The 2018 Wicked Young Writer Awards, presented in association with the National Literacy Trust, announced its winners during a ceremony involving 117 shortlisted finalists and their families and teachers at London’s Apollo Victoria Theatre, home of the award-winning musical WICKED on Thursday 21 June.
Amongst this year’s finalist entries were stories, poems and non-fiction writing that were both compelling and intense, often with dark themes and dramatic twists.
The older category stories highlighted gender discussions regarding female roles and stories influenced by our current affairs with LGBTQ+ activism and gun control issues in the United States of America. Subjects reflected poignant references to family and love, with the importance of friendship which knows no bounds. One theme that bridged age categories was the awareness of an ageing population with many stories about dementia and old age; often a difficult subject which was treated with maturity, and respect without any inferences of self-pity.
Now in its eighth year, the Awards encourage young people aged 5-25 years to use writing as a way of expressing themselves, producing unique and original pieces of prose and poetry. This year saw over 4,500 submissions with a rise in entries from individuals and primary schools in the 8-10 age category and from the 15-17 age category.
Championed by Patron Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cornwall, the judges include writer, broadcaster and former Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Ed Balls; and writer and first Young People’s Laureate for London Caleb Femi. Author and illustrator of the ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ books Cressida Cowell returns as Head Judge for the fourth consecutive year, together with long-standing judges Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust and Michael McCabe, Executive Producer (UK) of WICKED. Nicky Cox MBE, Editor in Chief of First News (a joint sponsor of the Award prize for the ‘FOR GOOD’ category) is a guest judge for this category.
Greg James, just announced as the new presenter of BBC Radio 1’s flagship Breakfast Show, hosted the ceremony with prizes presented by Head Judge Cressida Cowell and the panel of prestigious judges.
Nicky Cox MBE, Editor in Chief of First News comments on this year’s winning stories:
‘In all categories I saw an unbelievable standard of writing. There are definitely some authors of the future here; their writing was really descriptive and compelling.’
Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust comments on this year’s finalists’ entries:
“Every year, the Wicked Young Writer Awards inspire wonderfully creative and thoughtful writing – and this year was no exception. The Awards give us a unique insight into what matters most to children and young people today, and this year we were inundated with heartfelt entries on older generations, grandparents and memory loss. Well done to everyone who took part in this year’s Awards and congratulations to all of the finalists. We hope the Awards will continue to give voice to your ideas and passions.”
The top three schools that submitted the most entries were also announced and have won a Creative Writing Workshop for their school for up to 30 students delivered by WICKED’s education team.
WICKED cast members also performed songs from the hit musical including the popular FOR GOOD, as well as readings of the winning entries, which were revealed as:
5-7 Age Category:
Winner: Fern Brindle, 7, from Derbyshire, for “The Man on the Street” (This is a heartfelt and compassionate poem about homelessness. It is thoughtful, emotive and reflective.)
Runner-up: Daniel MacAlpine, 7, from Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, for “A Bumpy Trail” (A compelling story about rescuing a wounded otter with colourful descriptive language.)
Runner-up: Isabella Watson-Gandy, 7, from London for “Naughty Sam and the Tooth Fairy” (An imaginative and funny story of a naughty boy who tries to trick Santa for presents, The Easter Bunny for more chocolate eggs and even the tooth fairy with his grandpa’s dentures.)
8-10 Age Category:
Winner: Robyn Blunden, 8, from Kendal for “The Snow Leopard”
(A magical fantasy story about an ancient guardian spirit watching over and protecting a village.)
Runner-up: Isobel Pitney, 10, from Essex for “The Lazy Farmer”
(A potentially grisly but humorous tale about a farmer who should have been more careful about what he wished for.)
11-14 Age Category:
Winner: Freya Hannan Mills, 14, from Merseyside, for “Mushy Peas and Battered Bits”
(A poignant and very mature account of an old man’s past reflections at the moment of death.)
Runner-up: Annie McCrory, 12, from County Antrim for “An Ode to War” (A chilling and intense poem written as The God of War exalting its continuing role to ruin and destroy.)
Runner-up: Ben Howarth, 13, from Edinburgh for “A Ghost Visits” (A clever, contemporary and imaginative take on Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol.)
15-17 Age Category:
Winner: Kashif Chowdhury, 16, from Ilford for “All Quiet on the Western Front”
(Sophisticated, rhythmic storytelling with subtleties and nuances of a very mature writer.)
Runner-up: Tiegan James, 17, from Dorset for “Redemption” (A sad yet forgiving and moving story of a grieving father seeking redemption.)
18-25 Age Category:
Winner: Imogen Usherwood, 18, from Hampshire for “Last Chance” (An unsettling and expressive story of familial dominance and of the young person’s yearning to be free to leave and study.)
Runner-up: Lottie Carter, 20, from Buckinghamshire for “Digging” (A discomfiting, atmospheric grisly tale with a dramatic twist.)
Runner-up: Anna Roisin Ullman-Smith, 22, from Lanarkshire for “Red Horizon” (An exciting story of survival and rebellion with expressive and graphic descriptive writing bringing the words to life.)
FOR GOOD Category:
Winner: Emer O’Toole, 23, from Northern Ireland “Dear Baby Girl”
(An empowering message for a baby girl about sisterhood and the importance of self-belief and self-assurance as she grows up into womanhood.)
Runner-up: Jenny Pavitt, 19, from Essex for “Friendship” (“Friendship is a shapeshifter”, great phraseology and a powerful comment on the subtleties of the strong personal bond and relationship of mutual affection between people.)
Devonshire House School, 69 Fitzjohn’s Avenue, Hampstead, London
Moulsham Junior School, Princes Road, Chelmsford, Essex
St Thomas of Canterbury Catholic Primary School, Ward Avenue, Grays, Essex