It’s reassuring that despite Nintendo, X-box, video games and TV with hundreds of channels to choose from, creative writing is still a hugely popular activity among the under- 12s. Over 7,000 children participated in the Story Lab Summer Reading Challenge writing competition initiated this year. Called ‘Finish the Story – Share the Glory’, the competition gave a choice of story starters from six top children’s authors: Elf Girl and Raven Boy and the Creepy Cave by Marcus Sedgwick The Old Well by Andy Stanton Big Trouble by Malorie Blackman Red Man Green Man Julia Donaldson The Day the House Disappeared by Jacqueline Wilson Out of the Dark by Michelle Paver As you would expect, the openings were all fabulous. I don’t know which one I would have chosen if I’d been entering. Apparently Jacqueline Wilson’s had the most entries, perhaps because her story starter was quite ‘open’ or, as I suspect, simply because it was Jacqueline Wilson’s! Jacqueline Wilson was one of the writers who contributed a story opening It took fifteen people from the Reading Agency to read through the 7, 000 entries and short-list them. Once short-listed, the authors chose the finalist from their particular category. How great is that? Knowing that the author chose your story? Then yesterday I had the honour of helping to select an overall winner. It was not an easy task and I’m grateful I wasn’t the only one choosing. With me were Anne Ansbro of Hertfordshire Library Services and journalist and writer Damian Kelleher who devised the competition. Lynne Taylor, from the Reading Agency, took notes and filled us in with the background history of the competition. The kindest judges ever: Me with Damian Kelleher and Anne Ansbro You can read all the winning finalists’ stories here. I’ll just go make a coffee while you do that…. Finished? Impressive, huh? Can you believe Archie Graham, the winning entrant for Malorie’s ‘Big Trouble‘ story, is only six? Six! Stand back in awe! So there the four of us were, sitting round the table in an office, reading out the stories one at a time. It was a cracking way to spend a morning. I’d already read through the entries the night before and again on the train down, so I had already an idea of which story I liked overall. I even rated them, 1-6, in the top right hand corner of the print outs. However, I was prepared to be swayed if the other judges could convince me otherwise. iphone 7 phone case hedgehog The Judging Criteria We looked at the opening sentence. Did it lead us smoothly on from where the professional writer had left off? What about the ending? Was that satisfactory too? We also looked at the writing itself for good use of language, pace and dialogue. iphone 8 plus folded case We didn’t let the age of the contestants influence us too much – it was the writing that mattered. iphone 8 plus charger case slim All three of us were blown away by the high standard and the sheer imagination of the six finalists. You’ll have to wait until the official announcement on Friday to know who won. pretty phone case iphone 8 Who do you think it should be? By the way, it’s not too late to win a signed set of my Girls FC books.