Website Buyagift has launched its first Young Authors competition, offering aspiring JK Rowlings aged ten and under the opportunity to have their story made into a professionally finished book.
Young wordsmiths have until 3 June to submit a tale of 400 words or less on the theme of The Unexpected Gift and the winning story will be made into three special books for the victorious author. A further 100 copies will be made for sale on Buyagift, with the profits going to the Make A Wish Foundation charity.
The entries will be judged by award-winning author, Giles Paley-Phillips, whose book The Fearsome Beastie (£5.99, Maverick) won The People’s Book Prize in 2012. His latest title, Things You Never Knew About Dinosaurs, will be published by Parragon in August.
Junior spoke to Giles, 35, about putting pen to paper, his fearsome grandmother and the worst gift he ever received…
Did you enjoy writing stories as a child?
I didn’t like writing or read much when I was little, although I failed most of my GCSEs, apart from English! In fact, I hated school so I have to be really careful what I say when I make visits to read my books to the children. My writing started when I was a bit older – I joined a band and began writing lyrics.
Do your sons, Elijah, six, and Sonny, three, enjoy reading and writing?
Yes, they do. We read every night and Eli does a lot of writing. He’s really enjoys creating stuff and is into robots at the moment. Sonny is younger and he likes Thomas The Tank, so we use that as a tool to help with his counting and colours. I think that’s the key to sparking their interest – taking something they already love so it doesn’t feel like effort.
Why do you think writing a story is important for children?
It’s a wonderful way for them to express their feelings and their ideas about the world. Children see things in a different way to you or I.
Where do you take inspiration from for your books?
Definitely my own life and the characters around me. For example, the grandmother in The Fearsome Beastie is based on my own gran. I don’t always do it consciously, though. However, Things You Never Knew About Dinosaurs was a bit different. It was actually the first manuscript I ever wrote. My wife was pregnant with Eli at the time and I wanted to write something for him but couldn’t get started. Then I came across a book of poetry by American writer Shel Silverstein in a charity shop. It was my Eureka moment. I raced back to the toy shop that I was managing and starting writing straight away.
What do you look for in a good story?
I like funny books and something a bit different and quirky. I’m not so keen on fluffy bunnies. I’m a big fan of The Melancholy Death Of Oyster Boy by Tim Burton and The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey. I was initially worried that the scene in The Fearsome Beastie where the grandmother chops the monster in half with an axe was a bit too much, but children tell me it’s their favourite bit!
The theme for the Young Authors competition is The Unexpected Gift. What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
Is it a bit cheesy to say my children? I’m not sure about best but I’ve certainly received some terrible gifts in my time. My next door neighbour once gave me some aftershave called One Man Show that smelt as bad as it sounds and a couple I used to lodge with gave me a carbon monoxide detector – but we didn’t use gas in our house!
The proceeds from sales of the winning book will go to Make A Wish. If you could wish to do anything for a day, what would it be?
This might sound weird but I really love my life as it is. I suppose it would have been great to do an apprenticeship with the author Maurice Sendak, who wrote and illustrated Where The Wild Things Are, if he were still alive. My sons are obsessed with Star Wars so I think they’d choose to be Luke Skywalker for the day.
Find out more about the Buyagift Young Authors competition here.