About the competition What’s in a great idea? 2018 Winners
Closing date
02 / 09 / 2014
The 2018 competition is now closed
Open to everyone! From 13 to 113 years old!

Have you got a great idea for a children’s story?

Win a chance of seeing your idea:   

  • Written by a well-known children’s author
  • Championed by a top publisher and entertainment experts
  • Published worldwide
  • Made into a possible movie, TV, theatre, or more…

Here’s some inspiration...

‘A great idea can come from anywhere.
It’s where the magic of storytelling begins ...’

Barry Cunningham, Children’s Publisher

What's in a great story idea?

Who’s in it?

We love characters who are ordinary but become extraordinary in some way. We also enjoy great villains. Remember, your characters don’t have to be human and they’ll probably need help from others. What are they called? What do they look like? What do they do?

Who’s it for?

Yes, it’s for children, but which age group? A romance for teens or a fantasy for 8-year-olds? How do you want your audience to feel along the way?

What happens?

An idea only becomes a story when something happens. A call to adventure. A personal discovery. A quest or journey. Where does your plot start and end?

When and where?

The best stories take us to places we might never go. What does the setting of your story look like? And when does your story happen? It could be past, present or future? Just down the road? Or in a fantastical land?

‘A mind-boggling opportunity for your big idea to become a reality.’
Philip Ardagh, Bestselling Children’s Author

2018 Winners

The overall winning story idea, Cardboard Boy, came from Jack Martin. Cardboard Boy lives in a dump. One day he loses his skateboard down a drain. He folds himself up inside a lunchbox so as not to get wet and goes down the drain after it. In the sewer he meets creatures made of rubbish and together they find his skateboard and the way out. The idea will be paired with an author and published as a novel by Chicken House.

Our five Runner-Up winners:

  • Matthew Richard Graham with Sean’s Journey Home
  • ​Louise Grieg with The Speakers
  • ​Fiona Hill with Vinnie the Super Dog
  • ​Dan Byrne with Bartholomew E.P.G.
  • ​Sarah Ryan with Down to Earth

What's the prize?

1 Winner

will receive £1000 in cash
and the promise that their idea will become the inspiration
for a complete story written by a successful children’s author,
and be published as a book.

The winner will be named alongside the author and offered
an agreed royalty on every book sold. Plus, their story will be
presented for TV, film, theatre and more.

5 Runners-Up

will also win a £1000 cash prize
and the chance of seeing their ideas turned into
a book, TV, film or more.

Previous Winners


The overall winner in 2014 was Neal Jackson with his story idea “The First Aeronauts”
Neal’s idea inspired acclaimed children’s author, Emma Carroll, to write Sky Chasers, a richly imagined adventure of friendship, science and bravery. It was published by Chicken House in January 2018.

Orphan Magpie can’t believe her eyes when she sees a boy swept off his feet by a kite . . . or something that twists and dances in the wind. She goes to his rescue only to find herself dangling in the sky. The world looks so different from on high and suddenly Magpie knows what she wants – to be the first to fly in a balloon above the King and Queen of France.

Our 5 Runner-Up winners:

Victoria Anderson with “21st Century Panda”
K.D. Faerydae with “Tropical”
Louise Grieg with “The Brown Dog Affair”
Angela McCann with “The Fandom”
Kathleen Warminger with “Miss Mog”

Angela’s idea found its perfect match with Anna Day, who was shortlisted for the Times / Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition in 2015. The Fandom is a fast-paced, genre flipping YA fantasy-adventure published in January 2018, and the TV and Film rights have been optioned by Fox 21.

Violet and her friends love being part of the fandom for The Gallows Dance. But at Comic-Con, they're somehow catapulted into the story itself – for real.
 Trapped in a twisted world where they've accidentally killed the original hero, Rose, there’s only one way to survive: Violet must fill Rose’s shoes and put the plot back on track. No story is worth dying for . . . is it?

Victoria’s idea, 21st Century Panda, has been matched with author and illustrator Sarah Horne and is currently being developed for publication.

The Judges

Angellica Bell

With 17 years of TV experience under her belt, Angellica started her career as a presenter on CBBC and has won a Screen Nation Award and a BAFTA nomination. She has since emerged as a significant presenter of adult factual and entertainment programmes including The One Show. Angellica is also known for her ability to rise to the most fearsome of challenges, including 71 Degrees North where she toughed it out in the Arctic for five weeks and Tour de Celeb, where she cycled a stage of the Tour de France despite never having previously ridden a bike. She is also the reigning champion of Celebrity Masterchef.

Neil Blair
Neil Blair

Neil Blair is one of the most respected agents in the business, having managed J.K. Rowling from the earliest stages of her career to literary phenomenon and trans-media pioneer, and Harry Potter into one of the best-loved and most valuable entertainment brands of all time. Neil is interested in the business of creativity, innovation and brand. 

Barry Cunningham
Barry Cunningham

Barry Cunningham is the children’s publisher who first published J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. He now champions new writers and ideas at Chicken House, the publishing house he founded in 2000, now owned by Scholastic Inc. NY. In 2010, he received the OBE for services to children’s literature. He is a father of six and lives in Somerset.

Oliver Hyatt
Oliver Hyatt

Oliver Hyatt is the MD of Blue-Zoo Productions a business that he set up in 2000. He has created many of the popular brands preschoolers watch today, he is on the board of Alphablocks Limited, and part owner of both Panel Forge a new software company and Nextgen Skills Academy. He is the chair of Animation UK which he set up in 2007, a body that successfully lobbied for tax credits for his sector, he later received an MBE for this achievement - and sits on the BAFTA children’s committee.

Jen Campbell
Jen Campbell

Jen Campbell is an award-winning poet and short story writer. She's also the Sunday Times bestselling author of the Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops series and The Bookshop Book. She won an Eric Gregory Award in 2016 and talks about books at www.youtube.com/jenvcampbell.

M.G. Leonard
M.G. Leonard

M.G. Leonard is the author of the best-selling Beetle Boy series. She was terrified of beetles until she realized that these fascinating creatures deserved to be the heroes, not the villains, of the story. Leonard spent her early career in the music industry running Setanta Records and managing bands such as The Divine Comedy. After leaving the music industry, she trained as an actor, dabbling in directing and producing as well as performing, later working for the National Theatre before deciding to write her own stories.