story, science, technology and creativity

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Young (and old) writers: City of Rockingham Short Fiction Awards

In 2013 I entered the City of Rockingham Short Fiction Awards…and I won a Commended prize for my short story! Back then, I was caring for two young children and teaching writing at TAFE, and I was seriously strugglng to find time to actually write.

Entering the awards gave me something to aim for. And having my writing acknowledged was such a boost. I walked around with helium in my beach ball for days.

Capture that Aussie beach feeling


“Two Children at Beach” by Delon Govender (2003)

If you’re anything like me, the sight of kids playing at the beach warms the cockles of your heart.

And if you live in WA, you’ll probably feel like you know the exact spot where these two kids are playing ball.

The painting might spark a memory, or a feeling, or the beginning of a story…

It’s a gorgeous painting, and it’s part of a fantastic opportunity for writers, young and old:

2018 City of Rockingham Short Fiction Awards

Whether you write for children or write for adults, so long as you’re aged at least 10, the City of Rockingham 2018 Short Fiction Awards are for you.

This year’s entries…

This year’s entries must somehow involve Delon Govender’s fabulous painting. Your story needs to be original, unpublished, not have received an award in another competition, and not be under consideration elsewhere. You can submit up to three stories and there’s $5000+ in prize money. Even better, entry is free.

There are three main categories – Open, Over 50s and Young Writers (10-17). Entries close Friday 13 July.

Motivate your young writers with cash!

While some of us write for passion or glory, I always say there’s nothing like the promise of a prize to motivate a young writer, and the City of Rockingham awards certainly deliver. (Do make it clear to your young writer that there’s no guarentee that they’ll win…but you do have to be in it to win it…)

Prizes in Young Writers (10 to 17) division:

1st prize: $700
2nd prize: $400
3rd prize: $200

Prizes in the Open division:

1st prize: $1000
2nd prize: $500
3rd prize: $300
Two commendations of $100

Prizes in the Over 50s division:

1st prize: $1000
2nd prize: $500
3rd prize: $500
Two commendations of $100

So what are you waiting for? Sharpen that pencil!

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Young writers: Enter the 2018 Bragg Science Writing Prize

canon-sydney.jpegLots 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 🙂

theme-768x320.pngTechnology & Tomorrow

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!

Sam with ugly pineapple.jpg

Sam Jones with an ‘ugly’ pineapple that will be dumped along with up to 60% of Australia’s fruit and vegetable crops.

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

throw away banana.jpg

Up to 60 per cent of Australia’s fruit and vegetable crops are thrown away for being ‘ugly’.

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.


Ebony Wallin’s essay described how a common caterpillar can eat plastic bags, offering hope for the war on plastic waste.

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.



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Lessons I learned from entering the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award


This is romantic but rubbish. Only YOU can finish your book. So finish. You’ll love yourself for it!!

Woo hoo! I’ve just discovered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award is on again. ABNA is an awesome opportunity for anyone who has a novel in their bottom drawer:

1) It’s free to enter!

2) It forces you to practice writing a synopsis or pitch for your novel.

3) There are lots of Rounds through which shortlisted entries will move, which means lots of chances for you to know: how am I doing?

  • If you get knocked out in Round 1, you need to work on your pitch.
  • If you make it to Round 2, you get to see what two reviewers think of your excerpt (whee! free feedback!).
  • If you make it to Round 3, otherwise known as the Quarter-Finals, you get a review from Publisher’s Weekly (double whee! free feedback from people who really know the industry!)

Who cares if you make it any further? If you’ve made it this far, you already know: YOU CAN WRITE!

If you were knocked out earlier, who cares? At least you know where to focus: Was it your pitch? Or the excerpt? Polish and rewrite and prepare to give it a whole new shot next year.

My ABNA experience

I first entered ABNA five years ago, with a zombie novel I’d pretty much written overnight. I knew nothing about writing a novel, let alone pitching one. But I gave it a shot. And I got nowhere.

The next year, I entered again, with pretty much the same novel. Only this time, I advanced to Round 2!! Translation? My pitch worked! I’d improved my elevator pitch, my ability to sell my novel, to get perfect strangers to sit up and say ooo, I’d like to read more. I was on the way to learning how to write a synopsis that was pithy and exciting and had voice.

And then I advanced no further. Translation? I needed to work on my writing, to develop a better killer start to my novel. And so I received and devoured my two reviews, reward for reaching Round 2 (these  anonymous people were the only  people ever to have read any part of my novel, except for me), and I used what I read to focus my rewrites. And my rewrites.

That novel is still in my bottom drawer. But the novel after that was TAKESHITA DEMONS. Translation? Practice doesn’t make perfect,  but it does help a whole lot!!

To edit or not to edit…

Remember: ABNA only open till March 2, and entry is on a first-in, first-served basis.

  • Edit too long, and you’ll miss out.
  • Don’t edit enough, and you’ll bomb out.

It’s a tough line to walk, and it’s the tightrope we all need to wobble along when sending manuscripts to publishers and agents. And the best (only?) way to master something is to practice it, so what are you waiting for?

Enter ABNA, give it your best shot, but don’t sit back to wait for the prize-winning call. Get on with your next project. Entering is all just practice. And if you practice enough, one day, that call will come.

Good luck!