Our world needs more healthy spaces and places. Using art, letters, stories, and poetry, tell us: how might we create healthy spaces and places for all?

The spaces and places in our lives play an important role in creating, shaping, and sustaining the quality of our health. As our locales shape us and our health, we also shape these spaces and places. Space can be understood as the physical location that can be defined by coordinates, but we also sometimes view space as an atmosphere or mental landscape, such as a “safe space.” While space often occupies a more objective location or contextual environment, ‘place’ is what gives these space[s] meaning, personality, and attachment, intersecting both cultural and personal connections to identity. Place is continuous, a hub for community building and activity, and piecing communal identity-making. These spaces and places are sensationalized and continuously shaped as we move through the world. What role does, or could, our space- or place-health relationship look like? Can engaging with the identity of our spaces and places help us understand our health? Creativity, through mediums such as poetry, art, letters, and stories, can be used to reimagine, transform, and understand one’s attachment and meaning to a space or place. 

For example, if you were to describe your childhood house as a space, you might say it's in Jackson, Missouri. It is located on a farm in the countryside down a long, gravel road and surrounded by vast fields of corn and beans. It sits on a hill with a big yard, the yard where you ran after cats as a child in the summer and went sledding in the winter. However, if you want to describe your house with the notions of place, you might think of how it may be a multigenerational home with relatives, built from scratch over 50 years ago, and it is shaped by holidays painted with tradition. This home was vibrant, full of joy, is still where many of your loved ones spend their time, and it holds many memories you continue to cherish. 

So, what is a healthy space or place to you? From person to person, we know healthy spaces and places may have vastly different meanings. Think about the spaces or places that may contribute to defining or describing who you are as an individual, spaces or places you ‘escape’ to from reality, those where you gather to socialize, or even simply just go to be alone, places or spaces you read about in books and dream of going to, those that stimulate your brain and create a healthy learning environment, the ones that promote mental or physical wellness–like your local park or farmer’s market, where you go to relax your body or mind or gather with family and friends. It could be somewhere a majority of your time is spent or somewhere you spend time once a week or twice a month as upkeep for your health. To some, it may resemble improvement, empowerment, and growth, while to others it may mirror a loving and nurturing environment. Some individuals even find comfort in spaces or places to heal from traumatic experiences or events. It could be personal or public—in a hospital where you receive treatment, your iPad where you create, your mental realm, or your favorite restaurant where you gather to eat your traditional cuisine—all these spaces and places are vital in influencing our health and well-being. 

Using art, letters, stories, and poetry, tell us: how might we create healthy spaces and places for all? 

*In collaboration with the TRANSFORM Center at the University of Rochester’s Mt. Hope Family Center, an NICHD Funded Center to prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect offering resources to help people build resilience.


Note: At this time, submissions will only be accepted if written in English. Submissions should not have been previously published and should be properly formatted with little to no grammatical errors. Submissions will be accepted via Submittable. Please do not include any identifying information in your uploaded file.

If you have questions about this contest, how your submission will be judged, or if your submission answers the open call question, please visit our website or contact us via email at info@light4ph.org. Disclaimer: Entries not related to creating healthy spaces and place will be disqualified.

*** Artificial Intelligence (AI) Guidelines: Although AI represents a new and powerful tool, at LIGHT, we strive to maintain a magazine rooted in community and personal narratives. In other words, AI can be used as a tool, but it should not be the primary creator of your submission.

Entries into the LIGHT open call that utilize AI must:

1) not exceed 10% utilization as determined by AI detection software

2) credit and make explicit the use of AI in the submission

Authors of submissions that utilize AI and fail to meet both requirements will be notified, and their submission will be withdrawn from consideration. Please review this blog post for more information regarding our AI guidelines.


Before submitting to LIGHT, you will be asked to acknowledge and agree to the following:

  • I assure that the work I am submitting to LIGHT is original work, owned by myself, OR I have partial ownership of the work and am submitting the work with consent from the person or people who also have ownership of the work. I, or we (if submitting with others), take full responsibility of its veracity falling to myself or my team as authors.
  • I attest that the work I am submitting has not been previously published elsewhere (an exception is if it has been published on a personal website, blog, Spotify, etc.).
  • I give LIGHT the right to edit, duplicate, and publish my creative work in their open-access literary journal and disseminate this work for promotional reasons via any type of media to a broader audience.
  • I understand LIGHT reserves the right to revoke and remove any submission from the open call for submissions, prize winnings, and acceptance of publication that may be deemed harmful, slanderous, malicious, or AI-generated (exceeding 10%), regardless of how well created or written it is.
  • I acknowledge that I will not receive any compensation for LIGHT's use of my creative work, except that of a monetary prize if my creative work places as a top submission (see LIGHT’s open call prizes for more details).
  • I understand that I cannot make a claim as a violation against usage rights against LIGHT related to the use of my creative work. If submitting concurrently, I will withdraw my submission if it is accepted elsewhere.
  • I understand that I own all rights to my submission post-publication, and I will credit LIGHT as the original publisher if I choose to publish my creative work elsewhere.
  • If my submission is selected to be included in the LIGHT magazine, I recognize my name will be published with it.

Confidentiality Kindly note the privacy of individuals should be protected. Public health practitioners who write about individuals and communities should alter identifying details and characteristics.

$10.00

Artwork should be in response to the question: Using art, letters, stories, and poetry, tell us: how might we create healthy spaces and places for all? Artwork should be visual art and include a short narrative to briefly describe or introduce the illustration, painting, etc. Acceptable file types include: .csv, .doc, .docx, .odt, .pdf, .rtf, .txt, .wpd, .wpf, .gif, .jpg, .png, .svg, and .tif.

$10.00

Letters should be in response to the question: Using art, letters, stories, and poetry, tell us: how might we create healthy spaces and places for all? It is recommended that they are between 250 to 500 words. Letter submissions should be typed in 12-point font, Arial or Calibri, and single-spaced. Acceptable file types include: .csv, .doc, .docx, .odt, .pdf, .rtf, .txt, .wpd, and .wpf.

$10.00

Poems should be in response to the question: Using art, letters, stories, and poetry, tell us: how might we create healthy spaces and places for all?  Poetry submissions should be typed in 12-point font, Arial or Calibri, and single-spaced. Acceptable file types include: .csv, .doc, .docx, .odt, .pdf, .rtf, .txt, .wpd, and .wpf.

$10.00

Stories should be in response to the question: Using art, letters, stories, and poetry, tell us: how might we create healthy spaces and places for all?  They should be no more than 2,000 words. Story submissions should be typed in 12-point font, Arial or Calibri, and single-spaced. Acceptable file types include: .csv, .doc, .docx, .odt, .pdf, .rtf, .txt, .wpd, and .wpf.

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