Christabel Lau and Ong Rui Yu from St Joseph’s International School (SJIS), Kuching are among 171 gold finalists out of 25,648 participants in the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition 2021. Lydia Ting also from SJIS achieved a Silver Award.
The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition is the world’s oldest international writing competition for schools, established in 1883. With thousands of young people taking part each year, it is an important way to recognise achievement, elevate youth voices and develop key skills through creative writing. For 2021 the Competition theme is Community in the Commonwealth. With the global spread of COVID-19, we’ve seen the lives of many Commonwealth citizens affected. However, through adversity, societies came together and stories of growth, community and hope continue to emerge.
Ong Rui Yu – Gold Award
It was part of our class assignment, so it was mandatory for us to write a composition for the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition. It was natural to submit our entries after all the effort we have put into it.
My Experience Writing this Piece
It was a challenge to gather my thoughts and feelings about an ongoing pandemic when all I wanted to do is escape from this world. It took one month of many idea changes, drafts, and edits before this work today. Initially I was working on a “wedding toast” to our frontliners until 1am one night, I was crouching under the table to gain a new perspective, when phrases materialised. In a frenzy, I wrote some of them down in my notebook and the next day I structured these ideas into the 7 silences. It did not go smooth sailing from then on as I struggled to put thought to word. I took walks in the park, listened to my curated playlist, and asked for lots of feedback.
The topic I chose was “Keeping Connected through the Covid-19” and my goal was to write about these silences that through my work, I can connect with my readers. I wanted to show people and document their experiences – both highs and lows. Major sources of inspiration were “Night” by Elie Wiesel and two pieces of music – “Moon Song” by Karen O and “I’m Forrest…Forrest Gump” by Alan Silvestri.
The news came like a spring breeze amidst a period of stressful studying. My feelings were a gentle sort of happiness with flowers blooming and the world embraced in a bird song. I felt grateful that God has granted me this achievement and I was pleased that my results have improved compared to last year’s Silver. I hope to hone my skills even more to achieve Winner next year if God wills it.
Advice for Aspiring Writers
The truth is that every one of you has amazing ideas and stories in your head, the challenge is putting it on paper. Therefore, I encourage everyone to read more (to expose yourself to different ways of expression), know what you’re trying to convey and be creative. Understand your audience – QCEC is searching for creative, profound works and it’s an avenue to spill your hearts out. Most importantly, don’t stop halfway. This is an ongoing process – even now, I want to rewrite my submitted essay. Trust the process, believe in your goal, and persevere till the end. Hope this helps 😊 If you need help or anything, feel free to approach me.
Christabel Lau – Gold Award
First and foremost, I would like to thank the people who congratulated me. I would also like to thank my English teacher — Ms. Armstrong who introduced a variety of writing competitions last year and encouraged her students to participate in them. I probably wouldn’t have been aware of the QCEC without her. It was also because of her that I was able to improve my writing skills so drastically.
It took about a week for me to come up with different ideas on how I’d want the story to go. The story concept had been revised thrice before I was set on the current concept. It was my goal to make the drafting journey as fun as possible and it took about 2 months before I came up with a final draft that I was proud of.
When I received the email from QCEC, I was happy that what I wanted to portray in my essay came through. I am honoured that my essay had even been sent into the final panels. A big thank you to them for allowing us the opportunity to write and voice out our thoughts. It dawned on me that competitions like QCEC allowed me to explore the depths of my creativity and expand my knowledge on what was happening around me. I strongly encourage students to challenge themselves in writing competitions as you really do learn and gain a lot of awareness on a variety of topics. e.g. climate change, life and so on.
Lydia Ting – Silver Award
How do you get to know about the competition?
I got to know about this competition through my English teacher, Ms Armstrong. I would like to thank her for introducing and encouraging us to join this competition.
How long did it take you to come out with your essay?
It took me around 5 days to finish the essay.
What was your feeling when the news reached you?
When the news reached me, I was very surprised and glad as it was really unexpected and I’m beyond grateful and privileged to receive this award.
Any advice you want to give/ encouragement for other students?
I would like to encourage other students to join because you never know what you can achieve if you don’t try. Anything is possible if you set your heart on it and work hard 🙂 Good luck to everyone who wishes to join this competition next year, you guys can do it! 😀
Will you continue to write?
Joining this competition for the first time has really opened my eyes and motivated me to become a better version of myself. Thus I will look forward to writing again in the future.