Montana Memory Project Holds 2nd Annual Photo Prompt Writing Contest | Brittney Uecker, Youth Services Librarian

For the second year, the Montana Memory Project is hosting its annual Photo Prompt Writing Contest. Participants will select any photo from the nearly 35,000 in the MMP collection and write a short story inspired by the image. Prizes include gift certificates to the Distinctly Montana store, subscriptions to their magazine, and passes to the Museum of Rockies and will be awarded to winners from grades 3-6, grades 7-12, and adult. The winning stories will be published in the Distinctly Montana newsletter and be highlighted on MMP social media.

The photo collection is one of my favorite parts of the MMP. These historic images from all over the state of Montana span the gamut in subject. Wildlife, architecture, landscapes, and so many colorful individuals bring to life the history of this state and inspire viewers to think beyond the captured image. That is why these photos make excellent writing prompts — they come ready-made with lots of detail yet leave plenty of room for imagination.

Here is a photo prompt exercise I often lead participants in my Teen Writers program through and that you can use to spark ideas for your own stories:

  • Select a photo that strikes you immediately, even if you aren’t sure why. That initial interest will give you a jump start.
  • In one simple sentence, write what is going on in the photo. What is this an image of?
  • Take a few minutes to absorb the micro and macro details, looking and then looking again at the photo, then describe what you see.
  • Imagine you are in the scene of the photo. Describe what each of your senses would be experiencing in this setting. Also note any memories or emotions that are evoked.
  • Go beyond the photo. Think about what is happening outside the frame, as well as before and after it was shot. Let the story of the image develop.
  • Finally, think of all the information you gathered in these mini-exercises and write a story inspired by the photo that you chose.

The submission deadline for the MMP Photo Prompt Writing Contest is March 11. Email your entry of 650 words or less to with the subject “Photo Prompt Writing Contest”. Remember, the LPL hosts two writing groups that provide an excellent opportunity to work on your story and receive feedback from other writers: Teen Writers for junior high and high school students is every Thursday at 3:30PM and Final Thursday Writers Group for adults is the last Thursday of every month at 6PM.

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