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Competition founder shares memories and hopes for the future

With Write a Book in a Day 2018 ending for another year, we spoke to its founder, Chris Oakeley, to find out what inspired him to create such a fun and inclusive event in the first place.
As the professional writer and editor from The Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre shared, he was simply using his creative talents to solve a practical problem.

“In 2002, we wanted to raise money for the restoration of Katharine Susannah Prichard’s house, and for Princess Margaret Hospital for Children,” said Oakeley.  “We were writers, so it seemed the natural thing to start a competition to write, illustrate and bind books in 12 hours and get people to sponsor us.”

“People said at the time we were mad. You can’t write and illustrate a book in 12 hours. They said… It takes years to write a good book, and so on and so on, but we proved them wrong, just as all who participate prove them wrong year after year writing even better books,” said Oakeley.

Once restoration of the Prichard home was complete, all monies raised went to The Kids’ Cancer Project, an independent national charity with a mission to fund scientific research to find kinder, more effective treatments for many types of childhood cancer.

So successful has the fundraising aspect of the competition been that in 2018 alone, it raised $245,000 for childhood cancer research.

But there’s another philanthropic side to this story. Books written by participants are distributed to children’s hospitals around the country.

Hero image top of page: Chris Oakeley at the 2018 WA awards ceremony presenting to a team from Australind Senior High School. This image: Dongara District High School accept their award.

Kingsway Christian College accept their award for the Best Book in the Upper School category at an awards ceremony in Western Australian 2018
“It is truly amazing that, since Write a Book in a Day started 16 years ago, teams all over Australia have written 4,563 books for children’s hospitals,” said Oakeley. “That is an amazing achievement and gift to sick children.”

Considering the small communal beginnings of the fundraising event, Oakeley is also amazed at how far reaching it has become.

“We now have teams from as far afield as Christmas Island and from the Katherine School of the Air in the Northern Territory with team members up to 1,500 kilometres apart collaborating via the internet,” he said. “Maybe one day Write a Book in a Day will become an international event!”

He may joke, but every year 300,000 children around the world are diagnosed with cancer and more funds are needed to find better treatments to increase survival.

But for now, Oakeley is turning his attention to encouraging as many Australians to get involved in Write a Book in a Day 2019 and encouraging young people to write.

“Writing well is fundamental to success in the jobs they’ll be working in in the future, despite advances in technology,” he said. “It gives me great pleasure to see the quality of the writing in this competition and I admire every young person who gets involved. Their minds, properly applied, especially in a team, can beat a computer at any time.”