Clever Competitions


This competition is now closed and the judging has commenced! Please bear with me and I’ll post the results as soon as possible!

Illustration by Harry Harrison from The Tale of Oswald Ox

Hooray! It’s almost the Year of the Ox!

Now if you aren’t yet familiar with the excellent attributes of the Chinese Zodiac Ox, you’ll be happy to learn that Oxen are patient, honest and hard-working. They are very intelligent, but often quiet and reserved. They don’t care what other people think and, most importantly, they are problem-solvers who restore calm in times of trouble. And in this time of trouble around the world with THAT pandemic, isn’t this exactly what we need? Like every Zodiac animal (not to mention our very human selves), oxen do have a downside: they tend to be creatures of habit. But today, some calm, orderly and sensible habits are just what the doctor ordered, don’t you think?

So for my latest Clever Competition, I want you to write a story about An Oxcellent Ox! (Of course, that means a truly excellent Ox :)) But it doesn’t stop there! For this story, you’ll need to follow the rules and requirements set out below – and remember, my rubric for judging this competition is based on these rules and requirements, so be careful that you don’t miss out any in YOUR story!


The competition is open to all students,, anywhere in the world, in Years One to Six of primary school, as well as home-schooled children of equivalent grade.


  • Your story must not exceed 1,000 words, excluding the title;
  • The main character must be an Ox showing all the excellent characteristics of a Zodiac Ox (see above);
  • Your story must include:
    • an enticing TITLE
    • an intriguing mystery or a terrible problem
    • a farm setting – this can be the main setting, or just one of many settings
    • a friendly cattle egret
    • a mischievous mosquito
    • a noisy frog
    • a big weather event (eg storm, flood, drought)
    • the colour xanadu (and if you don’t know what that is, you’ll have to look it up!);
  • I will be looking for:
    • a beginning which grabs my attention!
    • an interesting mystery or problem
    • detailed descriptions of your characters: what do they look like, how old are they, what are their personalities like, what are their special skills and ambitions, did something happen in the past to make them like that?
    • detailed descriptions of setting, including when (present, past or future?; season?), where and the weather
    • the development of your mystery or problem (eg by introducing more difficulties or more characters)
    • an exciting climax
    • a solid resolution to the mystery or problem
    • a really satisfying ending: remember, the ending is as important as the beginning in good writing, and it bears equal weight when I judge your story!
    • good grammar, punctuation and spelling
    • excellent writing style
    • great vocabulary including at least 3 Wicked Words used correctly (click on the link to find them)
    • originality – try to make your story a little bit different 🙂
    • that elusive X-Factor, which makes your story stand out from the rest!


  • please type your story up into a Word document and attach to your email, or you can also paste it into the body of your email
  • please DO NOT use Google Docs – my computer doesn’t like it 🙂
  • please DO NOT use unusual fonts – Times New Roman 12 is just fine
  • please DO NOT illustrate your story – it’s the writing I’m judging, and adding in pictures can make your story difficult to format if you are one of the winners and I want to publish your story on this blog
  • send your email to me at with the subject heading Clever Competition
  • please type at the top of your entry:
    • your name (including your surname)
    • the name of your school (if you are home-educated, please advise)
    • your year at school eg Year 4 (if you are home-educated, the equivalent year)
    • your age


There are two Categories in this Competition: Years 1 to 3 and Years 4 to 6. As my competitions attract entries from around the world, and school entry age differs in different countries, it is not possible to divide entries by age. It is therefore fairest to judge according to the year level of each entrant.


There will be prizes for the best SIX entries in each Category.

ALL WINNING ENTRIES will be published on my blog to a world-wide readership :)!

In addition, the First Prize Winner in each Category will receive a free Zoom Author Visit by me of up to one hour for their school/class, PLUS 3 signed Chinese Calendar Tales of their choice, which will be sent to their school for presentation. Second to Sixth Prize winners in each Category will each receive ONE signed Chinese Calendar Tale of their choice, which will be sent to their school for presentation.


Midnight, SUNDAY 28TH MARCH 2021


All entries will be acknowledged as soon as possible by email; if you do not hear from me within 2 weeks, please resend your original email and entry. In addition, your school will be notified of your entry and of the winning entries after the results have been posted to this blog.

Winning entrants will be notified individually by email. All results will be posted on this blog and winning entries will be published on my Clever Competition page.

Please note that the results are final and no correspondence will be entered into thereafter.

And remember: You’ve got to be in it to win it!!

So get out that pen and paper, and start planning your Oxcellent Ox Tale NOW! I can’t wait to read it!

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