Young Wild Writers Make Their Voices Heard for Nature

With over 300 entries this year to the Young Wild Writers competition of a very high standard, the task for our panel of judges has been challenging. Entries came from the length and breadth of Great Britain, and there were poems, non-fiction prose, and stories of animal survival, the theme of this annual competition.

Imaginative, accomplished, original, moving, magical, lyrical – just some of the compliments our judges paid to the winning entries. 

The judging panel, led by children’s author Gill Lewis, together with librarian Elizabeth Ryan and children’s literary agent Victoria Birkett, spent weeks assessing the entries and according to Gill, the final decisions were really tough.

The 2023 Results in Full

Young Category (6-8 Years)

    1. The Brave Little Robin       Muireann Beck       Mallaig Primary School                            (aged 8)
    2. A Curlew Curfew                  Jamie Smart            Home schooled                                        (aged 7)
    3. Game of Survival                 Mali Charles            Ysgol Cynwyd Sant                                   (aged 8)

Highly Commended

                 Puffin                                        Lara Carpenter      The Duchy School                                      (aged 8)
                 Survival is a Balance            Melody Williams     Springfield Primary School                      (aged 7)

Junior Category (9-12 Years)

    1. The Bee                                  Adam Breffit            Cuffley School                                            (aged 10)
    2. The Hen Harrier                  Benjamin Fallow      Twineham CE Primary                              (aged 9)
    3. The Heron                             Maisie Langridge     Histon & Impington Brook School         (aged 10)

Highly Commended

                 Arctic Fox                                Danny Sokolov        City of London Freemen’s School          (aged 10)
                 The Call of the Wild              Oliver Batiste          Cams Hill School                                       (aged 11)

Senior Category (13-16 Years)

    1. The Big Finale                      George Metcalfe      Haberdasher’s Boys’ School                   (aged 16)
    2. The Slow Killer                    Nidhi Nadagouda     Oldmachar Academy                              (aged 14)
    3. Ravens of the Moors         Edie Cook                   Penrice Academy                                    (aged 13)

Highly Commended

                 Bechstein’s Bats                   May Vaughan           Stratford Girls Grammar School            (aged 14)
                 A Vixen’s Tale                        Lucy Mary Farrell       Home educated                                       (aged 14)

A Personal Message from Gill Lewis for All Our Entrants

Hello everyone – thank you to all who submitted entries in this year’s competition. Every entry was read and considered.

It was a real privilege to have read the many diverse and brilliant pieces of writing that were sent in this year. We had non-fiction, story, prose, and poetry. We had pieces of writing about animals from ants to sloths, to snakes and whales. Each piece was very different from another. The standard this year was incredibly high, and of course the judging was very difficult to choose between so many worthy winners. We were fortunate to have a great and varied judging panel – Gill Lewis (Children’s author), Elizabeth Ryan (librarian and previous judge of BBC 500 words competition) and Victoria Birkett (children’s literary agent).

So, what were we looking for? Why did some of the pieces of writing rise to the top amongst so many wonderful entries?

We were looking for adherence to the theme of animal survival, a compelling narrative arc, originality, use of language, pace, rhythm, descriptive writing, and clear use of facts and research where appropriate. Many of the pieces ticked all these boxes and created a very strong longlist and shortlist. Indeed, the judges differed on the placing decisions for some of the entries on the shortlist. There was much debate how to award the 1st, 2nd and 3rd in each category.

Perhaps ultimately what makes a piece stand out, is its ability to communicate, to allow the reader to engage with the piece of writing at a deeper level – and this can be done across all the styles of writing from non-fiction, prose, and poetry etc. An exceptional piece of writing allows the reader to stop and think, to perhaps view the world a different way and to emotionally engage with the subject matter. An exceptional piece of writing stays in our minds long after the reading.

But there will always be a degree in subjectivity in a writing competition, and for those who didn’t make the top three in your category, please know that your piece of writing was read, enjoyed, and fiercely debated. The standard was incredibly high this year and there were many stand-out pieces.

We hope you enjoyed creating your piece for this competition. Please keep on writing, and we hope you have fun with it. There are many competitions out there if you like entering competitions, but if you just love to write for yourself and others, then that’s brilliant too.

It’s wonderful to know that there are brilliant writers out there – writing is a super-power – it can change hearts and minds, and if we can do that, we can change the world.

Gill Lewis

The Judging Panel for 2023

Gill Lewis – Gill Lewis is a multi-award-winning author who writes books about humans, the wild and the not-so-wild world. Her stories range from topics such as deep-sea trawling in the Atlantic, coltan mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo to raptor persecution on the British Uplands.

Sky Dancer and Eagle Warrior both examine raptor persecution on British grouse moors.

Moon Bear won the German Prize for Environmental Youth Literature and Wild Wings and One White Dolphin won the US Green Earth prize.
Gill Lewis writes child protagonists as the tellers of truth and the agents of change.

Elizabeth Ryan – Elizabeth Ryan has been a librarian judge for children’s/young person’s writing competitions for over ten years and including the BBC’s 500 Words competition, The Wilbur Niso Smith Author of Tomorrow Prize and the Orwell Youth Prize where she longlisted one of 2023’s outright winners. She has also shortlisted for competitions for children living and/or studying in local areas and has been a head judge for three years at the Richmond Young Writers Festival.

Victoria Birkett – Victoria Birkett has a wealth of knowledge of the children’s book industry and is a literary agent at the Miles Stott Literary Agency. She knows the ingredients that make a great piece of writing and a has deep understanding of how readers engage with an author’s writing.

The 2023 Overall Winner
George Metcalfe (aged 16)

The Big Finale

Ladies and gentlemen. Boys and girls. Welcome to the most spectacular show on Earth!

Prepare to be dazzled, amazed, and enthralled as I unleash the world of wonder and excitement to you. Suspend your disbelief, for tonight, you are about to embark on a journey beyond your wildest imagination. So, sit back, relax, and let the magic unfold before your very eyes. This is it: the Big Finale.

Our stage is a forest in the heart of New Zealand’s wilderness. Tall eucalyptus trees tower over like guardians protecting their territory. Their rough, scared trunks bear witness to the passage of time, while their thin branches dance in the cool breeze. Beneath them, held like hostages, are various clumps of bushes, some bearing more vegetation than others. They cling to the dry earth beneath them, as if disdaining to be sucked up into the sky.

Surrounding this helpless family of plants is a circle of fire, and our performer, an innocent little kiwi, is standing right at its centre. The flames come as little golden balls, igniting the night, outshining the stars. The leaping flames burn like a temper, jumping from tree to tree as they close in on our little soldier. Our warrior. Our martyr. Each tree they target becomes victim to its destruction, and from each carcass, trails of black smoke twirl heavenward, making an artistry of its swirls and flow.

Meanwhile, our slight little kiwi stands erect and motionless. Its round, brown feathered body sits awkwardly on two spindly, knobbly legs. Two jet-black pupils swim in its pear-shaped head that pokes from side to side, desperate for a means of escape. Its wings, mere vestiges of flight, are folded neatly by its sides. Its beady eyes trail the sky, watching its cousin birds take flight and break the earth’s stratosphere. High above our flightless entertainer, these birds fly on invisible strings, moving in choreographed melody. Their long, strong wings beat patterns into the chlorine-blue sky, stretching it taunt into silk.

Around our actor, still subjected to the crusty soil that lines the forest floor, our stage collapses; trees, victims to the raging fire, fall like soldiers, throwing splintering timbers and shards of wood in all directions. He hops around them in an effort to prolong his survival. Those trees that once offered canopy and shelter, now poke out of the ground like sticks of charcoal, no more vibrant that lamp posts in a city. The air smells and tastes like a bonfire, while the horizon glows orange beneath the smoky wind-dragged plume. The circle is closing and its time for our star to shine. His eyes are racing back and forth in his skull, his feet are twitching nervously, and his head is rolling in its socket. He crouches down, his wiry beak tickling the floor. He waits there, braced for impact while the hungry flames close in on him.

Ladies and gentlemen. Boys and girls. This is it: the Big Finale.

Thanks to all of the entrants - and parents and teachers for their encouragement - for producing such an exceptional standard of entries this year. And for showing real passion, commitment and concern for wildlife and the environment.

Thank you too to our judges, Gill Lewis, Elizabeth Ryan and Victoria Birkett, for tackling the mountainous challenge of assessing over 300 outstanding entries so meticulously.

We will be publishing more of the winning entries on our website in the coming weeks, and we hope you will enjoy reading them as much as we have delighted in judging them.