For anyone who is not aware of Susanna Leonard Hill's Annual Competitions, they are a fantastic challenge for any children's writer. With the Halloweensie contest in October, the Holiday Treat one in December and the Valentiny in February, each one offers a short and specific brief to write to in rhyme or prose.
The first time I took part I felt frustrated and clueless. But, with a last minute burst of inspiration (not sure where on earth it came from), I managed to clinch an honourable mention. It felt like it was exactly the right time to discover these contests as that entry went on to become a fully-fledged picture book that was short-listed for the WriteMentor Children's Novel Award and placed in the top three picture books.
I'm now a massive fan of all three of these contests. Across two years (6 entries), I have missed out twice, clocked two Honourable Mentions and been in the final twelve twice. That's a real confidence boost from a competition that accumulates anywhere from 200-450 entries. However, that's not why I enter. The real joy of Susanna's contests is that they allow you to develop your writing skills under pressure, provide opportunities to conjure fresh ideas and, best of all, gives you the chance to read hundreds of fabulous and varied ideas from fellow writers who have all followed the same brief and hit the same word count. They are totally brilliant- moving, creative and funny.
So, in case anyone fancies reading it, here is my entry below for the 6th Annual Valentiny Contest. The Brief: A 214 word (or less) story about bravery.
Deep in the depths of the dark, dark fridge
something RED was wibbling and wobbling.
The birthday party was in full swing and SHE was to be the star of the show.
She could sing, she had great moves–easy peasy! But she just couldn’t do it!
Jelly had heard rumours about these birthday celebrations. There were murmurs from the sausage rolls and panic from the pizzas; something about the star of the show having a rather unhappy ending…
Jelly wibbled with confusion and wobbled with uncertainty. Everyone sounded happy. Shrieks of laughter floated outside the door. How bad could this be?
Jelly stopped her wibbling and stood FIRM. It was time to be brave!
But next door in the deep freeze, Ice-cream was having a MELTDOWN! She heard worried whispers…
“Be brave, Ice-cream!”
“Stop being drippy – no tears from the star of the show!”
Jelly quivered with delight. Ice-cream was the star of the show too! She didn’t have to face this alone.
It was time! The door flung open and hands reached in.
Jelly held FIRM. Next to her, Ice-cream appeared. He was frozen firm too except…one little drip dropped onto the plate.
Jelly nudged him.
“Don’t worry Ice-cream. We’re together. Time to be brave!
Besides, how bad could this be?”