It’s Time to Get Spooky – Enter the 2023 Ghost Story Challenge

Submissions Accepted at the Goleta & Santa Ynez Valley Libraries September 1 – 30

Get an early start on Halloween and enter the Goleta and Santa Ynez Valley Libraries Ghost Story Challenge 2023! The Ghost Story Challenge began in 2018 at the Solvang Library, and now in 2023 all three libraries, Goleta Valley, Buellton and Solvang, are participating. Members of the public are invited to submit a scary or mysterious story related to the supernatural; all entries must be the original work of the submitter, with a maximum length of 500 words. The Challenge is open to all local writers in three age categories: Adult (18+), High School (9th-12th grades), or Middle School (6th-8th grades).

A panel of professionals will judge the entries, and winners will be announced on October 26th. Afterwards, submissions will be made available for the public with the permission of the authors. Adult prize categories include: Scariest, Best Plot, Most Original, Writer’s Craft, and Best Overall; Teen prize categories include the above and two additional categories, Best Dialogue and Best Setting. Prizes include horror genre books, including some signed by the judges, gift certificates and more.

Our Panel of Judges:

Stephen Graham Jones is the New York Times best-selling author of more than thirty books and several hundred short stories (plus a few graphic novels), including such modern horror classics as The Only Good Indians, My Heart is a Chainsaw and Don’t Fear the Reaper.

Gabino Iglesias is a writer, book reviewer, editor and translator whose work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, The San Francisco Chronicle and on NPR. He is the author of Zero Saints, Coyote Songs and most recently, The Devil Takes You Home.

Both Stephen Graham Jones and Gabino Iglesias are recipients of the Shirly Jackson Award and the Bram Stoker Award, among others.

Sadie Hartmann reviews horror for Scream magazine and Cemetery Dance Online, is an active voting member of the Horror Writers Association, and is editor-in-chief of her own horror fiction imprint, Dark Hart. Hartmann is the author of 101 Horror Books to Read Before You’re Murdered, released in August of 2023 from Page Street Books.

Award-winning writer and filmmaker Gary Robinson (Choctaw/Cherokee descent) has worked most of his life to create Indigenous content in dozens of Indigenous educational, informational, and documentary television projects. He is the author of sixteen books, including most recently Billy Buckhorn: Book of Spells, the first in a teen/young adult fantasy adventure series.

Shobha Rao moved to the United States from India at the age of seven. She is the author of the short story collection, An Unrestored Woman, and the novel, Girls Burn Brighter. She is the winner of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Fiction, and her story “Kavitha and Mustafa” was chosen by T.C. Boyle for inclusion in Best American Short Stories 2015.

Anne Mai Yee Jansen is a literature and ethnic studies PhD. who currently teaches writing in Cal Poly’s Ethnic Studies department. She loves a good haunting and is an avid consumer of horror, magical realism, and pretty much any “weird” fiction. Find her articles on Book Riot!

Craig Clevenger is the author of the The Contortionist’s Handbook, Dermaphoria, and most recently Mother Howl. He is also the moderator of the Goleta Valley Library’s Writers’ Workshop, which is open adults and teens who write in any genre, fiction or non-fiction. The workshop meets on the first Saturday of each month to share work, exchange feedback, offer mutual support and discuss the tools of the trade.

“The Ghost Story Challenge celebrates the craft and imagination involved in writing a story, as well as the thrill experienced for the reader. We hope the short format encourages novice writers to give it a try – and also tests the skills of the more experienced,” said Clevenger.

Submission Guidelines:

Submissions will be taken beginning September 1st. The DEADLINE is September 30th at 5:00 p.m.

Send your story in the body of an email (no attachments please) to Include in Subject line:  GHOST STORY [and “Goleta” or “Santa Ynez Valley” for student submissions]. Include in the body of your email:

  • Full Name of Author
  • Phone Number
  • Age Category: Adult (18+), High School (9th-12th grades), or Middle School (6th-8th grades)
  • Name of School if submission is part of a school assignment

Don’t forget to title your story! Entries received without full names or as a Google link cannot be accepted.

There is always so much going on at the Goleta, Buellton and Solvang Libraries. Learn more at