First Story recently challenged best-selling and prize-winning authors, including Michael Morpurgo, Neil Gaiman, Elif Shafak, our Ambassador, Tracy Chevalier and many others, to pen original six-word stories. The handwritten stories, each one signed by its author and professionally framed, are being auctioned during October to raise vital funds for our mission.
Six Word Stories auction is part of the activities to celebrate First Story’s 15th birthday in 2023. The inspiration for this unique literary auction was our flagship competition for young people, Six Word Story, which we have been running annually since the charity was founded in 2008.
As we set about gathering stories for the auction, lots of the professional writers we approached admitted finding it very challenging to craft a narrative in so few words. We have always known the format is deceptively simple. But it is a fun and accessible challenge too, which every autumn proves popular with hundreds of students at First Story schools across England. Six-word stories lend themselves to playfulness and to experimentation with punctuation and meaning. The competition has become an invaluable exercise used by our Writers-in-Residence to develop First Story participants’ creativity, confidence and writing craft.
Over fifteen years, hundreds of talented young writers have entered our annual competition. Six Word Story winners have produced work that is clever, funny, poignant, powerful; stories that we think easily stand alongside those by established writers currently featured in the auction.
Jordan WildmanSix Word Story 2010 winner
Nicola KerrySix Word Story 2011 winner
Lauren GacheruSix Word Story 2013 winner
Lucy DeakinSix Word Story 2017 winner
Kingsley Campbell-CarterSix Word Story 2018 winner
Samuel ByrneSix Word Story 2019 winner
Lucy-Jo DalbySix Word Story 2020 winner
Gracie CharlesSix Word Story 2021 winner
Competition winners, and their respective schools’ libraries, have variously been gifted with book bundles – generously provided through First Story’s partnerships with publishers – book tokens, notebooks and even a box of pencils, on which their winning story was printed.
In 2016, First Story partnered with Letters Live, the hugely popular event series at which celebrated performers read out literary correspondence from history, to run a special version of our competition for the Letters Live audience. It was won by someone named Rebecca, with ‘Brazenly, love grew amongst the briars.’
In 2019, we invited well-known writers to take part in a festive fundraising appeal which celebrated and platformed the shortlisted young writers in that year’s Six Word Story competition. Our #12stories campaign featured authors including Juno Dawson, Nikesh Shukla, Salena Godden, Joe Dunthorne, Tom Holland, Tracy Chevalier, Damian Barr and Max Porter. Each featured reader recorded themself on their phone performing a shortlisted story to camera, as a video ‘selfie’. In this alternative twelve days of Christmas, we published a new story each day across our digital platforms, counting down to the winner.
The impressive calibre of writers featured in our Six Word Stories auction will surely inspire many more young people to enter our competition in future years. As its popularity grows, we would love to secure a new official partner for Six Word Story, to support with judging entries and awarding prizes.
Our 2023 Six Word Story competition is now open for First Story participating schools. Registered users can access a free classroom resource with activities to get your students writing. Lead teachers at First Story partner schools will receive a link to submit their school’s entries by Monday 11 December.