The hunt for tomorrow’s authors

Art January 26, 2017 01:00


Neilson Hays Library awards await best young illustrators and English-language writers

THE NEILSON Hays Library is hoping youngsters up to age 18 will put pen to paper and fingertips to keyboard this month and next to enter the first Neilson Hays Young Writers Awards.

With a February 28 deadline, it has categories for different age groups and for both illustrated books and short stories.

The top prize in each category is Bt10,000 cash and the winners and runners-up will also receive commemorative certificates.

The venerable library, founded in 1869, wants to promote a love of writing and reading English with this fun and educational competition. The organisers of the awards believe every child has a story to share that’s worth telling. 

The theme for the contest, inspired by His Majesty the late King Bhumibol, is “Hope”. 

There are five categories covering students at international schools, Thai schools and bilingual schools. 

From each category of schools, children 12 and under are invited to come up with a 12-page or 300-word picture book, those 16 and under a 16-page or 500-word picture book and those 18 and under a short story of 800 to 1,000 words. 

Library president Nalin Vanasin explains that the picture books can be individual submissions or projects shared by up to three entrants. 

“Because writing is a learning process, the aspiring young writers and illustrators in the final round will be invited to a workshop at Chakrabongse Villa,” she says. “Published writers and illustrators will critique their entries and coach them so they can revise their work and re-submit them if they like.

Nalin points out that the entries’ ultimate readership will also be children, so “we feel picture books are the most relevant” approach in the contest. 

“We really want to encourage creativity here, so anything goes, as long as it’s original and not plagiarised or a mix-and-match using existing images. 

“The entrants can draw, colour and paint by hand, but we don’t rule out the use certain of computers either. In the 18-and-under categories we’re just looking for a classic short story.” 

The Hope theme is intended to encourage stories that relate to “the current situation in Thailand”, Nalin says. “His Majesty the late King is the inspiration, but the entries don’t have to be about him. Again, we’re fostering creativity.”

The rules forbid parents from helping, apart from minor spelling corrections. “If it’s about grammar, we’re not going to penalise parents who help, but we won’t allow adults to rewrite or otherwise try to ‘get it perfect’. The judging will be based on points awarded for different aspects of the content.”

The judges include author, publisher and environmentalist MR Narisa Chakrabongse, writer, director, producer and associate drama professor Onchuma Yuthavong, Assistant Professor Chaiporn Panichrutiwong, who animated and directed “Yak: The Giant King”, SEA Write Award-winning author of “The Happiness of Kati” Khun Ngarmphan Vejjajiva, and writer-translator Khunying Chamnongsri Hanchanlash.

Also standing by to give the young scribes advice is Pieretta Dawn, who was only 15 when her first book, the novel “The Mermaid Apprentices”, was published. She went on to complete the Interspecies Trilogy. 

Pieretta says she was just a regular kid who happened to love reading and writing. “I started writing when I was 13,” she says. “I’d recommend the entrants read a lot, do research, try different things, observe the world around them, or even listen carefully to their friends’ conversation and incorporate it into the dialogue of their stories. 

“But the most important thing is to just have fun writing. It’s supposed to be fun. And that feeling will be translates through your work and make it more fun for readers. If you can transport me into an imaginary world and make me want to follow your characters, that’s what I’m looking for.”


 - The Bt500 entry fee for the Neilson Hays Young Writers Awards covers organisational costs and any remaining funds will go towards restoring the library building.

- The deadline is February 28. Send a hard copy by registered mail or deliver it by hand to the Neilson Hays Library at 195 Surawongse Road, Si Phraya, Bangrak, Bangkok 10500. 

- To learn more, phone |(02) 233 1731, email or see the “Neilson Hays Library Young Writers Awards” Facebook page.