Amelia Roles – ‘Misconception’

“A well-executed political piece: excellent stream of consciousness displayed in each tightly packed paragraph, and a crisp ending.” – Delia Jarrett-Macauley, novelist, academic and broadcaster, and Chair of the OYP judges 2023

Scroll to the end of the page to read and listen to a conversation between Amelia and 2021 winner, Anya Poerscout-Edgerton.

Pocket Watch Free Stock Photo - Public Domain Pictures

Five minutes.

Five minutes to wait. Five minutes of dread. That’s what awaits you. Five minutes silently praying that only one red slash appears. Five minutes in which you decide you can no longer sit motionless on the toilet seat, waiting, dreading, praying. Five minutes in which you get up, leave your room 101 and grab  your phone, cradling it close because any comfort is better than none. Cradling it like you’d cradle a baby, just like you might have to if the white window of the plastic stick is smeared with two red strokes of blood. Like the blood spilled on the battlefields in the latest day of this cruel, constant war  against humanity.

Four minutes.

Four minutes in which you open the news, already anticipating the horrors. Four minutes where you see the yellow and blue flag dragged through the dirt by the criminals who claim to want peace. Four minutes where you read about the people who are doing this for absolutely no reason except their  own selfishness and pride. Pride that spurs these monsters to massacre innocent people, no more  than numbers to the cowards that call themselves leaders. Leaders who commit atrocities others gasp  at, yet do nothing to protect the future generations from having to witness them. Future generations  who don’t get a choice, being born into this endless cycle of misery. Misery we are taught we deserve. But other people bomb civilians mercilessly despite them not being at any fault in the causation of this war. Not a “special military operation”, a war where innocent masses are just pawns to manipulate  leaders to make the coward’s moves.

Three minutes.

Three minutes where you become wiser about thousands of spectators starving in Africa, fleeing their  seats from the encroaching desert, sprinting closer, dragging everything it can under with it and  instead of weaving through obstacles he sprints straight through them. The sea warms up on the  opposing side of the field, threatening to break dreams. When the whistle blows, the two of them will  fight for territory, each wanting more than either should have, pressing forward relentlessly. Both  want to win, to be victorious, to have the right to rule over the other. The rainforest stands on the  sidelines, watching morosely. She should cheer, she should encourage them to fight but her green  pom-poms dangle uselessly from her sides, brown sleeves pulled down to hide the vine like scars that  snake across her arms. The scars run deep and the ones creating them don’t realise that with her  silence they’ve bought their own destruction and signed the contract. They barely look at the contracts  they sign, their names on her death warrant. The death warrant so many know of and yet push her  towards the gallows themselves. After the game, orphans dig through litter bins desperately seeking  food even if it’s just a crumb of popcorn to sustain them another day. These children who shouldn’t have to provide for themselves.

Two minutes.

Two minutes in which you read how youth suicide rates have increased dramatically. Children who  haven’t had their chance to make positive impacts on the world, to teach others to be better, to not make the same mistakes that have led us to this avalanche of depression, ending their existences because they can’t cope anymore. They murder themselves with knives, with alcohol, with drugs, the  things they shouldn’t have access to and yet use to take away the pain, anything to get that clarity,  that swooping high that is wrongly given in the form of pills, drink and blades. Why are children feeling so desperate that they want to die? And why is society shunning them if they have scars on their bodies or a constant smell of alcohol or constant mood changes from withdrawal. Why are parents doing nothing, feeling disappointed they’ve been saddled with these burdens they forget they created and were supposed to have nurtured, cared for, rocked through tears. The children whose parents should have waited at the school gates, held them quietly after a nightmare, cried for them at  graduations, fed them, clothed them, loved them. The children who are shouted at, blamed, locked  away, manipulated into believing they are unworthy of love or time. The children who are hit,  abandoned, starved, forced to endure the torment they didn’t ask for and do not deserve.

One minute.

One minute in which you contemplate why anyone would want to bring a child into this world anyway. Why have a child if it will only be put through all the torture that the universe has to offer? Allowing the child’s soul to go and be at peace before it has to face these horrors would be so much kinder, so much less painful for both of you. The baby you will be forced to carry for nine long months of suffering because five judges, all of whom aren’t part of the generation of fighters, of protesters, of people who want their rights, made you the criminal if you decide that you don’t want to raise a child in this godawful world. Five judges, four of whom are men, who never have to worry about pregnancy, who have never had to wonder if one wrong move could ruin their lives, who have never had to clutch keys between their knuckles and hurry past catcalling drunks propped up in alleyways, no one to hear you  scream if the worst happened. The men who are allowed to make decisions for millions of women despite never having felt the relief at the sight of blood on a sanitary towel – the knowledge that you won’t have to worry about a child in this cruel world is the greatest relief in the universe. The woman who agreed with them because of the age old ideals people are blinded with. The ideals that people  will have to fight to change and unlearn.

Zero minutes.

Five judges and two lives.

Five minutes and two lines.

We asked previous winners and runners up of the Orwell Youth Prize to interview the 2023 cohort about their Orwell Youth Prize writing. Below, we have both an audio recording and transcript of 2021 winner, Anya Poerscout-Edgerton, in conversation with 2023 winner, Amelia Roles. They discuss form and structure, stripping back their writing, the importance of humour, their writing ambitions, and top tips for future Youth Prize entrants!

TABBY: Hello, I’m Tabby Hayward, I’m the Programme Coordinator for the Orwell Youth Prize, and I’m here today with Amelia and Anya, who are two of the past winners of the prize, and are now part of our Orwell Youth Fellows Programme. They’ll tell you a bit more about that in a moment. But the Prize is currently open for entries on the theme of Home. And we welcome writing in all forms, from stories and poems to articles, essays, scripts, and more, and from students in secondary school, years 7 to 13 throughout the UK. Now, without further ado, I’m going to hand over to Anya and then Amelia to introduce themselves and to talk a bit about their writing.

ANYA: Hi I’m Anya, I won the prize in 2021 with a short screenplay. Now I’m 18, I’m a gap year student, and I’m excited to talk to Amelia about her piece. It’s really good.

AMELIA: Hi, I’m Amelia, I won the prize in 2023. I’m 14 and I wrote a short story about the Roe versus Wade abolishing in America.

ANYA: My first question was, apart from your winning piece, which is really good, I was reading it the other day, it’s really moving, quite tense – what would you get everyone in the world to read, if you could, and why?

AMELIA: Oh, that’s hard! I don’t think it’s a certain thing I’d get everyone in the world to read – I would certainly encourage people to read more and discover kind of their favourite genre or text to read, because I really don’t think we do enough of that. So I think if people read more, they’d probably be better informed. And that would help the world in a lot of ways.

ANYA: I’ve mentioned this before in meetings, I really like the novel Push by Sapphire. It really –  I read it when I was about 16, and I think it really opened my eyes to a kind of diversity of experience. And obviously, it’s like one quite specific experience, it’s about a black girl growing up in an abusive household in New York. And there’s a lot of poverty, and a lot of hardship. But she kind of finds her voice through writing. But yeah, that really kind of affected me when I was 16 and made me who I am today. So yeah, I think that would be my answer.

AMELIA: So I read the piece that you’ve got on the Orwell website. And I thought it was really interesting the way you wrote it like a screenplay. Because obviously, I’ve only ever written short stories, I can’t do poetry or anything like that. So is that like your writing style for everything? Or is it the way you just chose to write that particular piece?

ANYA: That was actually the first time I’d ever written a screenplay. I remember, I watched loads of YouTube videos and taught myself. And I think it was because, I wrote a lot of short stories before that when I was younger, and I often found that I didn’t have very good economy of language, I would kind of write a lot of things just for the sake of them because they sounded nice, and like I was good at using words. And I felt that a screenplay is a really good exercise in economy of language, and like kind of taking it right back to like, what does the audience need to know? So yeah, I kind of enjoyed that, that’s how I came to it.

AMELIA: Stripping it back is really hard to accomplish. But I think you did a good job.

ANYA: Well because your piece is quite – that’s what really struck me about it is, I mean, there was a narrative of sorts, but it was really stripped back to like, quite intense, concentrated pieces of prose, which is really kind of effective in the way that you – obviously you have to read the piece, Orwell Foundation website, please read the piece! – but like it’s really stripped back and condensed. It’s like, like, you know those little ginger shorts you get. Like that.

AMELIA: I think that I was kind of just rambling for a lot of it. And I guess that worked out in favour! But it was kind of just a very angry rant, if anything,

ANYA: Well often that’s the best writing, I think, when you just like open the Notes app on my computer, I just start like, grrrrr, really angry about something! And then, anyways, what drew you to writing in such an expressive non-traditional prose form, as opposed to more traditional narrative or academic nonfiction that we learn at school?

AMELIA: I think it was just like I say, a very angry rant. And I kind of think I took the problems – because I wrote about climate change, the impact that parents have on their children – and I kind of just took all the problems in the world and constructed my own little rant about each of them and then kind of sectioned it. I think that’s the way I went about it.

ANYA: Organised ranting.


ANYA: It worked out really well! It’s amazing.

AMELIA: How did you kind of develop – because I listened to your podcast, and then I read the piece on the Orwell website. And I thought it was – you’ve got a great sense of humor in your writing! So how did you kind of develop that? Or is it just like your internal monologue?

ANYA: Often I’m quite funny, because I’m quite scared, because I’m really scared of people thinking that I’m too pretentious or that I’m taking myself too seriously. Maybe that’s to do with being a woman or something, I don’t know! So often, I feel like I have to laugh at stuff. But also, because I think that laughing can be really powerful, and like deconstructing – oh, now I sound pretentious! –  deconstructing, like absurdities in everyday life. I think it’s really good for that. And because it kind of takes you, kind of you realise you’re laughing, and then you kind of get this almost distance from, I don’t know, from yourself, where you’re like, ‘Oh, that is really weird’. And then that’s where thought begins. I don’t know!

AMELIA: I think also laughing is very therapeutic, for a lot of people. If you’ve had a really bad day, and you just kind of sit down and do something you find that’s actually funny, I think that can help in a lot of ways. So I think you really inspired me maybe to try and write something a bit more humorous, rather than just sadness, anger, all the angst, kind of thing!

ANYA: But also don’t be afraid to be angsty, I think because, you know, like, you get the ‘Cheer up love might never happen’. Because you get told, ‘Don’t be angry about this stuff, don’t be sad about this stuff’. But you can! You definitely can – you should.

AMELIA: Do you see yourself kind of taking on the path of writing in the future? Or do you think you would move to kind of a podcast and screenplay genre?

ANYA: That’s literally my exact question except adapted for you! So I think you can see, can you see this? No? I, well, I’m hopefully going to go and study a science degree at university. So I kind of don’t – it’s not my plan for my career. But yeah, I just try to write what makes me happy, write what I’m interested in. Fill up my hard drive with just random, like half essays of something that I thought when I got home from work! Screenplays – I’m trying to move away from them, a little bit, because I think I’m getting back into liking language and kind of, I want to learn how to apply the same economy of language to prose again, and then how to write prose again, because I think also prose is more maybe useful in everyday life. But I don’t know, I just go with the flow, baby!

AMELIA: I think that’s really kind of the whole reason people write, because it makes you happy. Like, there are a lot of writers out there who – you can tell when they’re writing because they want to and when they’re writing because they’ve got a deadline to adhere to, and they just have to crank something out. Or else they won’t money. I think, with those sorts of pieces, there’s no point doing it if it’s not going to be enjoyable, or it’s not going to make you feel better about your own opinion.

ANYA: I saw in your little Youth Fellows bio, that you said you want to be a journalist?


ANYA: Is that still the case? If so, have you got like a specific area of journalism in mind?

AMELIA: I’m not sure really. Because I did get asked – we  had like a mock interview kind of set up at school. And they were like, ‘What do you kind of see yourself doing in the future?’ And I said I wanted to do journalism, and it was an English teacher who was interviewing me. And she said, ‘That’s very odd, because you wrote fictional narrative, but you want to do nonfiction journalism’. And I don’t think it has to be completely specific that it’s nonfiction, kind of, if you have fictional stories that get a point across and then you can link that in. I think that’s kind of something I’d like to have a look at doing, and see where the writing takes me.

ANYA: That’s a nice little end – I think?

TABBY: Yeah, brilliant, great work, guys. Can I just ask you both to say, one piece of advice for anyone considering entering the Orwell Youth Prize this year?

AMELIA: Make sure that the subject you write about isn’t something you’ve been forced into writing about, because it’s just not going to be the same. Because I remember there were a lot of people who entered it at the same time as me. And I could tell they didn’t really care about what they were writing about. Whereas I cared about what I was writing about. I think that’s what makes the difference between a very monotone piece of writing and a piece of writing where you can tell the person’s obviously deeply invested in the subject matter.

ANYA: My advice, I think my advice is almost like to younger me entering the prize, which sounds so gross, but still! Don’t be afraid of being pretentious, I think, because people like you can definitely do writing and having opinions, whether that’s because you’re female or whatever else. And also, I think that people who are pretentious are usually people who are ungenuine, so if you’re genuine, and you really care about a thing and are passionate about a thing, and you really want to write about it, I don’t think there’s really that much of a risk of being pretentious. Just go for it. Go for it. Just do it.

Amelia Roles is a junior winner of The Orwell Youth Prize 2023