Nicola Morgan

Author, Speaker, Supporter

Understanding and Supporting Your Teenagers – the video

Antiviral Creative-Writing Competition

Recently I announced that I’d be creating a writing competition based on keeping a diary during the incredible time we’re all living through. Even if you don’t want to enter the competition, I really recommend you keep a daily diary, as I am. It doesn’t have to be beautifully written: it’s just a record for you in years to come when, believe it or not, you will forget so much about this.

Diaries and creative writing in general can really help during times of stress. And if this isn’t stressful, I don’t know what is! But we can beat this – beat the stress AND beat the bug. (And I’ll have other inspiration for you in the coming weeks, on my website and social media. Join me and I’ll be there for you.)

So, the Antiviral “Let’s beat this thing” Creative-Writing Competition.

STOP PRESS! Extra prizes announced below!

The rules:

  1. Each individual may only enter once. (Though I recommend you do several entries – you have the time! – and enter the one you like best.)
  2. This is for 11-18-year-olds and there are two age groups within that: 11-14 and 15-18. I don’t mind if a 10 yo enters but I won’t give extra points for youth!
  3. At the top of your actual entry, put:
    • Your first name;
    • Age at May 1st 2020;
    • Name of your school and school postal address (if you are usually home-schooled, just say so but don’t put your address)
    • The writing category you have chosen – A, B, C or D (see below)
    • Title of your piece
  4. Your entries must be emailed to me by an adult. (
  5. By sending the entry, the adult automatically confirms: a) that the age you’ve given is correct b) that it is all your own work (see point 13) and c) that I can announce your name (first name + age) on my website if you’re a winner and also that I can publish an extract from your entry on my website, while copyright remains with you, the writer.
  6. I can’t be responsible for any entry that goes missing.
  7. The deadline is between May 1st and May 30th – do not send them before May 1st! I will email the adults who sent the winning entries as soon as I am able and announce winners on my website.
  8. Entries must be emailed as an attachment – either be created in Word or handwritten and scanned as a pdf. If I am unable to open the document, I will alert the sender and give an opportunity to re-send.
  9. Please make it easy for me to read: don’t scan pdfs upside down; don’t use a hard-to-read font; if you are hand-writing, be kind to me and make your writing readable!
  10. Entries can be from anywhere in the world but must be written in English.
  11. No entry to be longer than 500 words. I’m looking for quality over quantity and 499 words aren’t necessarily better than 200 words. Apart from keeping it below 500, don’t worry about length.
  12. If you are dyslexic or have any registered specific learning difficulty, the adult should say this in their email. I will then overlook spelling errors but otherwise judge your ideas and expression exactly like everyone else’s. In this case, I don’t mind if an adult types up what you’ve written or dictated, but, again, I need to know.
  13. This must be your own work. An adult may give only the most general advice to encourage you but not to suggest any actual words or word order. (See point 11 about typing up your work, though.) You can discuss your ideas as much as you like with someone your own age.

Writing categories – you choose

A. Letter From the Future – imagine it’s many years from now and you are writing a letter (if letters exist!) to a young person who was not born until after this pandemic. Perhaps it’s your own child or grandchild! They are doing a school project on what life was like during this time and you are sharing your memories with them. They want details; they want to know how you felt; they want to get a real sense of what it was like. Be specific, be observant. I am looking for a detailed picture of how it is for you – or you can imagine being someone else and show what it’s like for them. For example, you could (if you like) imagine that you’re an elderly person now, or a nurse, or a politician – anyone! (But find a way to show in the letter that this is whose viewpoint you’ve chosen.)

B. Taking an Optimistic view – you can write this in any form you like (story or fact; argument or poem; serious or comedy; even a list, if the list is really great!), but you must take an optimistic view of the coronavirus situation, perhaps saying how you think we might live differently and better when this is over, or noticing things that you or others are learning now that might be positive. You don’t have to think of everything positive: just focus on one or two or more things that you find interesting or relevant or important. Be specific and use your imagination, lateral thinking, insight and empathy.

C.  Love in the Time of Corona – write a fictional story sparked by this idea. Try to include details to show that you’re really noticing what’s going on, really thinking, processing it in your mind. the story can be happy or sad, serious or funny. You can interpret the title how you want. Time to get creative!

D. Caring for Corona – what would you say to someone who is struggling with their anxiety, emotions and well-being at the moment? The person could be you… What do you think I would say to someone? So, in this you are giving advice, as a wise friend.

E. Poster Power – loads of people of all ages seem to be defying the death-preventing advice about social distancing, hand-washing etc. Design a poster or advert to make people do the right thing!

Judging and prizes

  1. Judges’ decision will be final. The judges will be me, my nieces (in their twenties) and anyone else I choose to ask. Members of the judges’ families may not enter.
  2. In each age group there will be three individual prizes (regardless of which writing categories that entries come) – so, six individual prize-winners. In each age group, the first prize will be three of my signed books; the 2nd prize two signed books and the 3rd prize one. Oh, and there will be chocolate!
  3. All the winners’ schools will also receive signed postcards, posters and whatever else I can think of!
  4. IF the prize-winners agree and have permission from their adult or school, extracts from each of the six winners will be published on my website.
  5. TWO WINNING SCHOOLS will win a free visit from me IF they are on the UK mainland; if they are not on the UK mainland or are from outside the UK altogether, I would offer a free visit if my expenses were paid OR a Skype or other virtual “visit”. This would be a Q&A session. These two schools would either be chosen because they’d entered the most entries or the best overall standard or something else that stands out for me and makes me feel they did the best job as schools.
  6. STOP PRESS! I’m delighted to announce that both Hachette Children’s Group and Walker Books have generously promised a selection of their best and newest books for the two winning schools! (Because of lockdown, there may need to be a delay to this so no promises about timing but books are always worth waiting for!) Thank you to my lovely publishers!
  7. I’m likely to also award “special commendations” to great writing that doesn’t make the grade.

Some hints about what I like:

  1. I want to feel that you’ve really spent time thinking about this. You’ve crafted it, redrafted, polished, spent time and effort choosing the best words. I want to believe you are about your words and their power and meaning.
  2. I want to feel you’ve read it aloud to yourself and you like how it sounds.
  3. Although I love great description, that does not mean loads and loads of Very WOW Words – it just means the best word for each phrase. I’d rather see one perfect word than three unusual, over-flowery adjectives. More is not usually better! My advice is to write the first draft with lots of adjectives and then edit many of them out.
  4. I am not going to mind about a few spelling mistakes – but you are allowed to use a dictionary and spellcheck… It’s just easier to read smoothly if there aren’t many mistakes.
  5. DO organise with paragraphs, again to make it flow smoothly. Same goes for punctuation – it’s not about rules but the reader’s experience (and that’s me!)
  6. IDEAS: clever, deep, unusual, thoughtful ideas.
  7. Try not to be the same as everyone else. You don’t know what everyone else is doing but you can try to think of something unusual.

Most of all, I just want you to enjoy writing! And have your memories forever.

What do I gain from this? The knowledge that lots and lots of young people will have a healthy focus that will genuinely help to keep them well and strong and resilient and have something valuable to look back on in months and years and decades to come.

Please keep an eye on my activity from next week onwards on Twitter (@NicolaMorgan) and Instagram (NicolaMorgansBrain) – I have a lot planned, including giveaways!

Take care of yourselves. Stay safe.

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