some excerpts from this year's winning entries:
After a good feast of dates and honey the five children had a long, catch-up conversation about their time over the hot, sweaty summer. Axius had no parents, but was looked after by the group of actors that were well-known in Pompeii... Felix and Sophia had also been away, travelling to the islands of Sicily with their wealthy mother and father on their ship. Olivia had spent her summer in luxury at the local baths and her family had bought two new slaves, one of which could do elaborate hairstyling and make up. Lucius was the only one of the five friends that had stayed with Pompeii's normal activity over the summer. He had been winning all the street fights and scavenging money with his friends from the attendants at the local baths where his father worked.
from The Missed Cue by Florence Fowkes, 11
1st place in age 9-11
The play was now getting to the exciting bit, the death scene. Ilucas relaxed and watched as Julius ran off stage. There was a fracas in the wings. "This is where Julius will be replaced by a condemned man so we get a real murder on stage. This is one murder that will be no loss to the theatres of Rome," he mused. Suddenly the two actors rushed back on stage. "I'm not supposed to die!" one called, as the other stabbed him through the heart.
from The Theatre of Jupiter, by Stuart Quinnell, 12 (at time of writing)
3rd place in age 11-13
Demetrius raised his head, and squinted into the distance. He gasped as, brightened by the pale moonlight, a building rose up from the horizon. Its stone body loomed out of the darkness at an astonishing height, and, at its pinnacle burned a bright golden beacon. The light gave Demetrius new hope as it glared out from its point, and illuminated the stretch of sparking sea ahead. Despite his exhaustion from the arduous journey, Demetrius smiled and praised the gods. "The Pharos," breathed Lorendes.
from The Two Friends, by Josephine Thum, 14
2nd place in age 14+
A spark, a cat-like hiss then a sudden roar and a wave of heat as the fire caught and shot across the courtyard with a fury. The mob fled frantically as they realised the blaze was out of control. Thin beams of yellow and blue seeped through the cracks in the door, settling on their faces. Iacomus cried out as the heat in their small space intesified and quickly became unbearable.
from Trouble in Thysdrus, by Eilidh Avison, 14
1st place in age 14+
That night, Caius caught a fish; and I cooked it and stripped it bone dry; but there our luck ended. "To the chewing of your tables"-yes, like Aeneas we would have slaughtered the pack-animals and chewed our very crockery, except we hadn't any to chew. Like greedy Erysichthon we would have gnawed our fingers and tried to eat ourselves; unlike him, we never would have finished.
from Fragments: a Roman Happening, by Kailas Menon, 16
best international entry
...Captain Proteus had the misfortune to captain a crew of the most wretched reprobates - pirates, criminals and monsters, the lot of them! His crew's reputation, however, was in no way wretched or unfortunate - his ship was after all the Myoparo Mortis - fittingly named "the galley of death", the most notorious pirate ship in the Mediterranean, where, so they say, even the galley-slaves' pockets brim with gold, and the captain feasts on roast meat and Falernian wine - every night.
from The Aesculapian Eye, by Diran Bodossian, 16
3rd place in age 14+
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In September of 2008 classics teacher Jeremy Pine set up a competition for children to write a Roman mystery short story in the tradition of Lindsey Davis, Steven Saylor, Simon Scarrow and others.
Jeremy was inspired by a talk I gave to girls at his former school - Royal High Senior School Bath - in 2008. I mentioned that a little girl in Year 3 thought my sponge-stick (Roman toilet paper) was an award for my books! I said perhaps a 'Golden Sponge Stick' could be an award for the best Roman Mystery. And ecce! the idea of the competition came to Jeremy, like Athena leaping fully-clothed from the head of Zeus!
You can read more about the Roman spongia HERE.
You can read Jeremy's account of the first year of the Golden Sponge Stick Competition HERE.
Now Jeremy teaches Latin at Burgess Hill School for Girls, but he decided to hold the competition for the second year running 2009.
According to the rules set by Jeremy, the story should
1. be set in Roman times.
2. be written by an individual child with no outside help.
3. not exceed 1500 words.
4. include some period detail about Roman life and/or the Latin language.
5. have a clear plot with a twist and striking ending.
There were four age categories: under 9, 9-11, 11-13, 14 and above.
The Golden Sponge Stick competition was open to children all over the world, and in any kind of education.
Entries had to be in by 11 December 2009.
(You can see the full rules HERE.)
This year, Jeremy had 276 entries. He spent the Christmas holidays judging the entries and at the beginning of February he chose the winners. A few weeks ago he sent me a letter telling me about the competition:
Again the calibre of writing has been excellent with the stories revealing a lucid, imaginative and humorous approach, allied to painstaking research and high emotion.
The variety of storytelling was rich with duplicity and murder at the theatre, double dealing in Alexandria, ‘oily’ revolution in Africa , exotic red sands and kidnapping of beautiful slave girls topping the bill this year!
The wealth of young storytelling talent is undeniable and many thanks to the bubbling enthusiasm of the students and their teachers alike. Pleasingly, in addition to the widespread receipt of entries from UK, there were some international stories received from USA, Australia and Hungary and this exciting dimension to the competition will hopefully expand later this year in the 2010 Burgess Hill School for Girls Golden Sponge-Stick Competition.
Today Jeremy sent me half a dozen examples of the winning entries and I have put excerpts from them at the top of this post.
Here is the official list of all the prize winners :
Under 9 age category
1 : Catrin Parry, Alderley Edge School for Girls
2 : Nico Ferrari, St Bernard’s Preparatory School, Slough
1 : Florence Fowkes, St James Senior Girls’ School
2 : Sophie Wilkins, Fairfield School, Bristol
3 : Emma Russell, The Royal High Senior School, Bath (GDST)
1 : Benjamin Thorne, Kings Monkton School, Cardiff
2 : Surina Fordington, Norwich High School for Girls (GDST)
3 : Stuart Quinnell, Berkhamsted School
14 and above
1 : Eilidh Avison, Harris Academy, Dundee
2 : Josephine Thum, Kendrick School, Reading
3 : Diran Bodossian, Hampton School
Best International entry :
Kailas Menon, Stanford University Online Education Program for Gifted Youth (USA)
Participating schools and colleges :
Alderley Edge School for Girls, Berkhamsted School, Birchwood Grove Primary School, Bristol Grammar School, Central Newcastle High School (GDST), Denny High School, Falkirk, Ellesmere College, Shropshire, Emmanuel College, Gateshead, European School, Culham, Exeter School, Fairfield School, Bristol, Feltonfleet School, Cobham, Haberdashers’Aske’s School for Girls, Hampton School, Harris Academy, Dundee, Henry Box School, Witney, Kendrick School, Reading, King Edward VII School, Kings Lynn, King Henry VIII School, Coventry, Kings Monkton School, Cardiff, King’s School, Worcester, Leweston School, Sherborne, Mills Hill School, Inverell, Dublin, Newcastle College, Norwich High School for Girls (GDST), North Devon College, Nottingham High School for Girls (GDST), Portsmouth Grammar School, Royal Grammar School, Guildford, Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe, St Bernard’s Preparatory School, Slough, St Columba’s College, St Albans, St James Senior Girls’ School, St Joseph’s RC High School, Newport, St Mary’s School, Cambridge, St Paul’s Girls’ School, Stanford Education Program for Gifted Youth, (USA) , Sevenoaks School, Shrewsbury High School (GDST), The Junior King’s School, Canterbury, The Leys School, Cambridge, The Manchester Grammar School, The Meadows School, (USA) , The Red Maid’s School, Westbury-on -Trym, The Royal High School Bath (GDST), Windermere St Anne’s School, Cumbria, Wrekin College, Wellington, Telford.
In his letter to me, Jeremy thanked:
My family (Lisa, you would have enjoyed this!), Burgess Hill School for Girls, Association for Latin Teaching, Verity Barber, June Bent, Lynda Bevan, Classical Association, Friends of Classics, Dr Mark Golder, Will Griffiths and CSCP, Barbara Johns, JACT, Caroline Lawrence, Gwenda Manners, Andrew O’Donnell, Hanna Prynne, Lorna Robinson and iris Project, Cressida Ryan and Oxford University Classics Outreach, Adrian Wink and Armamentaria.
I would like to join Jeremy in congratulating everyone who won and also everyone who entered, as well as the teachers and parents who supported you. Just getting an entry in shows the self-discipline and drive required to be a successful author.
The Third Golden Sponge Stick Competition will run from September 2010.