Southwest Airlines and social storytelling platform Wattpad are encouraging people to channel their wanderlust while stuck at home during the pandemic.
The pair teamed up to launch Southwest: Storytellers On The Rise, a writing contest that asks amateur authors to share fiction or nonfiction stories of kindness rooted in travel.
Kindness has been a core value for Southwest Airlines’ employees since the airline was founded 50 years ago, said Brandy King, director of external communication at Southwest.
“Traveling can be stressful, and sometimes you miss those moments of somebody helping another person with their bag, or as they deplane an aircraft,” King said. “It happens daily, and we wanted to tell those stories.”
Writers can submit their short stories to the Southwest profile on Wattpad through Feb. 28. The winner will receive a mentorship opportunity with Beth Reekles, the best-selling author behind The Kissing Booth book and film franchise, which was published on Wattpad in 2011, where it won a Watty Award for Most Popular Teen Fiction.
The winner’s story will also be featured on Southwest channels later this year.
"We're all craving a little escapism right now, and books are a great way to do that," Reekles said in a statement. "I've always loved the sense of community that Wattpad and its stories create, and look forward to working with the winner to help encourage them on their writing journey."
The writing contest expands the airline’s On the Rise platform, which supports up-and-coming creatives including musicians, filmmakers, producers and authors telling stories about kindness and travel.
Southwest launches the contest as airlines continue to take a hit during the pandemic. Southwest Airlines’ total operating revenues decreased 59.7% year-over-year to $9 billion in 2020.
Still, despite the lack of travel, people are searching for escapism. Gen Z has flocked to Wattpad for that reason during the pandemic. The online community, launched in 2006 as a digital platform for amateur writers publishing original stories and fan fiction, now has five million writers and 90 million readers. Approximately 1,500 Wattpad stories have been adapted into movies and television shows including The Kissing Booth, Light as a Feather and After We Collided.
South Korean web company Naver, which also owns online publishing platform Webtoon, purchased Wattpad for more than $600 million in January. The platform now uses an algorithm to determine a story’s popularity, engagement and whether it’s trending.
As for Wattpad, the platform will continue to shape its marketing efforts around highlighting the work of its diverse writers.
“Our marketing investment has been [around] showcasing the most talented storytellers on our platform,” said Chris Stefanyk, head of brand partnerships at Wattpad. “You'll be seeing more of our stories adapted, whether it's published books, or larger film and TV adaptations in the works.”