​Best-selling author Minette Walters wants children and young people to share their lockdown experiences for a summer short story competition in aid of Julia’s House Children’s Hospice. The free to enter Julia’s House Summer Shorties competition will have two categories, age five to nine and ten to 16, and will be judged by a panel, chaired by the author. She has been a patron of the children’s charity, which cares for life-limited children in Wiltshire and Dorset, for more than 20 years.

The competition is being launched this week, which is Children’s Hospice Week.

The winners and runners up in both categories will have their stories published on the Julia’s House website, with the winners receiving £100 each and the runners up £25 each. The prizes have been kindly donated by the Addo Food Group.

The thriller writer is best known for The Ice House and The Sculptress, which were both adapted as popular TV dramas. She said she has been struck by the difficulties, as well as the positives, of young people being at home with their families and away from their friends.

“For some, it will have been a prolonged and wonderful summer holiday, during which they’ve grown closer to their parents. For others, whose parents don’t’ get on, who don’t have a garden or who are missing their friends and grandparents, lockdown will be something they’d rather forget,” she said.

“I want children and young people to think about this different summer and let their imaginations run free. They can write about it as it was, or how they would have liked it to be. It doesn’t have to be their summer, it can be someone else’s – an imaginary friend, an animal, a parent or a grandparent. I’m so looking forward to reading their stories. If children bring their imaginations to play on what the words mean, their stories will be magical.”

She said that encouraging children to use their imagination to write stories is an important way of allowing them to understand and express their feelings. “Writing is important for children because imagination will be their best friend throughout their life. The world is brighter when you paint it with colour and excitement,” she added.

“Using your imagination is the most joyful thing you will ever do. To imagine a story and tell others what might have happened – so that your reader’s imagination comes in to play as well – is the most satisfying form of communication.”

Stories must be titled ‘A Different Summer’ and be limited to a maximum of 300 words for five to nine-year-olds and 500 words for ten to 16 -year-olds. Entries must be submitted on an official entry form available from the Julia’s House website: juliashouse.org/summershorties or by post from Julia’s House Summer Shorties, Barclays House, 1 Wimborne Road, Poole, BH15 2BB.

There is no entry fee but anyone taking part in the competition can make a donation to help Julia’s House continue to be there for local children and families during the coronavirus crisis and beyond.

The competition is open now and the closing date is Friday, 31st July. Full entry details and terms and conditions are available on the Julia’s House website or by written request. Ms Walters will joined on the judging panel by Mark Tattersall, Artistic Director, Dorchester Arts and Ebony Robinson, Julia’s House Young Ambassador.

Ms Walters, a former pupil of the Godolphin School in Salisbury, said: “Children don’t often get the chance to do something positive for other children, so the idea that they can do something like this to help Julia’s House is really wonderful, I think.”

The money raised will contribute towards providing care for life-limited and life-threatened children and their families. Ms Walters said: “Julia’s House is close to my heart because of the way they care for the children, their siblings and their families. They do wonderful work.”

For full competition details and to discover more about Julia’s House and its work head to their website: www.juliashouse.org

The charity has been continuing to care for local children and families throughout the coronavirus crisis, helping to keep the children safe and well at home and reducing the strain on the NHS.