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The Year Without a Summer: 4-H Projects in a Pandemic

flyer for writing contest
March 1, 2021

The Year Without a Summer: 4-H Projects in a Pandemic


In 1816, the Northern Hemisphere experienced a year where summer never really came. From China to Canada it got cold; the ground froze in June and the crops never came in. Life was strange and hard and scary for millions of people — but even from the worst times comes beauty. The color of the air from volcanic ash made blazing sunsets that inspired painters; the lack of oats for horses led to the invention of the bicycle. And the ensuing bad weather made a group of poets and writers stay inside to write ghost stories — which resulted in both Frankenstein and Dracula


In 2020, many of us too saw a year where summer didn’t seem like summer. No horse shows, no club meetings, no 4-H Fairs; like our ancestors, we too stayed home. And also like our ancestors, we too looked for ways to occupy ourselves; we taught our dogs new tricks, we learned to sew masks for our community, we attended virtual symposiums and classes. We worked on our projects — individually but never alone — and wrote our records to show off what we’d done to the 4-H community we love. 


And now that an equally strange fall and winter have arrived, it’s time to share. “The Year Without a Summer: 4-H Projects in a Pandemic” is Massachusetts 4-H’s first literary magazine. An outgrowth of Mass4-H’s Spinning Stories pilot program, we want to hear about how you and your project have spent the season. We are looking for poetry (no more than 50 lines), short stories (no more than 1000 words), and artwork that tells a story about this summer from your project’s perspective. 


Submissions are open to all Massachusetts 4-Hers, Cloverbuds to Seniors. All submissions will be published, but a winner will be selected from the below categories to introduce their section and have their pieces read by a 4-H storyteller. Everyone who submits will receive a copy of the printed journal, with extras available to purchase! 


The deadline is March 1st. If you’d like feedback on your piece before final submission, please get it to us by February 1st. Winners will be announced at the 2021 State Visual Presentations!


Categories – all open to Cloverbud, Junior, Senior



Poetry — No more than 50 lines.

Short Story — No more than 1000 words.

Artwork: (should tell a story about this summer from your project’s perspective)


Any Other Medium


Questions? Want to submit early? Email us at

Youth Development and 4-H