500 Words

Having just got over the fantastic but hectic week that was World Book Day Week, I was taking a couple of days just to catch up on admin and general boring stuff. So imagine my delight when I opened up an email from the 500 Words Competition telling me I’d been selected as a judge.

For those of you who don’t know, for the last few years Chris Evans who hosts the Radio 2 Breakfast Show has run a competition specifically for young writers. The remit is to write a short story of no more than 500 words on any topic. There are two age categories, 5-9 year olds and 10-13 year olds.

Although I’m more of 6Music girl myself, I think that encouraging children to write from a young age is a brilliant thing to do. Children’s imagination has not been subdued by the day to day hum-drum of life that can affect grown ups. Plus they still have an enthusiasm, exuberance and joy for life that can really feed into a good story line. The competition has been growing in strength from year to year. Many schools now use it as a base for literacy activities. Never has there been a clearer ‘writing for a purpose’ activity. One local school has even sent in entries from EVERY pupil. So in just one school 250 children have been inspired to write a story for a National Competition. Whether they win or not, those pupils will remember that forever and it may just inspire the next Julia Donaldson, JK Rowling or Michael Rosen.

So how did I get involved? I have to thank Sue Miller from All Words Matter 
http://www.allwordsmatter.co.uk/ for encouraging me to apply as a judge. Back in January, Sue and I met up and spent a very productive hour or so talking all things books, publishing, literature and writing. Sue offers a range of services including proof reading, help with self-publishing and CV writing. Her advice is also brilliant! Following the meeting, I went on line and registered my interest for 500 Words.
They were specifically looking for retired teachers or librarians. As a former Early Years teacher with 18 years experience as well as a writer of children’s stories I hoped I would be selected. However, I wasn’t holding my breath.
Last year alone, 118,632 children entered their stories. Each judge is given a batch of 31 stories which means last year there were 3,827 judges!

I was delighted when I read that I had been selected to judge the 5-9 years old category.  And now the fun can really begin…reading the stories.

There are five categories to judge the stories on – Originality, Plot, Characterisation, Language and Enjoyment.  So far I have read stories that have impressed me with their language, have made me think, or simply made me laugh out loud with enjoyment. These children aged just 5-9 years have reminded me why I like to write.

I’m really looking forward to seeing who wins both categories. 25 judges will be randomly selected to attend the live broadcast where the winning stories are read out. Now that would be the icing on the cake and you’ll be the first to know if I’m lucky enough to be selected.

And now if you don’t mind, I’ve got some exciting, fantastic and downright splendiferous stories to read….

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