First Story National Writing Competition

First Story’s mission is to change lives through writing. They bring professional writers into secondary schools to help students find their voices through intensive, fun programmes. All students and teachers at secondary schools across the UK are invited to enter up to 850 words of poetry or prose on the theme of “Footprints” for the First Story National Writing Competition . The subject can be explored in any way your creative flow takes you.

A final shortlist will be judged by multi-award-winning authors Mark Haddon (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime), Juno Dawson (All of the Above) and Salena Godden (Springfield Road, The Good Immigrant).

Prizes include: an Arvon creative writing course; money for your school; £100 for teachers who submit more than 50 entries; the chance to attend an awards ceremony in London; and publication of you work in a professional anthology. To be in with a chance of winning, submit your entry to First Story before midnight on Wednesday 23 November 2016.

We asked Dave Windass, First Story programme officer for Hull, about the importance of getting young people involved with the project…

You’ve been involved in Hull’s arts scene for more than two decades, what do you think it is about Hull that makes it so cultured and inspirational?

Philip Larkin’s quote about us “having an end-of-the-line sense of freedom” in Hull is often trotted out as the reason we’re different in terms of a place in which to flourish creatively, but I think that our freedom comes from the fact that we’re forward thinking and progressive.

As a port, we look across to Europe, and the possibilities of travel and escape beyond the Humber fuel our ideas and state of mind. We’re as free as birds, or fish, and looking at the wide expanse of water that flows alongside the city is liberating and an incredible source of material.

In a lot of ways, Hull and its creative landscape is uncharted territory. It is possible to be pioneering, here, and to be wholly original and different. We’re unlike anywhere else and we know it. We know that we’re special and now we’re ready to shout about it – brace yourselves for a whole raft of unique and very special work!

First Story offers many opportunities for young people, teachers and writers in Hull, what do you think that means for the city?

The First Story programme brings so many positives to school life and for all involved and it is wonderful that the programme is running in Hull, a city that has an abundance of creative talent of all ages. The focus of the programme allows the nurturing and development of young people’s creative writing.

Our talented writers working in the city are all successful and acclaimed and all have Hull connections – it’s inspiring to look at them and realise that anyone from this city can work as a writer if they have the necessary burning desire and it’s what they want to do. It’s great to think that new voices will develop and be heard thanks to the First Story programme and that those voices and the work produced could potentially be heard and read beyond the city.

What do you enjoy most about being involved with the First Story programme?

I know what a difference the First Story programme will make to the city.  I have attended First Story anthology launches elsewhere in the country and recently went to the Young Writers’ Festival in Oxford, all of which were amazingly life-affirming.

I am already in awe of the young people who participate in sessions and how creative they can be and I simply cannot wait until students from Hull secondary schools start to get their work out there and for people to take notice of them and how fantastically talented they are.

What would it mean for a student from Hull to succeed in the National Writing Competition?

Their work will be published in an anthology, a proper bound book, professionally produced. That will be an amazing achievement and we will be shouting about them loudly come next year.

As well as an increase in creativity, the young people on the programme will grow in confidence during the course of the year. There will be a lot of pride on display and that will grow with each new piece of work that is written.

Do you have any advice for the budding young writers of Hull?

Just do it. Writing can be hard work and requires a certain amount of discipline. But it’s also a lot of fun and the positive benefits are incredible. A good piece of writing can change lives and the world. Go and create that.

Finally, do you have a favourite short story or poem? If so, what?

I love Edward Lear’s Nonsense Works and I’m pretty sure the first book I owned was A Book of Nonsense. Somewhere there’s a recording of me as a five-year-old reading Lear’s limericks, I especially love The Owl and The Pussycat. Later, when I discovered it, Charles Bukowski’s So You Want to be a Writer? became a particular favourite. In contrast to Lear, it’s a pretty no-nonsense piece of work!


Still need some inspiration?

Read last year’s winning entry, a moving piece on the subject of Echoes, from Maria Clark (Hemel Hempstead School KS4) here.

For more information and to submit your entry go to