Competitions are a great way to develop your child’s creative thinking and writing skills. They usually have a theme and a word limit and these help to focus a child’s writing in terms of a style or genre, its creativity around an idea and also gets them used to accepting a brief and planning a story around a maximum number of words. All tricky stuff but the type of assignments they should expect regularly as they progress through their school years and into work.
Here are details of current children’s creative writing competitions:
This creative writing competition is one of the largest free-to-enter writing competitions for children in the UK and is open to children aged five to fourteen years whether they are confident in writing or have been a little hesitant to write in the past. The theme this year is ‘Old and New’ and the story will be judged on its overall creativity, characterisation and descriptive language. The maximum word limit is five hundred words. Entrants can submit their entries by email, post or at their local Explore Learning Centre.
The competition opens for entries on 16th April 2012 and the closing date is 11th June 2012. The prize is a trip for the winner and their family to Disneyland Paris and £500 worth of books for their school.
This year’s event welcomes best-selling children’s author Andrew Cope to the judging panel. Andrew is probably best known for his award winning children’s books, the ‘Spy Dog’ series which were inspired by his own dog. He has also written a series of self-help books, The Art of Being Brilliant and Being Brilliant for adults and A Brilliant Life and The Game of Life for teenagers, the UK’s first positive psychology books for this age group. So, as a children’s writer, a qualified teacher and learning junkie, Andrew is well positioned to find the best young writers in the UK.
Interview with Andrew Cope – judge for this year’s Explore Learning National Young Writer’s Award
I have been lucky enough to catch up with Andrew, albeit via the medium of email, to talk about his involvement in this year’s Explore Learning National Young Writers’ Award.
Babbleabout: What has prompted you to become a judge on this year’s Explore Learning National Young Writer’s Award?
Andrew Cope: When I do school visits I always try and set the kids a writing challenge. I never cease to be amazed at their creativity and enthusiasm. So judging something at national level is thrilling! I’m looking forward to being amazed!
Babbleabout: Did you start your writing at a young age? For example, my daughter loves designing and writing her own made-up magazines. What sort of early writing projects did you do?
Andrew Cope: I describe myself as an ‘accidental author’. I never set out to be a writer. I just had a mad idea about my pet dog being a bit like James Bond and, hey presto, ‘Spy Dog’ was born. All of a sudden I was an author, at age 37 and a bit. It’s great fun. There are now 15 books in the series, plus I’m busy writing ‘Raccoon Rampage’ for Harper Collins, plus a few books for adults. So, I was a slow starter but now there’s no stopping me!
I quite like producing short e-books with positive messages. Check this one out if you want to upgrade or change your thinking.
Babbleabout: What advice would you like to give to young people starting out on their own writing journeys?
Andrew Cope: I always give the same 3 pieces of advice. 1. Read. 2. Read. 3. And read. Just half an hour a day. That’s all it takes. Gets your vocab up to speed and exercises your creative muscles.
Babbleabout: So, your Spy Dog series was inspired by your own dog. How does your dog stop her cover from being blown and what spying missions has she been on recently? Or are you not allowed to say?
Andrew Cope: The ‘Spy Dog’ books are indeed inspired by my own pet dog, Lara. The dog in the book is a cool, super-sophisticated secret agent who goes on dangerous missions and saves the world. The real Lara is an RSPCA mongrel with no intelligence, talent or tricks. But with a little imagination, anything’s possible!
She has 2 missions on the go at the mo. ‘Spy Dog Rollercoaster’ comes out in June. Top secret (obviously!) but think evil baddie meets Alton Towers and you’re not far off. And then in July, ‘Spy Pups Training School’ sees Lara and the puppies on their first foreign adventure. New York City beckons.
Babbleabout: What were your favourite children’s books when you were a child? Did you have a favourite author you always sought out in your local bookshop or library?
Andrew Cope: The best book in the world ever is ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’. It’s got everything…action, humour, great characters, chocolate, oompa loopas, songs and the best line ever written; ‘Violet, you’re turning violet, Violet.’ I love all the Roald Dahl stuff but Charlie is the best.
Babbleabout: Do you have any favourite contemporary children’s writers?
Andrew Cope: There are so many superb children’s writers out there at the mo. I particularly like Andy Stanton’s ‘Mr Gum’ series. Funniest books in the world! I also like Kes Gray’s ‘Nellie the Monster Sitter’ books. And, for older readers, I marvel at the Harry Potter series and I also like Suzanne Collins’ blockbuster, ‘Hunger Games’.
Babbleabout: Do you have a favourite place to do your writing? For example, Roald Dahl famously had his writing shed at the bottom of his garden.
Andrew Cope: In my early writing days I could only write at night, in my office (converted back bedroom) with the same CD droning on and on. Recently I’ve become a bit more flexible and tend to take my laptop everywhere. That way, if I’m feeling inspired I can open it up and tap away. I’ve just come back from a family hols in Morocco and managed to do a few chapters while lounging around the appartment.
Your mission, for this competition, is to write the first chapter of your first fictional day as an intern – the location is your choice and it is up to you whether you write about a good or bad experience.
Where would be your dream or nightmare place to have work experience? Who would be your ideal or most horrific manager to intern with? Whether it’s working at Hogwarts or MTV, travelling the world assisting your favourite book character or going on tour with your favourite football team, we’re looking for the most creative, exciting and wackiest fictional stories inspired by Dillon Khan’s The Intern! The competition is open to UK residents only, aged 13-18 years.
The winning entry will be chosen by Dillon Khan and will receive a signed copy of the book ‘The Intern’, iTunes vouchers and have their work published on the homepage of the Spinebreakers and The Intern website. Five runners up will also receive a signed copy of the book. The closing date is 27th April 2012 so you need to hurry!
247tales.com is the online writing competition from Bloomsbury that challenges young writers to create stories using only 247 words or less. It is a monthly competition and so each month a different Bloomsbury author will pen a 247tale on a given topic. It is then over to budding UK writers aged between 10 and 16 to create their own miniature masterpiece.
One winner will be chosen each month and they will have their 247tale featured on the website as well as winning a selection of books and a framed copy of their story. Ten runners-up will get a signed copy of the latest book from that month’s featured author and their story will appear in the 247Library section of the website.
Authors taking part include Anne Cassidy, Jim Eldridge, Sarah Crossan, A.F. Harrold, Laura Powell and Sue Limb. Visit www.247tales.com for more information.
Developing Literacy and Creative Writing Through Storymaking – Story Strands for 7-12 Year Olds by Steve Bowkett, published by the Open University Press
This is an excellent resource for teachers and parents looking for usable activities to help children develop their literacy skills and creative writing abilities. The premise of the book is the use of ‘story strands’ - a technique which begins with one simple picture and then adds others to it to form a sequence. The ‘story strands’ and use of images help developing writers to form ideas and then organise those ideas without compromising creativity. The book is very helpfully divided into 4 main sections – Section 1 Getting Started, including brainstorming and association webs, sentence building, things happen for a reason; Section 2 Building Narrative, including prediction strips, connectives, proverbs and similies, cliffhangers, the narrative template; Section 3 Enriching the Story, including parallel story, story board games, sequels, settings, comic cuts, character creation; and Section 4 Story Grids, including zig zag story game, grids and basic narrative elements, making grids, story strings. Even more helpfully there are 11 story grids (sets of images) included at the back of the book and there is a supporting companion website that includes downloadable images from the book, colour images, worked examples for the ‘story string idea’, additional activities and games, as well as links to the National Curriculum. Age 6+