Chris Evans has launched his children's short story writing competition 500 Words for the fourth year running.
The Radio 2 Breakfast Show host will be joined by returning judges Richard Hammond, Malorie Blackman, Charlie Higson and Frank Cottrell Boyce, alongside new addition Francesca Simon - famous for authoring the multi-million-selling Horrid Henry series.
The contest requires youngsters in two categories - 9 & under, and 10-13 years - to compose an original short story of no more than 500 words before the closing date on 26 February. The submitted entries will then be read by an army of book-loving librarians and teachers from across the country before being whittled down to a top 50 which are in turn read by the five judges.
The panel will then commune at Radio 2 HQ in early May to pick three winners in each category, with the results to be revealed live on air at the Hay Festival at the end of the month. The two "gold medal" authors will be awarded Chris Evans' height (6ft, 2in) in books, plus 500 texts for their school with all six medallists given the chance to hear their stories brought to life by celebrity narrators.
Speaking about the launch of his competition, Chris Evans said, "500 Words provides a glimpse into the brilliant minds of kids around the country. These stories will amuse, thrill, delight and inspire you. So please: spread the word about 500 Words. And if you’re aged 13 and under, get writing!”
Richard Hammond added, "I'm staggered to be asked back: my most important contribution to last year's prestigious event was making coffee. Maybe that's why. But it is a real privilege to be involved. The standard of writing and limitless scope of imagination last year took my breath away and I look forward to having it taken away again this year."
"“I started writing short stories when I was eight years old," revealed new judge Francesca Simon, "and I only wish a competition like this one had existed then, which would have encouraged me to actually finish one. I'm thrilled to be judging this year's competition, which is such a great opportunity for children to spend time living in their imaginations, and seeing where their writing takes them.”
This year's launch has been accompanied by a video featuring a series of celebrities revealing their favourite words and writing tips. The likes of Kylie Minogue, Gary Lineker, Susanna Reid and Tom Odell are on hand to help encourage young writers to compete in an attempt to outdo last year's impressive 90,000 entries:
This year's compositions must be submitted via the entry form on the 500 Words website before 7pm on Wednesday 26 February