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Dreams and memories

Michael Rosen introduces the three primary winners of the 2001 Write Away autobiography competition. Illustrations by Alex Steele-Morgan

Writing is a way of asking and answering questions. When we write about our own lives we can ask ourselves: what happened next? Why did he or she do that? What could I have done that might have been different? What were the consequences? When we put the answers down as a piece of writing, we separate ourselves in a way from our own lives. We shape things that happened into something we can observe alongside other observers - our readers. A writer is privileged because he or she is the first reader and can tamper with the writing. The whole process can be one of discovery - or discoveries - things about ourselves, other people, possibilities of what can be written about, ways of writing that make things clear, reveal too little or too much, make things sound dull, make things sound intriguing or exciting.

In the years I've been lucky enough to help judge the Write Away competition, I've always been delighted precisely because the writing shows young people engaging with these processes with commitment and energy. This year there are some exceptional pieces. Jamila Gavin and I found that two of the three best pieces in the Primary section involved "realistic fantasy" - the writers showing us their daydreaming. The other piece was a heady evocation of time past.

Write Away is run byThe TES and the National Association for the Teaching of English and sponsored by McDonalds

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