At Christmas I got to be a judge for BBC NI’s Two Minute Tales competition. Kids wrote Christmas themed stories that could be read aloud in 2 minutes and the winners were read on the radio and animated on the website.

It was so much fun to read the stories (there is some serious writing talent in NI). We did the final judging in the BBC offices and they’d dressed the room up for Christmas! (Note the awesome TV fire. Don’t know why I bothered tiling my fireplace TBH.)

Being a writer is hard work, honest

The response to the competition was so massive that they’ve decided to run it again! And, most excitingly, open it up to teenagers too!

The competition was launched again on Monday and entries have to be in by Friday 15th May. The theme is ‘Home’, but you can interpret that any way you like. It can be magical, fantastical, realist, whatever you like. Even a spaceship, a castle or a fantasy forest is someone’s ‘home’. Or it could be set in your own home town (but obviously don’t write about real people, keep it fictional!)

The stories must be no longer than 300 words and they don’t care if you can’t spell! The focus is on creativity rather than spelling and grammar. There are three age categories:

  • 5-8
  • 9-13
  • 14-16

There’ll be a winner and two runners up in each category. All 9 stories will be recorded by an actor for a radio broadcast and the three winning stories will be turned into animations and featured across the BBC. Runners up will receive a specially commissioned illustration of a scene from their story. And all 9 stories will be published in a downloadable digital storybook.

Entries will be judged on the following criteria:

Originality – We want stories and characters we’ve never seen before!

Plot – I firmly believe that plot comes from character. As readers all we want is a character we care about, and that character should have a goal (something they want to do/get/be etc). We read on to find out if they achieve it, and that’s all plot is.

Characterisation – Emotions are what turn words on a page into real life people we believe in. What do your characters love/hate/fear/want?

Language – You’ve only got 300 words so think carefully about every one of them. Is there a shorter way of saying something? Is there a more interesting or effective word you could use? Do we really need to know what they had for breakfast?

Enjoyment – If you enjoy writing your story, your reader will enjoy reading it. Fun somehow gets woven into the stories you’ve loved writing and your reader will sense it. So the most important thing to do is have fun!

You can enter via the website

The website also has a brilliant ‘Creative Writing Kit’ to download with loads of tools and exercises you can use to develop your story, like story dice and character profiles.

I’ll be judging the stories along with NI writer Lucy Caldwell, who’s one of my favourite short story writers and was shortlisted in the BBC National Short Story Award recently. If I was a young writer I’d kill to have her read my work!


And if all this wasn’t enough, Fighting Words are also running their Global Writing Lockdown project! This is open to young writers all over the world (you can be over 18 for this one too). You can enter a story of up to 2000 characters, or you can send a poem, drawing, haiku, comic, anything you like! There’ll be a digital release party in July. Entries have to be in by 5th May so get going!

Do pass these on to any young writers you know. Maybe make it a home-schooling project!

Can’t wait to read your stories!



2 thoughts on “Two Minute Tales

  1. Maria Nic Aoidh says:

    Behind the glass

    Molly gazes out through the window at the wonderful sights beyond. The sky and the world. The sky is like a sweet wrapper around the world. She sees the birds flying then stopping on rooftops or in trees to study their world and plan their day. Clouds drift, glide and slowly pass as they go about their daily chores. The sun shines through the blue, the grey and the white colours and it seems to dominate all around it. The bees rise, study and then dive down to do their days work. The leaves on the trees flutter and sway from side to side and it looks like they are helping the buds and flowers duck away from the bees and other insects.
    Isn’t beyond wonderful Molly thinks from behind her glass. Beyond is taunting her and is so enticing, exciting and inviting but Molly knows the rules and beyond is not the place for her. Her home is where she belongs and she knows that beyond the glass belongs to the plants, the birds, the insects and the sun. She knows that she most stay away from beyond and stay home.
    Molly’s hand moves to the door handle and even though she knows its locked she pushes it down quickly. The temptation of what’s beyond is hard to resist at only 12 years old. Oh – if only she could leave home and join the world beyond.

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