Winning stories about life at 16 and 17

Creative writing competition winners

Competition winners Rebekah, Jamie and Jess (from left to right)

Our competition in partnership with Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House, invited aspiring authors to pen stories about the awkward age of 16 and 17.

Here are the winning trio of writers chosen by our panel of agents, authors and more.


Rebekah Fellows, joint winner of the 16-25 category

Rebekah Fellows profile

Rebekah, 25, lives in South London and works for Bloomsbury Publishing.  

Rebekah says ‘I’m thrilled to have won. I enjoyed writing it and found the theme inspiring’.

'Luckily, I grew up with a supportive network of family and friends. But I wanted to depict that sense of isolation that I think everyone at some point feels in their school life, in that period between being a teenager and becoming an adult'.

Read Rebekah's story, Mud


There is a new family at church. For such a small town, this is a rarity. Judith has watched the back of their heads for the whole service. One of the boys has a shaved head so that he is almost bald. His head is shaped like a capital D, with the back of his head almost flat. Her mum told her once that children who are abused by their parents are left alone in their cots or their buggies for so long that it changes the shape of their skull. Judith wonders if perhaps this boy has been abused. Probably not. She knows that just because they go to church doesn’t make them good people, but she’s aware that recently she assumes the worst of people. She needs to start assuming the best.


Read full story

Jamie Moody, joint winner of the 16-25 category

Jamie Moody profile

Jamie’s story was inspired by personal struggles with gender identity.  Jamie, who is 16 and from Gloucestershire, identified as non-binary at 13 years old. Jamie says 'I’ve always wanted to write stories like this and help put more of a spotlight on this issue but I never thought I could so I was surprised and excited to win.'

'A lot of other young people didn’t understand when I came out and there were slurs, name-calling, and insensitive questions.' Jamie received counselling to deal with anxiety after starting secondary school and continued to access mental health support after coming out, and after being diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome.

But as well as emotional turmoil and bullying, Jamie said young people in their position could face other issues like domestic abuse and homelessness. 'I didn’t go through domestic violence like Connor but it can be dangerous if you question your gender and do not have open-minded parents,' Jamie added.  

'I’ve heard of people facing emotional and physical abuse and trying to arrange housing in case things turn really nasty.'

'A lot of support comes from the community but I do think there is support needed from statutory services, with more specialist staff trained to understand these issues.  It’s really vital for young people to get the support they need because without it there can be a big long-term impact.'

Read Jamie's story, My Name Is Connor Mayhew And I Am A Man

My Name Is Connor Mayhew And I Am A Man

His tongue darted out over his lips, wetting chapped lips and taking in the saltiness of the half-dried blood that ran from his nose. A dull throb lingered around his right eye and he knew there’d be a bruise in the morning. Inside, the initial terror and pain had surpassed the point where it overwhelmed him. Now, it hung around his mind like the flood pools left by a tsunami. A soft static that clouded everything but pure logic.

He had to go.

But where to?

Read full story 

Jess Holliday, winner of the 26+ category

Jess Holiday profile

Jess Holliday, 51, a mum of two from Eastbourne says ‘I’m really delighted and surprised to have won…The Children’s Society’s campaign really chimed with me because I know young people of this age face real challenges during the transition to adulthood.

‘I was the girl in that story, a young carer looking after my mum Sally who had multiple-sclerosis, and it’s based upon an experience we shared one night many years ago.' Sally was a single parent, and Jess said that while she remembered a district nurse visiting her mum, there was no support for her or her three siblings as young carers.

'It’s similar for young carers today - it’s a lot of responsibility and it can be difficult to cope.'

'Although I didn’t self-harm like the girl in my story I’m aware that a lot of young people do end up in that situation.'

There are organisations which help but it’s so important to have links outside the home and to raise awareness that lots of young people experience this. So to be a part of doing something about it is important to me.'

Read Jess' story, Night Call

Night Call

I swear it’s Della’s turn. The landline phone on the table between our beds is pinging again but she’s right under the covers, creases of blue light threading through her grubby Nirvana duvet cover. I know she’s awake. On Instagram.

‘Della,’ I say. ‘Mum’s pinging the phone.’

She doesn’t answer, but the halo of light in Kurt Cobain’s eyes goes out as she clicks off her mobile.

Ping, ping. Pause. ‘Emmie!’ Mum calls from downstairs. ‘I need a pee. Come and help.’ Her voice is her three-in-the-morning voice, sort of cracked and thin and so different from her old everyday voice that she’s got to be milking it, right?

And why do I always have to be the good twin?


Read full story

Our Seriously Awkward campaign fights to improve life for vulnerable 16 and 17 year olds. At this age older teenagers are not yet adults, but they’re not treated as children either. They often aren’t listened to, so we don’t hear their stories.

The stories in this book give a fascinating insight into what life is like for young people today. If you are affected by any of the topics raised in the stories or would like advice on issues relating to mental and emotional health, please visit our resource vault.