Elaine Forrestal

The Importance of Writing Competitions

Shaun Tan signing books at the Literature Centre in Fremantle.

Since the sad demise of the NIE Young Writer’s Competition the Make Your Own Story Book Awards have become the longest running state-wide competition for primary and secondary school students in Western Australia. For thirty nine years this competition has been sponsored by the West Australian Branch of the Children’s Book Council of Australia. It has been organised and judged, on a volunteer basis, by their members and has among its prize winners many prominent writers and illustrators who are now professionals in these fields. Shaun Tan, Briony Stewart and James Foley spring to mind. And for thirty nine years this competition has been supporting and encouraging our young people to explore something other than sport and electronic media.

In this year’s competition it is wonderful to see the array of talent on display and the enthusiasm for writing and illustrating our own stories. Competitions like this reinforce the idea that gripping stories can be made from everyday incidents. A little magic and imagination, humour and suspense can turn even a normal trip to the shops into a story that everyone will want to read.

Competitions also encourage discipline in our young writers and illustrators. To win a prize they must first finish the story. Then meticulously check and recheck it, present it neatly and most importantly – get it in on time. For those who aspire to become professional writers and illustrators, discipline is an essential skill to develop. This skill was on display when two of the prize winners in this year’s competition showed that their talents are not confined to writing and illustrating fiction. They are also very competent public speakers. They were able to stand up in front of an audience of more than a hundred peers, teachers, parents and organisers to talk about the way in which they went about creating their entries. Both students delivered their speeches confidently and articulately, showing an ability to analyse and describe their work in a way that many adults would struggle to do.

To all the profits of doom who are busy criticising our education system I would say, open your eyes and ears to these hard-working, dedicated and talented products of that same system. With such young people as these out there, our future is secure.