Tips for competition entrants
Rockwatch Rockstar Competition (16 years and under)
Let your creativity roam free. Your entry could be writing, photographs, artwork, a book, 3-D modelling or collage, sewing, knitting or crochet, a puzzle, something you have created on computer, but whatever, it must have something to do with geology. Last year we introduced a Media Category as quite a number of you are interested in exploring this medium.
If you make a video or DVD film, do not make it more than 5 minutes long.
Follow the advice for Young Writer (see below) to see where and how to find inspiration, then start collecting together the facts and the materials you need to create your masterwork. Do not be content with second best – before you start, search for exactly the things you need to make your masterwork a winner!
You can enter a geological short story, a report of a day out geologising, a description of your collection, or a picture book. You may think of other possibilities.
This could be flat or 3-dimensional. Remember to choose materials which can stand up to travelling to Burlington House (and back to you again) without damage. Remember you’re competing with writing, which may take many days of work, so devote lots of time to planning, designing and making your artwork, not just something to do on a rainy afternoon.
First think about what medium you’ll use. Choose materials which will really express your ideas. Remember that if you use pencil for drawing, that your images may be competing with the much brighter medium of paints, pastels or even material, so make the soft quality of pencil work for you.
Plan your artwork, so it fills the space you’ve given it – for example, curl the tail of a dinosaur so you can get the drawing of the dinosaur bigger and filling the page better. Consider putting in a scale to show how large the real thing was.
Once your idea is born, check if you can make it happen with your existing software. You might need to save up for the right program, so plan ahead.
One or two out-of-focus photos of even the most rare fossil are not going to impress the judges. Borrow the best camera you can lay hands on. Get familiar with what the camera can do by shooting a couple of films as practice for your masterworks. Experiment with lighting and background (see Rockwatch issue 35 for helpful hints). Plan a theme for your photos.
If your entry is about your collection, you do not need to send in the actual specimens from your collection. Instead, send descriptions, drawings, photos or film. For inspiration on writing about your collection see Rockwatch issue 34.
Rockstar 2017 competition imageRockstar 2017 and Young Writer 2017 competitions are entered using the same entry form.
Rockwatch Young Writer Competition (16-18 years)
Ideally word length should be not more than 1000 words, (1500 absolute maximum). Please include a photo of yourself along with a couple of photos or other illustrations (drawings or photos) which are relevant to your writing. These will make your entry look more attractive in the Geologists’ Association magazine. The quality of the illustrations will not be judged, but the editor of the GA magazine will want illustrations for the winning entry, which preferably are your own.
The judges are looking for something readable which relates to geology. So make your piece be interesting, funny, exciting, or informative, or a mixture of all these qualities. Remember that your readers are either professional geologists, or long-term amateurs, so they know all the basics, like how old the Cambrian is, and you don’t need to take up space explaining these. However, your readers may not know the geological details of the subject you choose, because they may have spent 30 years working in some narrow branch of geology, like ice age gravels, and have not kept up to date with the rest of geology.
How to find a subject?
Inspiration usually comes when you least expect it. Turn over ideas in your mind, and make some notes. Then get on with life for a day or so, and suddenly, an idea will arrive when you’re on a bus, playing football, having a maths lesson or something quite unrelated. Don’t let this idea escape your memory – it’s the one you want, so keep a small notebook handy to jot down ideas as they occur.
How to tell the story?
Look at what other writers do. Read newspaper and magazine articles critically. Look for styles and story lines which suit you and your story. Pick the best ideas from those writers. Don’t use long words unnecessarily; your readers will not be impressed, instead they’ll get cross, turn the page and read something else.
When you use geological information check it and re-check it for accuracy. If you use fossil names, remember to use italics for the specific Latin names. Run your text through the spell-check on your computer. Ask friends to check the text for spelling, misprints and so on.
Editing your work
All professional writers re-write many times, so don’t be timid about altering what you first wrote. It’s a good idea to leave the text for a week and come back fresh to it, when you may notice improvements you could make. Get your friends or family to read the text and ask them if they enjoy it; they may offer advice – but remember, you’re the writer, and you don’t have to take it.
At the end, you might wish to quote one or two authors’ works which you’ve used extensively in putting together your text. Or note websites which could be interesting to pursue your subject further.
Above all, enjoy writing – love and respect your work, and devote to it the time and care it deserves. This way you can become Rockwatch’s Young Writer winner for 2017.
Rockstar 2017 is sponsored by Anglo American Group Foundation.