Syrian refugee from St Albans is named winner in national writing competition

Sara Mazilu and Salam Rajab. Picture: Sandringham School

Sara Mazilu and Salam Rajab. Picture: Sandringham School - Credit: Archant

A Syrian refugee who attends school in St Albans has been named one of the winners of a national writing competition.

Sara Mazilu and Salam Rajab. Picture: Sandringham School

Sara Mazilu and Salam Rajab. Picture: Sandringham School - Credit: Archant

Salam Rajab, 11, a Year 7 pupil at Sandringham School in The Ridgeway, wrote a story in partnership with her school friend Sara Mazilu, also 11.

The story, entitled Mr Swat’s Revenge, was entered into the 2018 Henrietta Branford Writing Competition, which is open to anyone under the age of 19. The competition runs in conjunction with the Branford Boase Award (BBA), which recognises a debut children’s author and their editor, and was set up in memory of children’s author Henrietta Branford and Walker Books editorial director Wendy Boase, who both died from cancer in 1999.

The young entrants to the writing competition had to complete a short story started by last year’s BBA winner M. G. Leonard, author of Beetle Boy.

Salam was one of two Syrian refugees who won, out of six winning short stories. Anne Marley, who founded the awards, said: “The girls’ story is sparky, inventive and ends on a wonderful cliffhanger. We were impressed too by the way they created their narrative together, proof of the power story and imagination have to bring people from different backgrounds together.”

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The winners were invited to the Branford Boase Award celebration party in London on Wednesday, July 4, where they met M. G. Leonard and the other authors shortlisted for the award, as well as editors, publishers, agents and other professionals in the field. Both Sara and Salam attended with their families and were presented with their award by Prue Goodwin, who lectures in literacy and children’s books.

Prue said: “Well done to all the young writers who entered the Henrietta Branford Writing Competition 2018. This year the general standard of writing was very high indeed. It is truly a fitting way to celebrate and remember Henrietta Branford.”

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Sandringham headteacher Alan Gray said: “This is a wonderful achievement for the two girls and has already had a huge impact on their confidence. Participating in events like this provides students with an opportunity to pursue opportunities for extension work and are incredibly valuable for their learning and development.

“I am delighted for them and look forward to reading more of their stories in the future.”

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