25 April 2024

The Martha Mills Young Writers’ Prize 2024

The London Review Bookshop is proud to announce the second year of the Martha Mills Young Writers’ Prize. Inspired by the curiosity and imagination of Martha Mills, the prize seeks to give young people a chance to explore new themes in their writing and to get their work published.

The prize is open to anyone between the ages of 11 and 14 living in the UK. 

The three winning writers will each receive £200 as well as a selection of books and a special souvenir. They will be invited to the London Review bookshop (travel and accommodation paid) where the prizes will be awarded. A selection of entries, including the three winners, will be included in a pamphlet, available at the Bookshop.

What we are looking for

The judges for this year are Philip Pullman, author of many children’s classics including the His Dark Materials trilogy, Gayle Lazda from the London Review Bookshop and Merope Mills and Paul Laity (Martha’s parents and editors at the Guardian and LRB respectively).

They say: We are looking for writing that is lively, unusual or otherwise original. It doesn’t have to be perfect or finished – we want to see the work that you’re most proud of or most excited about. Don’t worry if you haven’t written much before or don’t know if you’re a ‘writer’.

Unfortunately we can’t accept poems (there are other prizes for young poets) but we welcome any piece of prose under 500 words, whether it’s a piece of schoolwork, something from real life – perhaps from your diary or journal – or a story entirely from your imagination.

You can read the winning entries from last year’s prize in the 2023 Prize pamphlet.

This year’s theme

The theme for 2024 is ‘A Secret’. You can take this idea in any direction you like – it could be a story of a secret between friends, or a tale of spies or detectives, or you could write about a secret that has affected your own life, or the life of someone you know.

Rules and how to enter:
- Entries must be 500 words or fewer
- The prize is open to anyone between the ages of 11 and 14 living in the UK
- Please include your full nameage at the time of writing and a contact email for a parent/carer or teacher
- Send your entry in a Microsoft Word document (.docx format) to youngwriters@lrb.co.uk
- The closing date for entries is Friday 19 July

About Martha

Every birthday and Christmas our daughter Martha would ask for the same presents: a notebook and a snow globe. By the time she died, aged thirteen, she was an enthusiastic writer with dozens of snow globes and piles of notebooks bursting with book ideas. She produced countless half-finished stories, opening lines, chapter plans and character breakdowns. These included ‘The Story of Nothing’, which begins:

Every book starts with nothing,
but in this case . . . Nothing
is a boy. And this story is how
Nothing turns into Something

Martha Mills sitting writing in her notebook

And ‘Realm of Sky’, which starts:

A long, long time ago, in a land that was wild, magic and free, there lived a carefree girl named for birds . . . She had a temper like a wildfire and a tongue as sharp as the knife she wielded.
Her name was Kestrel . . .

Martha loved reading and writing and took inspiration from her favourite authors – Katherine Rundell, Malorie Blackman, Philip Pullman and others. We weren’t able to witness her grow as a reader and writer, but we hope the Martha Mills prize will inspire other young writers.

Merope Mills and Paul Laity
(Martha’s parents)

I Am Not A Writer
by Martha Mills, at age twelve

I am not a writer.

I am an artist, whose paintbrush creates worlds of its own; I am a facilitator, I introduce ideas to the world from a small, white page, I am not a writer.

These shapes are not words, they are passages, from which stories appear; they are ideas, singing to you from your bedside or shelf, they are not words.

Watch this pencil, sharp as a weapon, able to create joy or inflict sorrow. See it dance, see it whirl, see it twirl, see it dart across the page — and oh! A world has appeared.

Follow me. Enter this new, enchanted world. Watch the magic unfurl like a flower, bringing wonder and beauty.

This is not a story.
This is a snow peaked mountain,
A scorching desert,
A bustling city,
A gurgling stream,
Another life, another planet,
A wonderland.

This is not a story.
I am not a writer.

Books mentioned in this blog post