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'Hope' brings rewards for student story-writers

Friday, 4 May 2012

Student story-writers

Talented young story-writers were rewarded today after winning a writing competition on the theme of  ‘hope’.

Gloria Rukeyser, great-granddaughter of celebrated Manx novelist Sir Hall Caine, presented prizes to the 47 winners of the annual fiction writing competition that bears her ancestor’s name.

Students in full-time education were invited to pen a short story, a memoir, a one-act play or the opening chapter of a novel on the subject of ‘hope’. The competition attracted 600 entries, double the number received in its inaugural year, 2010/11.

The winners of the Hall Caine Memorial Prize for Creative Writing gathered at the Manx Museum to be rewarded by Mrs Rukeyser, who, like her famous ancestor, is a writer and journalist and whose family still occupies the novelist’s former home, historic Greeba Castle.

Mrs Rukeyser, who generously sponsors the competition, told winners:

‘You are a talented group of young writers. You have many different voices, each one original, unique and interesting. You have imagination and you have talent. And you have technique, you all know how to tell a story well.

‘I was just blown away by the power of your story telling. I loved the wildly imaginative ideas, and the unpredictable endings I didn't see coming. There were some real zingers there. I met characters I really cared about. You all hooked my interest exactly where you should – in your first paragraph. That’s such a must for a short story writer. Then, after making sure that your reader just had to know what happened next, and so was going to keep reading, you proceeded, using conflict or complications or choices, to steadily build to your endings.’

Entries were invited in four categories: Primary, Key Stage 3, Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5/IoM College, with cash prizes for first, second and third placed and highly commended students.

Pupils from the Buchan School in Castletown won the top three prizes in the primary category, Sarah Anne James, 11, taking the first prize of £100 with a story about the fears of a pregnant woman with Aids living in appalling slums.

Sarah said:

‘I saw an advert on TV from a charity trying to cure different diseases, including Aids. Although I had already decided this was to be my topic, I realised I had written some things incorrectly so it made me research some more. I found it really sad. Many of the things I read were terrible. Most people who get Aids die from it, leaving their families behind.’

Alyssa Bridson, 13, who goes to Ballakermeen High School, said the track Paradise by the band Coldplay inspired her to write the 1,500-word story, about a servant girl, trapped in another world, that won her first prize of £150 in the Key Stage 3 category.

‘I love writing stories but I have never entered a competition like this one before, so I was very surprised and pleased to be successful,’ Alyssa said.

Stephanie Foxton, 16, was one of two first prize winners from St Ninian’s High School, claiming the £150 top prize in Key Stage 4. Her story personified hope. She explained:

‘I was inspired when, in history, we were studying the Holocaust. There was a documentary where Jewish people who survived the death camps were saying that the only thing that kept them going was the hope that one day they would be free. I began to wonder “Did the millions of Jewish people who were killed in the Holocaust hope? Did they believe they would survive even when in the gas chambers?

‘I began to imagine what life must have been like for everyone in the camps and ghettos – death and hope walking hand in hand. In the documentary, hope appeared to be a good thing; what if hope was bad? So I wrote how hope was a bad person and death a saviour to humanity. When I entered, I didn’t expect anything to come from it so I feel deeply honoured to be winning such a prestigious prize.’

In Key Stage 5/IoM College F&HE category, St Ninian’s student Faye Devlin, who was among the highly commended students last year, won the £200 first prize with a story, written from a mother’s perspective, about her son, who loses his life fighting in Afghanistan.

The 18-year-old said:

‘My entry was inspired by the frequent yet fleeting stories in the media of the deaths of young British servicemen and women. Sometimes it is easy to forget the person behind the headline and so I hoped my entry could sensitively remind people that the end of the news report is by no means the end of the individual’s story.’

Faye added:

‘I am delighted to have won the Key Stage 5 category and I would like to thank Mrs Rukeyser, especially, for such a great honour. The award has given me so much more confidence in my writing and the encouragement to try and write more challenging pieces.’

Student story-writers 2

The judges, who saw only the entries and not the authors’ names/schools, were: Primary – Headteachers Jill Gill (Ballacloan Infants) and David Jenkins (Dhoon Primary); Key Stages 3 – Rachael Clarke, English and media studies teacher at Ballakermeen High School, and Karen Maloney, Second in English Castle Rushen High School; Key Stage 4 – Usha Kishore, Key Stage 5 Co-ordinator for English at Queen Elizabeth II High School, and Archana Kamble, from Castle Rushen High School; Key Stage 5/Isle of Man College – Rachel Withington, Head of English at St Ninian’s High School, and Mrs Kishore.

They scored the entries on strong characterisation, good narrative flow and imaginative story-telling.

The winning students’ proud headteachers were in the audience to see them accept their prizes. Martin Barrow, Director of Education with the DEC, said the afternoon was a celebration.

‘I use the word deliberately. It is right that we should celebrate the talents of our young people. They are our future. The young people of our small Island make an impact far beyond our shores, whether in sport, music or the arts and this competition provides a fantastic opportunity for budding authors of the future to have their work recognised and celebrated.’

The competition will continue to be held annually and is open to all students who are in full-time education in the Isle of Man. The theme for the 2012/13 competition will be announced in the summer.

The four winning entries are below, as is the full list of prize-winners and Mrs Rukeyser's speech in full.

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