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Winning author’s top tips for a great short story

Donna Coutts, June 22, 2020 6:45PM Kids News

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Twelve-year-old Amaeh Reed, who won the Kids News Short Story competition in the age 11-and-over category last year. Picture: Stewart McLean media_cameraTwelve-year-old Amaeh Reed, who won the Kids News Short Story competition in the age 11-and-over category last year. Picture: Stewart McLean


Reading level: green

Putting herself in someone else’s shoes and keeping up with world news were key to author Amaeh Reed’s success in the 2019 Kids News short story competition.

Twelve-year-old Amaeh, from Queensland, was last year’s winner in the 11-and-older category for her realistic* story A New Beginning.

The story considered the plight* of refugees hoping for a better life in Australia and the risks they are willing to take to get here.

“I saw some reports about refugees. When I saw this on the news I thought of the troubles many of these people must have gone through and I thought it may be a good topic for a story,” Amaeh said.

“I first did some research about refugees. I read some books recounting* their lives and used the internet for research. I tried to put myself in the shoes of a refugee and tried to think of what life would be like if I were in that position.

“I sat down and let my ideas pour onto the page and afterward went through my story and edited it.”

Writing about something you’re interested in is Amaeh’s top tip for writers considering entering this year’s Kids News short story competition.

“Writing about something that interests you will make your story so much better because it is a topic you care about, “ said Amaeh.

“I also find it very helpful to plan out my story in advance. I choose characters, their names, their personalities, a setting, etc.

“Finally, make sure to proofread and edit. This, I find, is a key ingredient to a great story. “Once you’re done writing, go through your story, fix any mistakes, improve your vocabulary and just try to make your story a little bit better.

“It’s also a fantastic idea to read your story aloud to someone else, whether it be a sibling, parent or friend because people often have great feedback for your story. And who doesn’t like listening to a story?”

Entries for the 2020 competition are open until July 3. Amaeh is keen to enter again and encourages everyone to enter.

“I think everyone should have a go at writing a short story because I believe everyone has a story to tell and you never know, writing might be your hidden talent.

“When I write I am transported to my character’s life. I get a sense of empathy* through writing and that’s why I love it so much. I love learning about history so the research aspect of writing a story really appeals to me.

“What I love most about writing is that I can express any ideas, emotions or thoughts through words. It makes me feel excited when I start a new story and accomplished* when I finish one.”

Undated handout still photo from the movie Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, showing actor Daniel Radcliffe, portraying Harry Potter.  (AP photo/PA, film hand out) media_cameraFrom the movie Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, showing actor Daniel Radcliffe, portraying Harry Potter and Emma Watson as Hermione Granger. Picture: handout via AP


  • My favourite books are The Wrong Boy by Suzy Zail and Liberty by Niki McWatters.
  • My favourite authors are JK Rowling and Jackie French.
  • I love the Harry Potter series especially because of the magic it captures and I really love how many of Jackie French’s novels capture the history of different cultures and countries.

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.



  • realistic: like it could be real
  • plight: the situation (usually bad) that someone finds themselves in
  • recounting: retelling
  • empathy: ability to understand and share the feelings of someone else
  • accomplished: having achieved something or been successful


Put your thinking caps on to write a story

Characters’ stinky start to a winning story

Read the top 50 stories from our finalists


  1. Describe what Amaeh’s winning story is about?
  2. What is Amaeh’s top tip for writing?
  3. What date to entries close for the short story competition?
  4. Who wrote The Wrong Boy?
  5. What two emotions does Amaeh experience when writing a story?


1. Top Tips
Taking advice from someone who has successfully completed something before is a very good idea.

Amaeh Reed was one of last year’s winners in the Kids News Short Story competition.

Read the article carefully and make a list of the tips that Amaeh suggests will help you write a good story. Make sure you write her ‘top tip’ as the first. You can write the rest in the order you think is most important for a good story.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Critical and Creative thinking

2. Extension
Following Amaeh’s advice of writing about something that interests you. Brainstorm some topics you are interested in that you could write a short story about for the Kids News Short Story competition.

Select one of your ideas and write a plan of how you might go about writing a story on this topic using some more of Amaeh’s tips. (For example: research the topic, choose characters and a setting, put yourself in the shoes of your characters.)

When you are ready sit down and begin writing your story. Let your ideas ‘pour onto the page’. Follow the rest of Amaeh’s tips and submit your story according to the instructions in the article. Who knows? You might even be the 2020 winner. Good luck!

Time: allow 60+ minutes to complete this activity (You can spend as long as you like writing your story so long as it is submitted by July 3.)
Curriculum Links: English

Punctuation Thief
Pick a paragraph from the article, or about 3 sentences together if that’s easier, and rewrite it without the punctuation. At the bottom of the page write a list of all the punctuation you stole and in the order you stole it. For example; C , . C .

Then swap your book with another person and see if they can work out where the punctuation needs to go back to.

Make it easier: Underline where you stole the punctuation from but don’t put the list at the bottom in order.

HAVE YOUR SAY: What story topic or genre interests you most?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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