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The Write Stuff

New research shows sharp drop-off in girls’ creative writing as they grow older

Barbara Taylor Bradford OBE and The Sunday Times launch writing competition to allow girls’ voices to be heard through their stories

Literary powerhouse Barbara Taylor Bradford OBE has joined forces with The Sunday Times and HarperCollins to help discover the next generation of young female writers.

The Write Stuff 2017 is a short story competition aimed at girls aged 11-16 and who live in the UK.

Barbara Taylor Bradford OBE and The Sunday Times Editorial Director Eleanor Mills are asking girls to write a short, fictional story with a central theme of ‘family’.  It should run to a maximum of 1,000 words, not including the title.   Claudia Winkleman, journalist and TV presenter, is also supporting the competition and has been named Ambassador for The Write Stuff 2017. 

The competition, now in its second year, was developed following research by National Literacy Trust in 2015 of 16,746 girls, which reveals that only one in four girls aged 14 to 16 (23%) see writing as cool, and nearly six in ten prefer watching TV to reading (59%).

The National Literacy Trust research also found that girls who enjoy writing are four times more likely to write above the level expected for their age than girls who don’t enjoy writing (30% vs. 7%). Yet, girls’ attitudes to reading and writing get worse as they grow older according to National Literacy Trust research[1].  Girls aged eight to 11 are nearly twice as likely to enjoy writing compared with girls aged 14 to 16 (72% vs. 38%). In fact, over twice as many girls aged 14 to 16 rarely or never write something that is not for school outside class compared to girls aged eight to 11 (37% vs. 15%).[1]  

International bestselling author and young women’s champion Barbara Taylor Bradford OBE is an ambassador for the National Literacy Trust.  She says: “I think it’s critical that we encourage girls to write and let their voices be heard through their stories. They need to stand up and be seen and to be part of this world.

“I also believe we have an enormous number of talented girls in the UK and think this competition is a great way to get them writing and to give them the amazing opportunity of seeing their work being published.  It made such a difference to me when my first story was published when I was ten and my future career was sealed.”

Barbara first started her professional writing career as a journalist for the Yorkshire Evening Post.  At 18, she became the paper’s first woman's editor and, at 20, moved to London and became a columnist and editor on Fleet Street.  Barbara’s energy, dynamism, curiosity and passion produce exceptional novels.  She invented the rags-to-riches family saga and introduced to the world the unforgettable heroine, Emma Harte, in A Woman of Substance, Barbara’s very first novel.  Barbara continues to prove that nothing stands in the way of hard work and ambition to succeed.  She is currently writing her 32nd novel, Secrets of Cavendon, which will be published November 2017.

Eleanor Mills, Editorial Director, The Sunday Times, adds: "We are delighted to be running this writing competition once more to encourage girls to keep their creative juices flowing and explore topics which are so important to them. We're aiming to discover the next generation of brilliant journalists and novelists. Last year's entries were beautifully written, moving and inspiring - we're looking forward to lots more in that vein this year."

Lynne Drew, Publishing Director, HarperCollins, gives some valuable advice to girls who plan to enter the competition: “Your fictional story could be inspired by your own family - including its past or your extended family - or be about a very different kind to yours. You might consider your friends your family. Families can be the source of great love, loyalty and support but also of secrets, rivalry and betrayal, as literature shows us again and again. Give your imagination free rein: what makes a family - and what will make a great story? Don't forget this must be fiction.”

 

The competition will see a selection of the best short stories produced in an ebook by HarperCollins.  The girls whose stories have been selected will also receive an exclusive story-writing masterclass with Barbara Taylor Bradford and The Sunday Times Editorial Director Eleanor Mills in November/December 2017.

The stories will be judged on:

  • Overall quality of writing;
  • Originality, imagination and creativity; sentence structure and language;
  • The writer’s ability to tell a story, capture the reader and hold their attention.

One winner and two runners-ups will be awarded in each of the following age categories: 11-13 years; 14-16 years. 

The Write Stuff judges for 2017 are:

  • Barbara Taylor Bradford OBE (joint chair)
  • Eleanor Mills, Editorial Director, The Sunday Times (joint chair)
  • Lynne Drew, Publishing Director, HarperCollins
  • Fiona Evans, National Literacy Trust

How to enter: Entrants are invited to submit a fictional story of no more than 1,000 words on the theme of “family” to magazine@sunday-times.co.uk, with “WRITE STUFF” in the subject line. Girls: please ensure you get your parent or guardian to enter the competition for you, making sure to include your name, age, contact details and the name of your school. More information about the competition along with writing tips and inspiration can be found at: http://www.barbarataylorbradford.co.uk/thewritestuff  

Timings

26 March 2017:                             The Write Stuff 2017 launch

Noon, 7 July 2017:                         Deadline for submissions

July-August 2017:                          Judging panel to review submissions 

11 October 2017:                      Announce winners on International Day of the Girl

November/December 2017:   The Write Stuff ebook published by HarperCollins

Writing Masterclass with Barbara Taylor Bradford OBE / Eleanor Mills, The Sunday Times / Lynne Drew, Publishing Director, HarperCollins

Prizes in detail:

  • Exclusive masterclass with BTB: A number of the girls who create the best short stories will be invited to participate in an exclusive writing masterclass with Barbara Taylor Bradford OBE and Eleanor Mills.
  • The best short stories will be published by HarperCollins in an ebook with special foreword by Barbara Taylor Bradford OBE and The Sunday Times Editorial Director Eleanor Mills.
  • Free books: The two overall winners and six runners-up (one winner and two runners-up from each of the following categories: 11-13, 14-16 years) will also each receive a box of books kindly donated by HarperCollins.

The competition is being supported by the National Literacy Trust, The Sunday Times, HarperCollins, The Girls’ Day School Trust, Association of State Girls’ Schools (ASGS) and the Girls School Association. 

 

Barbara Taylor Bradford’s short story writing: top ten tips

  1. Write something you would want to read yourself.
  2. Before you start writing, know how your story is going to end. Think it all through.
  3. Try and make the first few paragraphs of your story gripping. Use hooks to grab the reader’s attention from the beginning.
  4. Wherever you can, use actions and speech to let readers know what’s happening. Show, don’t tell.
  5. In order to develop a living, breathing, multi-faceted character, it is important to know more about the character than you will use in the story. Perfect characters are not very interesting!
  6. You have 1,000 words so use each one carefully. Make every word count and don’t crowd the story with too many characters. You haven’t got the space.
  7. Plot: if you over-complicate it by including too many distractions, your story will be overloaded and underdeveloped.
  8. Remember to check your spelling and grammar. It makes a difference.
  9. Read your finished story out aloud – it will help you to spot mistakes.
  10. Ensure your short story has a proper resolution, an ending that will satisfy the reader.

Competition supporters

 

  • National Literacy Trust
  • The Sunday Times
  • HarperCollins UK
  • The Girls’ Day School Trust
  • Association of State Girls’ Schools (ASGS)
  • Girls School Association

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