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2014 Manchester Writing for Children Prize: Let in the Stars


"The 2014 Manchester Writing for Children Prize was the perfect way to celebrate existing and new poets writing for children. The prize is the first of its kind so our fingers were crossed... but from Australia to the USA and throughout the UK poets confirmed how vital and inspiring they found this genre to be. Philip Gross said, We looked for poems that said: No, we don't think that you are the average child, the average nine year old, or the average boy or girl. You (and you, and you) are unique variations on the human, and each of you (as Walt Whitman said of himself) contain multitudes. The pleasure for us was to find the proof, among the entries, that children's poetry can contain multitudes too."

"This competition was a joy to judge and it was fascinating to encounter so many perceptions of what poetry for children can be. The exceptional range of new poems and new voices has proved that this invaluable part of the wider poetry world is alive and well. It feels as though a door has been thrown open and the world of children's poetry just breathed in."

Chair of Judges Mandy Coe

The 2014 Manchester Writing for Children Prize asked entrants to submit a portfolio of three to five poems for readers aged 5-12. The Prize was judged by poets Mandy Coe, Imtiaz Dharker and Philip Gross. Selected pieces from the short-listed, long-listed and highly commended portfolios will be collected in a new anthology, Let in the Stars. The anthology will be launched at a special edition Carol Ann Duffy and Friends poetry and music night at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester on the evening of Tuesday 1st July 2014. The event forms part of the 2014 Manchester Children's Book Festival, will be hosted by Carol Ann and will feature readings from the judges and each of the short-listed finalists before the winner of the £2,000 first prize is announced.

Tickets for the event can be booked online here or by calling the box office on 0843 208 0500 or 0161 833 9833. You can also pre-order a copy of Let in the Stars, when you book your tickets through the MCBF website.

2014 Manchester Writing for Children: Finalists (in alphabetical order):


  • Carole Bromley Carole Bromley teaches Creative Writing for York University. She has been widely published in magazines and anthologies and has two pamphlets and a full-length collection (A Guided Tour of the Ice House) with Smith/Doorstop Books. Twice a winner in the Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet Competition, she has also won a number of first prizes, including the Bridport. Her interest in writing for children comes from many years teaching in secondary schools and from her own four children and 11 grandchildren.

  • Ashleigh Gill Ashleigh Gill is an MFA student of Children's Literature at Hollins University in the USA. She is also the playwright and co-founder of the theatre group Ars Creo in her hometown of Hinton, West Virginia.

  • Greig, Louise Louise Greig lives in Aberdeen with her husband, where they run a management consultancy business. She has a keen interest in animal welfare and is a director of a dog rehoming organisation. Following a career in the airline industry, she embarked on a European business degree with languages. She subsequently studied photography, which for many years was her main creative outlet. Although a relative newcomer to writing, she has been captivated by literature and poetry since childhood and is currently working on a series of rhyming books for children.

  • Kate O'Neil Kate O'Neil comes from New South Wales, Australia where she has taught literature for over thirty years, first as an English teacher and then as a teacher of Speech and Drama at Wollongong Conservatorium of Music. She gives individual coaching to students working on the interpretation and performance of chosen texts for exams, eisteddfodau and auditions. Kate has had a small number of poems published in The Voice, the magazine of The Speech and Drama Association of NSW. Kate and her husband live near the sea in the Northern Illawarra region of NSW and have three adult daughters, and four grandchildren.

  • Poreba, Christine Christine Poreba has written poetry for close to twenty years, though only more recently for a child audience. Originally from New York City, she now lives in Tallahassee, Florida with her husband, their young son and their furry, red dog – a Bahamian stray who is the inspiration for her manuscript of dog poems The King of the Dance. Her poetry for adults has been published in numerous journals, including The Sun, The Southern Review, and Subtropics, as well as in an anthology entitled Bridging NYC. She has been awarded prizes from The Atlantic Magazine and the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Memorial Fund and residencies from Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Hambidge Arts Center and Ragdale Foundation.

  • Jennifer Watson has been writing since she was tall enough to reach the old Corona on her dad's desk. She left her Cabinet Office career of 16 years to have two children and forgot to go back. Her husband sometimes draws this to her attention. After writing in spare moments and studying in the evenings, she was awarded the Open University's Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing in 2011. She has had a story shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and has been shortlisted for the Wasafiri New Writing Prize. She lives in a small village in Kent. Jennifer says, "For me, the joy of writing has been the closing of the circle – weaving the stories and spinning the rhymes that the younger me would have wanted to share if she had had the language and more typewriter ribbon."


  • Leone Annbella Betts is a writer, illustrator and teacher. She was born in Birmingham but grew up in France and rural West Wales. She read Arabic with Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the University of Durham, took a long look at the world, then hurried off to film school in the hope of telling stories about it. Since then, she has completed a PGCE, set up a small business, written lots for children, found a co-writer and lost all artistic pretension. She loves reading just as much as writing and has always been surrounded by words, thanks to a book-loving mum. These days, Leone can be found in Yorkshire, where she works as a part-time screenwriting lecturer at the Northern Film School in Leeds. She has always taken great pleasure in teaching and especially enjoys seeing literature engaging the young.

  • Rose Flint is a poet, artist and art therapist. She has taught Creative Writing for schools and universities including Liverpool John Moores and Bath Spa. She was Lead Writer for the Kingfisher Project in Salisbury for eight years, working in both the community and at the hospital. She was a tutor for the Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes MSc from Metanoia, in Bristol and London, and is now part of a team of artists who work with the elderly in Salisbury District Hospital and other healthcare centres. Residential teaching includes Arvon and Ty Newydd and she is a regular poetry performer in the South West. A prize winning poet, awards include Cardiff International Poetry Competition and the Petra Kenny International Poetry Prize, two Poetry Places and a Year of the Artist award. Her collections are Blue Horse of Morning (Seren), Firesigns (Poetry Salzburg) Nekyia (Stride) and Mother of Pearl (PSAvalon) and her poetry is published in many anthologies and magazines.

  • Chrissie Gittins' first children's poetry collection Now You See Me, Now You... was shortlisted for the inaugural CLPE Poetry Award in 2003 and selected as a Poetry Book Society Choice for the Children's Poetry Bookshelf in 2009. Her second collection I Don't Want an Avocado for an Uncle was shortlisted for the CLPE Award 2007 and was a PBS Choice for the CPB. Her third children's collection The Humpback's Wail appeared in 2010 and is also a PBS Choice for the CPB. Her new and collected children's poems Stars in Jars was published by Bloomsbury in February 2014. Chrissie has read her children's poems at the Hay, Wigtown, Ilkley, Aldeburgh, Ledbury, Wenlock, Edinburgh, Shetland and West Cork festivals, and in the Children's Room of the Poets House New York. She has contributed to Cbeebies and has recorded her children's poetry for the Poetry Archive.

  • Matt Goodfellow is a poetry writing primary school teacher from Manchester. He was supposed to be a rock star by now, but realised he was rubbish at the singing and guitar playing bits of it; the lyrics gradually developed into the poems he has been concentrating on for the last few years. Matt lives with his wife, Joanna, and two children. His writing is influenced by folklore and the wild beauty of the English countryside. Matt's poems for children and adults have appeared in anthologies and magazines in the US, UK, South Africa and Australia.

  • Greig, LouiseLouise Greig: another portfolio from Louise has been short-listed – her biography can be found in the "Short-list" section.

  • Rowland Molony taught English for thirty years. These days he and his wife Elizabeth spend a lot of time playing together with their three small grandsons. He has written poems for most of his life – so far. Some win prizes. Some get read aloud at jazz and music events. Most go into a drawer in his desk. In 2007 he published a story for older children with Oxford University Press called After the Death of Alice Bennett. In the summer he is busy looking after several hives full of bees on a Devon clifftop. He writes a column about this in the British Beekeepers News Magazine.

Highly Commended:

  • John Gallas, Markfield, UK
  • Matt Goodfellow Stockport, UK (another portfolio from Matt has been long-listed)
  • Sue Hardy Dawson, Harrogate, UK
  • Sneha Susan Shibu, Uganda
  • Sarah J Dodd, Lancaster, UK
  • Anthony Watts,Taunton, UK
  • Freeman Chatman, Newfoundland, Canada
  • Hannah Meiklejohn, Swansea, UK
  • Rob Mooney, Bingley, UK
  • Wendy Bradley, North Shields, UK
  • Ros Palmer, Kent, UK
  • Jane Aldous, Edinburgh, UK
  • Joanne Probert, Stockport, UK
  • Mark Granier, Dublin, Ireland
  • Ade Hall, Lancaster, UK
  • Heather Reid, Abernethy, UK
  • Sarah Maclennon, Liverpool, UK
  • Susan Peta Thompson, Exeter, UK
  • Shaun Traynor, London, UK
  • Charity Novick, London UK
Illustrations taken from Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre. Illustrated by Sarah McIntyre: Published by Oxford University Press.

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