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Hiya Chowdhury looks back on how the competition has changed her life

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

Hiya Chowdhury, Senior Runner-up QCEC 2017, QCEC 2023 Final Panel Judge and published children’s author explains how the competition has changed her life. #QCEC140

1. What are your memories of entering The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition?

Growing up, entering the competition was always an eagerly-awaited part of my year. I remember sitting down to write my entries with excitement and eagerness, forever wanting to put my best, and most honest, foot forward. I remember editing my entries over and over again, trying to create something that was perfect in my eyes. This endeavour sometimes succeeded, and often failed. But I don’t quite remember being dejected when one of my stories failed to make the mark. Quite the opposite: I was always thrilled to have been able to write something meaningful, and always felt thankful that the competition gave me the opportunity to do so!

2. What first inspired you to write?

I always felt that the pages of my notebooks and journals were very forgiving and accepting of my eccentricities. Like most children, I was very happy to let my imagination run wild and I was stunned by the mere thought that my ideas could be valuable enough to be made into a story of some kind! That sense of complete abandon was very inspiring for me. I was also very inspired to write by the books I read!

3. How did winning The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition impact you?

Oh, so many ways! For one, it gave me the confidence to keep writing and sharing my ideas with the world — or at the very least, put them down on paper. It also gave me the opportunity to experience new places and meet new people, which is of great value to anybody passionate about writing. But most of all, I think winning the competition was vital for my voice as a young person: it assured me that thinking big was valuable and that my thoughts and opinions were meaningful, no matter where I came from.

4. Why is literacy important?

To my mind, literacy is essential for self-confidence and well-being. While the mere act of writing and reading may seem perfunctory to some, to me it is a life-giving force! It allows us to articulate our ideas to the world, and therefore accommodate the world within our own local contexts. I never underestimate the power of this ability; literacy allows us to see our own worth and the value inherent in our ideas. It opens up the possibility that the whole world might be able to witness our ideas in the future.

5. Why is writing important, especially for young people?

I think writing allows young people to really see themselves. As a young person myself, I know that writing has allowed me to create a concrete sense of self! I am able to write about what strikes me as raw and important, and in doing so I bring a very specific experience to the threshold of the world. When young people are able to (and inspired to) write their ideas and imaginations into reality, they are also able to see the value inherent in their lives and experiences. They are able to see what their minds are able to achieve.

6. What are the most important elements of good writing?

Above all else, being honest. The kind of writing I enjoy most is about what the writer has seen and touched and felt, and knows to be true of their own experience of the world! That kind of writing truly floats off the page and becomes real for the reader in the most raw, visceral way.

7. What is your advice for young writers?

To write about what they live on a day-to-day basis, and to draw inspiration from the mundane. There is a lot of flavour in the lives we live, and despite that, we often feel that our daily lives are small and unimportant. I think everyone who wants to write should know that lived experiences are always the most ripe material for our stories, because it is what we are able to communicate most aptly on paper. I want young people to know that their lives are worth writing about!

8. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

To never be ashamed of the things she finds interesting and moving, even if nobody else in the world is writing about them.


The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Royal Commonwealth Society.

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