A SOUTHAMPTON student has scooped the top award in a Hampshire young writers competition.

Amber Petley, 13, from Swanmore College in Southampton has won the "Scribe Tribe Young Writer" award after writing a story called based around dragons.

The writing contest, run by Hampshire County Council's Library Service and local children's author, Ali Sparkes, was designed to give young people a creative opportunity during the coronavirus lockdown to express themselves.

Budding wordsmiths across the county, aged between nine and 14, were encouraged to submit an original story or poem of up to 400 words based on one of several challenges, and the story entries had to begin with the sentence: “It was lockdown week seven and then, out of the blue”.

Hampshire County Council’s Executive Member for Recreation and Heritage, Councillor Seán Woodward, said: “My congratulations to Amber for winning with such a thoughtful, funny and well-crafted entry. The standard was very high, which makes the achievement all the more impressive. I am glad to see our Library Service supporting such incredible talent in the community during these challenging times.

"I wish to thank Ali Sparkes for supporting this event and for all her work with our libraries and schools over the years. Many children and young people facing disruption to their education still feel able to keep learning and express themselves creatively – and so much of that is down to the energy and enthusiasm of people like Ali.”

To help children craft their skills and to keep them inspired during lockdown, Ali Sparkes hosted daily writing challenge videos on Hampshire Libraries Facebook page during the first week of May.

Ali said: “Amber’s wonderful feel for description and dry, understated humour really pulled me into the story - and her ending made me laugh out loud.”

The two runners-up were Sage Sipaul, 9, from Sherborne House School and William Hoyland, 14, from Lord Wandsworth College.

The three finalists will each get signed copies of Ali Sparkes books, plus feedback from the author on their submissions, while as the overall winner, Amber will receive signed copies of Ali Sparkes' books and a free place on the week-long Scribe Tribe writing masterclass.