Monday, March 14, 2016

From the mouths of babes

Well not quite babes – ten to thirteen year-olds, and not exactly out of their mouths, but from their pens.
What on earth is she rambling on about now?
Glad you asked. It’s a writing competition. Not one I’ve entered (although there have been a number of these), but one I’m helping to judge. 

Thousands of children across the UK have been sitting down for however long it takes to write a story in five hundred words or less. This nationwide competition is the brainchild of the BBC’s radio 2 presenter Chris Evens, who is passionate about getting kids reading, inviting some of the most unlikely celebrities (yep, that is Benedict) to further his cause of getting kids writing. He’s certainly succeeding, with nearly half a million kids submitting stories in the past 5 years.

I'm proud to say that in my 4th year of being a first round judge, the standard of entries has risen tremendously. This time, my shortlist was anything but, with eleven stunning examples of the best of British children's writing. Obviously, I’m not allowed to say anything about the actual stories, but if you pop over to, you can listen to the top 3 stories from each age range from last year. 

Listening to these fabulous tales of a very credible dystopian future, a cheeky cockney pigeon and a swimming adventure, I’m struck by the sheer talent of these middle-grade authors. Teaching maths in British schools, as I did (or at least attempted to) for a decade and a half, led me to believe something very sad. That the majority of children these days are not interested in reading anything which isn’t on a screen of some kind, or writing anything more than 140 characters (let alone containing a vowel). But these marvellous finalists know more about putting an enjoyable, original story together than many of the authors in amazon bestseller lists. How on earth a kid of 13 (or less) gets to have that much “voice” is a salutary lesson in preconceptions. 

So, if this takes me away from my normal editing and promoting tasks for a day or two, I see it as a welcome break. And those who know me will appreciate how my spreadsheets keep track of the grades for Originality, Plot, Characterisation, Language and Enjoyment. Really was a toughie this year, but I think I'm pretty much there now. I'll be glued to the website to see if one of my darlings made it through to the final stages. Good luck, my lovelies.

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