With special thanks to the Orwell Youth Fellows for their contributions to these answers!
1. Why should I enter the Orwell Youth Prize?
The Orwell Youth Prize offers an opportunity for young people to think and write about issues of social justice – tackling big ideas in a creative way. By focusing on a theme, the prize offers a direction to writing, often making you examine a topic in a different light.
As part of entering, you are offered personalised and detailed feedback. In this respect, the prize is unique.
William, one of our Youth Fellows, had this to say about entering the Prize:
“I think the Orwell Youth Prize is worth entering for similar reasons to why George Orwell himself wrote (as set out in his essay, Why I Write):
- ‘Sheer egoism’ – The Orwell Youth Prize is a chance to enter a competition if you like writing. It was brilliant that my work was read and the feedback gave me a confidence boost. There don’t seem to be many writing awards for young writers.
- ‘Aesthetic enthusiasm’ – The feedback on an early draft, made my work much better than it would have been without that advice. You can feel proud of your work because you’re writing for yourself.
- ‘Historical impulse’ – It’s a chance to record your concerns here and now. I wrote about some of the environmental issues that affect our time.
- ‘Political purpose using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense’ – I don’t see myself as political, but there are issues that I care a lot about and I like having the chance to raise awareness for my cause.
- What’s the point of the Orwell Youth Prize?
Focused on young people’s voices, the Orwell Youth Prize provides space for their opinions to be heard by people in positions of power and responsibility. The Prize has a wide audience, connecting with writers, journalists and politicians, ensuring that your work has a strong impact.
Alongside the annual writing prize, the Orwell Youth Prize also has a range of other events to give young people a vast array of opportunities. These include workshops, seminars, talks and resources encouraging a critical and creative examination on the world we live in.
- How many winners are there?
There will be approximately 40 shortlisted entries across the three age categories (Years 7-9, Years 10-11 and Years 12-13), with approx 2 winners and 2 runners up in each age category. Shortlisted entries include runners-up and those who are highly commended.
Both runners-up and winners have their work published and are invited to join the Orwell Youth Fellows.
- What happens if I win?
The prize for winners of the Orwell Youth Prize is George Orwell’s complete fiction and full-length non-fiction works, a selection of essays and a cash prize of £50. Winning entries will also be published on the Orwell Youth Prize website. The schools of winning entrants will also receive the complete works of George Orwell for the school library. Runners up receive Orwell’s collected essays.
Winners and runners up are also invited to join the Orwell Youth Fellows, a new programme through which you can meet other young political writers, work on new writing projects individually and collaboratively, and help shape the Orwell Youth Prize for future participants. You will also be encouraged to take part in other Orwell Foundation events and opportunities.
Beyond winners, runners up and highly commended entries, we aim to create opportunities for sharing more of the brilliant work of young people we receive and for bringing entrants together to discuss their work and help us shape our programme and prize.
- Who are the Orwell Youth Fellows and what do they do?
The Orwell Youth Fellows are currently the winners and runners-up from the Orwell Youth Prize in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023. Together, we work on forming ideas, producing responsive writing for the Orwell Foundation’s blog, and supporting engagement with the prize. We use our experience as previous winners and runners-up to help guide the direction of the Orwell Youth Prize. In 2022, we produced Axial Tilt, a collaborative zine on the climate crisis, which is available to purchase here. In 2023, we produced the Substack blog and newsletter, The Digitalis Archives, based on the theme of ‘Who’s in Control?’
- What should I write about?
All entries should take their inspiration from the theme, but how you address the theme is completely up to you. Every year, the Youth Prize takes a theme from author George Orwell’s work to inspire your responses to the world around you. This year’s theme is “HOME”.
The most important thing about writing is that it is on a topic you are passionate about – what do you care about and what should other people know about this? It can be interesting to take this broad topic and look at it from a different angle – what do you think about this issue? Find a small story to say something big.
It is also important to remember that there is no ‘right’ way to write. Experiment with form, content and style. These provide a great opportunity to overcome the difficulty of starting.
- Which form should I choose? / How do you choose a form?
The topic of a piece of writing is often matched to the form – what will create the most impact? However, not one form fits the theme or ethos of a particular piece, it is what you find is best suited.
The form of a piece of work is also part of the voice of the author. Try to find what feels most natural and comfortable. Remember you are not constrained to particular techniques or styles: mix and match. Writing with experimentation in mind will help create exciting and dynamic pieces of work.
- Where can I get support for my writing?
Support for writing can come from different places for different people. Firstly, be confident and assured in your work; what you produce is unique and powerful in its own right. We recommend looking for resources from organisations which focus on providing a space for young writers. These include the Orwell Youth Prize’s own website.
Support can also come from closer to home, perhaps from a local writing group, a teacher, or your peers. Speak to someone you trust to be honest about your work. A new view on your writing can completely change the direction and allow the piece to develop.
The Orwell Youth Prize also offers feedback to all entries submitted by the feedback deadline, which this year is Monday 1st April 2024.
- I have an idea but am not a very confident writer. What should I do?
Start writing – anything and everything that comes to mind! Examine it. Edit it. Adapt it. Having something on paper will allow you to start exploring that idea.
Try to find writing that explores this idea or re-read your favourite pieces of work. This can help drive you to go with that idea and also show the different ways you can approach it.
- What’s different about the Orwell Youth Prize to school work?
The most important difference is that the Orwell Youth Prize is fun! Compared to writing for English Language, entries for the prize do not have a tick box approach, like with exam criteria.
Rather than prescribing a specific topic, the Orwell Youth Prize’s annual theme provides shape to your work. You also have more creative liberty – this includes in the content, style and form of the piece.
- I was shortlisted, highly commended or won the Prize previously. Can I enter again this year?
Yes. The Orwell Youth Prize is open to everyone who has previously won, or been shortlisted for the Orwell Youth Prize.
- Can I enter two pieces?
No – we offer individual feedback to each entrant, and so we only accept one entry per person. However, you are welcome to submit one piece as a first draft and a different piece as your final entry.
- How long should my entry be?
The word limit is 1000 if you’re in years 7 – 11, and 1500 for years 12-13. There is no obligation to use the entire word count unless you need to: some entries, like poems, will be shorter than others. The Orwell Youth Prize reserves the right to check the length of all longlisted entries.
- I’ve written something with my friend. Can we submit a joint entry?
Yes – we welcome entries written in a pair or small group, which may be particularly useful for the game design category. Please upload your entry to the form as usual and email us at email@example.com with the details of any additional authors.
- How do I submit my entry?
Please upload your entry using the online form on our website. If you have any questions about the form, please email firstname.lastname@example.org