THE 2019 WICKED YOUNG WRITER AWARDS, presented in association with the National Literacy Trust, last Thursday (20 June 2019) announced its winners during a ceremony involving 120 shortlisted finalists and their families and teachers at London’s Apollo Victoria Theatre, home of the award-winning musical WICKED.
Amongst this year’s finalist entries were stories, poems and non-fiction writing that showed imagination, intensity, bravery and humour often with powerful messages and an understated complexity. The older category stories showed a mature economy of language when discussing difficult subjects such as mental health and sexual identity, touching also on the value of unconditional friendships and the unobtainable image expected of young people on social media. The younger category stories took the judges to magical worlds with princesses, unicorns and space missions with fascinating and creative stories from time travelling with fossils, to a poignant refugee’s journey, a fable about an angry king, mythical kingdoms, a crafty sea maiden, the Muffin Man and a chilling and sad story inspired by the Princes in the Tower.
Now in its ninth year, the Awards encourage young people aged 5-25 to use writing as a way of expressing themselves, producing unique and original pieces of prose and poetry. This year saw over 4,500 submissions, with a rise in entries from individuals and primary schools in the 8-10 age category and the 11-14 age category.
The Awards are championed by Patron Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cornwall, the judges this year included two poets, Inua Ellams and Hussain Manawer in recognition of the huge growth in poetry buying and writing amongst young people. They are joined by the author and illustrator of the How to Train Your Dragon books Cressida Cowell, who returns as Head Judge for the fifth consecutive year, together with longstanding judges Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust, Michael McCabe, Executive Producer (UK) of WICKED and Nicky Cox MBE, Editor in Chief of First News (a joint sponsor of the Award prize for the ‘FOR GOOD’ category). The Awards Ambassador is best-selling author of the Jamie Johnson football books, Dan Freedman, who has visited schools around the country to raise awareness of the Awards.
Angellica Bell, television and radio broadcaster, hosted the ceremony with prizes presented by Head Judge Cressida Cowell and the panel of prestigious judges.
WICKED cast members also performed songs from the musical including the much-loved FOR GOOD, as well as readings of the winning entries, which were revealed as:
5-7 Age Category:
Winner: Marco Maguregi-Fleming, 7, from Poole, for “The Journey” This is a moving story about a young refugee’s journey alone on a boat to Cornwall. The reader feels the refugee’s hunger, how fearful the journey is and the relief upon arrival ashore.
Runner-up: Leo Wiseman, 7, from London, for “White Mountains” A mythically inspired piece of writing using an invented language, Tolkien-esque in its originality with hideous creatures from wraiths, black dragons to giant wolves.
Runner-up: Eve Robinson, 7, from Garstang, for “A Time Travelling Fossil Finder” An imaginative adventure story of a girl travelling through time who meets Mary, a fellow fossil hunter perhaps inspired by Mary Anning, the English palaeontologist.
8-10 Age Category:
Winner: Humreen Ellens, 10, from Eastbourne, for “Trapped” A chilling and sad story inspired by the Princes in the Tower, the narrator transitions seamlessly from child to ghost.
Runner-up: Kyle Morrow, 10, from Bury, for “Diary of Mr Spink” A brilliantly written tale about a mean landlord with original use of phrases such as “lie-abeds” and “no-good street urchins” reminiscent of A Christmas Carol.
11-14 Age Category:
Winner: Jennifer Allen, 13, from Blandford Forum, for “Dying Words” A fascinating and unusual story about the daughter of “a life writer”, someone who writes the lives and deaths of mortals, Blaze decides to write new lives for all mortals by giving them control.
Runner-up: Annie McCrory, 13, from Ulster, for “The Chameleon” A beautifully written subtle story about a creature who assumes human identities, their appearances, emotions and memories.
15-17 Age Category:
Winner: Lucy Dinning, 16, from Farnham, for “The Climb” Sophisticated allegory, a climber trekking up a vertiginous ascent, the mountain is revealed as a simile for the daily struggle facing a student with disabilities.
Runner-up: Ali Taylor, 17, from Cleethorpes, for “Love Letter to Pan” A poem dedicated to the rustic God Pan flowing with wonderful phraseology describing the eternity of nature “It feels as old as we are, and as young as we were.”
18-25 Age Category:
Winner: Kristen Hawke, 21, from Bicester, for “In Control” An expressive story with understated complexity of a selfless friendship in a contemporary setting.
Runner-up: Emily Collins, 22, from Chepstow, for “The Endless, Inexhaustible Rock” An uncomfortable piece of writing about oppression and enforced labour in a mine where the only reward for finding the precious gems was death.
FOR GOOD Category:
Winner: Bethany Wilson, 19, from Macclesfield, for “The Other Version of Me” An empowering message about how to reject the unobtainable image required on social media.
Runner-up: Hannah Hodgson, 21, from Burton-in-Kendal, for “Much More than a Building” An honest and humbling essay about living with a life limiting illness and the tremendous physical and emotional support received from Hospice staff.
The top four schools that submitted the most entries were also announced and have won a Creative Writing Workshop for their school for up to 30 students delivered by WICKED’s education team. The Winning schools are
• The Priory Academy LSST, Lincoln • Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School, Marlow • St. Thomas of Canterbury Catholic Primary School, Essex • Devonshire House Prep School, London
The views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the FCBG.