Enter the Smart Alex creative writing competition for secondary school studentsMarch 8th, 2018
Me whakauru mai koe ki te whakataetae tuhituhi o Smart Alex mō ngā ākonga kura tuarua gives the te reo Māori version of this blog post.
Would your secondary students like to take part in an exciting writing competition and win great cash prizes?
The Friends of the Turnbull Library (FoTL) have launched the Smart Alex creative writing competition for all secondary school students in New Zealand and the South Pacific.
Entry is free and comes with over $2,000 in prize money. The aim is to celebrate the centenary of Alexander Turnbull and his remarkable legacy.
Who was Alex and why was he smart?
Over 100 years ago in Aotearoa New Zealand, a smart hipster-looking gentleman called Alexander Turnbull — known to his family as Alex — loved collecting stuff: art, artefacts, clothes, coins, maps, photographs, and books — especially books about New Zealand and the Pacific. In fact, he bought his first book at 17 and didn’t stop. He wasn't a hoarder, he was a book-hunter, and his passion for collecting books about us turned into something quite extraordinary.
When he died, Alexander Turnbull gifted his collection (including 55,000 books!) to New Zealand. That gift became the basis for New Zealand's largest documentary heritage library, the Alexander Turnbull Library (ATL). It was seen as, “the most generous bequest to the people of New Zealand ever made by a New Zealander” (New Zealand Times, July 1918).
Thanks to Alex’s gift 100 years ago, New Zealanders today are more informed about their heritage.
Students are required to produce a piece of outstanding creative writing where they personally respond to, or interpret, an item in the collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library.
Submissions can be prose, poetry, or a combination of text and illustrations such as a cartoon strip or graphic story.
Creative writing prompts
To help the writing process, we've developed a set of evocative items from the Turnbull collections. We want this tantalising selection to bring student creativity and imagination to life.
Alternatively, you can search online to discover something in the collections that inspires you.
For further information about Alexander Turnbull and his collection, see his biography in:
- Te Ara — The Encyclopedia of NZ
- Friends of the Turnbull Library website, or
- Alexander Turnbull Library website.
The competition is open to anyone who is currently attending a secondary school in New Zealand or in the Pacific Islands. It also includes secondary home-educated students.
- For Years 9–10, the word limit is 250 words, or up to 3 A4 pages if including illustrations. The winner will receive $500, the runner-up $200. The winner’s school library also receives a $150 book token.
- For Years 11–13, the word limit is 500 words, or up to 6 A4 pages if including illustrations. The winner receives $1000, the runner-up $300. The winner’s school library also receives a $150 book token.
Entries must be received no later than 5 pm on 22 July 2018.
Winners and highly commended entries will be announced on Friday 14 September 2018 (which is also the 150-year anniversary of Alexander Turnbull's birth).
All entries must be attached (as a pdf or Word attachment) to the official entry form, which can be found on the Friends of the Turnbull Library website (where you can also find more details about the competition).
Creative writing is about establishing a strong starting point then bringing the imagination to life. To do this, personal memories, emotions, images, even music are great ways to initially ignite the creative storytelling process.
Frank McCourt's reflections and advice on 'teaching' creative writing to high school students over 15 years is just as pertinent now as it was when first written in 2002.
Pull the plug, cut off the juice, let the batteries die. Just sit there and dream. And when in doubt, tell a story.
Other ways to inspire your students
Here are some other ways teachers and authors have tackled and inspired the creative writing process within their students.
Creative writing in the classroom: Five top tips for teachers — insightful tips here from English teacher Alan Gillespie.
Drawing words & writing pictures — offers comprehensive activities, tutorials, advice, and lesson plans about learning to make, illustrate, and write comics.
How to win a creative writing competition — top tips — author Joe Craig's tips for young writers on how to avoid common creative writing pitfalls and stand out from the crowd.
See Think Wonder — a quick routine to engage and connect students with anything interesting.
Tips for illustrating your story (pdf, 294 KB) — these illustrative tips are from New Zealand children’s book author and editor Don Long.
Top tips for writing your story (pdf, 290 KB)— these writing tips are from New Zealand children’s book author and editor Don Long.
20 top tips to make creative writing class great — great creative writing advice, from letting students create their own prompts to teaching them how to write for social media.
Writing prompts — teacher Luke shares his daily writing prompts he uses in class. Includes a random prompt button.
Reading is one of the best ways to learn how to write
First, choose stories from authors you enjoy, then re-read them focusing on how the writer developed characters, and created atmosphere and emotion. Booktrust has a range of tips for teenage writers along with lists of books for all ages.
We can't wait to read your students' stories
While there's no end to advice on creative writing, the Smart Alex competition will be looking for stories that show wonder, curiosity, insight, humour, courage, and, of course, creative flair.
We can't wait to see how young minds will create new and stimulating ways of looking at our past, present, and future using the Turnbull collections!