Competition results

Park Junior High School, La Grange Park, Illinois

I am proud of the entrants for the Story-Builder Workshop Series competition for Fall 2016 and Spring 2017. I had fun reading the stories but real difficulty picking the winners. Here are the results. Congratulations!

The Winning Entries

My New Beginning – Olivia Perez This is an atmospheric piece with an unusual look at what it might be like after death with flashbacks to a violent lie. A gripping opening paragraph.

An Account of the Attack of the Hand Zombies – Luke Whittleton and Finger Man #3169 Luke created a very inventive world of zombie fingermen, caused by eating Burger Squared. The story has a concise plot arc, well shaped in three parts. I loved the voice and humour, too.

Claude’s Story – Colin Martin Barnicle This is a marvellous feat of imagination. When a possum family arrive at the hospital with a medical emergency, Claude the Timberwolf doctor trials some new equipment to try to remove a shard of metal from the possum’s stomach by shrinking and riding around his body.

The Ribbon Winners

Brown Sand Beach — Emma Szyperski. This is a s
ensory piece about a haunted beach. As well as creating a sense of foreboding, Emma describes the world using all senses — “Seagulls flew out of my path as I ran onto the burning sand. Bits of broken shells scattered the uneven ground. In front of me vivid blues and green made up the lengthy sea. The sudden shock of the frigid water sent shivers throughout my body.”

Rider, Beatrice & Adele’s story — Jenna Jenke. This story has an interesting structure and is told in three different voices: the legendary ‘bad boy daredevil  and thief’ Rider; Beatrice the princess that falls in love with him; and the jealous sister. I like the way the story shows different perspectives on the same event.

Experiments — Ella Happel. This is a really unusual story told from two points of view, one human (set in  2079) and one alien. The alien, a youngster by his standards, sticks a hand through one dimension to another and is seen by our human protagonist, Emma. Great tension and footnotes to explain new terms, pronunciations and explanatory notes.

A Change of Heart – Riley Dunlavy. There is a lot that I admire in this story. We first meet the character in the middle of a burglary — stealing a candlestick — but by the end, the protagonist realises that the thefts link to her grieving for her mother. As she finds a true friend in her magical owl, doesn’t need to steal anymore.


Story-Builder Workshop Series Spring 2016

The Winning Entries

“The Blue Symphony” by Devan Pietrzak (I loved the original ideas about how we “see” music and also the story arc to this piece)
“Prey or Predator” by Maya Albores (This story had a complicated structure — two voices, two timelines – and a satisfying ending)
“Marco Abate” by Owen Cornell (What a great voice in this piece! Made me want to read on…)
“Charmed, I’m Sure” by Catelyn Rounds (The world-building in this story intrigued me together with the foreboding clues)

The Ribbon Winners

Flicker by Sawyer Reid (A great concept — “When we are born, we are all given a spark.”)
Me and My Shadow by Sophia Lazarski (A touching story about new beginnings.)
The Prince, The Princess and The Pea by Abby Deuter (Great opening line — “You can’t blame me for wanting a beautiful, wealthy princess for a wife. Any sensible prince would” — for this retelling of the fairy tale)
Crossed by Sarah O’Reilly (A lively story of a jail break by a wrongly framed man.)

Canford School: Detective Story Openings Competition

I was delighted to receive the fantastic submissions from Year 9 . There was a really high standard of creative writing – thanks to all the participants. I enjoyed all the submissions and found selecting individual pieces a difficult task. However, I have picked out my three favourites as follows (click each title to read the story):
Race by Rachel Naylor (I loved Rachel’s characterisation)
Painting Blinkers by Honor Bailey (I loved the voice in this piece)
The Perfect Crime by Nick Robins (I loved the atmosphere, the pace and short scenes in this submission).

Dominican College in Portstewart, Northern Ireland

Thank you for making me so welcome on my recent visit. I loved reading the submissions for my creative writing competition – there were many excellent entries and I found it hard to pick the winners. Many thanks to all who took part. Here are my choices, though, and congratulations to the winners:

First Prize

Shadows by Colum Lynch

Second Prize 

The Number 5 by Olivia Ingamells 
‘Beep beep’ went off Helens phone. She worked as a forensic scientist. The person was Helens assistant, Darren. He called her to say there was another murder. This was the fifth one these past two weeks. She went straight to work and looked at the information about the case. She thought it was weird because this murder was in Dublin and the other four murders were in London, Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh. She thought this because each of these murders where in capital cities around the area. Then she thought it is just a coincidence. So she carried on and Helen asked “is the autopsy finished.” Darren replied “no not yet.” So they went to the victim’s house and looked around to see who did it. They had no suspects so they weren’t sure what they were looking for. So they searched and they eventually found something but not just anything it was a piece of clothing. This same piece of clothing had been found at the four other murder destinations.  The backwards was occurring again! Everything was silent then an idea came into Helens head. What if the five murders were connected? Then she asked what was the street name and Darren said “burning street why” Helen said “because the other streets are silence, shadows, secrets, backwards and they are all  word on a front cover of a book I read called the night sky in my head.”

Joint Third Prizes

Haunted by Oran O’Neill 
Every day we go past this strange looking house and every day it    changes. I noticed there was a fire burning but no one lives there. The wind blows strong when we drive past and I thought I saw a little girl dressed in 1940’s clothes, she had red hair and seemed to be crying. I said to my mum “Did you see that little girl?” My mum said “No son but there was a little girl who had died there many years ago”. It was all kept a secret because the people that lived there were really scary and apparently that if anybody ever talked about this little girl they would disappear. My mum said “Don’t talk about her because it might bring a death to the family.

I disobeyed my mum and took my sister with me to investigate the house. We sneaked in the back door of the house and we heard the little girl crying again. We heard the door creak and we both screamed and saw a shadow going past with a china doll.We seen the words “HELP ME!!” on the wall and then we heard the little girl crying “Mummy” and then we checked the other roomsbut they were locked. Then my sister found a treasure chest with a key in it and a note saying “Turn this key on all three doors in the little girl’s bedroom and you will release her spirit to be free”. We ran and opened the locks and a gust of air charged through us shouting “Thank you I’m free”.

Untitled by Jessica Howard
The wind whistled silently through the cold, empty night air. It seemed to be holding secrets which seemed to unease the animals around the area, including a nearby elk herd. A massive, black Alpha male of a nearby wolf pack felt this too, he was keeping watch over his pack as they slept, it was late but the Alpha still stayed alert. All of a sudden, he saw something shadow like, just beyond his sleeping pack, he narrowed his amber eyes, and that was all he saw a shadow, nothing else, he looked closer. It resembled a human like shadow, as he glared his eyes shone bright in the moonlight, the figure seemed to be waving him down. The Alpha decided to go off the ledge he was on and go a bit closer, as he looked up again the shadow had came closer to him, he raised his hackles and snarled baring sharp fangs… and then stopped as he was dazed staring into the shadow’s black eyes, to the wolf they were empty like a ghost, the wolf stood there frozen-like, as the shadow shrieked deafeningly the Alpha woke and I the blink of an eye the shadow grabbed a wolf cub by the scruff and as the Alpha was about to attack, it disappeared with the cub, and the Alpha bit nothing but air.

* * * * *

I have recently invited two schools in Lincolnshire to take part in a 250 Word Challenge. This is a creative writing competition for pupils to start their own story, inspired by the words on the cover of my book, The Night Sky in my Head (ie, Burning, Shadows, Secrets, Silence, The Backwards…). Here are the results!

Market Rasen De Aston School 

Stacey Shenwell
I love the way Stacey has played with the idea of the Backwards and created tension in her scene. The presentation and images are also great!

Lincoln Christ Hospital School 

Congratulations to Jonny, Bronwyn and Kira for their submissions. Very different but interesting entries – I like the play on the reality in all of the pieces so that we are not sure what is real and what is not…

First prize

Jonny Holmes (Year 7)
I can’t sleep. I can never sleep before my birthday, but it’s different this time. Since I was 8, I dreamed of being a Formula 1 driver. I felt I was born to race, but I’m running out of time. Tomorrow is my big chance to follow in the footsteps of my hero, Kimi Raikkonen. Well, my only chance. I’m going karting tomorrow. It’s hopeless really, because I’ve got to be winning karting championships by the age of 13, but I am 11.Time is talking to me now. Although he is not really there, he’s just a voice, a conscience, hissing and writhing at the back of my bedraggled mind. He tells me to give up… it’s too late…maybe he’s right…

Second prize

Bronwyn Crooks (Year 7)
Crawling up the snow covered hills I reach the point where could go no further, the Temple of the Zakh. I fell to my knees and wept in the cold hard snow. SPLASH! Then I realised it was all just a dream, a hallucination in fact, it was the end of the lesson, I must have fell asleep. Not that I did realise it yet, but it was the beginning of a frightening and traitorous journey.

I walked through the kitchen drying myself with a towel. I tripped over my laces and fell flat on my face… woke up from my shock and still had towel around me, I was in my school uniform but not in my house. I was at the bottom of the Alps and had a terrible urge to climb them. Every step I took sucked the life out of me, it felt like I was melting in my shoes.

Every step I took I fell to the ground. When I finally mastered the art of walking I strode off up the alps like nobody’s business. This is where my troubles began…

Third prize

Kira Sheilds (Year 7)
I start walking home, and there it is, the shadow, and for a moment it just lurks there, and suddenly it walks up to me. He’s worse than death. A lump sticks in my throat. “Erm, hello, how can I help you?” I ask a nervous ring in my tone. “I want to tell you, DO NOT FULFIL YOUR DREAMS USING THIS JOB!” he screams, a murderous glare on his face. His red bloodshot eyes, slightly deaf hearing, and slimy feel, was not a pretty sight. “Ok, but why?” I say, slightly raising my eyebrows at him. He looks at me, angrily. “Just don’t ask!” Death shouts. He storms off. I walk the other direction, wondering about the past occurrence.

Winners of my Night Sky in my Head launch party competition!

Thanks to Hayesfield Girls’ School (year 9) and the boys at Beechen Cliff School (year 7) for taking part in my launch party Creative Writing competition. There were some brilliant submissions! Congratulations to all and in particular to the winners, Issy Bolton and Jordan Ricketts.

View my album of the book launch party competition finalists