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Service Spotlight: Quills and Keyboard

Meet Nikhita Thakuria, one of our newest Smile Project Ambassadors and the founder of Quills and Keyboard, a Pittsburgh-based organization dedicated to supporting teen writers. Quills and Keyboard is hosting their annual writing contest for teens (accepting submissions globally). Learn more about Nikhita and see how you can submit your work in this week’s Service Spotlight.

Liz: Let’s start in traditional Smile Project fashion. Give me a Happiness is!

Nikhita: Happiness is learning about yourself as a person and growing both in personality and ability through writing.

Liz: Tell me about Quills and Keyboard.

Nikhita: My project was originally to create a website to publish fellow teen authors. We have grown into a small organization with an annual writing contest while maintaining the initial website. Those who submit to us will not only get the chance to be published in various teen magazines such as Under the Madness Magazine and Skipping Stones but will also receive feedback about their writing. Additionally, we award certificates to the winners in each of our fifteen writing categories based on a tier: Gold, Silver, and Bronze.

Liz: What’s the driving force behind what you do?

Nikhita: The driving force behind what I do is to ensure that every teen gets the chance to grow as a writer regardless of their background. This is important because writing can provide those with less means with the opportunity to stand out and prosper academically. This, in the long-term, can open doors for future job opportunities. Writing is also very therapeutic as it can show individual sides of themselves they would not normally see and provide them an outlet. This is important as many teens struggle with issues like mental health and this particular age range is one where they are especially vulnerable with trying to find themselves. I know that I am.

Liz: How can people submit to the writing contest or get involved in other ways?

Nikhita: People can get involved by submitting to any of our fifteen categories: Poetry, Sci-fi, Fantasy, Short Story, Personal Essay and Memoir, Novel, Journalism, Humor, Flash Fiction, Dramatic Script, Critical Essay, Horror, Philosophy, Speeches, and Classic Literary Adaptations. Here is the form to submit:

We appreciate anyone who helps spread the word of our contest, even if you don’t submit. For further information, please see our website: or follow us on Instagram at

Liz: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Nikhita: Additionally, we have also been acknowledged by numerous writing nonprofits such as Polyphonic Lit and GrubStreet. We have even been able to present at the Teen Author Boot Camps annual event.

Liz: Do you have a favorite quote you’d like to share?

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all."

– Helen Keller


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