1. What are your memories of entering The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition?
I began preparation in May of 2022. I spent many weeks planning and then researching and only began writing in the last few weeks of June. I remember most clearly the last week of submission. I caught COVID, which was not fun, but it had a silver lining. I had more time to refine my entry.
In October, I was on holiday in Greece with my family and the competition was far from my mind. It was then that I received an email congratulating me on being a gold award finalist and inviting me to have a call with RCS. Whilst on the call I was told that I had won the Junior Category of the competition. Suffice to say I was so surprised and very excited.
My best memories from The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition came when I was invited to Winners' Week in London. The other winners and I were taken to writing workshops, The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, The Reform Club among other special places. We ended the week in Buckingham Palace for an Awards Ceremony with Queen Camilla. The experience of Winners' Week was undoubtably overwhelming and wonderful. We learned about writing and journalism from renowned authors and formed friendships that will last a lifetime with people from all over the commonwealth.
2. What first inspired you to write?
When I first found the competition, I was looking for a challenge and a way to improve my writing skills. The list of topics drew me in. One in particular, where I could write about an inspirational person. There were many people that I considered writing about. Some in my life, and others who have made a big difference in the world. In the end I chose Catherine of Aragon. Her story is filled with trials and loss, despite which she remained true to her values and what she believed to be right and just. Many of her challenges were amplified because she was a woman and had less say than that of the men around her. Today, issues like this are still prevalent, but despite gender, perseverance and courage is something everyone can learn from her story.
3. How did winning The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition impact you?
Winning The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition opened my eyes in many ways. I met people from all over the Commonwealth who taught me to look at the world from different perspectives and helped me improve as a writer. I learnt from interactions with politicians and authors, how to better express myself in speech and writing and most importantly, I came to a better understanding of the value of what we were doing. Having come quite a distance from Australia, and meeting people who had read my work and valued it, showed me that I can also make an impact on the world through my writing.
4. Why is literacy important?
Literacy gives us the ability to communicate ideas and our perspective of the world around us. It allows us to share our experiences and learn from others about the world and ourselves.
5. Why is writing important, especially for young people?
Writing for young people is something that needs to be encouraged as much as possible. Decisions and assumptions are made without first asking for our opinions. Writing allows young people to share their perspectives and opinions, it gives us a voice. As a young person our take on the world is different, as are our priorities. These things should have value in our society, and writing is a way of expressing them.
6. What are the most important elements of good writing?
Good writing inspires the imagination. It should convince your audience that your vision is real and perhaps teach them something about their world or themselves.
7. What is your advice for young writers?
My advice is to read, read, read. There is an endless amount you can learn from other authors which will help improve your writing. Every author has their own writing style and strengths, whether that be in characterisation, phrasing, timing, or analysis, you can seek to learn these things from each author and implement them into your own writing.
8. If you could tell your younger writing self-anything, what would it be?
I would tell myself that good writing takes time. You mustn’t rush your writing, but instead find something you can write on passionately and it will come easier. Consider every perspective and know that every story has many sides.
9. What would you like to do when you finish school?
At 14 I don’t have a clear plan of where I want to take my life in terms of career. I am fascinated by history, culture and the impacts people have had on our world. In an ideal future, I would seek to pursue these things as far as I can, and if possible, make a career out of them. It is a little while away for me, but I am undoubtably excited to see what the future holds.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Madeleine is 14 years old and lives in Melbourne, Australia. She is in grade 8 at Camberwell Girls Grammar School.
She loves travelling, particularly through Europe, and enjoys visiting the museums, historical landmarks and cities in each country. It is from these experiences that she gained a love for ancient, medieval, and renaissance history.
She is also an avid reader, plays the violin and spends much of her time playing basketball or swimming.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Royal Commonwealth Society.