Australians are great storytellers. From the traditional and contemporary tales of First Nations people to the writers, comedians and performers who bring our Australian stories to life, we have a long tradition of storytelling. And it’s never too early for children to be part of it. Not only is creative writing fun, it can have a significant positive impact academically and socially and it’s great for their planning and problem solving skills, too.
This month, Officeworks is hosting a short story competition for children aged 9 to 14. The winner will join the ranks of other young authors who have had their original stories narrated on storytelling podcast StoryKids, an initiative by The Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation.
Verity Hunt-Ballard (left) and Amelia Christo created the StoryKids podcast in 2020. Both women studied at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, teach performing arts, have performed in many high profile stage shows, and have children of similar ages. They were inspired to create StoryKids when they realised there was a gap in the market for primary school-aged children for creative programs encouraging writing.
StoryKids puts these young voices in the spotlight, and with the help of ALNF’s ambassadors, as well as some of Verity and Amelia’s high-profile friends – including Adam Goodes and Casey Donovan, the characters are brought to life.
In the lead-up to the competition we spoke to Verity and Amelia about why creative writing is so good for kids and how to inspire them to get started.
How Do You Get Kids to Engage With Creative Writing?
Verity says empowering kids by honouring their voices and their ideas is important for their artistic confidence. She believes that kids should have the freedom to be creative and to let their imaginations run wild, which is why there are very few rules for the StoryKids submissions (see bottom of story for more information).
Her tips for beginners are:
- Just start – don’t stress, let the pencil flow.
- Set a timer for five minutes and write. Then go and jump on the trampoline or play outside and see if anything inspires you.
- Listen to a StoryKids podcast episode and see if it generates ideas.
Verity’s co-creator, Amelia, knows that sometimes kids need a helping hand with penning imaginative stories. One of Amelia’s top tips is to “take the labour out of writing” in order to encourage creativity and the expression of ideas. Be a scribe for your children when they find it hard to pick up a pen. Use a voice recorder to record their ideas, or even their whole tale, and transcribe it for them later.
Some kids get anxious about making mistakes, so letting them know that the first draft doesn’t have to be perfect gives them license to be creative without any stress. “Grammar, spelling, punctuation can all come later,” Amelia says.
Reading Helps Kids to Learn How to Structure Their Stories
Officeworks employee and short story writer Kayla Saddington read a lot as a child and says that this is a great way to stimulate creativity in children. She also suggests that dreams can act as creative writing prompts for kids, as they can be quite odd and imaginative and are a good source of material for stories.
Kayla says that reading books based on adventure, like J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, stimulate great stories and help kids connect to their own adventurous spirits. For those who love spooky tales, the Goosebumps series by R.L.Stine is filled with eerie stories to spark the imagination.
Beloved children’s author Andy Griffiths was interviewed in Season 3 of StoryKids. He says that reading other people’s books is a way for kids to develop an understanding of how stories work and his advice for budding authors is to practise writing every day. “Stay awake. Look around you. Listen,” he says. “There’s so much going on around you that a writer can make use of.”
Try These Creative Writing Ideas for Kids
If you’re finding it tricky to get them started, there are hundreds of creative writing prompts for kids available online. Or try one of these:
- Retelling: If kids are very little, ask them to recount an event in their own words, e.g. a bike ride.
- Story salad: Choose three words that must be included in their creation, e.g. banana, clock, fortune.
- Make it worse: Create a scenario, then ask your mini-authors how that situation could get more dire.
- Pick a genre: Talk about story genres that your kids know well, like fairytales. Encourage them to point out the story techniques and the structure; how the beginning, middle and end of a story of that type works. Then get them to have a go at creating one of their own.
- Start small: Encourage kids to look close to home and write about their pets, their family or even a video game they love.
- Zoom and stretch: Zoom in and focus on a particular moment, then stretch out the details, e.g. What is it like on a swing at the park? Use the five senses to describe the experience: sight, smell, taste, sound and feel.
- One word builder stories: Start with one word and take turns adding another until a story appears - OR -
- One line builder stories: Start with a sentence and take turns adding a sentence till you are all happy with your creation.
And remember, fun is key; it doesn’t always have to make sense.
What To Try:
- Studymate A4 70gsm 8mm Ruled Exercise Book 48 Page
- BIC 4 Colour Medium Retractable Ballpoint Pen
- Oxford My Personal Dictionary National 4th Edition
- Oxford Australian Mini Thesaurus
- Kadink Kids Drawing Table and Chair
- Child's Play Goldilocks and the Three Bears Flip Up Book
- Kadink Library Bag Blue
- Oxford How to Write Your Best Story Ever Book
How to Enter the Officeworks StoryKids Competition
If your child is aged 9 to 14, loves writing and is interested in a chance to be a part of this immersive storytelling experience, all they need to do is grab a pen and paper and get started. The competition rules are simple: just write a 500-word story on any subject. Remember, the audience is other kids, so it can’t be too scary. Once they have drafted and polished their work (with a bit of help from you), they can submit their story for a chance to be part of an innovative children's podcasting community.
Stories can be submitted by emailing email@example.com. Be sure to include your child’s name and age, and a parent contact phone number. By submitting your entry you agree to the terms and conditions of this competition.
One story will be selected to be published on StoryKids, with the winning writer interviewed about their story for the podcast, as well as receiving a Kindle Paperwhite Waterproof eReader 32GB WiFi 10th Gen and Sony WHCH710N Noise Cancelling Headphones Black.
The competition opens at 12 midday AEST on 11 October 2021. Entries close on 31 October 2021 at 11.59pm AEST.