READ Foundation’s 2018 writing competition winner says a childhood built on books encouraged a love of learning from an early age.
Rhian Holvey from Cambridge is this year’s winner and wowed our judge Qaisra Shahraz with her entry Learning Life.
The autobiographical essay explores the idea of being passionate about a range of different subjects and how it’s important not to pigeonhole people into categories.
As her opening line explains: “I have two great but disparate passions in my life: science and story-telling. It’s a blend of interests I often have to defend: how can you be a scientist and write stories though?”
Rhian says her submission, which you can read on our Writing Competition Winners page, is inspired by her own love of writing and her career in science.
From 2009-2014 she studied for her PhD relating to cancer research – this took up a lot of her time and sadly her creative writing and reading had to take a back seat. It’s only this year she’s got back into her writing and decided the READ Foundation writing competition was a perfect way to boost her motivation.
“I grew up in an environment where I was encouraged to read,” she said. “My childhood was spent in a house built on books, so I was very lucky.
“I think in some ways reading and writing has come out of fashion a little bit now.
“But I love the Albert Einstein quote that goes ‘If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.’
“The people I work with are very creative in lots of different ways, but I do still hear people say ‘how can you write and be a scientist?’
“Putting people in boxes, in any situation, is dangerous. If you keep telling people they can only be one thing, it puts limits on them.
“I started thinking about what I wanted to convey to a young person and I knew very early on I wanted to talk about this idea of ‘you can’t be both’ and how ridiculous it is.”
The theme of this year’s competition was “My education helped me…”. Submissions didn’t need to start with this sentence but instead this had to be used as a theme which could be felt throughout the work. Writers also had to carefully consider the fact their work could be displayed in hundreds of READ Foundation schools, to encourage students in their education.
When considering how she should approach the theme, Rhian consulted her mum. “I thought about how I would tell someone younger than me about education and how I would encourage them,” she said. “I saw the competition quite early on but it was churning away in the back of my mind for a while.
“I spoke to my mum about it and we discussed how autobiographical I should make it. She suggested that it would be most authentic if I wrote from the heart.”
To read Rhian’s winning entry and our two runners up entries, visit our Writing Competition Winners page. If you’re interested in joining in our 2019 competition, sign up and be one of the first to be notified when it’s launched by visiting our Writing Competition page.