Notebook and pen with handwritten text

The power of 500 words

Happy new year! I’m getting this post out before February surprises me by arriving tomorrow 🙂 I’ve come out of blissful hibernation with a lot of grumbling and scratching and complaining because the days are getting brighter. I suspect I may be in the minority on that front. Thankfully, the weather is staying nice and cold, so there are some good things to look forward to.

This week’s top excitement was the announcement that BBC 500 Words has launched once more. For those not familiar with it, this is a competition for young authors aged between 5 and 13 to write a story of no more than 500 words. A few years ago, I had the great sense to register to be a judge. My friend, colleague and very fine academic librarian, Fiona, wrote a reference for me in support of my application.

Before long, an email will arrive telling me that the first batch of stories have landed in my inbox. They will be from authors based around the UK, full of excitement and sadness, grand adventure and everyday experiences, heroic characters and downright villains. And everything in between.

It is the most fun, letting your imagination soar in the hands of people who are learning their craft, who have a story to tell and the encouragement to do it. If you enjoy reading and want to be inspired, check out the website. You can read the top stories from previous years, you can watch famous names read the winning stories, and you can appreciate the role this competition plays in developing our understanding of how language is used and taught. If you know any young authors, direct them to the competition or ask them about it, as most schools in the UK are participating. The website also has a bank of resources to help you along. I’m planning on using those with colleagues to see if we can improve our abstract writing too!

And if you are really caught up in the adventure, you can join me as a judge. The judging portal is easy to use, the criteria are clear, and there is support if you need it. There were 134,790 entries last year, this year I’m sure there will be more. You can set the age-group you mark and the number of entries you get. And if, like me, you are hooked, you can always ask for more 🙂

Each story is a gift and I’m looking forward to curling up with a lot of good reads!

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