The Chalkface Challenge: The Results

There were 27 entires for the first Chalkface Challenge - the only writing competition judged entirely by children*. The judges were year 5 children from St. Edwards' Catholic Primary School, Swadinlcote, Derbyshire

The children, supported by their teacher, Celia Anderson, excelled themselves in their conscientious reading, their warm and helpful comments to the authors and their enthusiasm for new stories. Thank you!  You can see the children judging in this week's editorial.

I am  delighted to announce that the winner of the first Chalkface Challenge is Mike Pringle for the first 750 words of Autopet Farm.

Mike Pringle

The children said:
  • "Funny, very good nothing to change and keep on going." 
  • "I absolutely loved it nothing I would change. So funny too."
  • "No words can describe but hilarious."
  • "Amazing book nothing wrong with it at all"
  • "I liked you don't actually expect them to shove a gun in your face"
  • "You made my daylistening to that fabulous story. the humour makes it a better book. I'd love to read more. It's amazing. I wouldn't change anything. I loved it all."

There were four runners up, in no particular order:

Julie Fulton, Narrow Escape "I loved the warfare idea. It's great because of the scared people running away how you would do in real life. I wouldn't change anything it's great."
Jennifer Killick, Alex Sparrow and the Really Big Stink "Wow! This book is amazing; it's hilarious. I wanted to read on."
Elizabeth Dale, Help! I Think I'm An Alien! "I liked this book because it was really funny. And my favourite bit was when he was comparing what he liked to what his family liked. And I would not change anything about this book."
Jo Thomas, Betsy Beeble Has No Beard "I found this really funny and cool. It was amazing, funny funny funny."

Jo,  Elizabeth,  Jennifer,  Julie

Here's Mike's winning opening excerpt:

Chapter 1
Mutt Butt

Gundogs are usually things like Labradors, with floppy ears and a waggly tail. Or fluffy Golden Retrievers. Or Poodles. You don’t expect them to actually shove a gun in your face. Especially not a semi-automatic 7.62 calibre, Flexilite assault weapon.

     Of course as I was standing there dribbling, I didn’t know any of these technical details. All I knew was a dog the size of a small truck was coming at me with teeth like a tyrannosaurus. And he had a gun instead of a tail, and it was wagging at me. I did what any sensible person would do. I screamed like a big girl’s blouse, and ran as fast as my skinny legs would let me.

     As my life flashed through my mind I cursed my own little dog, Cedric, for wandering off and leading me to the farm the monster dog was guarding. I cursed Eddie too, my so-called uncle. In fact , the thought of him totally filled my head with swear words. Really bad ones. If he hadn’t had the brainwave to buy Cedric in the first place, I would’ve been peacefully tucked up in bed with my PlayStation instead of chasing the stupid mutt halfway across the country.

     But that’s Uncle Eddie for you. A complete moron who decides for no reason whatsoever that what every eleven year old boy needs more than anything else in the whole wide world is a dog. Not a state-of-the-art, fully pedigreed, oiled-up type of dog, of course. Not one that friends and neighbours drool over because of how handsome it is, or because of the way it does everything perfectly. Oh no. Just mangy little Cedric, covered in slobber and fleas and fitted with a dodgy Poo-matic 1.4. And in case you’ve been living under a rock and never come across a Poo-matic before, you should know that it’s the oldest, cheapest and definitely most useless internal poo-collecting device on the market. It’s made by AutoPet Inc., supposedly the world leaders in gadgets for improving animals, and uses a disposable cartridge system powered by two AAA batteries. I don’t need to tell you where the cartridge has to be inserted, and I don’t need to tell you what sort of mess a faulty 1.4 can make.

     And as for the smell...

     But I suppose it wasn’t really Cedric’s fault. Apart from the Poo-matic he was a perfectly normal little terrier, with wiry grey hair sticking out at all angles, even though I don’t think he’d had a wash since the day he’d been born. Just don’t ask me how he came to be called Cedric.

     ‘Sort the dog out, Berthold,’ Uncle Eddie shouted earlier that evening, when we heard a bleeping coming from the kitchen. Don’t ask me how I got my name either.
     Dear Uncle Eddie has to shout everything. He doesn’t do normal talking like the rest of the human race. I must have been all of a metre away from him as he sat there picking his nose and yelling. He rolled his fat body to one side, lifted a white flabby thigh and let rip a monster fart. I swear his boxer shorts fluttered like a flag in the breeze.

     I was more than happy to get out of there.

     Cedric was sitting in the kitchen wagging his tail. He might have been looking guilty. It was hard to tell through all that scraggy grey fur. More than likely it was just a haven’t got a clue what’s going on look.

     His Poo-matic alarm was still beeping. I clicked the switch on his collar and got a mild electric shock from the shonky wiring. I sighed, and watched the cartridge fly out of Cedric’s rear end, followed by everything that should have been inside it.

     ‘Grief, Cedric,’ I said. ‘Did you have to eat that curry last night?’

     Of course this wasn’t really fair on Cedric. The dried up chicken balti and half an onion bhaji were left over after one of Eddie’s drunken nights out. Maybe he thought Indian takeaway made a nice treat for a dog. Even if it didn’t have any lubricating oil additives.

     I gathered up a ton of kitchen roll and knelt down. Cedric slobbered in my ear. The poo cartridge was on the floor. As usual. The poo was on the floor too, but not in the poo cartridge. As usual.

Mike Pringle,
Chalkface Challenge Winner
Mike has spent most of his adult life creating, writing, designing and illustrating for children. He has produced material for He-Man, Transformers, Puddle Lane and Thomas the Tank Engine; worked on a wide selection of non-fiction books for publishers such as Collins, the BBC and Usborne (including Starting Point Science, winner of the Young Science Book of the Year Award); and, more recently, designed computer systems to help young people explore information over the Internet.

At fourteen, Mike learned to drive a tank and over the years has practised a number of activity sports, including parascending, abseiling, shooting, running and motor-biking. Mike also has a black belt in Karate. He illustrated and co-authored Foulsham’s Junior Guide to Karate, and wrote tongue-in-cheek articles about the world’s highest graded martial artist, Kevin Kickbutt.

Mike currently lives in Swindon with his wife Claire and their dog, Peb, who is half Labrador, half Poodle and half lunatic. Mike recently added to Swindon’s skyline by turning the walls of an office block into a road, complete with roundabouts, zebra crossing, and two full sized Mini cars!

Congratulations Mike!

There will be a new Chalkface Challenge, for a different age group,  in the Autumn.


  1. Fantastic stuff! Congratulations Mike!

  2. Hooray for poo! Congratulations, Mike!

  3. Wow that's definitely a winner! And congrats to the runners up!

  4. Congratulations Mike! And thank you Celia - The judges did a fantastic job!

  5. Mike - what a brilliant opening! If the rest of the book is ready, I hope you'll send it in to me at Hot Key.

    1. Thanks so much Sara - I'll be in touch!!!

  6. Thanks so much for running the competition Jan, and to the children for doing such a professional job, it's been great. Lovely to see which stories were chosen as the other runners up and read the winner - what a corker! Congrats Mike!

  7. Congratulations, Mike and the runners up. The kids are obviously on the look out for funny stuff. Great.

  8. Brilliant! And such a good idea for a competition. Look forward to the next one.

  9. Celia J Anderson22 July 2013 at 19:47

    Thanks to all who entered - my class absolutely loved being judges, and blood was very nearly lost when some weren't chosen (names out of a hat was the only way). However, the whole class joined in with the final voting, with great gusto. Congratulations, Mike!

  10. Thanks, Jan, from me too for running this and to Celia and all the children who read our openings. I feel very honoured mine is in there with the others - all of which sound very funny compared to my more scary offering. Congratulations to Mike - I want to read this book!

  11. Thanks for all the congrats folks - feeling dead chuffed!!

  12. Thank you to everyone who entered, it was so exciting when the entries started to come in! I'm so pleased that it's been such a positive experience for everyone involved.

  13. I should also add, that next week on 28th July, I'm posting the results of the 'shadow judging'.

  14. Conrazzz! It's really a great idea!


We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.