Hundreds of children send me lovely long illustrated letters. They often choose a different felt pen colour for every sentence, and emboss each page with a border of stickers. They ask me how many books I’ve written and how I get the ideas for my stories. They want to know about my hobbies and are particularly interested in my two pets, my beautiful grey cat Jacob and my cheeky little terrier Jackson. They say they like my books but they also nearly all tell me (proudly or shyly) that they want to be authors too. They beg me for writing tips and ask how they can get their work published.
That’s why I think this new story writing competition is such a good idea. It’s being launched on 17 March. You can find out all the details if you go to www.jacquelinewilson.co.uk, or go direct to the competition link here. The competition is for seven to 12 year olds and you can write a story about ANYTHING YOU LIKE. It doesn’t have to be a funny/sad family story like one of my books, though I hope there are lots of entries along those lines. It can be an adventure story, a fairy story, a fantasy story, a detective story, a funny story, an historical story, ANY kind of story, so long as it’s between 750 to 1000 words.
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This seems the perfect length, long enough for you to develop your characters and give them room to breathe. I think it’s very important to have fully rounded believable characters even if they’re a Little Green Man from Outer Space or a fire-breathing dragon or a fairy who lives underneath a toadstool. Give them a true personality, and add an original twist to your story. Perhaps the Little Green Man only eats green food and loves Brussel Sprout Stew and Slime Smoothies. Maybe the fire-breathing dragon is susceptible to colds and sets fire to buildings every time he sneezes. Could the fairy detest her damp woodland dwelling and long passionately for a warm dry delightful little house with every modern convenience?
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That’s the way to set up your story. Have a main character with some kind of problem or difficulty or desire and then find a way of making their dreams come true. Well, that’s if you’re trying to write a story with a happy ending. You can always write an unhappily-ever-after story if you want to!
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I wrote all different sorts of stories when I was young. I loved writing at school and I liked writing my own stories at home. I once went in for a nationwide creative writing competition rather similar to this one. One of my friends thought this a good idea and dashed off a story for the competition too.
Neither of us won – but she was sent a Highly Commended certificate. I didn’t get anything! So don’t be too disappointed if you don’t win, but if you are the lucky winner you’ll have your story properly published in one of my books.
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So hurry up and get writing because the competition closes on 6 May!
The inaugural Jacqueline Wilson children’s writing prize is run by Penguin Random House and is open for entries from children aged 7-12 years. Please see jacquelinewilson.co.uk to enter, and read the all important terms and conditions. The competition launches today (Thursday 17 March) and closes on Friday 6 May 2016.
Guardian Children’s Books (yes, that’s us!) is a competition partner and so we’ll be publishing the winning story here on the site, as well as sharing helpful videos, blog posts and other tips along the way.
As well as the winning story being published in a forthcoming book by Jacqueline Wilson and on Guardian Children’s Books, the winner will also have a chance to meet Jacqueline Wilson and receive £100 worth of books PLUS a bundle of books will also be sent to their school.
Learning how to write is an important part of the educational process for schoolchildren. If you are a parent, it is important to encourage your kids to write frequently. They should enjoy writing everything from a brief poem to a ten-page paper on a topic that interests them. One of the best ways to encourage a love of writing in your children is by finding a great writing competition for kids in your area.
These contests are often open to children of all ages, from kindergarteners to high school seniors. Of course, not all of these kids will be competing against one another, since such competitions are generally divided by age or grade level. Finding such a competition in your area may take some time, but doing so is worthwhile.
Where to Find Writing Competitions for Kids
-The first place to check is at your child’s school. Ask her teacher whether there are any sorts of contests in place. If not, you could suggest that they think about starting one. This can be a great way to encourage kids to start putting pen to paper to express their thoughts.
-Do not let your child become nervous about the thought of entering such a competition. Remind them that they are not really competing against other kids. Instead, present it as a way to share their stories or poems with the rest of the world.
-Especially with younger kids, these competitions usually involve giving a prize to everyone who enters. This way, your child can know that he will be rewarded for his effort. In many cases, these prizes can be pretty cool, so try to encourage your child to do his best and enter a piece of writing that he is really proud of.
-Even if your child’s school does not have any writing competitions going on, the local school district may. Contact someone at the district office to find out about any such opportunities. Again, if there are no ongoing contests, this could be a good chance for you to get involved in starting a writing competition for kids in your district.
-Many private organizations also run such contests. Often, these involve writing an essay on a particular topic. For example, a local environmental organization might have a contest where kids can write an essay about things that they can do to help the environment, or a local church might want pieces about their religion.
-Try to keep your eyes open so that you can find out about such opportunities. These contests usually have deadlines, so make sure that you find out about them well in advance. This will give your child enough time to write a great essay so that they do not have to submit a first draft that has not been revised and polished.
-For high school students, writing competitions can have many benefits. Not only does winning such a contest look good on a college application, but some competitions are associated with scholarships. Doing well in a writing contest could earn your child a significant amount of money that could be used to offset some of the cost of tuition when they go to college.
-Again, such scholarships are often prizes in writing contests run by local groups. For example, organizations such as the Rotary Club or the Elks often award college scholarships to local students. Ask around in your community to find out if any such groups are organizing writing competitions for this school year.
-You can also look online to find opportunities for your children to enter their writing in competitions. There are national contests that can be entered by children who live in any state in the country. All your child needs to do is submit his story or essay electronically using the contest website.
-If you have a child who is a particularly gifted or passionate writer, it might also be a good idea to encourage her to submit her work to a magazine. There are a number of magazines that specialize in publishing writing by children. You can often find out about these magazines at your local library, or by searching online.
While many of these magazines do not pay for submissions, it is still impressive for your child to be able to say that her story was published in such a magazine. This can be a very good credit to put on her resume when she is older. If she finds the right magazine, she might even be able to gain some financial reward for her writing.
As you can see, there are many great opportunities for your child to enter a writing competition for kids. No matter how young or old your child may be, you need to encourage his love of writing. This is a skill that will really open a lot of doors in the future.