An Updated Guide To Creative Spotlights, Y22 Edition
There have been many guides written about the Neopian Creative Spotlights, but none have been written in Y22! And as time goes on, things about the contests change. I’m here to give you a rundown of the 4 main spotlights: Art Gallery, Poetry Gallery, Storytelling Competition, and of course, the Neopian Times itself. In this guide, I’ll talk about what each spotlight is, the schedule, submission timing, themed days, and pro tips for each one.
A disclaimer: as I am simply a seasoned spotlight enter-er, please take my words with a grain of salt. I am merely compiling contest rules, my experiences and the patterns I have noticed from each contest. And as always, these patterns and schedules are subject to change per TNT—so you might notice discrepancies between this brief guide and how the contests actually run. I’m just here to give you an idea of what to expect!
Also, please note that this guide is intended to be supplemental to the rules and guidelines posted by TNT directly on each respective spotlight page. What’s published on those pages IS the law, whereas my words are not.
Why Should I Enter?
This was a question I found myself asking a few months ago. Why enter? What’s the point? Besides receiving a shiny new trophy on my userlookup (or increasing the counter on a trophy I already had), what’s in it for me?
For one thing, the prizes can be great: they range from expensive paintbrushes and high-end petpets to red codestones and cheap petpets. (One of my friends received a Kadoatie from the Poetry Gallery once, and that was ALL the motivation I needed to write my own poem for the next round. I’ve been entering the spotlights ever since!) Since the prize pool is extremely random for every entry, you aren’t guaranteed a good prize. It’s all luck based. But I will say that I have made around 9.5m in Y22 from about 15 spotlights won. That’s a pretty good average! (Note that the only time you’ll receive an item prize from the Neopian Times is for theme issues—more on those later!)
The second reason you should enter a spotlight is that it unlocks your creativity, and gets you out of your comfort zone to try new things! I personally NEVER considered myself an artist… and then I decided to try my hand at watercolour painting my Neopets and I fell in love with my new hobby. For the three Art Gallery trophies I have, I have about three times as many entries that didn’t make it in. But I don’t mind that at all, because I found joy in creating my art! The same goes with writing, whether it be for the Poetry or Storytelling Spotlights, or the Neopian Times: I love the zone I get into while writing, and I’m proud of the work that came out of it, even if it didn’t manage to win any spotlights that time.
Finally, with Flash gone, entering these spotlights can be a great way to pass your time on Neopets, reconnect with your pets and their characters/personality, and get to know a whole new group of people in the respective Art and Writing communities. Not to mention, you might make some NP while you’re doing it.
Do I have you convinced? I hope so. Let’s get into it!
What Is It?
The Art Gallery is a twice-weekly spotlight where Neopians can enter their works of art, whether they be digital (created on a computer) or traditional (created on paper and then scanned in or photographed for upload).
New Art Gallery pages are judged on Mondays and Fridays every week; however, the gallery that is judged on Monday is *typically* released on Tuesday morning. Kikocat, the TNT member who judges the Art Gallery, posts a monthly schedule with dates and the theme of each gallery over on the Art Chat neoboards—look for the board title with a light blue background that says “(Month) Art Gallery Schedule”.
My suggestion would be to submit your piece close to the judging date that a gallery is set to be released, and after the previous gallery has been judged. For instance, if you want to submit your art for a Friday gallery, wait until that week’s Monday gallery has been judged! For Monday galleries I typically submit my work on Friday or Sunday, and for Friday galleries I typically submit on Wednesday or Thursday.
Every Art Gallery has a theme, and that theme schedule is released monthly on the Art Chat board (see above Schedule section).
Many of the themes line up with Neopian holidays, for example “Lenny Day”, “Jhudora Day”, or “Valentine’s Day”.
There are a few themes unique to the Art Gallery: “Artist’s Day Off”, which is a day meant for silly art, as if all of the regular artists took the day off, and everyone is encouraged to enter. The “New Artist’s Gallery” is a day where artists that are new to art and creating are encouraged to enter. Seasoned Art Gallery participants are respectfully asked to refrain from entering for that theme day. The New Artist Gallery is a great chance for you to enter if you’ve never entered the Art Gallery before!
Finally, there are Random Days - days where there is no set theme, just a truly random selection of artwork. Many Art Gallery regulars use this day to resubmit any pieces that were not selected for a previous gallery—this makes the Random Days very competitive. Of course, this should not deter you from entering your art for these days, but don’t be discouraged if you aren’t selected!
An Art Gallery page has 12 entries, and the number of pages that any given theme day publishes can vary. If it’s a popular species day or holiday (e.g. the recent Cybunny Day and Kougra Day) there might be 2 pages of the gallery, or even 3! Less popular days will likely only have one page of submissions. This affects the level of competition for each theme day—but you’ll never know upfront how many pages there will be. My philosophy is that if I want to paint (my personal medium of choice) a scene or pet, just paint it and enter it! If it doesn’t win, I can always resubmit for a Random Day, or simply enjoy the artwork I created and the process I used to make it.
• The people on the Art Chat are incredibly helpful, especially if you’re new. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask questions on the Art Gallery schedule board, any board that is about the Art Gallery in the Art Chat neoboards, or create your own board. Someone will help!
• Likewise, there are many more in-depth guides created for the Art Gallery that are much more complete than my introductory information. You should be able to find the current guides linked on boards in the Art Chat as well, or search the Neopian Times archives for specific Art Gallery guides.
• Make sure your image follows the image submission guidelines or else the gallery judge might not be able to see it: no more than 500px in width or height, and less than 80K in size. I’d also suggest naming your file with lowercase letters ONLY, (e.g. “artgallerysubmission.jpg”) to avoid any potential weirdness with the submission system (sometimes if the image has a weird file name, the contest judge ends up not being able to see it!)
• Please note that any art that has won a trophy previously is not allowed to be submitted for the Art Gallery. An example: if you draw a portrait of your pet Blumaroo and win a trophy with it in the Beauty Contest, that portrait should NOT be entered into the Art Gallery for Blumaroo Day. When in doubt, ask for advice on the Art Chat—the regulars are well-versed in the rules.
What Is It?
The Poetry Gallery is where users can share their Poetry aptitude!
No need to follow any specific structure to make your grand debut.
You can write a limerick, rhymed poem, free verse, or haiku,
Your poetry shows the world of Neopia from YOUR point of view!
There is no published schedule for the Poetry Gallery, although the gallery seems to be updated approximately twice a week, more or less. However, sometimes Neopians on the Neopian Writers neoboards have advance notice of an upcoming gallery—you can always check the existing boards (I’d suggest checking the Just A Couple of Writers chat group first) or make your own board asking a question to see if you can get an idea of the galleries coming up!
You can also generally figure out a rough schedule by looking at the Neopian Calendar. There will almost always be a poetry gallery published for each Neopian holiday, and those galleries are generally published on the exact day of that holiday during weekdays. However, if a Pet Day falls on a weekend, the poetry gallery is usually published the following Monday.
Since there is no set Poetry Gallery schedule, it is harder to provide any insight on when is best to time your submission. For theme poems that match Neopian holidays, I would suggest submitting 1-3 days before the holiday for your best chance! If the Neopian holiday occurred on a weekend, the gallery will usually be published on the next business day after the holiday—I would say it’s best to submit on Thursday or Friday before a weekend Neopian holiday to be safe. Apply this advice as well to the days that TNT is out of the office on the day that a Neopian holiday occurs.
Similar to the Art Gallery, there will be themed galleries matching with Neopian Holidays, so refer to the Neopian calendar for the upcoming themes!
Also, if there are any Neopian Times special issues or collab issues coming out, there is sometimes a Poetry Gallery published to coordinate with those special issues. When in doubt, check the Neopian Writers neoboards!
Please note that each Poetry Gallery typically publishes 10 poems, and there are not multiple pages for the more popular pet days or Neopian holidays.
• If you’ve never written poetry before, getting started can be hard! I have to REALLY be inspired to write a poem sometimes. My personal favourite way to write poetry is to do “storytelling poetry” where my poems tell a simple story, usually in rhyming verse. Sometimes it helps me to just write my story out in separate lines, and then form those lines into more descriptive and flowy poetry, and add in the rhymes or other literary elements from there.
• Similar to the Art Gallery, there have been many more in-depth guides for the Poetry Gallery written and submitted to the Neopian Times and/or saved on petpages. Do a search through the Times archives for those, or check out the Neopian Writers neoboard to see if any guides are linked!
• Every 100 Poetry Galleries are special, and winners receive an Alstaf Poogle collectible card as well! Generally, for the 100th galleries, poems are selected from the last 99 gallery pages, and the best ones are selected (although that didn’t occur for the recent 2400th gallery—so it might have changed). In any case, it sounds like you should get to writing!
What Is It?
The Storytelling Competition is your chance to tell a short story, but only part of it. A story is written by multiple Neopians over the span of a week. Your job, should you choose to enter on any given day, is to write the next instalment—continue the story!
New stories typically start on Mondays, and conclude on Fridays. There is a new instalment to the story published each day, so in total each story has 5 instalments.
This schedule differs on weeks when TNT is out of the office. Those days will usually be announced in the News. Those weeks will generally have only 4 instalments, and the story might start on Tuesday if TNT had Monday off, or end on Thursday if TNT had Friday off.
New instalments are generally published sometime in the afternoon NST time. On days that I am interested in entering, I will keep a casual eye on the storytelling page between 12 pm-5 pm NST, checking on it every hour or so until the new instalment is published.
My best advice is to start brainstorming right after you read a new instalment to the story. If you want to write the next instalment to the story, you’ll want to submit that as soon as possible, and definitely before 9 am NST on the day that next instalment would be published.
On the rare occasion of a week with TNT out of the office for a day, there will typically only be 4 instalments to the story. However, one time I did have my instalment published only a few hours after the previous instalment was published on an out of office week, and that week there were 5 instalments to the story after all. This is why I suggest you should submit your next instalment as soon as possible—you never know what could happen!
If you want to write the first instalment of the story, last week’s editorial (issue #934) suggests that you should submit your first instalment over the weekend (my advice is after the story is completed on Friday, and before 9 am NST on Monday morning) for your best chance at being selected!
Theme Days are less important when it comes to the Storytelling Competition, because the writers on days 2-5 of a week already have their story topic pre-selected for them as they must continue the story. However, if you want to be a story starter, you might find inspiration in a Neopian holiday coming up, or a theme day related to the Neopian times (like a collab or special issue.) Following a theme is not a requirement to be a story starter, though—there are plenty of weeks when the story is totally unrelated to what else is going on in Neopia!
• Continuing a story written by others can be very hard, because everyone has their own different writing styles, and that’s okay! While you are writing, make sure to embrace the continuity of the instalments before you—I typically have one window open to write in a document, and another window next to it with the current story open to refer back to. If characters exhibit traits in the first instalment, give a callback to that trait in the next instalments. For example, if Pinky the Pink Tuskaninny is extremely shy, indicate that shyness throughout your writing. Those threads of continuity really help tie the story together and make it read more cohesively, which gives you a greater chance of being selected!
• Keep in mind the parts of a story: the set-up (exposition), the inciting incident (what started it all?), the rising action (building up to the Big Conflict), the climax (the moment of Big Conflict), the falling action (recovering from the Big Conflict, and the resolution (happy ending… or not). Every story is different, and these parts can all happen in different instalments. But every story has those parts to them in some way or another. If it would help you, go look at a past Storytelling round and see if you can identify each of these parts in the story!
• The story writer who is published on Thursdays sometimes can have the hardest job: set the Friday writer up for a great ending! The Thursday instalment should *probably* (but not always) get to the climax of the story, so that the Friday writer can tie the story up nicely. If you’re writing a Thursday instalment, imagine that the Friday writer is your best friend, and then ask yourself: how can I make their task both as easy AND as interesting as possible?
• Again, I suggest checking out past Neopian Times articles for more in-depth guides, as well as the Storytelling Competition FAQ linked on the contest page (much of that information is out of date as it was written many years ago, but it will help give you context into the competition). And as always, visit the Neopian Writers neoboards if you need help, want to ask for some feedback, or just want to chat with some fellow writers!
The Neopian Times
What Is It?
If you don’t know what the Neopian Times is… what are you doing here?!
Just kidding. The Neopian Times is Neopia’s fill-in-the-blank news source, and if you’re here, that’s what you’re reading!
There are 4 different types of work that can be published in the Neopian Times: articles (like the one you’re reading right now—hi!), short stories, series, and comics.
Note that the Neopian Times does not give out NP prizes every week. (Some special weeks you can get a NP prize, but we’re getting to that.) What you DO get is a shiny quill trophy and counter for your lookup, AND the chance to win 2 secret avatars: one if you publish in the NT 10 times, and the other if you publish in the NT during an anniversary issue that ends in 50 or 00. The next anniversary issue where you can win this avatar is coming up soon, it will be issue #950!
The Times is published just about every Friday, but sometimes Aesop, the NT editor (also a TNT member) will skip a week if there is a lot going on around the site or with preparing for an upcoming special issue. Not to worry, though; if you submitted to the times but the issue was skipped that week, Aesop will still review your submission for the next issue of the Neopian Times!
The earlier you submit to the Neopian Times for a given issue, the better! For a normal NT issue, I would suggest submitting your piece the week or weekend before an issue (right after an issue goes out). I would venture to say Tuesday or Wednesday is the absolute last day to submit something to the Times in advance of a Friday issue. (Don’t quote me on this, of course, because I’m not the editor! The sooner you submit, the better.)
For special issues (themed around Neopian holidays OR NT collab issues) you will ABSOLUTELY want to submit as early as possible. For instance, for the upcoming NT collab about The Surreal, the suggested deadline to submit is 2 weeks in advance of the issue. For the big anniversary issues (where the issue number ends in 50 or 00) you’ll want to submit 3-5 weeks out. This is because the editor receives many submissions and you’ll want to give him as much time as possible to review and edit yours!
A good portion of Neopian Times issues are standard, even if one or many Neopian Holidays or Pet Days happened during that week. It always helps your chances of getting into the NT to write about something relevant to what’s happening around Neopia. Check the Neopian calendar to see what’s coming up!
And then we have the theme issues. I’m going to break down the theme issues into two sections: NT collab issues, and special occasion theme issues. Both of these types of issues are marked with a different layout colour scheme and background image, so you know they are special!
A Neopian Times collab is a user-led initiative where many Neopians agree to submit articles, stories, and comics all centered around one theme. These themes are collected and voted upon amongst a group of Neopian Writers, and then communicated and coordinated with Aesop, the NT editor. It’s a tradition that goes back about 7 years, and continues strong to this very day! If you’re interested in the history of NT collabs, check out “A History of Neopian Times Collabs” in issue #819 of the Times.
In fact, a NT collab was how I got my start submitting to the Neopian Times. The collab issues are a great way to garner interest with new writers and artists, and get more people involved in writing for the Times. The most recent NT collab issue was #926, all about the Performing Arts (there were matching Art and Poetry galleries, as well as a Performing Arts themed Storytelling Competition that week—everyone went all out!) The next NT collab issue is scheduled for July 16th, and is all about The Surreal, however you choose to interpret it.
Special occasion theme issues are all about the big Neopian Holidays; the most recent special occasion issues were #931 for Illusen & St. Patrick’s Day and #927 for Valentine’s Day. Other special occasion issues might occur for the Altador Cup, Halloween, Neopet’s Birthday, the Day of Giving (some call it Christmas), and of course, the big anniversary issues that end in 50 or 00. (This list of special occasions is not complete, just some examples!)
Both of these categories of theme issues typically give out NP prizes that are related to the theme of the issue at hand (unlike the prize pool for the other spotlights we’ve talked about, which is a rather large pool and completely random every time). For instance, for the Valentine’s Day issue, I received a Pink Paint Brush, and for the Performing Arts issue, I received a Court Dancer Stamp!
• If you aren’t sure what to write about, start with writing about a Neopian holiday or Pet Day approaching! Those days are bound to get your creative juices flowing. Or, consider representing one of your favourite aspects of the site in a comic or short story.
• On the submission form, there is a comment box. Make sure to indicate if your piece is for any upcoming theme issues in that box, or use it for anything else that you might want the editor to know about your piece.
• Unlike the other spotlights, you are welcome to collaborate with 1 or 2 other people on your NT submissions. Include “collaboration with (username)” in the comment box. Only one of you needs to submit the piece, not both! If it’s published, both of you will receive an update to your NT trophy and item prize (if applicable). However, the trophy update for the 2nd collaborator is a manual process, so it might take a few days to take effect on your collaborator's lookup.
• If your question is selected to appear in the editorial, that will NOT count towards your NT trophy or avatar progress. Your reward is you get your question answered!
• This is another plug for the Neopian Writers neoboard—if you’ve got more questions, I bet they have answers!
And there we have it: your Y22 updated guide to the most popular Neopian Spotlights. Of course, this isn’t all of them; there are so many more! If you are interested in all of the spotlights Neopia has to offer, check out the Spotlights Page—there’s sure to be something for everyone!
If you’re left with any lingering questions after reading this guide, feel free to neomail me directly with any questions about any spotlights; I’m always happy to help. Also, I’d love to hear if this guide inspired you to enter/get published in any spotlights!
I hope this has encouraged you to get out there and get creative. Neopia would love to hear your voice!