A CHILDREN’S story-writing competition has reached an exciting climax with the winners being declared in a virtual grand final.

Due to the lockdown, the final of the ‘Little Did I Know’ competition, organised by Darlington Building Society, was held online.

And the winners – chosen from more than 300 entries – were nine-year-old Alisha Nelson in the primary age category, and Sally Sheridan, 13, in the secondary age category.

Alisha, whose story was entitled ‘The Magic of a Good Book’, attends Lakes Primary School, in Redcar. Sally, from All Saints Academy, Ingleby Barwick, wrote a moving story about homelessness called “Random Acts of Kindness”.

Alisha and Sally were amongst an army of budding authors who took up the challenge to write a story of no more than 500 words, starting with the phrase “Little Did I Know…”

The entries were shortlisted by a team of volunteers from the Busy Readers scheme, run by Darlington Cares, and the winners were chosen by professional authors Adam Bushnell, Liz Million and Jessica Shepherd.

Alisha and Sally win their own height in books, plus £500 of literacy equipment for their schools.

Announcing the winners by video on Darlington Building Society’s social media platforms, Adam Bushnell, said the judges had been “blown away by the amazing standard of the entries”.

The judges described Sally’s story as “a moving, confident piece of writing, based on true world observation and with a strong message”. Alisha was praised for her “beautifully detailed descriptions and use of figurative language”.

Sally said: “I am ecstatic and shocked. I never expected to win, and I just squealed when I heard the result being announced. I want to be a paediatrician when I grow up, but I’ll definitely keep on writing.”

Alisha said: “I feel very proud to have won and I was shaking with excitement. I’d like to be an author like David Walliams one day.”

Andrew Craddock, Chief Executive of Darlington Building Society, said: “It wasn’t how we expected to announce the winners when we launched the competition, but huge thanks to everyone who entered, and to those who rose to the challenge of making the virtual final possible.

“The standard of entries was exceptional, and I know the judges had an extremely difficult task, but congratulations to Alisha and Sally for coming out on top.

“Darlington Building Society believes passionately in supporting education, and we hope the competition has helped to inspire lots of children to not only read books, but to want to write their own.”