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Famous authors urge kids to get writing for Short Story Competition

Kamahl Cogdon, August 22, 2021 3:00PM Kids News

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Grade 4 student Olivia Green, 9, is thinking of writing a story about the Olympics or running for the 2021 Short Story Competition. Picture: Jason Edwards media_cameraGrade 4 student Olivia Green, 9, is thinking of writing a story about the Olympics or running for the 2021 Short Story Competition. Picture: Jason Edwards

short story competition

Reading level: green

One of the world’s great storytellers, Jeffrey Archer, has a message for Aussie children: have a go at the Kids News Short Story Competition.

The British novelist, who has sold more than 275 million books around the globe, has added his words of wisdom to advice from leading local authors, including award-winning author Jackie French and rocker turned writer Jimmy Barnes.

It’s guidance that student Olivia Green, 9, is happy to take on-board after capturing the eye of judges with her highly commended story, Covid Cooking, last year.

This year, the Grade 4 student from the Victorian town of Ballarat, is tossing around an Olympic theme for her short story entry.

“I write about stuff that I like to do. I like to do cooking so I wrote about Covid Cooking last year and I’m going to try to do something about the Olympics or running this year because I love to run,” sporty Olivia said.

Mum Virginia, a secondary school teacher, said the competition was a welcome distraction during lockdown last year.

“I think it’s a really great idea for kids in lockdown,” she said. “It really gave us something fun and different to focus on. I’d really encourage parents and kids who are in lockdown to do it.”


media_cameraBritish author Jeffrey Archer encourages children to have a go at the Short Story Competition. Picture: Toby Madden

Jeffrey Archer
Author of Over My Dead Body

I can’t think of a better way of finding out if you are a writer, than having a go at a short story.

Make sure it’s got a beginning, a middle, and an end, and spend a little time thinking about your subject. It might be something you’ve experienced at home with your family or at school with your friends. And if possible, have a little twist at the end that makes people smile, whatever age they are.

Don’t be frightened to have a go. You don’t have to be top of the class to write a short story, you just have to have imagination. You might not be the winner, but at least you’ll have joined in.

Good luck!

media_cameraJackie French says kids should write about something that fascinates them. Picture: Kelly Sturgiss

Jackie French
Author of Night Ride into Danger; and Christmas Always Comes

Writing a fascinating story is easy. Just think “What do I find fascinating?”

Zombies? Horses? Soccer? Pizza? Gossiping with friends, or saving the world from an asteroid? Will the main character be human, wombat, or a robot who juggles pizza in a circus where tame wolves howl the music. The pizza can be the hero! Has anyone ever written a story with a heroic pizza before? Or maybe it’s a zombie pizza, already eaten but prowling the rubbish bins …

You can do ANYTHING in a story – except make it boring. If you find your story fascinating, the reader will too. If you don’t know where to start, write the ending first, because once you know how the story ends, you’ll suddenly see where it begins and what happens after that.

Every book I write is also a time machine, or a tunnel into another universe. It’s the place where I want to be NOW, and all velociraptors or zombie pizzas are safely held between the covers.

Your story will be a magic carpet to take you anywhere, too. Just get your parents to promise you your choice of treat as soon as you’ve written two pages … and start writing.

media_cameraRocker turned author Jimmy Barnes urges kids to keep their eyes open and their imaginations ready for story ideas. Picture: Daniel Boud

Jimmy Barnes
Author of Rosie the Rhinoceros

Wonderful ideas for stories are all around us.

The simple act of picking a flower could lead you to a great adventure. You might be drawn down into a world of wonder by the insects in your very own garden or you could get carried away by the birds that nest in the trees by your window to help them save the world. It is all right there in your own backyard. So, keep your eyes open and your imagination ready to run wild.

I have written two children’s books about my grandchildren; both are about little things that just happened. Rosie was driving in the car one day with us when out of the blue she suddenly announced to the world: “You know, I’m not a rhinoceros, I am a unicorn”. Where that came from, I don’t know but it sparked something off in my imagination that led to a beautiful story.

Good luck with your writing and I hope to be reading stories written by you to my grandchildren very soon.

media_cameraAuthor Katrina Nannestad recommends taking a break and giving yourself time to daydream if stuck for ideas while writing your short story. Picture: Rebecca Rocks

Katrina Nannestad
Author of The Travelling Bookshop: Mim and the Baffling Bully; and Rabbit, Soldier, Angel, Thief

I love writing. I can escape into the world of my story and get lost in there for hours. I get to create new characters and take them on whatever adventures I choose. And I can play with every sentence until the words dance and sing … or tumble and shout.

If I’m stuck part way through a story, I don’t toss it aside. I take a break, go for a walk. I give myself time to think, daydream, play little movies in my head, hold imaginary conversations with my characters. Somewhere along the way, the problem I’ve struck seems to unravel and I can write on.

media_cameraGabriel Bergmoser wants kids to write about something they are passionate about. Picture: Jack Dixon-Gunn

Gabriel Bergmoser
Author of The True Colour of a Little White Lie; and The Inheritance

The important thing to remember is that no matter what anyone says, write what you want to write; if there’s a story you’re itching to tell then that’s the one you should be telling.

You’re going to hear the phrase “write what you know” a lot – remember that “what you know” really means the things that you care about, that you want to explore.

In the end, all the techniques and tricks of writing won’t mean much if you don’t have a real passion for what you’re writing. Find that, and you’re already on the way.


The 2021 Kids News Short Story Competition is open to four age groups: Kindergarten to Year 2; Years 3-4; Years 5-6 and Years 7-9.

First prize winners in each age category will take home 10 copies of their winning short story published into a printed book by HarperCollins, plus an iPad and a book pack.

There are also prizes for one runner-up and three highly commended entries in each age group.

Entries close September 17, 2021. Enter below.

Extra Reading in short story competition