For a few years now, I have been a judge at the Young Authors Fiction Festival, a writing contest open to all students ages 5 to 18 in the greater Paris area who write in English. An initiative of the Red Wheelbarrow Bookstore in Paris and the French chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, the Young Authors Fiction Festival is now organized by the American Library in Paris, in collaboration with Time Traveler Tours.

This year, I judged the 3ème/9th grade entries and I applaud these young authors for their braveness. As a writer, I know it takes guts to write a story and send it out into the world. But to have to write the story in less than 1,000 words with a captivating beginning, a gripping middle and a fresh and surprising end is more than brave. It’s an extraordinary accomplishment. Where a novel in its length is fairly forgiving and gives you ample time to set the scene and ease your reader into the story, the short story is like parking a Cadillac Eldorado on a Paris street. You have no room to wriggle, you have to get straight down to the core of the story, strip it to its bare essentials. The winners of this year’s YAFF are nothing but masters of the word. They show us established writers that fierce competition is on its way. We’d better sharpen our pens and beware!