The three winners of the GLARE ‘how to write a female villain’ competition visited a sunny campus today, where Pro-Vice Chancellor and Head of the College of Arts and Law, Professor Michael Whitby, presented them with a certificate and a set of signed books by bestselling children’s author Robin Stevens.

Winners Isabella Gabriel (age group 6 to 8), Harry Forty (age group 9 to 12) and Iona Mandal (age group 13 to 15) came top of class with their stories based on their character creations Holly Cinders who turns into Holly Sparkle, Harriet Harper-Hughes who learns that crime never pays and a secretive grandma who gets addicted to social media.

Winners of the GLARE creative writing competition with Pro Vice Chancellor Professor Michael Whitby, Professor Michaela Mahlberg, and Anna Cermakova

The GLARE Project - funded by the European Commission and lead by Dr Anna Čermáková and Professor Michaela Mahlberg - explores gender in children’s literature from a cognitive corpus stylistic perspective. In particular, it looks at how children’s literature presents one early source of cultural norms, values and assumptions about gender.

The writing workshop was held at the Bourneville Bookfest in January for children between the ages of 6 and 15. To get them thinking outside of the box, the children studied prominent female villains, and acted out prominent character traits by walking and talking in different ways to inspire creativity.

GLARE Competition Winners

Professor Michaela Mahlberg said: “The workshop and competition were a case in point of why we need to carefully consider the language children commonly digest in the books they read. Children’s literature is an important space to learn how to make sense of the world – and how to understand society and gender roles. Looking at villains is just one lens that we have explored this through, and it helped to extend the children’s creativity beyond the too often treaded tropes we see in popular stories.

“We are grateful to all of our young writers who took part in the competition, and would like to say another well done to the winners who visited us today.”

To view the stories written by the winners visit the GLARE project blog

The GLARE project workshop also used the free CLiC web application to explore descriptions of the Queen of Hearts in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to think about the differences between male and female villains. If you are interested in using digital tools to support reading, do have a look at our Digital Reading competition.