Books

Entering the First Page student writing challenge? Judge David A. Robertson has advice for you!

The First Page student writing challenge judge shares what he looks for in a great story.
David A. Robertson is the judge of the 2020 First Page student writing challenge. (Amber Green)

David A. Robertson is a Cree writer from Winnipeg who writes books for readers of all ages. He has published 25 books across a variety of genres, including the graphic novels Will I See? and Sugar Falls, a Governor General's Literary Award-winning picture book called When We Were Aloneillustrated by Julie Flett, and the YA book Strangers

He published three books in fall 2020: the memoir Black Water, the graphic novel Breakdown and the middle-grade novel The Barren Grounds.

Robertson is lending his world-building expertise to CBC Books as judge of the First Page student writing challengewhich invites grade 7 to 12 students in Canada to write the first page of a novel set in 2170 that imagines how a current-day event has unfolded in 150 years. 

Students can enter online between Nov. 4 and Nov. 26, 2020. Visit cbc.ca/thefirstpage to learn more.

Robertson shared what he looks for in great story.

Write what you feel

"Kids often get the advice of 'Write what you know.' I would say that kids should also write from a place of passion. When we're telling stories, we should be telling stories to try and better understand the world that we live in. So tell stories that satisfy your own curiosity about the world that we're living in. 

I want to see stories that are curious. I want to see stories that are passionate.


"To quote my dad, 'Think about not only where we are and where we have been, but consider the type of world that we want to be living in in the future.' I want to see writing from that place of passion. I want to see stories that are curious. I want to see stories that are passionate."

David A. Robertson is a Cree writer from Winnipeg, who writes books for kids of all ages. As a father to five kids, Robertson has a bit of experience combing through the children's section of bookstores. 3:54

Take your time

"Also take the time to refine, improvise and get the stories to the place where you want to be. I want to see stories that try to envision the world that we want to be living in — or the world that we think that we're going to be living in. 

Take the time to refine, improvise and get the stories to the place where you want to be.



"Those are the kinds of stories that I really want to see and that I'm excited to read."

David A. Robertson's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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