writing contest

Winner of Umoja Writing Competition announced today

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Winner of Umoja Writing Competition announced

Umoja writing comp winner, Disha Raval
Disha Raval the winner of Umoja Orphanage Writing Competition 2016

It’s with great delight we announce the winner of Umoja Writing Competition 2016 is Disha Pankaj Raval with her essay entry ‘Peace Essay’. This entry took us by surprise with its maturity, especially after judging when we realized how young Disha was (she was born in 2004) in Nairobi Kenya. We think it’s a wonderful unexpected bonus that our winner was born in Kenya. She is proof what a good education, particularly literacy, can do for young children.

Here’s a little bit about our winner Disha.

Disha started school in kindergarten at Braeburn Imani International School, Thika, Kenya (a small place north of Nairobi) in September 2007. She finished her Kenyan schooling at Braeburn Imani International School in August 2015.

She has some interesting hobbies including:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Poetry (reading and writing poetry)
  • Swimming
  • Debating
  • Playing the Piano
  • Singing
  • Learning new Languages
  • Travelling
  • Cooking
  • Working with tools and wires
  • Art
  • Drama
  • Exploring Technology

And her achievements so far are impressive:

  • SATS award 2012
  • SATS award 2014
  • National Level Swimming 2014
  • School Math Champ Title Holder 2014
  • School Math Quiz Finalist 2014
  • Highest SATS results in the School 2014
  • Dance award 2015
  • 56 Certificates since 2007

Disha’s Dream Career:

Flying Service Doctor

Favorite Subject:

Mathematics  (and we thought it was English)

How did Disha come to Australia?

(As told by Disha)

In 2010, my family decided that Migrating to Australia will prove to be a better and brighter future for me. After a couple months of extreme thinking, we decided to apply for Immigration through my dad’s educational skills. We were granted the Immigration Visa in around late 2011 and this was a very exciting time for me. We came to Australia for the very first time and I really liked it. Finally, in 2015, we decided that that was the time to move and in February 2016 we came to Australia, to stay for good. The move was pretty hectic because we had to pack up the whole of our house in Thika into boxes and travel about 20 hours to a brand new and developed place with a time difference of 7 hours! It took almost 4 months to get everything packed and ready to go but I am really enjoying it here.

My biggest inspiration is my paternal grandfather. I never got to see him as he passed when my father was 16 years old but I have heard lots of stories about him from my grandmother and I am fully inspired by the way he thought and the way he lived his life.

Disha’s favourite place to write

My favorite place to relax and write my pieces of writing are in the park and on my brown couch.

What an inspirational young woman. Congratulations Disha. Disha’s entry with be posted to the next post. Please read it and comment. We hope this inspires people of all backgrounds and ages to write. 

Please note that judges do not know who wrote what entry. All entries are judged on merit alone. Thank you to all entrants for taking part and helping us to raise much needed funds for Umoja Orphanage Kenya.

Disha Raval winner 2016 writing comp
Disha Raval winner 2016

21 Tips to Win a Writing Competition

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Are you wondering how to win this competition?

We’ve decided to repeat the advice we gave entrants when this competition began in 2014. best advice to help you win in 21 tips. Try some of these tips to help give you a better chance:

  1. Adhere to traditional standards of writing such as punctuation, spelling, grammar and syntax. Particularly, if the competition is run by a school or university and more so, a publisher. Wouldn’t you like to be noticed by someone who could publish your writing? Get it right.
  2. Use the rules of the contest but keep creative within the given theme. If you don’t write using the theme your entry will go straight to the bottom, or the shredder. This theme ‘Peace’.
  3. Literature contests may be looking for originality, refinement, depth, a subtext, and intellectual use of language; an emphasis on interesting characters, and setting rather than plot. Think description over dialogue, usually. A writing competition, (rather than literature contest) will sway towards popular fiction, but many ask for essays, articles and other forms of writing so read the rules and requirements thoroughly.
  4. This particular competition is on the theme ‘Peace’ and since so many of us are hoping for peace in a volatile time for our planet, the theme encompasses many things, so find a unique angle. Freshness and individuality will stand out.
  5. A great starting paragraph and an absorbing plot that follows your main character on some sort of journey or conflict. Finish with no lose ends.
  6. Use the correct tense throughout the story. Don’t change from ‘has to be’ to ‘had to be’ later. It’s annoying and incorrect.
  7. Do not use a passive voice. Active voice will win over the judges.
  8. Dialogue must be believable, readable and colloquial.
  9. Choose an exceptional title. First impressions count but it must be relevant to the story.
  10. Be original. I know you’re thinking the theme takes that away, but it doesn’t. Again, be creative.
  1. Edit your work thoroughly with at least three drafts. I always read out loud when I think I’ve finished my last draft. This often picks up things you can no longer see because you’ve been looking at it for too long.
  2. Don’t confuse the judges or potential readers with too many characters in a short story.
  3. In short stories you have little enough word count so make each word count.
  4. Clichés are just that; cliché. Avoid them.
  5. Use strong verbs rather than adverbs.
  6. Fit your entry to the competition you have entered. If it’s for a women’s romance writers’ group it needs to be romance. If it’s for a mystery writers’ group it would be impossible to win without a whodunit or twisting plot.
  7. Don’t put your name on the manuscript. Your name goes on your entry form but not your manuscript for good reason. The judges need to read each entry on it’s merit alone. The judge wants to see writing that shines not writers.
  8. Format using 12 point Times New Roman, Arial or Helvetica unless the competition rules specify something else. Usually double spaced and indented at the left column. Pages numbered and a word count shown.
  9. Competitions often give a choice between hard copy or email. Read carefully which they prefer, choose hard copy if you want to pay postage. Emailing submissions my change your formatting but as most people are computer literate now, send this way if you feel comfortable with it. Emails are a quicker way to enter if you are pushing the deadline. We prefer emailed entries where possible so we do not have to re-type if your entry wins (we are all volunteers).
  10. Do not bribe the judges or think that fancying up your application will help. No cute little post-it messages asking them to choose you as a winner. No hidden chocolates. Definitely no sprays of perfume that may set off my hay fever.
  11. Do not add pictures to your manuscript (unless of course it’s a travel feature that requires a photograph), just send a plain double spaced entry and let your writing win for you.

And finally, proofread for a final third or fourth time thoroughly. As I said before, I find reading out loud helps pick up on most errors. Make sure there are no typos. For example; use of your ears is not ‘here’ it’s ‘hear’. Check your words, check your spelling and triple check your punctuation. Judges will critic these mercilessly and one error may see you lose. One correction could see you win. I hope you win.

Have fun and good luck with your entry.

To enter go to: Rules & Entry Form

The winner is – ‘Tiny Teacher’ by Kirsten Leggett

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Today we announce the winner of Umoja Writing Competition 2015. It is both exciting and sad to come to this point in our competition. Exciting because our winner is about to find out, and sad because this year’s competition is over.

We’d like to thank everyone who entered to help make this fundraising and literacy venture a success. Though entrant numbers were down, we still managed to raise valued funds for Umoja Orphanage Kenya, and the wonderful work Cathy and her team do. We thank you all and hope you enjoyed crafting your story and entering our competition.

This year we allowed African entrant the chance to enter free, so they could enjoy the process of entering the competition. The competition has been designed to help Kenyan literacy levels and provide funding for the orphanage that will also have classrooms.

African Special Mention

We’d like to make special mention of our highest ranked African entrant, Nancy Lindah Ilamwenya from Ethiopa. Her entry ‘Of Nice and Mean’ was a beautifully crafted entry. Continue your writing, Nancy and we wish you the best of luck with your life goals. We will post Nancy’s entry and the winning entry on the blog in the coming days.

The Winner

Okay here we go with the drum roll. Now for the overall winner of Umoja Writing Competition 2015. The winner is Kirsten Leggett from Tasmania, with her wonderful entry ‘Tiny Teacher’. Congratulations Kirsten.

Please return to see these entries. Now you be the judges when these four entries are posted let us know what you think of them. Give only literary feedback, thank you.

A quick thank you again to our judges Deborah Lawrence, teacher and literacy consultant (and also the sponsor of our trophy) and Shanyn Limpus, communications officer for Umoja Orphanage Kenya.

Please visit the orphanage Facebook page to see the latest information on the volunteer group who have just visited Kenya with Cathy. If you are interested in volunteering overseas you couldn’t find a better place to go.

Thank you to those who entered Umoja Writing Competition 2015

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2015 Umoja Writing Competition Closed

Thank you to everyone who entered in 2015

To raise much needed funds for Umoja Orphanage Kenya we need to make this competition a success. This year we gave entrants longer to enter and marketed and promoted heavily with writing groups, schools, writing sites and social media. With times being tough, even here in Australia (though of course nowhere near as tough as Kenya) we believe people are finding it harder to find an extra $25. Entries were down which is disappointing. It leads to the question: do you think we should reduce the entry fee next year? Would more people enter?

Warm & Witty Words has donated the prize money and Literacy Consultant Deb Lawrence has donated the trophy, so a big THANK YOU for your support. We hoped the prize money and trophy would encourage people to enter, but this hasn’t seemed to be the case either, or more people would enter. We’d love feedback about why writers enter writing competitions. Is it for the writing profile? We are entering our third year and have plenty of supporters and good feedback so I believe we are creating a literary profile for any winners of the competition. Why haven’t more of you entered?

For instance, in only the first year, winner, Lauren Dionysius, has received plenty of writing opportunities since her win, including a an overseas writer’s retreat. You can build your profile through this competition, and have the added bonus of doing something good for society by helping Umoja Orphanage Kenya.

Next year please enter and encourage your writing friends to enter. Even if you’ve never entered a writing competition, enter. You just may find your writing passion.

Thanks again to those who entered. Be assured all your entries fees go directly back to the Umoja Orphanage Kenya, because prize money and trophy have been donated by Warm & Witty Words and Literacy Consultant Deb Lawrence.

Short listed entries will be announced shortly. Good luck to our entries.


Time is running out to enter our writing competition

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Only a week to get your entries in to Umoja Writing Competition 2015. To make this a successful literary competition and fundraiser for Umoja Orphanage Kenya, we desperately need more entries. Please let all your writing friends know about us and encourage them to enter, please.


The theme is ‘Child’ but anything can inspire you.

  • The above picture perhaps (baby animals and children).
  • Your own children.
  • Children in your area.
  • The children of Africa.
  • A baby who impacted your life.
  • A toddler’s world.
  • The inner child.

Hurry. Entries must be post-marked 6th August 2015 or arrive in my inbox before midnight on that day.


Only 22 days left to get your entry in

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If you’ve thought you had plenty of time to enter, time is running out. Don’t miss our August 6th deadline. Remind your writing friends to get their entries in too.

Remember this competition is a genuine literary competition that raises money for Umoja Orphanage Kenya.

Please help this wonderful cause and at the same time you may build your writing profile as last year’s winner Lauren Dionysius did. Look for Lauren’s next post in the coming days.

Download our entry form HERE

The Runner Up Story – Tumaini (hope) by Denise Cummins

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As promised here is Denise’s second placed entry ‘Tumaini (hope)’:

Tumaini (hope)

God does not live in Africa. I cannot believe it myself because parts of it are green and dripping and luscious as Eden. But there are snakes and bacteria and death. I understand why John says it. I’m not going to argue about God with you, I tell him. I don’t argue about that any more, he says.

Sometimes I think John is like God, the way he holds small hands and grows vegetables and cries alone at night. That is probably the drink though. The drink has hold of him, he’s told me that, but it is all the hope he has now that God is gone.

Joseph has been here since he was three. He is a man now in this land, tall and lean and knowing. We take the truck to the market to buy maize meal for the children. It is time for Joseph to leave but John cannot do it. Who will give a shite about him in this world, he says. It is fair argument.

Some days there is no place for learning. There is work to be done to feed the small mouths who sing as though the world is theirs and there are mothers’ hands to caress them at night. The children are so clear-eyed, sometimes I choke to see them walk to school. Get past it, John says, they’d prefer a decent feed.

There is a new baby who comes. She is wrapped in yellow cloth and is dark and warm and sleeping. Her mother is very ill and her grandmother cannot take her. The child too may be ill but she looks perfect as God intended. I can’t do babies, John says, but he takes her anyway because what else can he do. The big girls carry her on their backs and John says he doesn’t know how he’ll feed her.

One of the sisters finds a village woman to suckle her. The woman’s baby is buried and her milk is spilling. The new baby feeds silently, with grateful eyes and fingers curling. The sister suggests the woman might keep this baby but she shakes her head. There are already too many but she will feed her until she can take the maize meal. Feeding will stop another baby from coming. When she leaves, the sister prays the woman is not ill herself. Too late for that now, John says.

The sisters know John has lost God and they seem to ignore it, as though they all misplace things from time to time. He still says mass for them every morning. That is his job. When they take communion, they smell the hope on his breath. Sometimes I sit with him at night and he talks of racehorses and the cool breath of the old country on his skin. Serve him right for trying to save the world, he says. Should have stayed where God lives in the corner of every damn room.

The next market day we drive to town to get the new baby her injections. Sister Moira holds her in the front and Joseph keeps watch in the back. In town, I buy a goat with some US dollars in my shoe. It is a male goat for eating, not one for milking, so I get it for eight dollars. Sister Moira thinks that’s a good price and Joseph carries it to the truck. The new baby is hungry so she is squirming. She does not cry. Children do not cry in Africa unless the malaria is boiling their brain. They do not cry even when their father walks them fifty miles to the compound and then leaves without holding their faces in his hands.

On those nights I cry blood and after, when the silence wakes me, sometimes I hear John cursing to God in his rondavel. There are no corners for God in rondavels, I think. I must remember to tell him that in the morning.

John is annoyed I have bought the goat with my own money. I don’t understand why. It’s protein, I say, the children need protein. You think you’re fucking God, he says. You think your money will solve all their problems. Fuck you, John, I say.

We have stew for two nights. The sisters and the big girls cook it in an old petrol drum over a fire like the village women do. They add dark green leaves and serve it with maize meal. The children sing into the night because meat is for special occasions. John doesn’t have any because he rarely eats. He doesn’t speak to me for the next few days.

One morning when we are writing simple sentences with chalkstone on the cement floor, John comes to the schoolroom looking for Joseph. I have not seen him. That night, Sister Jude tells me she has driven Joseph to Kisumu to work in the gardens of a family known to the church. It’s for the best, she says. I wonder if she speaks to my eyes because we both understand why Joseph had to go. Or because it shreds our hearts that no-one in the world will give a shite about him. I am not certain.

I feed the new baby her first spoons of maize meal. Her eyes are deep and trusting. She rolls the paste in her mouth but swallows it down. We all laugh at her concentration. I hope God remembers her. There is a long way to go.

One morning, John does not wake for mass. Sister Paul finds him on the floor of his rondavel with wet trousers and mustard-coloured foam seeping from his mouth. He is buried beyond the vegetable garden, not far from Gracie and Peter and sweet David who lay down under the boabab tree one afternoon and died quietly the next day.

The Monsignor travels from Nairobi for John’s funeral. He says John is now with God as he was in his life. Sister Moira studies the intricate furrows of skin on the back of her hands. I think of John in the corner of some damp room in Galway.

When we clean out John’s rondavel, I find some money tucked into the back of a ravaged black bible. We decide to send it to Joseph. Jude says we should send the bible too. The blanket on the bunk smells of John: of rusted earth and the stale hope that leached from his bones. We take it for the new baby. The next priest will probably burn it anyway.

As soon as I get photos back of our winner holding our trophy I’ll posts photos.

Don’t forget to enter next year. If you hit the REGISTER button you’ll be up to date.

This competition has been set up to raise funds for Umoja Orphanage Kenya. We are still desperately in need of funds so please visit our chuffed page and recommend it to your friends. We’d love everyone to spread the word. http://www.chuffed.org/project/umoja-orphanage-kenya