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A Publishing House, a Forest & a Classroom

Kundeni Prmary School children by the new classroom

In the spring of 2014, as well as publishing a handful of new titles* we also launched a pioneering global writing competition called the Magic Oxygen Literary Prize.

It had two categories – short stories and poetry – a prestigious £3,000 prize fund and three environmental promises built into its foundations:

  • to plant a tree for every single entry received, in Bore, Kenya,
  • to fund the build of an urgently needed new classroom at Kundeni Primary School in the same community,
  • to send every entrant an electronic certificate with the clickable GPS co-ordinates of their tree.


Youngsters from Kundeni Primary School getting ready to plant trees in the Word Forest


The Word Forest is packed with moringa, casuarina, neem, cashew and other trees


The community of Bore got stuck into the footings of the new classroom


The children await their new classroom with excitement and anticipation


Headmaster James Kithi and the Kundeni students give the progress a thumb's up


Up go the walls and everyone lends a hand sealing the building


Laying the floor must have been a back breaking task


Once the floor had been laid, it was time for everyone to celebrate


Thankfully, there was enough paint to give the old classroom a spruce up too


In the late spring of 2016, the classroom was ready and open for study - bring on classroom 3!


Buy them and enjoy the winning entries; we'll plant a tree and get more building materials for every one sold

Ru Hartwell, an international forestry expert, founder of TreeFlights and a trusted friend, chose Bore to site the Word Forest for several reasons. He knew we were keen to plant a legacy forest that would make a positive difference to the earth. Bore is located fairly near the equator and therefore would be incredibly efficient at locking down the CO2 from the atmosphere as the trees grow so quickly there. He also had first-hand knowledge of the area and knew how devastated it had become as a result of mass deforestation. A long-term tree planting project in Bore would not only benefit the planet, but would also have an incredibly positive effect on the community, as the trees would also provide them with food, medicines, shelter and protection from the elements and reintroduce biodiversity. In time, it could generate an income for them too. To date, the Word Forest is 11 times the size of Wembley Stadium.

Alex Katana, Ru’s right hand-man and the resident project manager in Bore, mobilised the whole community to get involved with the tree planting, including many of the children who attend Kundeni Primary School. There are around 300 children on their register, many of whom sleep on the premises because it’s simply too far to walk to. Despite the fact that it’s a primary school, several youngsters attend who are in their late teens and early 20s. Their families needed their labour to work the land so they could bring in desperately needed income, consequently, those children missed out on basic schooling. However, many parents reconsidered their position when the Kenyan authorities said all children should be encouraged to get a proper education and supported them to do so.

Educating 300 children at Kundeni Primary School had been a challenge however, as up until recently, they only had one decent classroom which housed around 30 youngsters at a time; it had been provided by another fundraising project headed by Ru. There were a handful of other ramshackle buildings dotted around the grounds, most of which were condemned and a danger to life to be in.

To say thank you for planting the trees, our literary prize also paid for the building materials and labour to construct a new classroom. In late spring 2016, a splendid new classroom was handed over to the Headmaster James Kithi and the children. They are now able to provide twice the amount of students with a safe and comfortable space to learn that keeps them cool in the summer and dry in the winter.

James wrote to us and said that it has already made an enormous difference to the whole community and we are so proud to know the Word Forest and the classroom have been welcomed and embraced. We aren’t stopping there however. As you’ll see from the images in the slider, there is a great need for more chairs, desks and basic resources.

The Mini-MOLPs and the forthcoming MOLP3 (due to open for entries in autumn 2016) are only going to continue the good work that has been done so far. Further resources to help the school are vital and a third classroom is on the cards.

With Ru continuing to be our guiding light, we will honour our commitment to helping the amazing community of Bore in Kenya with great pleasure, and perhaps one day, we will walk through the Word Forest too.

The Team

* Spring 2016 Titles
Blind Cupid: Max Brandt
Children of the Crater: Connor Cadellin McKee
Continental With Juice: James Dunford Wood
Dear Mother: Mark James
Dreaming the Moon: Izzy Robertson
Off Her Facebook: Robert Windsor and Jo Stroud
The Dreamer: Sue Hampton
The Magic Oxygen Literary Prize Anthology 2016
The Pick Up Artist: Chris Hill

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Gallery of Shortlisters for the Magic Oxygen Literary Prize

We are absolutely delighted to unveil a gallery with the shortlisters of the Magic Oxygen Literary Prize 2014-15.

They are a seriously talented bunch, do take a moment to read through their bios and perhaps even connect with them on social media.

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Casey Tonkin

As an avid gamer, listener of music, and internet user, Casey spends his time in front of two monitors. He has nearly completed his Bachelor of Media & Arts at the University of Adelaide and hopes to continue studying for as long as his girlfriend, his parents, and his government allow.

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Catherine Rolfe

Catherine is a Norfolk born writer living in Wales with her partner, wildling step-children and menagerie of animals. Completely fascinated by plants and healing from an early age, she studied Herbal Medicine at Middlesex University and humourously draws inspiration from everyday events, flora, fauna, family and anything in between.

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Christie Cluett

Christie Cluett is a writer from Bristol, currently procrastinating from finishing her first novel by writing short stories. She's been shortlisted and runner-up in short story competitions, a judge of the To Hull and Back Short Story Competition and is one of the founding members of Stokes Croft Writer's Group.

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Christopher Naylor

Chris Naylor is primarily a playwright and has written some short stories. A number of his shorter plays have been performed. He has also written a number of full length plays, his latest, Dancing Naked in the Backyard, was produced by Brave New Word Theatre Company.

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Corrinna Toop

Corrinna Toop has been writing for about six years and has had some success at it, much to her surprise, having had work published on line, in magazines and in anthologies. She works in the Financial Services industry and lives with her husband, two loud kids and a hairy dog.

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Eleonore Schönmaier

Eleonore Schönmaier's most recent book is Wavelengths of Your Song (McGill-Queen's University Press). She has won the Alfred G. Bailey Prize, the Earle Birney Prize, and the Sheldon Currie Fiction Award. Her poetry has been published in The Best Canadian Poetry in English, and has been translated into German and Dutch.

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Fiona McIlroy

Fiona McIlroy is a life coach, community developer, grandmother and poet. Her poetry collection: Taste of a poem (Ginninderra Press) was published in 2009. She won the HRAFF Poetry Prize in 2009, and has poems in several anthologies including Australian Love Poems 2013 (Inkerman & Blunt) and Poetry d’Amour 2014 & 2015. Fiona convened the train Canberra to Sydney Poetry in Motion 2010, 2012 & 2014.

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Fred Canavan

I am an exiled ( thank God!) Mancunian, and like the hero of my two novels, Funtime Freddie King, an ageing Sixties` relic. For us it is always 1968, Fleetwood Mac are still playing the deep shivering chords of Albatross, the Beatles eternally hallucinate through Lucy in the sky with diamonds and the Beach Boys are still driving their Little Deuce Coup across the sand-dunes of California.

I have been a market porter, labourer, tomato picker, barman, restaurateur, supermarket manager, florist, dee-jay, tourist guide, door-to-door salesman, security guard and and estate agent. could go on... I never really knew what I wanted to do - until Funtime Freddie shook my hand. Then I knew...

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Gordon Strong

Gordon has been writing for most of his life and has published numerous books. Primarily known for non-fiction studies of myth, legend, magic and sacred monuments, he has made many appearances on TV and radio in the UK and America. Recently deciding to concentrate solely on novels, Gordon remarks, ‘I observe, reflect and experiment. From all this, an awareness of how to create some kind of reality emerges.’ Humour is never far away in his writing and he draws comics with the same satirical spirit. The Empire Of Evil is significant, as it'll be his last in the genre.

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Graham Burchell

Graham Burchell was born in Canterbury and lives in South Devon. He has an M.A. in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. His latest collection 'The Chongololo Club' was published by Pindrop Press in 2012. He is a Hawthornden fellow and was the 2012 Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year.

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Hannah Cooper-Smithson

Hannah is a postgraduate student pursuing an MA in Creative Writing at NTU. She lives in Nottingham with her husband and their ever-growing collection of books. 'Woman' will be her first published piece. She is currently working on a collection of poetry that explores feminism, mental health and the environment.

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Heather Combe

Heather was born in Edinburgh, and studied microbiology before moving to London, where she works for a university. She has written poetry since she was a teenager, and finds inspiration from people watching, reading about science, and documenting dead umbrellas. She enjoys photography, and playing the violin, ukulele, and bodhrán.

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James de Beresford

Writer, musician, filmmaker and fantasist- James was educated at the BRIT School for Performing Arts and taught English abroad for 9 years. He lives in Margate with his cordless kettle and is currently writing a novel about China and editing a film shot in the boondocks of Hohhot, Inner Mongolia.

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Kristina Pawliw

Whilst living in Port Moresby, PNG, Kristina Pawliw began capturing her vivid imagination in stories. Since then, Kristina’s story No match for a backpack has been published in the Creative Kids Tales anthology The Journey.

Now based in Australia, Kristina enjoys Icelandic music, running, singing and yoga.

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Michelle Wright

Michelle Wright lives in Melbourne, Australia and writes short stories and flash fiction. She’s won the Age, Alan Marshall and Grace Marion Wilson Short Story Prizes, come second in the Bridport prize and was awarded the 2013 Writers Victoria Templeberg Residential Writing Fellowship. She’s passionate about languages, literature, science and sanitation.

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Paul Sherman

Paul is a teacher of Chemistry and Drama, a strange combination but it has worked. He has published short stories on Amazon UK and US and also written plays which have been performed in various locations. 'The Arsehole at the end of the Universe' was produced at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh.

Paul is the author of horror stories 'The Jokers of Sarzuz'. 'Daemon Page' and 'Missed!'.

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Sarah Wallis

Sarah Wallis is a Yorkshire based Londoner, both a practicing poet and playwright. Her most recent publications were in Valve Journal, Turbulence and Dreamcatcher. Staged work has appeared at venues including Harrogate Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Theatre 503 and White Bear Theatre, London.

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Sharon Black

Sharon Black is originally from Glasgow but now lives in southern France. She has been published widely and won Ilkley Literature Festival Poetry Competition in 2013. Her first collection, To Know Bedrock, was published by Pindrop Press in 2011. Her second, The Art of Egg, is forthcoming from Two Ravens Press.

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Shirley Golden

My stories mostly wing their way back to the recesses of my laptop and await further coffee-fuelled sessions of juggling words. Some of my short fiction pieces have found homes in the pages of magazines and anthologies; a few have won prizes. I'm door-person and arbitrator to two wannabe tigers, and can sometimes be found on Twitter when I should be writing.

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Teresa Stenson

Teresa's short stories have been published in various places, including anthologies from The Bridport Prize, Leaf Books and The Willesden Herald. In 2011 her story 'Things Which Are Not True' featured as a Guardian Summer Read. She lives in York where she's working on a novel and a collection of shorter works.

Here are their shortlisted entries:


  • “Celia’s Shoes” by Sharon Black (FR)
  • “Modern” by Eleonore Schonmaier (NL)
  • “Of Ectoplasm And Mother” by Corrinna Toop (UK)
  • “Step-Mother” by Catherine Rolfe (UK)
  • “The Loneliness Of The Drunk Mathematician” by Heather Combe (UK)
  • “The Old House” by Paul Sherman (UK)
  • “The Song Of The Child That Wants To Come” by Graham Burchell (UK)
  • “The World Stands Still To Weep” by Sarah Wallis (UK)
  • “Unwinding” by Fiona McIlroy (AU)
  • “Woman” by Hannah Cooper-Smithson (UK)


  • “A Season For All People” by Shirley Golden (UK)
  • “Blurred Edges” by Michelle Wright (AU)
  • “Decisions, Decisions” by Christie Cluett (UK)
  • “Looking For Joey” by Fred Canavan (UK)
  • “Tears In Hailar” by James de Beresford (UK)
  • “The Blank Space” by Gordon Strong (UK)
  • “The Journalist” by Christopher Naylor (AU)
  • “The Lotus Shoes” by Kristina Pawliw (AU)
  • “Waking” by Teresa Stenson (UK)
  • “Weapon Of God” by Casey Tonkin (AU)

Don’t forget the winners will be announced on Saturday 14th February 2015. More on that soon.

The Team

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Buy the Book & Get a Tree!

Magic Oxygen Literary Prize Anthology cover - A Tree Planted For Every PurchaseClick to pre-order.

The Magic Oxygen Literary Prize 2014-15 was a truly unique international writing competition that sought excellence in two categories; short stories and poetry.

This anthology contains the 10 best pieces and winners from each category. They were awarded the highest marks by 21 judges from around the world, which were whittled down from almost 800 entries received from 31 countries.

In association with the Community Carbon Link, we planted a tree for every single entry received in a tropical Word Forest in Bore, Kenya.

For every purchase of the anthology in paperback or e-book, we will plant another tree in the Word Forest and we’ll also contribute royalties that will fund the building of an urgently needed classroom at the Kundeni School.

Continue reading Buy the Book & Get a Tree!

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Final Call for Entries to the Magic Oxygen Literary Prize

The MoonWe’ll be pulling a late one on Sunday night.

In fact, we’ll probably be perched over computer screens armed with stiff coffees at midnight and beyond, as our tech team closes the door on the Magic Oxygen Literary Prize for this year.

It has been an incredibly busy few months to be honest and it’s no surprise really; our literary prize is quite unique.

Continue reading Final Call for Entries to the Magic Oxygen Literary Prize

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Why We're Planting a Tree for Every Entry in our Literary Prize

Children from the Kundeni School, Bore, Kenya
Kundeni school children ready to plant trees

Our writing competition was created to uncover literary excellence in short stories and poetry from writers from all over the world and also to begin a legacy reforestation project.

We decided to set our entry fee at a modest, affordable £5 and realised some writers would enter, spurred on by the possibility of seeing their work in print and perhaps bagging a slice of the £3,000 prize fund; let’s face it, who wouldn’t!

We hoped others would also be inspired to enter because we were offering something quite unique; we pledged to plant a tree in Kenya for every single entry and to send the GPS coordinates of it to the entrant. This would be the start of our tropical Word Forest.

Ambitious? Yes, but doable and there’s more.

Under the guiding eye of Ru Hartwell our reforestation expert, a brand new classroom will also be built at the Kundeni School in Bore, Kenya, which sits right next door to our Word Forest.

Continue reading Why We're Planting a Tree for Every Entry in our Literary Prize

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Drawing the Winner of Our Kindle Fire Competition!

Kindle Fire TabletTo help us promote our prestigious Magic Oxygen Literary Prize, we decided to do a fabulous give-away of a Kindle Fire tablet in a free draw.

To qualify, we asked entrants to share our teaser trailer on their networks and do a few other bits and pieces (take a look at the rules if you’d like to enter, there’s still a little time left).

The response has been amazing. We have received entries from all over the world but predominantly from the UK and on Thursday 20th November we will do the draw live on Apple FM with the lovely Phil Hodgson on his Drive Time show.

Continue reading Drawing the Winner of Our Kindle Fire Competition!

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The Only Literary Competition in the World Planting Trees for Every Entry #MOLP

Ru Hartwell: Magic Oxygen Word Forest Co-ordinator
Ru Hartwell: Magic Oxygen Word Forest Co-ordinator

It’s a bit of a bold statement I know, but hand on heart and to the best of our Google-Fu, the Magic Oxygen Literary Prize – fondly referred to as #MOLP – is the only writing competition committed to planting a tree for every single entry received.

We’ll even send the entrant the GPS co-ordinates for their tree!

We’ve teamed up with a truly committed green-soul, Ru Hartwell, the founding director of Treeflights (the first carbon offset planting project of its kind) and actively involved in several other worldwide planting projects, including the Size of Wales, Tree-Nation and the Community Carbon Link Project amongst others.

Ru is the Magic Oxygen Word Forest Co-ordinator and he’s incredibly excited about the possibilities of what our competition could do, if things go as well as we hope and we receive lots of entries.

Ru explains, ‘The trees will be planted together near the Kundeni School in Bore, Kenya. It is quite dry up there so they will be particularly drought resistant types like neem, gmelina and casuarina. These species are mostly grown for their timber which is used for house building and is in high demand down there as there is a bit of an economic boom going on in the coastal resorts.

Continue reading The Only Literary Competition in the World Planting Trees for Every Entry #MOLP