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Characters’ stinky start to a winning story

Donna Coutts, June 15, 2020 6:30PM Kids News

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Winning author Rose Pullinger, 10, of Hobart, Tasmania. Picture: Zak Simmonds media_cameraWinning author Rose Pullinger, 10, of Hobart, Tasmania. Picture: Zak Simmonds


Reading level: green

Ten-year-old, award-winning writer Rose Pullinger’s short story characters should have had a day full of glamour: beautiful clothes, nicely done hair and a lot of standing around chatting and eating yummy food.

Instead, the day got off to a completely different and definitely more stinky start.

Rose’s story Emily to the Rescue was the winning entry in the Kids News 2019 Short Story Competition in the 10-years-and-under category.

Rose, who is now in grade 4, said at first she didn’t believe she’d won.

“For a while, I was sure the judges had made a mistake,” said Rose, who lives in Hobart, Tasmania.

Rose had her story published on Kids News and a book of her story printed to give to her family and friends.

She realised through the process of writing last year’s story that writing makes her feel good.

“It makes me feel very happy and excited when I start a story. I sort of feel in control, too — of people, of a world.”

Rose wishes everyone entering this year’s Kids News short story competition lots of luck and is looking forward to entering again herself.

And though she can’t tell us just yet what it will be about or how she will approach writing it, she found her writing method for last year’s story worked well for her.

“When I was writing first, I just wrote” Rose said.

“I didn’t worry about the word limit or anything like that. I changed some things while I was writing, but not many. Then, once I’d finished it, I had to edit my story. I took out heaps of words. I even had to take some whole scenes!

“I actually didn’t do much research. I looked a small bit up about huntsman spiders, for the scene when Emily’s in the shed. Once I’d finished editing, I sent my story off.”

Rose loves writing mysteries, but whatever the genre*, characters are super important to her stories.

“I think it’s really important to have good characters in a story. I try to make my characters interesting (so the reader wants to find out more about them) and original (so the reader isn’t bored by them).

“Instead of giving ordinary facts about the character, like the colour of their hair and eyes, you could tell the reader whether they like their name, or if they’re scared of kookaburras.”

She’s also learned that it’s important not to give away every detail, but leave something for the reader to wonder about and make up for themselves.

“To keep your reader reading, give an unanswered question: I didn’t ask why she didn’t tie up her hair … (Why didn’t she?) or I pull Nellie’s blanket tighter around me. (Who’s Nellie?), she said.”

Between writing sessions, reading other people’s work is a good way to learn about how to make a great story.

“ I love Malamander, by Thomas Taylor, The Good Thieves, by Katherine Rundell and The War that Saved my Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley,” she said.

I also love the authors Emma Carrol, Enid Blyton and J.K. Rowling.”

media_cameraRose Pullinger with her published story.

The 2020 Kids News Short Story competition, proudly supported by Harper Collins, is open for entries now. Entries close 5pm (AEST) on Friday, July 3, 2020.

This year’s competition has been expanded into four categories: Kindergarten to Year 2, Years 3-4, Years 5-6 and Years 7-9.

Entrants can choose any theme or topic they want.



  • genre: style, such as science fiction, historical, mystery


Put your thinking caps on to write a winning story

Read the top 50 stories from our 2019 finalists


  1. How old is Rose and what state does she live in?
  2. What animal did Rose research for her 2019 story?
  3. What two things does Rose say she likes her characters to be?
  4. List two authors Rose likes.
  5. When do entries close for the 2020 competition?


1. Write your own short story
In the article there are some great tricks, tips and ideas to help you write your own short story. You may be interested in entering the Kids News competition or just want to have a go at writing a great story. Take the tips from Rose and award-winning author Jackie French to begin writing your own short story on a topic of your choice. If you decide you would like to enter the competition, read the rules and how to enter HERE

You have until July 3 to ask a teacher from your school to enter for you. Don’t forget to look at the word limits for your age group, but maybe don’t worry about that until you’ve constructed your story as Rose advised. Enjoy creating something that you can be proud of.

Time: allow 60 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English

2. Extension
Think about your favourite authors or stories like Rose did and write a list of what makes those stories appealing or interesting to you. Is it the theme, genre, writing style, characters or something else? This might help you use some of these ideas in your own story.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English

Connective Collection
After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many connectives as you can find in pink. Discuss if these are being used as conjunctions, or to join ideas and create flow.

HAVE YOUR SAY: What do you like about story writing? What do you find difficult?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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