For young writers, heart is the key. It is easy for me as a not-so-young Chairman of the judges to say this as we come to the 20th year of the very special Wills Writing Awards, but maybe not so easy for an an aspiring young writer to believe in. But scroll down the list of previous winners, from all ages, backgrounds and parts of Britain and Ireland, and take heart.
For the very idea of the Awards is to take belief from the act of writing. It was what Martin Wills, whom these Awards commemorate, did. His special interest, among many, was horseracing, and that is why these Awards have a horseracing focus, with the hope that more young people will want to pass on the varied delights and dramas inherent in the racing game. But Martin was first and foremost a writer, which is why these Awards put writing in front of detailed knowledge and why it has three age groups (under 26, under 19 and Under 15), with the youngest prizewinner a mere 10. If you want to know, her piece started with the brilliant opening line “I am a tree”.
So, the message for anyone uncertain about entering is to take heart. Believe in yourself and find a scene, a topic, a story that you can believe in and take heart to tell it to us. Use your imagination. Arguably more than any sport, racing embraces a wide variety of worlds (the very poor and the very rich, breeding, owning, training, the racecourse, betting, scams and coups, the horses themselves etc). In 2011, too few entrants seem to have paused to think what would be a telling- and thought provoking- angle of entry into this remarkable arena.
Most of all, tell it to us in your own way; never forget the writing motto “you can only do the best you can do”. That is in no way a patronising statement, it applies to all of us who toil in the scribbling vineyard. For it is a call to use your own experiences, ideas and vocabulary; to relate not imitate. Too often in the past, we judges have been exasperated by obviously able writers dulling their entries by aping the works of others or by becoming ponderously pedantic in a supposed search for gravitas. These are young talent Awards. We want your youthful ideas and ways of saying them.
But that should never be confused with sloppy presentation. However good the content, if the spelling, grammar and punctuation are poor, the tolerance of judges is stretched and the entry’s chances of success are immediately compromised.
Chairman of the judges
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