Cressida Cowell is best known for writing the bestselling book series How to Train Your Dragon – but did you know that you have the opportunity to have her read your writing?
Cowell is the Head Judge of the Wicked Young Writer Awards, alongside our very own Henry Smith, Pobble co-founder and literacy teacher, as well as Director of the National Literacy Trust Jonathan Douglas and accomplished writer Sabrina Mahfouz.
Ahead of the big awards day in June, I caught up with Head Judge Cressida Cowell to get her thoughts on how the competition can inspire young writers.
AW: What makes a piece of writing ‘wicked’? What kind of things are you looking for in a winning piece?
CC: I love books and writers that make you feel something, whether that’s because they’re funny, or sad, or exciting. My husband always tells me off because I giggle at jokes I write in my own books, but I think that if you can’t make yourself laugh, how are you going to make your readers laugh? Using emotion well puts your readers in your characters’ shoes and makes them care.
AW: What’s the best thing about judging the WYWA?
CC: The best thing about judging competitions is the range of fantastic entries. One of my main aims as a children’s author is saying to young people that they can and are writers (someone has to be)! As an aside: the creative industries make £71.4 billion for the UK economy, and are our leading export. We should be proud of the talent we have, and the talent that’s emerging now.
AW: What’s your top tip for young writers?
CC: Read lots. Don’t worry about your spelling, your grammar, or your handwriting. Don’t even worry about finishing. Just write.
AW: Do you have a top memory from judging previous WYWA?
CC: Well, of course, the brilliant shortlist. The ceremony itself is really special – what fun for me to come along as a judge and meet everyone in such a gorgeous theatre. I also think it’s lovely that WYWA has lots of different age categories, so as you grow up you can carry on entering.
Why do you feel WYWA is such a great opportunity for young writers?
CC: I won a writing competition when I was young, and I won an illustration prize when I left university, so I feel very strongly that competitions can motivate you to get on with writing, and being shortlisted or winning can instill enormous confidence.