Best-selling author Minette Walters is calling on children and young people to share their lockdown experiences for a short story competition.

Julia’s House Summer Shorties competition will have two categories, age five to nine and ten to 16, and will be judged by a panel, chaired by the author. She has been a patron of the children’s charity, which cares for life-limited children in Wiltshire and Dorset.

The winners and runners up in both categories will have their stories published on the Julia’s House website, with the winners receiving £100 each and the runners up £25 each.

Ms Walters, a former Godolphin School pupil, said: “I want children and young people to think about this different summer and let their imaginations run free. They can write about it as it was, or how they would have liked it to be. It doesn’t have to be their summer, it can be someone else’s – an imaginary friend, an animal, a parent or a grandparent. I’m so looking forward to reading their stories. If children bring their imaginations to play on what the words mean, their stories will be magical.”

She said that encouraging children to use their imagination to write stories is an important way of allowing them to understand and express their feelings. “Writing is important for children because imagination will be their best friend throughout their life. The world is brighter when you paint it with colour and excitement,” she added.

“Using your imagination is the most joyful thing you will ever do. To imagine a story and tell others what might have happened – so that your reader’s imagination comes in to play as well – is the most satisfying form of communication.”

Stories must be titled ‘A Different Summer’ and be limited to a maximum of 300 words for five to nine-year-olds and 500 words for ten to 16 -year-olds.

Ms Walters said: “Children don’t often get the chance to do something positive for other children, so the idea that they can do something like this to help Julia’s House is really wonderful, I think.”

The money raised will contribute towards providing care for life-limited and life-threatened children and their families. Ms Walters said: “Julia’s House is close to my heart because of the way they care for the children, their siblings and their families. They do wonderful work.”

Entries must be submitted on an official entry form available from the Julia’s House website or by post from Julia’s House Summer Shorties, Barclays House, 1 Wimborne Road, Poole, BH15 2BB.

There is no entry fee but anyone taking part in the competition can make a donation to help Julia’s House.

The closing date is Friday, July 31.