Independent Story of the Year 2: Wanted: the best children's writers - Jenny Gilbert talks to actor David Schneider and his young friend Skye about the books they enjoy

The Hunt is on for the best new short stories of 1994, stories that no six- to nine-year-old will want to put down. The reward? A pounds 2,000 prize and publication in the Independent for the winning entry. Two joint runners-up will receive pounds 500 each and the top 10 entries to the competition will be printed in a specially produced anthology by Scholastic Children's Books, making these the top awards in this country for unpublished work for children. The invitation is open to professional writers, but we want especially to encourage new talent.

Many children know perfectly well how to read; the trouble is, they don't want to. They don't believe they are missing out on something more satisfying and stimulating than television, Take That, or computer games.

This is what the Story of the Year competition is about: finding writers who can hook this vital age group on the reading habit for life, with plots that twist and turn, characters who convince, and endings that surprise or even shock.

It is not easy. It is arguably harder to write for children than for adults. The writer must not condescend but at the same time show good judgement of what makes sense to a child. He or she must remember what it was to read at this age - but not be old-fashioned.

This year's judges include the award-winning writers Anne Fine and Terry Jones as well as schoolchildren from around the country. They will be looking for a shortlist of 20 funny and sad, magical and exciting stories to read again and again. Write us such a story.

How to enter: see right.

DAVID SCHNEIDER, 30, an actor, appears regularly on radio and television and was in the spoof news programme 'The Day Today'.

He lives in central London with the actress Sandy McDade and her son, Skye, aged seven, who goes to Prior Weston Junior and Infants School, near the Barbican.

Skye: The Hobbit is my favourite book, I don't know why, it just is. I like Bilbo Baggins. Gran read it to me when we were on holiday in Portugal. We stayed in a hotel and it rained. It's a really long book and it took the whole holiday and longer. My mum and David finished it off when we got back. I want the one after it now, The Lord of the Rings - that's even longer. It's three times the size of The Monster Book. That's my biggest book. It's got facts. You can find out nearly everything, like 'Why do some animals lay millions of eggs?', and things about bats.

David read me The Secret Garden, and Mummy did, too. Mummy's good at accents. I've got a puzzle book and a tape of it, and I saw the film. But the book was more interesting. I want to be like Dickon, because he knows about animals and everything. He had a lamb and a moor pony.

I liked Esiotrot. It's about this tiny tortoise who grows bigger and bigger when it's owner says 'Esiotrot'. But then he doesn't fit in his little house any more so she has to say Esiotrot backwards. That's Tortoise.

I really liked a book we read called Flat Stanley. Stanley's a boy and he's lying down and a big board falls on him and makes him flat. He's not hurt, he really likes it. Then his brother decides to get flat and he starts piling books on himself, but it doesn't work.

We usually do reading at bedtime. After school my favourite thing to do at home is playing schools with Mummy. First she's the teacher and tells me about lots of different things, like Columbus discovering America. And sometimes I'm the teacher. She used to play it, but she doesn't much now. So I play it by myself. I teach Tony (he's a polar bear and he's a week older than me), Woofy and Freddy (he's about 37 and used to be David's).

David Schneider: When I got involved with Sandy and met Skye about four years ago I hadn't had any previous experience of kids and initially felt quite panicky about it. But the fact that Skye was very into books gave me something to latch on to. A bedtime story is very much a part of Skye's structure. It's also the ultimate reward / punishment. If things have gone badly, he won't be read to. That's our big stick.

But although it's a regular event, there's never one of us who for a significant period of time, without interruption, will read to Skye. When Sandy and I are working we'll alternate, and in the holidays it's his father, Tam, who lives in Scotland, or his gran. He has a mosaic of readers, and rarely do any of us get the chance of seeing a story through to its end. I'm getting quite possessive about Watership Down at the moment, because it was the first book that I enjoyed as a kid, and really loved. Sandy read a chapter the other day and I wasn't too pleased. But you have to accept that if you want to read a book through Skye, you're going to have holes in your reading.

It's a dreadful confession, but I'm sometimes aware when I'm reading that I'm using it as practice for my audition for A Book at Bedtime. I can almost hear myself reading it in an Anthony Hopkins voice with that beautiful expression of his. (I've never told anyone this before]) And I can get something out of it even if it's a boring story: dialogue practice, accents . . . Sandy and I both had a go at those with The Secret Garden - whether they matched I'm not sure.

Recently we did the Iliad and the Odyssey with him, and you get all these ridiculous names like Thermopedes, and I would say Ther-mop-ides and someone else would say Ther-mo- po-daus or something, and Skye would have to be the arbiter of correct pronunciation.

Not every book has been a success. We tried Beowulf - he had a beautiful copy of it as a present, and I assumed it would be an easy, kiddie version and then I could pretend to my friends I'd read the real thing. But it wasn't, it was only slighty adapted and very difficult. We tried a few pages and Skye just thought it was hilarious and kept saying, 'What is going on?'. So we called it a day.

The current dilemma is over Lord of the Rings. Skye's desperate to read it, but we're holding back because we don't think he's quite ready. Also, I want to be the one to read it - I used to love it and do war-gaming with it and so on. There might be some problems over that when the time comes.

(Photograph omitted)

News
Disruption at Waterloo after a person was hit by a train
newsCancellations and disrupted service after person hit by train
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The almost deserted Liverpool Echo Arena on Monday
tvCan X Factor last in the face of plummeting numbers auditioning
News
Kirsty Bertarelli is launching a singing career with an album of songs detailing her observations of “real life”
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

    Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

    £13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

    £16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence