BUDDING young authors are to be given more time to enter a prestigious story-writing competition in anticipation of a flood of entries

Darlington Building Society, which runs the “Little Did I Know” competition, has put the deadline for entries back to March 28 to cater for the level of interest.

Entries can now be submitted up to March 28 and the society has confirmed that the final will take place at Theatre Hullabaloo in Darlington on the evening of April 28.

Children dreaming of being the next JK Rowling are asked to write their own 500‐word story, starting with the intriguing phrase “Little Did I Know…”

The competition is divided into two categories – for primary and secondary school pupils. However, it is not exclusive to schools and entries are welcome from other young people’s organisations as well as individuals.

Both winners will receive their own height in books, plus £500 worth of literacy equipment for their schools, and a magical family ride experience.

Last year’s competition attracted hundreds of entries and the winners were Morgan Murphy, 10, of Skerne Park Primary School, in Darlington, and Ben Rogers, 13, of All Saints Academy, Ingleby Barwick.

Morgan’s evocative story was about a captured elephant while Ben’s wrote a poignant account of how a boy was inspired to Olympic glory by the death of his mother.

This year’s competition will again be judged by important figures from the literary world, including successful Darlington-based author and illustrator Liz Million, and Northern Echo journalist and author Chris Lloyd.

For the first time, the competition will be supported by Darlington Cares through its Busy Readers programme. Busy Readers volunteers go into local schools to encourage reading and they will be using their passion for books to produce a shortlist of the competition entries.

Darlington Building Society Chief Executive Andrew Craddock said: “There is such a lot of interest in the competition, and we don’t want to stifle creativity, so we’ve taken the decision to allow a bit more time for the words to flow. We can’t wait to see the plots that unfold.”

Entries can be submitted in the following ways:

* By email to story@darlington.co.uk

* By post to Darlington Building Society, Sentinel House, Morton Road, Darlington, DL1 4PT.

* By hand at any of the Darlington Building Society branches, which are located at 8 Tubwell Row, Darlington; 26 Market Place, Barnard Castle; 116 Newgate Street, Bishop Auckland; 8 Westgate, Guisborough; 47 Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough; 124 High Street, Northallerton; 9 High Street, Redcar; 21 High Street, Stockton; and 81 High Street, Yarm.

For each entry to the competition, the entrant's parent or guardian must complete a consent form, for information on how to enter along with full terms and conditions visit www.darlington.co.uk/story

Anyone interested in supporting literacy in schools by becoming a Busy Reader volunteer, please contact Darlington Cares on 01325-406420 or go to www.darlingtoncares.co.uk/opportunities/education/