ALMOST 4,000 typescripts flooded into the offices of Scholastic Children's Books in response to our invitation to readers to write a short story for six- to nine-year-olds, making it the most successful competition the Independent has run. We were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and commitment reflected in the response - as were members of the team of readers at Scholastic who had to burn the midnight oil in the well-nigh impossible task of selecting a shortlist.

'The choice of cutting down to 20 was extremely hard,' David Fickling, editorial director of Scholastic Children's Books, says. 'It was like panning for gold - sooner or later a little nugget would turn up.'

The big day is tomorrow, when the judges will assemble at City Road for the difficult job of choosing the winning story. They include Judge Stephen Tumim, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons; Suggs, lead singer of the pop group Madness; Angela Lambert, feature writer and columnist on the Independent; and Michael Rosen, children's writer and presenter of BBC Radio 4's Treasure Island. Sue Bates, chair of the Federation of Children's Book Groups, will represent the views of six-to nine-year-olds from schools around the country, who have read the shortlisted entries and made 'some surprising choices'.

We hope to publish the winning story with specially commissioned illustrations next Wednesday, as well as the names of the runners-up and the other writers chosen for the Story of the Year anthology. Please don't telephone the Independent office to check; we cannot cope with the calls. We will do our best to give advance notice in the paper of the publication day.

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