Winner: "Banished Fate" by Lake Minion Team of Applecross Senior High School
Highly Commended: "Artscape" by Team Nerdfest of North Joondalup Baptist College
Winner: "Jetpower.com" by The Lunch Bunch
Highly Commended: "Monkey Chase" by Eva Svanberg's Team
This was a tough gig. Read some books written by teenagers for other teenagers and then pick a winner! It sounds easy enough but the creativity, writing, and artistic talent displayed in the books was quite amazing. Before we go on with that let's talk about the bits that didn't work. While the level of entries for this competition varied some things can be applied almost universally.
Learn your rules of grammar. They are imperative to the flow of your writing. The rules include apostrophes of possession and omission, compound words, plurals, punctuation, capitalizations, and a number of other things your teachers have been chatting about for a few years now.
Remember homonyms only sound the same, they certainly do not mean the same thing. If you write, "Mary is at piece," and spell it with an IE, I can only think of her as fractured, smashed into fragments, as that is what you have told me.
Large words are wonderful! They can be used to create a particularity that simple words cannot provide; they can explain a previous event when used epexegetically (you can look that one up later!). But they create confusion when used incorrectly. Know the meaning of every word you write.
Sometimes 'said' is enough. "As a reader it is exhausting to read dialogue in which people exhort, growl, whimper, mutter, comment, lunge, start, and glare with every utterance," the competition judge said.
Continuity of voice was an issue in the books written by school groups. This is not surprising given the conditions of the competition, however, it detracted from the flow of some stories.
Enough of that. Many things worked very, very well.
The illustrations for every book were wonderful. There was the na´ve art depiction of the Summer Holiday home on the back cover of their book, the fine line drawings of Banished Fate, and colourful, large eyed characters from Whaling It.
We had wonderful settings of early 20th century high seas' adventures, tropical Island surfing scenes, a contemporary drama with terrorists threatening the Perth Bell Tower; all colourful and well depicted through the use of description.
There were characters to whom we could relate and there were adventures in which we became involved. I loved the twins of Banished Fate and the dignity of their parents. I enjoyed Henry's forbearance of his annoying sister in Lost Forever, Buried Eternally. I became engaged in the race against time in Artscape and was fond of the surprising character of Daisy.
The stories were all quests. In each case young people sought to overcome an aspect of nature, or human behaviour, which was an impediment to their happiness. This, as a philosophical discourse, was hopeful and inspiring.
You are all to be congratulated in producing, cooperatively, and under the pressure of time, stories which have a plot, believable characters and good resolution.
Two stories had most of the elements required to win this year's Book in a Day award for this section. One, with its rollicking, current issue adventure story was let down by some of the issues mentioned above. That book, Artscape, did extremely well and the participants should feel very proud of their efforts.
The winning story opened in as perfect a manner as an Australian classic. The writing was beautiful, painting a picture of another time and place. It built a sense of quiet desperation and drama in the three pages of Chapter One, and then led us on a haunting journey through vivid settings, until the climax and resolution. The artwork was sublime and the presentation was good. This was a story that met its market, had elements of adventure and magic, followed a good plot line and left the reader satisfied. Congratulations to the wonderful writing team of Banished Fate. You are very talented young people!
Writing a children's book requires skills which are simple but not simplistic. The provision of characters we would like to know; the sense of tension that builds as we leap from one crisis to another; the seamless writing which allows us to journey without distraction, and the requisite resolution that allows us to sleep at night. Providing these means that you have an audience for your work. If you are lucky enough to be able to add a little magic then you are definitely on the track to success.
Difficulties that were evident in the construction of some of the books included simple things such as grammatical errors and typographical mistakes. These hinder the reader's progress. In some stories the change of voice, as one writer took the task from another, was so evident as to be confusing. Sometimes the point of view changed. I looked for my can of adverb spray on a couple of occasions. These things were minor and should not overshadow what was achieved.
The books entered into the open section of Book in a Day had many of the elements of successful children's writing previously named. I know I would like to get to know the determined young man JT, and his email buddy Pia, from jetpower.com. The writing in Monkey Chase was certainly seamless. All had satisfactory resolution and most had magic, whether it was the pink and purple striped cat on a far flung planet or the magic of young love. They all enjoyed a resolution that left the reader satisfied. They met the target audience. The illustrations were quite wonderful, especially the ink drawings of characters from jetpower.com.
The winner was chosen with difficulty as two of the entries were very close in overall quality and meeting the guidelines of the competition. I need to praise the writers of Monkey Chase for their excellent quest adventure in which puzzles and current computer game scenarios created an environment which would engage many young readers. This was a very good book aimed at pre teens. As the winner I have chosen jetpower.com. This book, in semi epistolary form, is current in its exploration of pertinent issues for teenagers such as 'How do I fit in?', 'How do I marry a culturally diverse background with my sense of being Australian?' and 'How do I overcome great odds in order to succeed?'. It used the vehicles of email chat and computer jargon, interspersed with first person narration, to tell the story from the perspective of the two main characters. It nearly always stayed in voice and it finished, if a little abruptly, with a sense of satisfaction that all was well in the world of the characters. Somehow jetpower.com took us back into the world of being a teenager, when we seek individuation, and are constantly in conflict with our parents and authority. This was an insight into what some teenagers really think and it wasn't always comfortable. It was an engaging book, well written and lots of fun. Well done!
Small groups of people were allocated characters, setting, a few chairs and twelve hours in which to produce something resembling a story for young teenagers.
Imagine that! A pile of blank paper and neural pathways interfacing to create something new. To combine words in a way that may never have been done before. That is the magic of writing! To do it as a team means there are a lot of ideas competing for supremacy. The teams which entered Book in a Day used their resources, they sifted their ideas, and they produced an array of reading which kept me at home for more than a little while.