Summer Stars illustration 2021

Of all the places in the world, I never thought I would be here...

Thanks to everyone who took part in the Summer Stars short story competition 2021 and for sharing your stories. We had a huge response and the judging is now complete - read the winning stories below!

Congratulations to this year's winners and highly commended!

Category 1 winner: Inanna Burke, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown

Highly commended: Alicia Alderete Westbrook, Galway

Highly commended: Ysandre Daly-Naud, Waterford

Category 2 winner: Thomas Ritchie, Louth

Category 3 winner: Anna Grundy, Monaghan

Highly commended: Angelica Staples, Galway


Read the winning stories below. 

This year, as well as enjoying the all the amazing worlds you visit when reading books, Summer Stars celebrated young people's imagination by running a short story competition for three categories: age 6-9, age 10-14, age 15-18. To enter, young people were asked to write a story using the following opening line:

Of all the places in the world, I never thought I would be here.

The aim of the competition was to encourage all children to enjoy the creativity of writing and express their thoughts and ideas in their own unique voice. The stories were fun, clever and exciting,The aim of the competition was to encourage all children to enjoy the creativity of writing and express their thoughts and ideas in their own unique voice. The stories were fun, clever and exciting, and full of imagination!

The winner in each category will receive a tablet and finalists will receive a €50 voucher. The O'Brien Press has also kindly sponsored a hamper of books for each winner.

To everyone who entered the competition, thank you for sharing your story and best of luck with your next writing adventure!

Category 1 winner: Inanna Burke, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown

Of all the places in the world, I never thought I would be here, waking up in my Mom’s old bedroom in Damascus. I was starting to play with all her old teddy bears and was choosing a book to read when there was a lovely smell that must be from the kitchen. My nose brought me there. Granny was making breakfast with eggs and tomato. She was singing while she cooked just like Mom said. I think my bones made a clicking noise when she gave me the biggest hug ever. I didn’t mind when she laughed at how I pronounced shakshuka because it was scrumptious, the best breakfast in the world.

We went on a long walk to visit my little cousins. They were so surprised to see me and were even a little bit frightened because I was so much taller than on WhatsApp! After we played for a while they started shouting “Booza, Booza” which means ice-cream! My uncle pretended that we couldn’t have any but when he saw our faces he brought us all to the ice-cream shop. A friendly man in the shop was bashing the ice-cream with a long stick and his friend covered it in chopped up pistachios. It was very stretchy, even nicer than Mom said and perfect on such an exceedingly hot day. My cousins laughed at me because they thought it was actually a bit chilly.

Afterwards, we played backgammon and some chess at a café. My cheeky cousins enjoyed beating me in every game and were showing off a lot! I wished my brother was there because he would have enjoyed learning about backgammon and would definitely have beaten them at chess. On the way back we bought a special backgammon board with a beautiful Syrian pattern on it as a present for him.

When we got back to Granny’s house, she said it was very important that I learn how to make kunafa. She was a bit teary when I put on my Mom’s old apron from when she was a girl. She let me make the syrup and pour it with lots of pistachio pieces on the top of the pastry that looks like someone’s hair! Granny made me promise not to tell my Mom that she let me have three warm, yummy slices. I was a bit worried then because I heard Mom calling me!

“Hurry up or you’ll be late for school”, she shouted. And then I realised that I wasn’t in Damascus, I was in my own bedroom with my teddy back in Ireland. It had been a dream, an extraordinary, wonderful dream. My Mom liked my dream, but she said there is more to life in Syria than just nice breakfasts, treats and pistachios. I didn’t even have the backgammon board to give my brother.

I wish there was no pandemic and no war so I could finally visit my Granny and cousins in Syria.

Category 2 winner: Thomas Ritchie, Louth

“Of all the places in the world, I never thought I would be here,” murmured Freya quietly, as she gazed through the glass and out into the hangar, filled with rows of straight-backed soldiers in Heaven’s military. They were adorned in white battle armour over golden fabric that was designed to be super lightweight and breathable, whilst also being heat resistant and waterproof. They held plasma rifles in both hands and, with the swords on their backs if things got too close with the demons of hell, they were a formidable force.

Freya fingered her own armour nervously - white, like the soldiers, but with streaks of blue running from either side of her neck and down to her wrists. It marked her as part of the winged division, the Valkyries, a women-only division in the military, with the ability to summon wings. Freya held her helmet under her arm, the holographic visor retracted, revealing the stickers that Freya’s younger sister, Denise, had plastered there. She was killed by a demonic raid before the age of four. Freya still remembered her gorgeous blue eyes and her flowing ginger hair, a rarity among the Heaven society. Freya felt herself tearing up, water welling behind her eyes.

“Hey, you ok?” asked Tara from beside her, another new recruit that Freya had immediately bonded with in training.

“Fine,” murmured Freya, wiping away the tears on the back of her gauntlet. “I’m fine. Just thinking about what we’re going to be flying into.” Tara looked unconvinced but didn’t pry any further. Freya turned away from the glass viewing deck and instead turned to the other dozen or so Valkyries in the room, all with their wings infused, so as not to bump into one another. Valkyrie wings are quite massive. The door near the back slid open with a soft ding and the Commander walked in, a tall raven like women with sharp features, jet black hair and cold eyes. She was well muscled and lean, carrying herself with such authority that the nearest Valkyrie shied away from her. She wore no helmet, revealing the scar that ran from her ear down to her chin.

“Right, listen up ladies,” she called in a sharp voice that rang out, cracking like a whip, and strode to the centre of the room, hastily surrounded by the Valkyries. “When the alarm sounds, we’re going to be launching out of here. The Dark Lord himself has ripped a demonic rift open, one so large all of Hell’s armies will rush through. As we speak, those demons are racing across the Badlands, soon they will reach us and-”

She was interrupted by the alarm that sounded, wailing, and casting the hangar in a dim red light. The massive cargo doors began sliding apart and all the soldiers began marching out into the glow of the cosmos sky, an array of blues and greens. The glass viewing deck slid away and the Valkyries jumped, summoning their wings, and flying out.

Category 3 winner: Anne Grundy, Monaghan

Of all the places in the world, I never thought I would be here.

Especially not with a cat. I could have coped with the confines of the 1821 grandfather clock if it hadn’t been for the obnoxious feline purring incessantly around my feet. The feline in question also added substantially to my discomfort, given my allergy to said species.

I had been conducting a rather delicate nocturnal removals operation in the house in which the grandfather clock was situated when I heard voices and hastily concealed myself in the clock out of respect for the house’s inhabitants. However, in my eagerness to escape detection, I had overlooked the fact that the family feline had already taken up residence. Now I was trying not to sneeze as footsteps skipped, limped and tapped their way into the room.

“Sit down here, John,” said a woman’s voice anxiously. There was a thud and a creak. “It was awful luck, breaking your leg like that.”

“Right at the start of our holidays,” mourned the little girl.

I agreed with the woman. Awful luck indeed.

“Are you okay, Daddy,?” asked the little girl. “Do you want coffee? Chocolate? Ice cream?”

A series of creaks and “oh, John”s led me to believe that the man had risen from his chair.

The patriarch of the family spoke for the first time.

“Really, dears, I’m fine. I think I’ll just go upstairs and have a little rest.”

The woman’s voice sounded dubious. “A rest?”

“Yes, dear, a rest.”

I snorted. A rest wasn’t the sole purpose of his excursion. Suffice to say, that man liked his 7-Up.

Alas, my snort had not gone unnoticed.

“What was that, Mummy?” the little girl asked.

“Just the cat, dear.”

I resisted the temptation to snort again.

The door closed. The man had gone. I flinched as a voice sounded directly beside the clock.

“Mummy, the clock’s open.”

“Close it, there’s a good girl.”

Ah. Not good. One might almost say bad.

The key was turned. I was a prisoner in a clock.

Indubitably bad.

There came a series of thumps. The child, I deduced, was dancing to the renowned “Elephant’ section from Carnival of the Animals. As she thudded her way around the room, I had a rare flash of genius.

I miaowed.

It was quite realistic.

The thudding stopped.

“Mummy, Kitty’s in the clock again.”

Kitty. How inventive.

“Well, let her out, dear.”

The key turned in the lock and the girl opened the door. We stared at each other. Reaching down, I grabbed ‘Kitty’ and thrust it at the girl.

“Mummy, there’s a man in the clock,” she said, quite calmly.

“That’s nice, dearie.”

Raising my cap to the girl, I made for the window.

“He’s climbing out the window, Mummy.”

“Very good, dearest.”

“Ta-ta,” I said, and jumped.

Mummy’s screams were loud and shrill.

I sauntered down the driveway, lovingly fingering my pearl necklace. All in all, it had been rather an profitable day.

The winners of each category were selected from the shortlists by authors Erika McGann, Marita Conlon-McKenna and Nicola Pierce in autumn and will receive a Tablet as the first prize. They will also receive a hamper of books courtesy of O'Brien Press. Each finalist will receive a €50 voucher.

Photos of author Erica McGann

Story competition judge: Erika McGann is the author of a number of children’s books. Her latest books, Puffling and the Egg and Tabitha Plimtock and the Edge of the World, will be released in autumn 2021. Photo by Lee Furlong Absolute Studio.

Photo of author Marita Conlon McKenna

Story competition judge: Marita Conlon-McKenna is the author of the bestselling and award-winning The Children of the Famine series, and other books for both adults and children. She one of Ireland’s best loved authors and her books are enjoyed by readers across the world.

Photo of author Nicola Pierce

Story competition judge:Nicola Pierce is the bestselling author of a number of books for adults and children, including The Spirit of the Titanic and Chasing Ghosts.

Writers write, it's the one thing they have in common whether published or not. And there is no better motivation than a writing competition. Well done to the public libraries for creating this particular short story competition with three different age categories, spanning six to eighteen years of age, all charged with using this first sentence to tumble headlong into a story: 'Of all the places in the world, I never thought I would be here'. If I could enter this competition, I would start by standing in my local library and breathing in the atmosphere created by all those shelves playing host to a million different voices. It is my firm belief that all writers, at some point, did just that. I know I did!
Nicola Pierce
A brilliant competition, and a great excuse to let your imagination run wild!
Erika McGann