Young winners excel at Queen's Park Book Festival

Winners, runners up and judges of the Young Writers Award at Queen's Park Book Festival

Winners, runners up and judges of the Young Writers Award at Queen's Park Book Festival - Credit: Nathalie Raffray

Two Willesden Green authors have said how they "struggled" to choose winners of a young writers award as the standard was "so high".

Elizabeth Fremantle and Yvonne Bailey-Smith were judges of the Young Writers Award in the Community Tent at the Queen's Park Book Festival on September 19.

Authors Elizabeth Fremantle and Yvonne Bailey-Smith at the Queen's Park Book Festival

Authors Elizabeth Fremantle and Yvonne Bailey-Smith at the Queen's Park Book Festival - Credit: Nathalie Raffray

The competition was inaugurated in 2019 and now has two categories – under-12s and 12-16s – with the idea of encouraging young people in their writing. 

Ahead of announcing the junior winner, Elizabeth, whose first novel is to be made into a film, said: "It was really really difficult to choose. We had a few arguments but there were so many strong entries.

"As someone who knows what it's like to not win and not be a runner up for a literary prize it can be really disappointing – but don't let it be a knock back.


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"It just means those judges thought someone had a particular edge on the day.  

"Don 't let it stop you from writing and let it take away your enthusiasm."

Under 12s winner May Thein with her proud parents 

Under 12s winner May Thein with her proud parents - Credit: Nathalie Raffray

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May Thein, from Malorees Primary School, won with her "wonderfully imaginative piece of creative writing" How Recycling Came To my Rescue.

She said: "I'm kind of shocked. I didn't really know this was going to happen. 

"At school we learned we need to look after the environment, save water, grow more trees so I wrote a story where life changes through recycling."

May Thein reading her winning entry

May Thein reading her winning entry with the UK's youngest novelist Samiksha Bhattacharjee sitting behind her - Credit: Nathalie Raffray

Salusbury Primary School pupil Alice Freedom Espitalier-Noel came second with Freedom, which Elizabeth said was "impassioned piece of polemic writing".

Yvonne Bailey-Smith, who lives in Willesden, said "We had a real struggle because the standard of writing was utterly brilliant, I couldn't believe it."

She said in runner up Teeyah Limoan, from St Claudine's School, she saw "a future author in the house" after reading her historical fiction My Chains Have Fallen.

Blessica D'Costa, also from St Claudine's, won with her untitled story about a river blocked by a dam.

Blessica D'Costa won the 12 to 16 category Young Writers Award at Queen's Park Book Festival 

Blessica D'Costa won the 12 to 16 category Young Writers Award at Queen's Park Book Festival - Credit: Carolyn Malsher

The winners received books worth £50 from Queen's Park Bookshop and a creative writing workshop with Elizabeth Fremantle for the whole class. Runners up received £25.

Also at the event was Samiksha Bhattacharjee, who published her first novel Legal Crime last year, aged 13.

She said you can write a book and even get published at any age, adding: "Age shouldn't be a barrier."

Head of community tent Hud Saunders said "Someone said to me yesterday it was like a Booker Prize for young people, so I'll go with that. We're considering this the Booker Prize Awards." 

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