The Results Are In!


While on summer vacation in Utah, I set up an Unconventional Writing Contest with great prizes and the chance to publish here on the hub of World Domination.

I’m happy to announce that the results are now in!

It was a fierce competition, but by the end, it was also clear who the winners should be. The multinational Supreme Court that reviewed the finalists included a professional copyeditor from Australia, a Writer’s Digest editor, a full-time blogger from the U.K., a literary agent, and my dad. Each of them spent at least an hour (some of them spent several hours) reviewing the entries.

And Here’s the Overall Winner

I’m proud to announce that the overall winner is….

Allan Bacon, whose entry was titled: “How a Married Father of Three Got Paid to Move to Paris (Without Quitting His Job): A Lesson in Becoming a Nonconformist.

Allan’s entry made everyone’s shortlist, then everyone’s “really short” (i.e. top 5) list, and was the overall choice of two of the judges. Since the others had him in the top 5 and no other entry was favored as much, I awarded the prize to Allan this morning.

Allan will receive the Grand Prize, which consists of:

  • The Complimentary Business-Class upgrade on any American Airlines flight ($500-2000+ value)
  • The AONC Unconventional Guide “Combo Pack” ($197 value)
  • A new journal from Piccadilly Journal
  • Props and respect from the universe


And now, the Runners-Up —

Second Place Winner: Adam Baker

Adam’s entry was called “7 Life Lessons My 1-Year-Old Has Taught Me While Backpacking Abroad.” Adam and his family are currently backpacking in New Zealand with his wife Courtney and their daughter Milligan. I like Adam’s story in general (and all of his writing on because he shows how it’s possible to travel with a young child.

Third Place Winner: Amber Shaw

Amber Shaw did something unconventional and wrote a poem about non-conformity. It was different from all the other entries because it was a poem, and it was different from most poems because it doesn’t suck. Well done, Amber.



The winners were chosen out of more than 150 complete entries and a few random submissions – someone who wanted to sell me something, a marriage proposal for my Australian copyeditor, and so on. In addition to the winners, the shortlist included 15 other entries – thanks to Tiara, Erin, Michele, Jonathan, Evanne, Christine, Amy, James, Tom, Patrick, Matthew, Karl, Kyeli, Rachel, Darren, and Jen for their great contributions.

At the risk of singling out a few entrants when so many others were good, the judges also liked these essays:

  • Why You Suck at Life (and How to Change that Right Now) by Tom Meitner
  • An Unconventional Guide to Saving Lives by Kyeli Smith
  • 3 and a Half Years in Pakistan by Matthew Cook
  • The World Needs You to Be Unreasonable by Jonathan Mead
  • My Life in a Box on Wheels: The Genesis of a Young, Full-time RVer by Evanne Schmarder

If you don’t see your name there, don’t worry. It just means your entry wasn’t the best fit for this contest; it doesn’t mean it wasn’t good or doesn’t belong elsewhere. In fact, it’s probably brilliant. When you win a Nobel sometime, you can thank me for passing up the rights to your entry and allowing it to be great somewhere else.

There were also a number of entries (20+) from people who did not include their name. We decided to cross that bridge if any ended up being finalists, but thankfully, it turned out to not be a problem.

I’ll make a plan to do some editing with the winners and publish their essays before the end of the year. Of course, I’m good for the other prizes as well – among other things, I owe Allan the complimentary American Airlines upgrade (or 25,000 Frequent Flyer Miles if he prefers). I owe Adam the Unconventional Guide Combo Pack and Amber the Unconventional Guide of her choice.

(After writing that sentence, I realized that all three winners have names that start with “a” – it’s not a conspiracy, really.)


Thanks so much to all of you who entered. We’ll have another contest at some point whenever I get more upgrades or miles to give away– and after my volunteer team has recovered from reading 150 essays.

Feel free to post your congratulations to the winners and other entrants.


Image by Edwin11

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  • The Global Traveller says:

    Congrats to the winners. I look forward to readying the essays and poem.

  • Tiara says:

    Hey congrats everyone! I’m looking forward to reading the essays (maybe there’s a place where they can all be compiled?).

    Also does this mean I get to post my essay on my blog now? πŸ˜‰

  • Pace says:

    Congratulations, Allan, Adam, and Amber! I can’t wait to read your stories (& poem)!

    And good show, Kyeli — you did great!

    P.S. Kyeli says she’ll post An Unconventional Guide to Saving Lives on the Freak Revolution blog on Monday, so if anyone would like to read her entry, feel free to drop by. (:

  • jskipburns says:

    nice job, folks. Chris, this was a great contest and even though I somehow did not make the top 3 or 15 I really appreciated it because it was a bit of a kick in the rear.

    I’m definitely entering the next one (with hopefully some more poignant material) and eagerly await these essays.

    skip “it only takes a spark to fire it up” burns

  • Pace says:

    @Tiara: Yup, Chris said that entrants are free to post their entries whenever if they don’t win. Looking forward to reading it! πŸ™‚

  • Christina Gremore says:

    Congratulations, everybody! The titles sound so interesting, my curiosity is piqued. I thought the winner and runners-up would be posted somewhere on the website? I was really looking forward to reading the winning composition…

  • Chris says:


    Yours was good too – I should add you to the names above. And yes, everyone is now free to do what they want with their submissions.

  • Karen says:

    I can’t wait to read the winning essay! I’ve been looking forward to this much awaited, and unusual guest post here on AONC, as well as a chance to check out some new writers.


  • Anissa Stein says:

    I look forward to reading the essays – either here or on your respective blogs. Hmm, I wonder if I had entered if I could made it as far as the others, I do have that A-name thing going for me πŸ™‚ Congrats to everyone who entered as that is a great thing in itself since I ended up not for whatever lame reason I cannot recall now.

  • Peter Mis says:

    Congrats to all the winners…and to all those living a life of non-conformity.

    Living a life of non-conformity…isn’t that the real grand prize?


  • Brett says:

    Congrats to the winners and to all who participated! I look forward to reading them.

  • Allan Bacon says:

    Chris – I’m so honored & grateful for the chance to share my message with your followers.


    Allan Bacon

  • Matthew Cook says:

    Yay for the winners! I’m stoked to read them all!!
    3 and a half years in Pakistan may be up at my site Monday.

  • Suzy says:

    It sounds a bit arrogant to hold a writing contest, announce the winners out of 150, and then imply that the winners still need a lot of editing advice from you, don’t you think?

    “I’ll make a plan to do some editing with the winners and publish their essays before the end of the year”

    Maybe you need a bit of rest?

  • jen says:

    It was very generous of you to host this contest. I wish I could read all the entries right now, especially the poem!

  • MoneyEnergy says:

    Congrats to all! 150 essays is also a lot to have to sort through! Another great nonconformist I like reading is Jacob from Early Retirement Extreme – look him up. Thanks to everyone for providing inspiration – I hope I get the chance to read all the essays somewhere on the webs!

  • Chris says:


    Sorry to hear that you felt it was arrogant. Editing is a very normal process for all writers, including me– every column I turn in to the newspaper I write for, for example, always goes through editing. It’s not a bad thing at all.

  • giulietta says:

    I look forward to reading the winning essays! Congrats to all who participated and judged. Thx for holding the contest Chris.


  • Karl Staib - Work Happy Now says:

    Congrats everyone! I tried my best and came close, but I tip my hat to the winners. Maybe I’ll place in the top three, next time.

  • Jayce says:

    It was quite an enjoyable exercise, probably for everyone included… reading, writing, editing or otherwise. And most definitely a labor of love considering it isn’t an easy process… although, I don’t know how to read, so I can only imagine.

  • Josiane says:

    Congratulations to the winners! The timing wasn’t right for me to submit something, but the fact that I’ll get to read those three essays make me feel like I’ve won something too! I’m really looking forward to it. Maybe that will inspire me to contribute next time, no matter how good or bad the timing would be!

  • Carmen says:

    Congratulations Allan, Adam and Amber! I look forward to reading the winning essays/poem.

  • Etsuko says:


    I’d like to thank Chris for holding this contest. I had never thought of entering a writing contest prior to getting to know you. Thank you for the inspiration. It made me think a lot about what it really means to be non-conforming, including whether it should be your goal or not. In my opinion it should not be your life goal, but it’s another topic. In any case, those who have entered the contest are all winners.


  • Charlotte says:

    Fantastic! Can’t wait to read the winning entries. πŸ™‚

  • Chris says:

    Congratulations guys!

    Can’t wait to read those!

  • Glen Allsopp says:

    Damn, not even a top 8 πŸ™

    Congratulations to everyone who was up there! Nice to see Adam and Jonathan on the list πŸ™‚


  • James Nicholls says:

    Allan’s post sounds great, can’t wait to read it. From the title alone it sounds like a winner. πŸ˜€

  • Jonathan Mead says:

    Thanks for the opportunity to apply Chris, it was a lot of fun.

    I think what Suzy thought was that each person that won probably already heavily edited (proofed, rewrote, etc.) their articles before submission. So they shouldn’t need any editing, being the fine articles they were to have won.

    That’s what I took.

    Congrats to all the winners!

  • Arvind Devalia says:

    From another “A”, congratulations to the 3As!

    Well done Allan, Adam and Amber – I can’t wait to read your winning essays:-)

    And thanks again Chris for your generosity and originality (non-confirmity) in running such a contest.

  • Tiara says:

    Aw thanks Chris πŸ™‚

    Here’s my article.

  • Dave says:

    Congrats to the Top 3 especially ManvsDebt

    Now don’t let this worldwide success get to your head.


  • Christine says:

    Congratulations to the winners! Awesome job!=D

  • David Turnbull says:

    Looking forward to seeing the articles published. Any idea of when they’ll be up on the site? And are they going to posted all around the same time, or spread over a few months?


  • Chadd says:

    Congratulations to all who won, and all who contributed. To take the time to write and submit takes moxy! Can’t wait to read them…


  • Patrenia says:

    Congratulations to everyone who contributed to the contest. A few of the names I do recognize and know that they are awesome writer from their own blogs. I anxiously await the posting of the winning articles as well as those that were submitted and will be posted elsewhere.

  • Penny says:

    Thanks, Chris for organizing this. It’s great.

    Also, @Jonathan and @Suzy, I think Chris is allowed to approve anything that goes on his site. Even if something really well written has been edited and proofread carefully, most publications have style guides and editors choose the headline.

    I think it’s a bit arrogant to accuse someone of being arrogant on his own blog. Especially when he’s giving away a plane ticket.

  • YULIA says:

    My congratulations to all winners! Well done! Looking forward to reading your essays!

  • Tom Meitner says:

    Hey, congratulations to the winners! This was a fun contest and I can’t wait to read the winning entries.

    And a big thank you to Chris and the judges who took the time to read my submission. I’m really honored to even be mentioned. I will be posting that article, “Why You Suck At Life”, to my blog early next week.

    Thanks again!

  • Colin Wright says:

    Congrats to all the winners! I’m looking forward to reading the winning entries (and as many of the other entrants’ work as possible)!

  • Daisiy says:

    Congrats to the winners! I hope we’ll be able to read the essays soon. Could we please get links to any (winners or honorable mentions) that are posted? thanks!

  • jen says:

    well, I don’t know how I missed reading “jen” the first time I read this and commented. Does that mean this jen as in me jen? =) or was there another jen? =) such a common name. =/ well, if it is this jen, wow. top 15. given the nature of my essay, i am really surprised. thanks, chris, judges.

    i don’t have any plans to publish the essay on my site.

    regarding the editing – the mark of a fine editor is one who makes a piece better; whose changes are so grand they’re hardly visible to the naked eye. i’m sure it won’t be any different with these pieces. editing is a gift – to writer and reader.

  • Christine McDougall says:

    Thanks for the opportunity Chris. And congrats to the winners.

    Blessings from downunder.


  • Chris says:

    Thanks, guys. Hope your weekend is going well.

    1) Timeline for posting the winners – I’m not 100% sure right now. It will happen in the next couple of months, and in the meantime I’m certainly good for the prizes. πŸ™‚

    2) Links to other submissions – yes, if anyone wants to post them here in the comments, that would be most welcomed. A few people have already done so.

    3) @Jen – yep, I believe you are the same Jen on the shortlist.

    4) As I mentioned earlier, editing is not a bad thing. Everything I write for other outlets is always somewhat altered before publication, despite my careful proofreading beforehand. I said this already, but to reiterate: the winning submissions (and many others) were great.

  • Ed Helvey says:

    Great Contest, Chris!

    Congratulations to the “Triple A” winners of the contest. I’m looking forward to reading your essays and poem when they are released. I was going to enter myself – but waylaid by too many things this time. Next time, I’ll be right in there with the rest of you literary geniuses . . . hmmm geniuses??? So, why am I going to be in there competing? Kudos to the judges for the massive effort and energy you put forth, too.

  • Christine McDougall says:

    I am not sure if I am the Christine in the shortlist of 15, but if I am and anyone is curious to read the article I submitted you can read it here.

    Titled Forever Beta, the article challenges us to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, being always in beta…

    Thanks again Chris,

    warmly, Christine

  • Jen Consalvo says:

    congrats to the winners! and to the judges for getting all of that reading & judging stuff done in a pretty remarkable time period. I, too, am looking forward to reading any and all of the essays that get posted. it was fun writing an essay and submitting it at 11:59pm, just to see if I could get it in. ok, let’s all go get a drink now and raise a glass.

  • Keely H. says:

    Thanks again for hosting this contest!

    I finally got around to posting my Unconventional Writing Contest entry on my blog. Here’s For the Reluctant Nonconformist if anyone would like to read it.

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