Stories told over the ages form an important part of heritage, offering the reader fragments of the past. They also provide a window into the imagination of the author. (Image: Sanlam Prize for Youth Literature)South Africa has many unique and authentic stories to tell, stories that live in the minds of those who have dreamed them, lived them or witnessed them, but who don’t have the opportunity to share them with the rest of the world.In looking to provide the stepping stones they need to get their stories out into the world, through its Sanlam Prize for Youth Literature competition, financial services group Sanlam offers promising young writers the chance to have their books published for others to read.Entries for the competition close on 7 October 2016, so there is still time for writers to enter and stand the chance of being one of the finalists.The competition has six categories: English, Afrikaans, Nguni languages, Sotho languages, Xitsonga and Tshivenda. Each category has two prizes: R12 000 for first place and R6 000 for second place.To be considered for the competition, the author’s book has to be suitable for people between the ages of 12 and 18 and be at least 25 000 words long. The competition is only open to citizens of South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia and Botswana.“As a bookseller I’m constantly on the lookout for more literature that is aimed at the youth that is both published and written locally, and the sad thing is that there just isn’t enough” says Jessica Smith from The Book Lounge in Cape Town.“But with the Sanlam Prize for Youth Literature, they provide a great platform for both established authors and emerging writers and it gives them the opportunity to have their work published.”250 WORDS A DAYThe competition invites writers to join their team of established authors and take advantage of the opportunity to spend some time with programme facilitators and get tips and inspiration from established authors who act as mentors.Smith explains that the 250 words a day challenge “makes the overwhelming task of writing a full-length novel feel that much more achievable.“The guidance that they provide and the tools that you are given are just invaluable.”Listen to 2013 winner Sipho Kekezwa talk about what the win has done for him:GET INVOLVEDIf you are an aspiring writer and you feel you have a story that is worth being told, you still have time to enter this year’s competition. Visit the Sanlam Prize for Youth Literature web page for more information.Entry forms are available on the website, along with details about how to enter and share your African stories for African youth. The competition gives you an opportunity to improve your writing and dive deeper into the world of storytelling.“Even for those whose stories are not published, a spark has been ignited and a love for both reading and writing solidified,” says Smith.“I am so grateful to this competition for allowing emerging voices to be heard and for talent to be nurtured. I absolutely cannot wait to see these works on our shelves.”PLAY YOUR PARTAre you playing your part to help improve the lives of those around you or the environment? Do you know of anyone who has gone out of their way to help improve South Africa and its people?If so, submit your story or video to our website and let us know what you are doing to improve the country for all.