Jamie Moody, Rebekah McDermott and Jess Holliday are the winners of The Children’s Society’s writing competition with their stories about teenage struggles.
The charity launched the competition with Emma Healey, the author of Elizabeth is Missing, and her publisher Viking, as part of its Seriously Awkward campaign, which aims to secure more help for vulnerable 16 and 17-year olds with everything from mental health issues to support with housing and access to education.
Moody and McDermott were the joint winners of the 16-25 category; Moody with their story ‘My Name Is Connor Mayhew and I Am A Man’ and McDermott for her piece ‘Mud’. Moody’s story was inspired by their own personal struggles with gender identity and experience of being bullied at school, whilst McDermott, who works in rights at Bloomsbury, wrote about how one family responds to the arrival of a Polish family in town.
The winner in the over-26 category was Jess Holliday for her story Night Call, about a girl who has to help her mother, who has multiple sclerosis, during the night.
Healey said: “All the competition stories I read touched on how frightening the world can be for young people, and how difficult it can be to admit that, or find someone helpful to talk to. This definitely corresponds to my own experience of adolescence, and more needs to be done to provide young people with the support they need.”
The winners will receive feedback on their writing from literary agencies - Moody from Darley Anderson Children’s Book Agency, McDermott from AM Heath Literary Agents, and Holliday from David Higham Associates.
Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said: “We had a fantastic response to our competition, and the theme struck a chord with many aspiring writers who understand how difficult life can be for 16 and 17-year-olds, some inspired by moving personal experiences.
“This age can be a tricky time for any young person as they approach milestones like leaving school, or seeking work. When these coincide with significant issues like mental health problems, domestic abuse or the risk of homelessness, things can be really overwhelming. Yet too often these vulnerable children are wrongly dismissed as troublesome teenagers who are old enough to deal with their own problems. That’s why our Seriously Awkward campaign is calling for better support for these young people to help them address these issues before they escalate and give them a better chance of a happy future.”