*rant alert* My child ‘won’ a Young Writers competition and is going to be published

Today the 9yr old came out of school so full of proud he was steaming at the ears with it. As we walked to the car he couldn’t stop telling me all about it.

Not ONLY had he won the school’s ‘Achievers Certificate’ for a ‘fabulous piece of descriptive writing’, but he had ALSO “won a competition with a poem I wrote a-a-a-ges ago and there is a letter in my book bag and it’s going to be in a book and it’s amazing that I won and my poem is going to be in a book and would they send me the book and I won the competition and I’m really pleased and isn’t it funny that I’ve won and am going to be in a book….” (and BREATHE).

Once we were home, and able to study this exciting letter (whilst he hopped from foot to foot) it all became clear. The ‘competition’ was run by Young Writers, and the school entered all the children into it.

Yes, Jolly had ‘won’ a national writing competition. How exciting.

But then it transpired that so had three other children in his class?

Next came the important 9yr old question. What was his prize? Why, to be published in the book, naturally.
He did get a bookmark (a paper one advertising the Young Writers website), and a certificate too.
There are some cash prizes offered – but for the schools themselves.
Oh, and the best young writer in each region will win… a £10 book token. Ooooh.

Bestie best of all – if we want a copy of said book? That’ll be £15.99, thank you. Plus £2 P&P.

REALLY?

So how many ‘winners’ in this competition are there then?

We view our competitions as a creative writing experience, therefore we will endeavour to accept as many entries as we can, as long as they meet our editing criteria. We want to encourage children to enjoy reading and writing and to take pride in their work.

Ah. So not ACTUALLY a competition at all then (I’ve now heard many many tales of whole classes having their work accepted)?

Okay, so it’s not a ‘scam’ – they don’t lie, they don’t fool you out of your money, and there is a genuine book at the end of it.

But my 9yr old boy was SO thrilled at having ‘won’ a competition. When we explained the facts (gently) to him, he was FURIOUS, and felt utterly duped. He informed us we were not to spend the money on a copy of the book, he could have a quick look at the school’s version. He knows I get paid for writing – he understands at a basic level the financial worth of the content in published work.

This company, Bonacia, is gaining a raft of fabulous content for its books – and then letting the parents of those authors, the captive audience which is emotionally tied to that content, purchase copies. I’ve searched Amazon – not one of Bonacia’s Young Writer poetry anthologies (and they’ve been going for 18 years, and the books are published regionally, so that’s a LOT of anthologies) is available to buy.
Not one.
Which suggests to me that their sole income stream is the parents/grandparents/family/friends of the children who have ‘won’ a place in the book.

Yes, I’m damn sure they do include as many as possible! In fact, their invoice for the book letter of congratulation states

One of our main aims is to raise awareness of poetry within the classroom and promote the enjoyment of reading and writing it – in the interest of encouraging pupils and to help achieve this aim, all young writers stood a very realistic chance of seeing their work in print.

Which is a very round-the-houses way of saying ‘if you enter, you’re in’. Because the more they can fit in, the more money they can make. Competition My Arse.

And cleverly, by rewarding the school with the prize and not the children, they neatly manipulate their income stream. No cash-strapped school has the time or energy to enter competitions which don’t benefit them. But dangle a free £1000, and they’ll probably manage to get the children to do a creative writing exercise one afternoon, and find the time to upload the best of them to the Young Writers website.

Not to mention the blanket “I give permission for the work to be published” copyright statement every parent must sign – which entitles them to permanent worldwide rights to that poem for ever more.

So, by kind permission of it’s author, here’s my son’s poem (I love it, think he’s genius, and totally deserved to actually win a prize with it. But I cheerfully admit I may be everso slightly biased.

Queen Elizabeth Comes To Stay

I see people before me standing by a tree

The rusted trumpets raise, for who knows how many days,

The people start to pray, collapsing there all day,

Then ruthless Queen Elizabeth comes to stay.

 

I hear the growls of the Queen that must mean I need to redeem.

I hear the yells of a man being forced to eat jellied eels… and ham!

I hear the howls of a dog being chased around,

Oh, what a poor hound!

I hear the rattles of the platter, they make such a clatter.

I feel the shivers of the lord, I don’t think he can pluck a chord.

I feel the drips of the soaking rain, I don’t think I can hear again!

Jolly, aged 9.

 

 

 

Author: Laura

A 70's child, I’ve been married for a Very Long Time, and appear to have made four children, and collected one large and useless dog along the way. I work, I have four children, I have a dog… ergo, I do not do dusting or ironing. I began LittleStuff back in (gulp) 2004. I like huge mugs of tea. And Coffee. And Cake. And a steaming cone of crispy fresh fluffy chips, smothered in salt and vinegar. #healthyeater When I grow up I am going to be quietly graceful, organised and wear lipstick every day. In the meantime I *may* have a slight butterfly-brain issue.

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18 Comments

  1. I can’t stand it when companys prey on people like that. Well done Jolly for writing an excellent poem and for having the intelligence not to fall for buying the book. What a shame to have to suffer the crushing disappointment, its happened to me and its a horrible feeling. I suppose its one of life’s lessons but sad that a child has to learn it.

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks Hazel. He was crushed – not so much at the lack of publishing (he doesn’t have the towering self-confidence to presume he ever deserved it), but the sheer duplicity of the people behind the competition.
      Children aren’t stupid – they know what a competition is, and equally when they’re being conned and patronised.

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  2. Evening Laura, was searching the web for info on ‘young writers’ and came across your piece.

    In case you were not aware, the Walton family are still fooling parents up and down the land with this vanity publishing scam.

    I’m going to write to my daughters school tomorrow to grumble, I sit suppose your’re planning on refreshing the item item are you?

    They have a clever website now and offer to print yearbooks and random guff. Clearly a ‘printer’ rather than a publisher. It is synovial and greedy and whilst it’s a deadly sin and all that .. Alas I expect they’re not ‘technically’ breaking any laws.

    Just makes me feel better typing though.

    Rant ends

    Lawrence salvoni
    (hacked off parent of upset 13 year old nipper)

    Post a Reply
    • Oh Lawrence, I cannot believe they’re still doing the rounds, and no one has yet taken them to task.
      It’s a shocking business model, made more sad by the fact that it has the potential to be genuinely great.

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  3. Hi. My 12 year old daughter got one of those lovely letters today. At our home address. (How did they get that??) All the same content as your talented son received.

    She went from total delight and excitement to crushing disappointment once I started to google….

    Somebody really needs to stop these people!!!

    Post a Reply
    • It’s so depressing that schools continue to participate in this (and yes, HOW did they get your home address??)

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  4. It’s now April 2016 and my 8 year old daughter has ‘won’ a 100 word story writing competition as has the other girl in her class who entered. While searching for information I came across your post. I was extremely suspicious when I saw the cost of the books and your post has confirmed my fears. My 8 year old is really angry that she has been lied to and I’m really cross that the school has been misled into believing this was a competition. I will be booking an appointment with the head tomorrow

    Post a Reply
    • It surely can’t be news to headteachers that this is the way the scheme works – why on earth they continue to fall for it is frankly baffling. And it makes me so cross – there are a lot of really good, genuine writing competitions out there for children. Why schools continue to participate in this one is beyond me.

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  5. I am very, very angry with the school that my grand-daughter goes to as she and my son an daughter in law got this letter and they even paid for 2 books! The school should be ashamed of themselves and I feel as if we have been made fools of. I woud like to ask the school who’s idea this was to take part in what is really not much better than a letter from Santa but much more expensive!!

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  6. Thank-you for your post. This weekend my 11yo has a 100 word story to write for her homework. I have shown her your article and she will be submitting a range of similar posts like this printed off with her 100 word story and a letter from me forbidding the school to enter her into this scam. She has ‘won’ one of these before and I didn’t make enough of a fuss then to express my displeasure.

    Post a Reply
    • That’s a great idea Heather – the more schools are pressured by parents, the quicker the whole thing will die.

      Post a Reply
  7. I and a number of other mums have just been duped into this! A letter arrived on the door step yesterday and yes you can imagine the total excitement my 9 year old daughter had when she read the letter. She was dancing around the kitchen in such delight it was a joy to watch! The ‘book’ is £16 “can we buy a few books one for nanny and aunt sue, I would like 2 copies!! etc..”So later on that day I post on Facebook ‘proud mum moment’ and then all the mums reply “mine too”! After some digging around we find loads of stuff on the internet of disgusted parents in the same boat. So I am fuming and now trying to think what is the best way to address this with my daughter.

    Post a Reply
  8. I and a number of other mums have just been duped into this! A letter arrived on the door step yesterday and yes you can imagine the total excitement my 9 year old daughter had when she read the letter. She was dancing around the kitchen in such delight it was a joy to watch! The ‘book’ is £16 “can we buy a few books one for nanny and aunt sue, I would like 2 copies!! etc..”So later on that day I post on Facebook ‘proud mum moment’ and then all the mums reply “mine too”! After some digging around we find loads of stuff on the internet of disgusted parents in the same boat. So I am fuming and now trying to think what is the best way to address this with my daughter.

    Post a Reply

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