Rotary event: who has the write stuff?

Peter Robertson touts the all-round benefits to youngsters prepared to enter the Children’s Essay Competition.


A surprising number of renowned authors started writing as kids – which begs the question – could some of those entering the Te Awamutu Rotary Club’s 2020 Children’s Essay Competition be taking their first steps towards a writing career?

Mary Shelley was 18 when she started writing Frankenstein; Kat Zhang was just 12 when she started her first novel, and was 19 when her young adult trilogy, The Hybrid Chronicles, was published by HarperCollins; fantasy writer and New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas was 16 when she started writing her award-winning Throne of Glass.

No matter the long goal, the annual essay competition could be a great launching pad. It offers prizes for the first three place-getters in four categories – ages 5-6, 7-8, 9-10 and aged 11 upwards, with book vouchers of $50 for the first-place getters, $30 for those coming in second place, and $20 for third place-getters. If a winning writer in a category enters through their school, that school will also receive a $30 book voucher.

Competition founder and organiser, Rotarian Peter Robertson said anyone in their age category – and within Te Awamutu Rotary’s area of coverage – could submit an essay.

“Youngsters can enter independently as well as through their schools, or their home-schooling networks. It has always been that way, but people often think must go through their school. That’s not the case at all,” he said.

Entry to this year’s competition closes on September 25. Peter said schools were advised in time to include the essay competition in their term’s plans. The uptake by school students depends largely on the support given to the competition by principals and teachers, he added.

The 2020 competition invites entrants to write an essay of no more than 800 words on any of the following: “It happened during lockdown … / “When I work up, I had no idea what was going to happen that day. / “A very exciting thing happened to our family. / “The worst holiday I ever had. / “The time my friends and I …”

Entries must be printed out and either delivered to Ray White Real Estate in Alexandra St, or posted to PO Box 147, Te Awamutu 3840. The team of judges is led by Rotarian and former teacher Elizabeth Bayley.

“Each year, we hold an afternoon gathering at the Methodist Church Hall where the place-getters can either read out their story themselves, or have someone read it out for them,” said Peter. “That event provides a great opportunity for us to celebrate our winners and for people to hear their stories.”

The competition, sponsored by Paper Plus in Te Awamutu, was started as a Rotary initiative to give something back to the community. For more details call Peter Robertson on 07-871 4697.

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