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The Lit & Phil’s Young Writers’ Awards

Entrants and winner for the Lit & Phil's Young Writers' Award

The Awards were inspired by a similar scheme run by The Portico Library in Manchester, and have now been running for seven years. Thanks to generous donors over this period, we have been able to offer young people aged 11-18 from across the region the opportunity to develop and share their creativity in the categories of  poetry, fiction and non-fiction, working with writing mentors in school and in the Lit & Phil. This year’s judges were poet and playwright Tom Kelly (poetry),  founder and editor of independent publisher Red Squirrel Press, Sheila Wakefield (fiction), and former Arts Editor of The Journal and freelance writer Dave Whetstone (non-fiction).

This year’s Awards, sponsored by Newcastle’s Pen & Palette Club, were presented in early March (just in time before lockdown) by award-winning crime writer and Lit & Phil member, Ann Cleeves.  A special prize for an overall winner from the three categories was chosen and presented on behalf of the Pen & Palette Club by Professor Kelsey Thornton.

We asked Jessica Worley, who has been co-ordinating the Awards for the last five years , to say a few words:

“As a writer and a teacher I am lucky to work with lots of different creative writing groups, yet I never fail to be both impressed with, and inspired by, the students who take part in the library’s Young Writers’ Awards. 

It is not always easy for our young writers to share their creative work. It can feel quite personal, even when the work is fiction, and being willing to enter the competition is sometimes an achievement in itself. Merely engaging with a simple writing task can be challenging for some pupils. I will never forget a child who wrote about a death in the family, and told me it was the first time she’d been able to think about what had happened. She was grateful that writing enabled her to acknowledge her feelings. 

When students are brave enough to write, and to put a little bit of themselves onto the page, the results are wonderful. It is not necessarily the stories with the best plot, the best grammar or the best spelling which do well in the competition; it’s those that come from the heart. Sometimes a poem or a story feels to reach inside of you, or demands to be paid attention to. The pupils who have found a way to communicate in this way are the lucky ones.

I hope that those who have taken part in the competition over the years have discovered for themselves a little bit about the benefits of writing, and that it is helping them at this time. I love my job, I love working with pupils and encouraging them to write and I am grateful to be able to work with such inspirational young people who have a lot to say about the world, and their place in it.” 

The overall winner of the Young Writers’ Awards 2019-2020 was Mina Corso from  Gosforth East Middle School, for her poem The Soldier.


The Soldier - A WW1 Poem


There is nothing but blood

Muffled gunshots are heard through the trees

I stand on the deserted battlefield littered with bodies

This war has made a mess of me.


My feet sink into the soil

My uniform is stained with sweat

My head throbs, but I must carry on

This war is not over yet.


I hear shouting, struggles and the sound of death

All reminding me that danger is near

Swears from Allies, from Germans, the noises of stress

This war is so terrible to hear.


I run from the battle – my feet, how they ache,

And there’s no medicine or food to spare

And it’s back to the trenches, infested with rats

This war is a terrible scare.


The days drag on, and it’s the same old routine

All fighting from one day to three

And I sit in the trench, and I think with such sorrow:

This war has made a mess of me.

About the author

Kay Easson

Kay is the Librarian of the Lit & Phil.

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