The BBC’s annual 500 Words competition was launched by Chris Evans on his breakfast earlier this month. Mrs Barnes, Thornton’s librarian, has been a judge in the early rounds of the competition on several occasions and is keen for Thornton students to get involved again this year.
Now in its eighth year, the competition is open to children aged 5-13, in two age groups, and encourages young authors to write an amazing story in 500 words or less.
“There was a callout on the breakfast show for teachers and librarians to volunteer to judge in the first rounds, so I volunteered” commented Mrs Barnes.
“Having been given a choice, I chose to mark the older age group and typically mark around 30 stories each year.”
“As a judge, you have to look at different criteria and mark each one out of 10. They are things like enjoyment, good vocabulary, characterisation, plot and originality. I always read each story out loud.”
So what tips does Mrs Barnes have for Thornton girls who are considering entering the competition?
“First of all, it is certainly worth reading some of the previous years’ winners just so that you can see what makes a winning story. The quirky and unusual, tales with a surprising twist, all keep the judges’ interest, as does humour.
“I would advise girls to plan, write a rough outline, draft the story, read it out loud, tweak it, make alterations and if necessary keep doing that until you are absolutely happy and then you’ll be a proper author.
“Don’t rush the ending, don’t put in a lot of ‘and then we…’ and don’t make it too complicated. It is often the most simple story and plot, told well, that is successful.
“Taking part in this huge national competition, is a fun thing to do and every single person who enters has a chance of becoming a prize winner.”
In 2017, the competition attracted a record 131,798 entries with the BBC expecting that figure to be smashed in 2018.
The closing date for entries is Thursday 22nd February with full details of how to enter on the BBC website.
Some of the winning stories from previous years, read by celebrities including Sir Kenneth Branagh and Emily Tomlinson, can be heard here.
Good luck to all Thornton girls who enter the competition!