*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.
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.
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.