UofHAfter the Scott Prize results were announced, I thought it might be nice to get in touch with a few people who encouraged me along the way. Pretty much the first stop on the journey was the University of Hertfordshire, because winning third prize in their creative writing award in 2007 was THE critical event that set me off on my present path.

What I hadn’t expected was that they would invite me to come along to this year’s award ceremony. Now I’m never one to turn down an invitation for free food and drink (and it’s just down the road anyway), so I quickly accepted. The award has changed a bit since the first one in 2007, in that instead of an open international competition, it’s now aimed at writers aged between 14 and 19 from the East of England. But I have to say that the writing in evidence tonight was no less impressive for that and if even a fraction of these kids stick with it, the future of British literature is in safe hands. It must have been very difficult indeed for the two judges, Emily Mackie and Marcus Sedgwick, to decide who should go home with the prizes.

The ceremony itself was a very slick affair with actors reading out extracts of the shortlisted entries, which I thought was an excellent idea. I’ve said before here that for an author there’s nothing quite like hearing someone who knows what they’re doing reading your work, and the actors involved tonight did them proud – kudos to Matt Broad, Syreeta Kumar and Jacqueline Roberts. There were some highly impressive entries in both the shortest short story category (4 – 100 words) and the short story category (up to 2000 words). It wouldn’t be fair to single out any individual writers but I was interested to note that there was more than one entrant who turned up in both categories, which I thought was particularly impressive.

So many thanks to Janet Matthews and Stephanie Grainger for inviting me along – I had a terrific time and it was lovely meeting everyone.

And if any of the entrants happen to stumble on this post, I’ll give you one simple piece of advice: don’t give up on writing, because it sure as hell won’t give up on you. Whatever you do, don’t take as long as I have to get around to doing anything about it.

Finally, if any of the parents happen to stumble on this, you should be very proud indeed – and if I ever hear that you haven’t encouraged your kids every single step of the way on their creative writing journey, I shall be very, VERY cross. OK?