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Last week, at the Linlithgow Book Festival, the prizes for the 2012-2013 Young Writers Competition were presented by Scots Makar, Liz Lochead. 
A record 126 entries were submitted from first and second year students at three local schools, Linlithgow Academy, St Kentigern’s Academy, Blackburn, and Bo’ness Academy.  The competition was organised by Linlithgow Grange Rotary Club, in conjunction with other local Rotaries.  Book tokens for the winners were provided by Linlithgow Book Festival and winners will also shortly spend a day, further honing their writing skills, with journalists at the Linlithgow Gazette.
This year the subject was writing and Me and it attracted a record number of entries in a range of genres.  There were pieces of fiction, often with a historical twist, occasionally with an SF aspect, but all showing a solid grasp of narrative.  There were reflective pieces in which the young people considered their own relationship to the writer’s craft and to the new technologies which have revolutionised how we write.  There were excellent pieces of poetry.  Indeed, having trawled the initial set of entries the judges agreed to award a particular prize for the best poem submitted.
In the end, and after some intense thought and debate, three prose prizes and one poetry prize were awarded.  The poetry prize was awarded to Emma Brown of Linlithgow Academy.  The prose prizes went to Rachel Reid of Linlithgow Academy, Qaila Sarwar of Bo’ness Academy and Lauren McDougall of St Kentigern’s Academy.
Emma Reid’s poem, Sleek Ocean Swimmers , was a reflection on writing as the pursuit of a hard to identify and hard to catch sea creature, a wonderful parable in verse on the difficulties facing the writer seeking to grapple with distant and sometimes elusive ideas.
Rachel Reid’s was a reflective piece on the development of her own interest in writing and how IT has changed writing: “With advances in technology, the urge to tap the keys on a BlackBerry, iPhone or iPad is more tempting than writing and as a consequence we lose the grammar and punctuation skills that we need for everyday life. Even though electronic communication is vital, it would be nice if we just wrote a letter once in a while or occasionally used a capital letter or apostrophe in our texts and emails!”
Qaila Sarwar’s was another reflective piece, explaining the excitement which came from successfully achieving a writing task but also acknowledging the impact of emailing on writing and the inspiration of teachers on young people’s writing.
Lauren McDougall’s piece, The Game of Words, was the story of writing a book, the story at first in fact of being unable to write but of ultimately being inspired by a dream.  The book, only a few paragraphs are outlined but that is sufficient to sketch the outline, is a gothic tale of abandoned houses, isolation, pain and murder. And ultimately is professionally published.  Lauren’s style and pace not only won her one of the prose prizes but also gained her the over-all prize, the Jim Cowie Cup which was presented to her by Heather McInally, President of the Rotary Club of Linlithgow Grange.  The quality of her writing suggests that becoming a published novelist, the conclusion of her piece, might indeed be her future.
All of the prize-winning pieces can be viewed on the Linlithgow Book Festival’s site at
John Reid of Linlithgow Grange Rotary was warm in his congratulations to the winners.  “The Rotary Clubs of Linlithgow Grange, Linlithgow and Bo’ness and Queensferry were delighted to support the young people of Linlithgow Academy, Bo’ness Academy and St Kentigern’s demonstrate their writing ability and encouraged their participating in the Writing and Me competition, sponsored by the Book Club.  We were pleased that the schools responded in a very supportive way and actively engaged with this community initiative. We congratulate them on the excellence of the submissions and in particular, congratulate the respective winners.”
Roy Dalgleish of Linlithgow Book Festival congratulated the winners: “The work of the four winners of the competition was an indication of the high quality of literacy skills which are being developed in our local schools and all credit deserves to be paid, not only to the winners themselves and the many other entrants, but to their teachers who are patently doing such a fine job and to enormously supportive parents who cheered their off-spring to the echo at the Book Festival.”
Rotary and the Book Festival are now looking forward with enthusiasm to next year’s competition.

The above article was first published in Lothian Life on 21 November 2012:

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