Lots of people want to know how to get started in making a career as a writer.
One of the first steps is making your name as a writer, and for young writers, that means entering competitions.
Write, enter, repeat
I entered lots of writing competitions as a kid. I found they were great for giving me a deadline (stick) and the chance at prizes (carrot), and by the time I heard the results, I’d usually forgotten I’d even entered and I was busy with the Next Thing. I entered a lot. And I got nowhere, a lot. (Great for learning resilience and perserverance!)
My first big win in a writing competition wasn’t for creative writing, it was for writing non-fiction: an essay or piece of persuasive writing, if you speak Naplan.
The competition was the Canon Young Writer’s Of The Year award. The prize was a trip to Sydney, all expenses paid (including a stay the Ritz Carlton!). We even got to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe. I was hooked! And I’m still writing today 🙂
If you’re in Year 7 to 10 and you’re wanting to dip your own toe into the writing prize scene, I totally recommend the UNSW Bragg Student Prize.
The Bragg Prize is named in honour of the winners of Australia’s first Nobel Prize: father and son team William Henry Bragg and William Lawrence Bragg. Entries are open from 30 April to 28 August 2018.
This year’s theme is ‘Technology & Tomorrow’.
Advice from last year’s winners
Advice from previous winners of the Bragg Student Writing Prize is to give it a go.
“Even if you don’t get a place, you’ll have learnt something worth knowing,” says Ebony Wallin, who was 14 when she won runner-up in last year’s prize. “It’s a lot easier than you’d think.”
Sam Jones was 12 when he won the prize last year. “You’ll be surprised how much adults will help you when they find out you’re a kid and you’re researching a topic they’re interested and passionate about,” he says.
So what are you waiting for? Find out how to enter and give it a go!
An interview with last year’s winners
Sam Jones was celebrating the end of a busy school term when his science teacher emailed, encouraging him to enter the UNSW Bragg Student Prize for Science Writing.
“My first thought was ‘I don’t think I’ll be doing that!’” says Sam, 12, of Queensland.
But after watching the ABC’s War on Waste, and learning how much food is wasted every year, Sam changed his mind.
“I wrote about the embarrassing and alarming amount of fruits and vegetables grown in Australia that never make it to the supermarket shelves because they’re not perfect enough for fussy consumers,” Sam says.
On October 12, Sam discovered he’d won the national competition. “I don’t think I’d felt as happy as that before, because I’d basically worked the entire June-July holidays on this project.”
Give ugly a go
Sam says he felt angry after learning that up to 60% of Australia’s fruit and vegetable crops end up wasted. “It was the first time I’d really been outraged about something that I had the power to change in my home,” he says.
Sam took charge of his home’s recycling, started composting, and researched ways that waste was being reduced in his local area. He used his research to write his essay, arguing it’s what’s inside that counts. “‘Ugly’ produce can be just as nutritious and delicious as perfect produce,” he says.
“I used to be that kid who didn’t eat my banana in my lunchbox because it had a black spot on it,” Sam admits. “This research has really opened up my eyes… It’s not sustainable to keep using precious resources to grow food that is wasted.”
Sam now runs his own Instagram account, Give Ugly A Go.
The very helpful caterpillar
WA’s Ebony Wallin, 14, was a runner-up with her essay describing the surprising discovery that a common caterpillar can eat plastic bags.
“If scientists can replicate their ability, it could bring us a step closer to solving the problem of plastic waste,” Ebony explains.
Year 9 Carol Ge of the ACT was also a runner-up, with her essay about the Great Barrier Reef.
All three writers won a trip to Sydney in November to collect their prizes.
This interview first appeared in Crinkling News.