Writing competitions! Lots!

Are you writing a poem, a short story, a play, a novel, a screenplay …?

Are you under 16, over 16, or even 16 exactly?

Would you like some amazing industry professionals to see your work, and possibly even publish or perform it? Lots of people are looking for new writers right now. Some great competitions end soon, so get your skates on …

Chapter 1

I became a published author by winning a competition. It was the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition, and you can find out more about it here, including Barry Cunningham’s writing tips. He discovered JK Rowling, so he knows a thing or two … The competition is closed for this year, but if you’re still polishing your children’s manuscript, keep an eye on when it reopens later in the year for 2017.

If you can’t wait, ITV’s Lorraine has just launched a nation-wide hunt for the next bestselling author for 5-7s. You’ll need to send in the first 1000 words of your masterpiece by Monday, 29th February – so not long now – and may appear on TV.

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There are loads of other writing competitions around meanwhile, and here are just some of them. Thanks to Joan Lennon on Girls Heart Books for the details on these two

“The Betjamen Poetry Prize – it’s for poets aged 10 – 13 and the deadline for submissions is 31 July 2016, so you’ve got plenty of time.  But there’s lots on the website to get your poetic juices going, courtesy of Indigo Williams, so have a look.

500 Words – a story writing competition for ages 5 – 9 and 10 – 13.  The deadline for this one is much closer – 25 February 2016 – so you’ll need to get your skates on.  There are some good prompts and interesting articles on this site too – well worth a visit.”

The BBC Writers Room is of course full of opportunities for plays, film scripts and comedy.

The Sky Blue Theatre Company even have a video about their British Theatre Challenge!

And finally, Creative Writing Ink has a wonderful list of competitions for everything from poetry to playwriting to fiction to sitcoms.

Whatever it is you’re working on, there is probably a competition you could enter it for, where you might be lucky and get shortlisted and get some invaluable feedback. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get far this time. Having the courage to polish your work and enter is what matters. You might at the very least make friends with fellow entrants (I did). And you’re bound to learn a lot from the process – even just imagining what the judges might be thinking, and making your work as great as it can be to impress them.

Good luck, and let me know what happens.

Sophia xxx

Win free books!

This seems to be giveaway week for my books, and that’s fine by me!

For readers in the US, there are giveaways of The Look running on Good Books and Good Wine and Rather Be Reading. Both these US bloggers have been so kind and supportive since they read the book, and I’m really grateful to them. It’s like someone welcoming you into their home. Their big, enormous home, with 50 states and 300 million people. Thank you, Allison and Estelle.

For readers in the UK, there’s a giveaway of signed copies of the 3 Threads books from Shout magazine. Only open till tomorrow afternoon! (I haven’t signed the books yet, but no doubt they’ll come my way soon. Maybe I’ll get to sign them with the winners’ names in, which I always like.)

Free stuff. Lovely. And it’s only a click away …

You write – competitions

I’ve been meaning to start a new competition one of these days – to celebrate the new year by getting you guys to write a story. Or at least, the start of a story. It’s still a plan, but in the meantime, here are two (count ’em – two!) writing competitions by COOL PEOPLE, with COOL PRIZES that are really worth entering.

The first is by Liz Kessler, who’s an author I really like. I managed to get an advance copy of A Year Without Autumn, her last book, and I loved it. It has a very clever time travel element to it, some lovely characters and an aspect of the plot which will probably save lots of lives of readers and their friends and family. Literally. Really. It’s a life-saving book. And her new novel, North of Nowhere, is out next week.

Liz Kessler

The competition is run by the Guardian and you can find it here. You have to be 8-13, and you can win a digital camera and £100 worth of books for your school.

The second competition is one I’m enormously fond of. It’s the annual 500 Words competition, run by Radio 2, in association with the Hay Festival and the Telegraph. (What is it with national newspapers and cool writing competitions? I wonder if The Times runs one too. Oh yeah, it does …)


I like this comp for so many reasons. First of all, I was in Hay about three years ago when a flash Rolls Royce drove by and I was assured that Chris Evans, the Radio 2 DJ, was inside. He was visiting Hay for the first time and nobody knew what he would think of it.

Well, he loved it, just like I did. He loved it so much that he launched this competition for young writers, advertising it on his show, and last year it got over 30,000 entries. So go Chris. Woo! (The winners get their stories read out by celebs like David Walliams at Hay on Wye in the summer. But more than that, the shortlisted people will know their stories have been read by the likes of Jacqueline Wilson, Malorie Blackman, Frank Cotterell Boyce, Charlie Higson and Richard Hammond, who’s chairing the judges this year. How cool is that?)

I also like it because it’s 500 words, and that’s a fabulous number of words for a story. Difficult to squeeze it all in there, but wonderful if you can. Try it. You’ll see.

And finally, I like it because it’s for young writers, like Liz’s. As before, you have to be 13 or under (although there’s no lower age limit for this one).

So go on. Have a go. And if you’re too old for these ones, see what other competitions are out there. You never know what might happen.

After all, I entered a writing competition, and look where it got me.


Girl Outside – Competition winners

In July, the competition was to design a book cover. And as always, you made it really tough for me. There were so many great entries. The prizes were a signed copy of The Look, and a copy of Adorkable, by Sarra Manning, who’s talking with me at the Edinburgh Festival next Sunday.

It took me ages to decide, but in the end, the winner of The Look was Amber, from The Mile Long Bookshelf. I love the colours in this picture, and the suggestion of adventure, and the truly great strapline. Straplines are really hard to do (as I know from bitter experience), so I was very impressed with this one. Congratulations, Amber!

The winner of Adorkable was Hannah Bowstead. I loved the simple graphics of this cover, and the style reminded me a bit of one of my favourites – A Necklace of Raindrops, by Joan Aiken, illustrated by the amazing Jan Pienkowski. Plus, the boots. Loving the boots. Well done, Hannah.

And finally, an honourable mention goes to Sara Coggin, whose blog, Box of Things, is also worth a look for its beautiful photographs. This drawing captures the spirit of my other books, I think. Loving the handbag, and the bowtie, and the fact that her head is missing. Intriguing! I’ll be sending Sara a signed postcard.

Thank you to all of you who entered. It was great fun to judge, and I hope you enjoyed it too. I’ll be putting these entries up on the Threadsthebook website, so look out for them there.

July competition – design a book cover

Hello lovely readers

It feels like ages since I’ve done a competition. I have 2 copies of books to give away: one of The Look (with its lovely pink page edges – stroke, stroke) and one of Adorkable, by Sarra Manning.


This is in honour of my event with Sarra at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this year, where we’ll be appearing on 12th August, talking about fashion, style, jumble sales (apparently – not an expert), trendsetting on Twitter and being yourself.

I read Adorkable a few weeks ago and loved it. It’s definitely for older teen readers, in that it has a lovely boy (called Michael Lee) and a feisty girl (called Jeane Smith) and they … you know. So don’t say you’re not warned.

Jeane is fabulous at not caring about what people think of her, doing her own thing and acting as a role model for anyone who’s ever felt, well, dorky – but in a cool way.

The competition is this. In The Look, Ted is creative. Jeane is creative. I want you to be creative too, and to design a book cover for a book for teens.

The title of your book is Girl, Outside. It’s not a real book, I just made it up. You choose the genre, though. You can draw it, take a clever photo, do a collage (I love collages), paint a watercolour or whatever you like. Make it the cover of a book you know you and your friends would love to buy.

Then take a picture of your cover and send it to me. You can email me at sophiaben at me dot com.

I will pick a winner for each book, so let me know which one you would prefer.

The deadline is 31st July.

If I get enough good entries, I’ll put them up in a gallery here. Meanwhile, if there’s any crucial info that I’ve forgotten to give you, just ask me.

Have fun and get designing!


Those winning entries …

I must remember never to run a competition. They are the icebergs of authorial websites.

The good bits – the bits I remember and that make me do it again, despite everything – are choosing the theme, getting the entries in, hearing from readers and new fans about what they’re up to, reading some truly great stories, admiring some great pictures (and now video too), and enjoying the countdown to the big announcement.

Actually, that adds up to a lot of good bits. Maybe I will run another competition. One day.

Anyway, they’re the pretty white tip of the iceberg sticking up above the water. What you don’t see – and I tend to forget – is the dirty great grey bit underneath. First of all, there’s whittling down my favourite entries (generally a dozen or so) to the few who will finally get a mention and win a prize. During this process, which lasts for days, I feel mean. Seriously. Mean. So many girls put in so much work – or just showed a natural talent, you can never always be sure – and some of them are going to be disappointed, thinking I didn’t like their entries when I did, I DID!

Then there’s the admin that goes with fighting with the back end of a website, trying to put up all the winning entries, so you can admire them. It takes ages! Anyway, it’s done now, so check out the Competition page of the Threads website, follow the links, and enjoy the 5 entries that made it to the top.

But if your picture or story didn’t make it this time, that doesn’t mean I didn’t think it was good. I almost certainly thought it had something really special about it. And there’s always next time …

… Which means I’m going to have to run another competition sometime, aren’t I?

I guess I suppose I am.