy.

Other important information?

  • All entries must be the applicant’s original work and may not infringe copyright, intellectual property, legal or moral rights of others. If existing material is used for inspiration and is in the public domain, please cite the source in notes or a credit slide. Suspected or determined plagiarism will result in disqualification.
  • Rights, licenses, consents and permissions must be obtained from third parties for any copyrighted material included in the submission (e.g. quotes, audio, footage, stills).
  • Tacoma Ocean Fest reserves the right to use students’ entries for promotional purposes for itself and affiliated groups, including but not limited to websites, blogs, social media, news media, public readings/screenings and other presentations.
  • Tacoma Ocean Fest will not return submissions. Please keep a copy of your work.
  • Tacoma Ocean Fest promises to run this contest fairly and ethically.