Emirates Litfest writing competition

Are your kids brilliant at spinning a yarn and making up stories?

If your kids are talented at telling tales (we’re talking proper stories here – not ‘the dog ate my homework’ stuff) then now is the perfect time to help the little darlings hone their skills and encourage their talent. Budding JK Rowlings and Darren Shans can sharpen their literary teeth and polish their scripting skills by entering the annual Student Writing Competition, organised by the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature, which runs from March 8-12 next year.

The theme is The Mystery, and entrants are required to be as creative and clever as they can with their short stories, including using clever characters, twisty plots and – most of all – a big, fat mystery. All the lucky winners will have their stories published by Jerboa Books, and each winner will receive five copies of the book as a keepsake for their efforts. Feel inspired? We’ve put together some handy hints to get you on your way.   

Plan your story

Don’t rush your entry. Sit down and work out the plot and the characters first, so that when you write it, you can then concentrate on making the story interesting and intriguing.

Don’t overcomplicate

The most interesting mysteries are often the simplest ones. If your story is too complicated, it may end up confusing the reader. You’ll also end up with loads to write if the plot is
too ambitious.

Make your characters real people

Remember that real people have doubts and fears. They tell lies, are complicated and aren’t all beautiful. Perfect characters are boring, so be adventurous.

The sky’s the limit

Don’t be afraid to be imaginative. If you want to write about Father Christmas delivering pressies on Mars or shrinking potions, then do so. But telling us about a trip to the zoo with your aunt can be just as mysterious.

Stick to the word count

Telling a good story in just a few words can be very challenging. Try and make sure your writing is both concise and precise.

As Gillian Bourke of the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature says, ‘The winning authors last year didn’t necessarily write the stories with the most exciting scenes, or the biggest words, or the longest word count. However, their stories created a world into which the reader can jump and say. “I am here, I am living this story, and wow, this sure is an adventure!”’

Who can enter?

There are four age categories with different word limits which relate to your age on November 12th 2010.
Ages 11 and under – up to a maximum of 500 words
Ages 12-14 – up to a maximum of 1000 words
Ages 15-18 – up to a maximum of 1500 words
Age 18+ for undergraduates in full-time education – up to a maximum of 1500 words

How to submit:

Students should submit their stories using the online form by the closing date of November 12. The link to the form is www.emirateslitfest.com/writingcompetition


Ghost in the Cellar By Shahdia Elizabeth Sharifi

If you’re in need of inspiration, read last year’s winning entry from the under 11’s category, written by Shahdia Elizabeth Sharifi of Fujairah.

Its big grey bumpy face gazed up at the old, dark, gloomy staircase which stood tall in front of it. Every few hours, its eyes had glimpsed the creepy floorboards leading to the stairs. However, for the past 450 years, this ghost had not been able to pluck up the courage to make the journey up those steps.

Today it stood there shivering and quivering, practising its groan which it had done ever since it had become a ghost.

‘If only I had the bravery to glide up those stairs and do the job that I should be doing,’ it moaned sadly. Then it added, ‘I should be frightening the people up there instead of them frightening me. Today is going to be the day!’

Feeling excited it began to zoom up the staircase, howling its scariest howl as it went. The uncourageous ghost was on its adventure of a deathtime, finding its bravery as it glided and twisted towards the locked door leading into the bright foyer. Everything was going well until its flight path was rudely interrupted by an unbelievably frustrated voice screeching from behind the shut door.

‘I know there’s something down there,’ the voice screamed, ‘and I’m going to catch it right now!’ On hearing this, the ghost turned and flew straight back down the stairs without stopping. It hid behind a big barrel that was not used anymore.

The door creaked open and a really frail, cross old man stuck his head into the basement. He clutched his walking stick and his tired old body was so bent that he couldn’t see behind the barrel. Knowing that its adventure would have to wait, the ghost sniffed and started to cry.

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