Introducing the Unconventional Writing Contest (Your Chance to Write for AONC)


It’s here by popular demand! Today I’m opening a new writing contest to feature the unconventional ideas of other great people from our community.

The winning entries will be published on the site for all to see, and naturally I’ve got some (other) great prizes as well. Here are all the details.

The Background

People ask me every week about writing a guest post for AONC. I’ve never said yes, mostly because I want to be careful about managing the workload. Most bloggers I know who regularly work with guest writers say that editing the guest posts takes as much time as writing their own posts.

I have enough writing projects right now to know that I can’t become an editor, and I also don’t want to get into the messy (but necessary) role of saying yes to a few people and no to a lot of other people.

Therefore, I still won’t offer traditional guest posts here, but my hope is that the writing contest will allow a few more voices to be heard without my taking on a new job as editor.

How It Works

You write a short essay of 500-1200 words describing an unconventional life topic of your choice. A panel of anonymous judges (I’m calling them the Supreme Court) will review the entries and select a short list of finalists for my review. I’ll choose the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners. The winning essays will be posted on the site for all to see, and there will also be some great prizes.


Remember, this is an unconventional writing contest and the site is called the Art of Nonconformity – so you don’t really need a lot of instruction. Do what you want; just make it excellent.

However, if you’re stuck, think about these principles:

*Essays should be helpful in nature and seek to explore provocative issues. Don’t be boring.

*How have you or someone you know successfully challenged authority or overcome adversity?

*How can other people make unconventional choices? How can people overcome the fear of change?

*Highly practical, interesting lifestyle design content is also welcome.

(Again, those are guidelines, not rules. The Supreme Court will award the short list designation to the best possible essays based on content and original ideas. )

The Deadline

You have until Saturday, July 11th July 18 to submit your entry. Don’t wait too long!

How to Submit

Include your essay in the body of the email (not as an attachment!) and include the following info at the top:

1. Your Name
2. The Title of the Essay
3. Your Web Site (if you have one)
4. A Two-Sentence Biography

Send the info to this email address (the address is really long – blame Google).

Alternatively, if you already use Google Docs, you can also upload the file to your own account and then share it with Either way works just fine.

The Exposure

I’ve never had a guest post here, so the winning contest entries will be the first ones published here in our 16-month history. The site is currently ranked in the top 10,000 blogs by Technorati and slowly inching towards the next 5k benchmark. For the past three months there have been more than one million pageviews each month.

After it’s posted, the winning essay will go into the AONC archives for all of eternity the foreseeable future. The posts will include a link back to the writer’s site, and I’ll also promote them through Twitter, LinkedIn, on billboards throughout each major city in North America, etc.*

*The billboards may not happen, but everything else will.

The Big Prize

I know that people would submit entries without a prize, but I also think that a great contest needs a great prize. Therefore I decided to “go big” and give away something that will have a real impact.


Grand Prize Winner: Complimentary Business-Class upgrade on any American Airlines flight.

If you’re going to fly on a U.S. airline, you might as well do so at the front of the plane. This upgrade is valid on any long-haul flight in the AA network, and can also be applied to domestic connections that get you to the hub where the long-haul flight originates from.

If you’re traveling between the U.S. and Europe, the U.S. and South America, or the U.S. and Asia (Tokyo and New Delhi) in either direction over the next year, this upgrade will help you arrive in style. Lounge access in any OneWorld airline lounge is also included, so you can hang out, drink free cocktails, and watch the planes go by in a quiet place before your flight.

Depending on how you use the upgrade, it’s worth anywhere from $500-2,000. I’ll also provide free travel optimizing services to the winner. [Click here to read more about AA’s Business Class.]

(Alternative prize: If the winner has no current plans to travel, I’ll give them 25,000 Frequent Flyer Miles on American, Air Canada, Delta, or United, which they can use for a round-trip domestic ticket anytime in the next two years. If the winner lives outside of the U.S. or Canada, no problem – we can use the miles to book a codeshare flight on British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, or almost any major airline.)

The Grand Prize Winner will also receive:

The “I Want it All” combo pack that contains the complete versions of all the Unconventional Guides. This currently sells for $197.

The Combo Pack includes Working for Yourself, Art and Money, Travel Ninja, and Discount Airfare.



A new journal from Piccadilly Journal. This moleskine-alternative is what I’ve been using recently. It’s better than moleskine and half the price, which makes my life easier since I’m paying for the prizes.

I do most of my writing with pen and paper before transferring it to a computer. Even if you don’t operate the same way, these notebooks are fun for journaling, to-do lists, or looking cool in the coffee shop.

Props and respect from the universe. You’ll get the table by the window wherever you go, and the only tradeoff will be all the autograph seekers. (Value: Immeasurable. You’ll be famous! Sort of.)


Second Prize Winner: *The “I Want it All” combo pack that contains the complete versions of all the Unconventional Guides.

Third Prize Winner: A free copy of the complete version of any one Unconventional Guide (winner’s choice).

The Fine Print

1. Your essay must be completely original. This means it can not have been published elsewhere, including on your blog.

2. If your essay is selected as one of the winners, you grant AONC non-exclusive rights to publish it. All winning essays will be edited prior to publication.

3. If your essay is not chosen as one of the winners, the rights will return to you and you can post it on your blog or send it somewhere else.

4. Winners are responsible for any taxes associated with a prize.

5. A note to American Airlines employees – I verified my ability to offer the Grand Prize upgrade as a gift for the winner through the Executive Platinum desk earlier this week. The upgrade can not be transferred further. If you have any questions, please contact me at the phone number listed in my profile.


My goal with the contest is to add quality ideas and content to the site by promoting original voices. I’m looking forward to what some of you have to say!

Oh, one more thing – if you have any questions, please post them in the comments section here. To be fair to everyone else, I probably shouldn’t offer specific feedback by email. For the same reason, I won’t review entries prior to submission. Just make it excellent and you’ll stand out.

What do you think — are you in?


‘Letter Writer’ Image by RitaB

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  • Jennifer says:

    Excellent contest idea! (…and now I’m off to write an essay with more originality than this little comment has.)

  • Sean says:

    Very exciting contest! Hope Park City is treating you well. Although, I have heard the snow isn’t the best this time of year, too bad.

    And congratulations on hitting a million page views a month!

  • Shannon says:

    I’m as excited to submit something as I am to read the winning entries. So. much. fun.

  • Chris says:

    Glad you guys are excited – I’m really looking forward to reading some excellent essays by the finalists.


    Park City is fun, although you’re right – there’s not really any snow this time of year.

  • Giulietta says:

    Thanks for this contest Chris! Sounds fun …

    Inspirational Rebel

  • Colin Wright says:

    I’m not big on contests, but I think this is one I can justify entering!

    Also: I just saw a Piccadilly Journal for the first time the other day and was floored by the quality (and Moleskine-esque-ness) of it. Glad to know there is a cheaper alternative, though I wish they took greater strides toward being eco-friendly (though I suppose that would have upped the price a bit).

  • Sean says:

    Great idea! This is just the kind of direction/inspiration that I need to encourage me to write.

    I’m off to my writer’s grotto for inspirational rumination….

  • Sheila says:

    Hey, Chris–if the third place winner already had the basic version of one of your Guides, would you be willing to offer the upgraded version as a prize? Just checking.

    *ponders ideas for essay*

  • Denese bottrell says:

    love it, chris. will pass on to a select group of writer friends (not the really good ones, i want to win:)

  • heidi2524 says:

    Thank you for having this contest and for the fabulous prizes. My potential trip to Australia would be a lot more enjoyable from business class. 🙂

  • Carolyn says:

    Hi Chris,
    What an incredible contest! You are seriously detail oriented — it’s amazing! I can’t wait to read the Unconventional Essays on here. It’s going to be great.
    Best wishes and Good Luck to the Unconventional Writers!

  • Ron Rogers says:

    “How can people overcome the fear of change?” This question that reflects one of your principles is thought-provoking. With so many readers and therefore, so many entries, my chances of “winning” are slim. Having stated that, I thank you for this question. Questions drive thinking and this one put mine in “overdrive.”

    Now that my mind is driving, let’s see where the journey takes me.

  • Jane says:

    Interesting idea. Though I hate your timing. With everything I have to write at the moment I’m not sure I’d meet the deadline. Will see. If not, I hope you’ll get a lot of interesting entries.

  • Carl Nelson says:

    I’m definitely off to do some research on how I can contribute.

    Great opportunity and one I’ll spread around.

  • I’m a big dreamer so I love big prizes! I’m in! 🙂



  • Chris says:


    I definitely want the prizes to be useful, so in that event we’d figure something out that benefits each winner.


    Don’t worry about the number of entries. I honestly don’t know how many there will be, and the best ones will rise to the top regardless of the number.

  • Jeffrey says:

    Whenever I go to Sundance to write I always head over to Heber City and that wild wild west little strip mall. The Snake Creek Grill there is one of my favorite restaurants. If you need a break from Park City, the food is amazing.

  • Tyler says:

    I know you don’t want something that we’ve already posted before on our site. Can you clarify? Is it just that you don’t want us to copy verbatim something we’ve already written? Can we write on a topic we’ve addressed before?

  • Vincent says:

    Hi Chris,
    I am very excited about this fantastic idea.
    I already began writing and found a fabulous title.
    it encourage me to write more and more again and to set up my new personal blog ( I had some in the last years, but suppressed all of them ).
    I will need some help as English is not my mother tongue.
    Anyone ready to help me ?
    Thanks in advance

  • How strict is the 500-1200 word limit?
    I’ve been wanting to write about something for a long time, and although I’ll try, I’m not sure if it could fit under 1200 words.

    Thanks. 🙂

  • Chris says:


    It should be completely original, meaning something that you write specifically for this contest. If you’ve written on the topic before, that’s fine, but the specific essay needs to be new or previously unpublished.


    The word limit is intended to be a guideline, not a strict rule. Do what makes the most sense to you.

  • Carolyn says:

    If you need any extra justices for the Supreme Court — let me know! Or I could always be a clerk!

  • Wyman says:


    What a great idea. I will turn on my creative juices.

    Maybe you could create a digital download of all the essays for a small price to be donated to a worthy charity of your choosing.

  • Oh, I am so there… won’t say more now because I’m running away to start thinking of unconventional ideas. 😉

  • David Cain says:

    Very excited about this! Great idea.

  • Pace says:

    Sounds like fun! Kyeli and I will definitely submit something very unconventional. (:

  • D'Anne Whittington says:

    Hey Chris,

    Editing is one of my strengths – would love to help you out some time! Let me know if I can be of service.

    Just discovered your site today – love it! Thanks! I’ve got lots to catch up on here – lots of reading to do.

    A new fan!

  • Kim Wood says:

    Seeing as how I registered the domain a few days ago, I feel duty bound to enter 😉

  • dreamin2u says:

    Glad to hear that we can mention things we’ve written about before, as long as they aren’t the main focus. Not being able to mention strip twister, or whipped cream as a clothing alternative might really have cramped my style. We all hate charley-horses and style cramping too!! Hope I get inspired to write something worthy of your site, regardless of whether it’s a prize winner or not.

  • Roshanna says:

    Love the way you set it up, love the concept, love the wins offerred, it’s original, user friendly, heartfelt, expansive…and different! Yay!!

  • Great Chris, I’m in! I love a challenge like this. It’s a big world and I intend to explore it!

  • Deyonce says:

    You’re on champ. May we all become unconventional conventionists with killer essays causing all night sessions for your supreme court!

  • Look forward to the contest. My friend told me about your site. Not much of a traveler, but I write every day, scratch black ink on white paper (cheap essay type journals), and then if I like what I wrote it goes into computer for editing. Wake early every day before dawn and write until I find my own mind on whatever is of interest. Look forward to reading more of your writings.

  • Alex says:

    How long will the Supreme Court deliberations last and when will you post the results?

  • Chris,
    Thanks for this opportunity. Now all I need to do is narrow down one of the many unconventional topics I want to write about.

  • Chris says:


    As to how long the deliberations will take, I’m not sure – probably a couple of weeks after the deadline. I’ll try to keep everyone posted with more info as the time gets closer.

  • Tim Brownson says:

    People edit guest posts? I just slap them up there and say “it wasn’t my fault”

  • LOVE this. I will get going right away…

  • Mark essel says:

    I’ll see if I can rewrite my earlier submission (the topic) into something original. Woud like to participate but time is limited for the next few weeks.

  • Chris,
    I’m IN! Sitting here with Cody and Dwight in Bangkok and we were chatting about how great your eBook design was and this contest came up. Props.

  • Hi Chris,

    It’s been two weeks since I read your Manifesto and let’s say you got me hooked.
    Now that you open the door to actually share some cool stuff with all the readers I better get my stuff together and write.

    Life is a short journey – we may as well travel business class all the way

    Montreal, Canada

  • Tiara says:

    Question! I’m hoping to embed videos and photos into my essay. How should I put them in the original document (I’m doing it in Google docs atm) – URLs or embed code? I know you can include images (would you want the source URL too for those?) but videos can get a bit tricky.

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