Ripon Grammar School student is a star writer

25 June 2020

A Ripon Grammar School student’s talent for writing fiction has been recognised by top authors.

Ellen McKeag’s short story Betelgeuse, about one of the brightest stars in our night sky, was highly commended in a Puffin and National Book Tokens competition.

The 16-year-old, from outside Grewelthorpe, near Ripon, says her love of creative writing was inspired by her English teacher, Mr Fell.

Ellen said:

Mr Fell has to be the main reason I enjoy writing, he’s really inspired me and I think his some of his incredible enthusiasm must have passed on to me during his English lessons.

Thousands of young writers up to the age of 18, from all over the country, entered the competition, aimed at helping students get creative in lockdown, to write a short story on the subject Big Dreams. It was judged by top children’s and young adult fiction writers, including Robin Stevens and Yassmin Abdel-Magied.

Ellen, who is thinking of joining the Armed Forces after studying for a degree.

Ellen said:

I enjoy astronomy a lot and wanted to write about something I’m passionate about. With Betelgeuse’s recent strange activity that made people wonder if it was about to go supernova, (and then promptly went back to normal) I thought it would be a fitting subject. Especially as stars are often described as having a life with a birth and death.

Now in her GCSE year, Ellen was thrilled to win a £50 book voucher: “I’m very happy and proud that my writing is deemed good enough to be highly commended. Winning a book token is a bonus. I read an awful lot of books.

Ellen said:

Some of my favourite authors are, Mark Lawrence, Neil Gaiman, Andrzej Sapkowski, Terry Pratchett, Christopher Paolini, Sarah J. Maas. However, on the opposite side of the spectrum, I also really like Richard Dawkins.

Ellen’s story


In the desolate, numbing cold of space, the first atom hung in the dark void all alone. It waited there for what seemed like an eon until finally, a second atom joined it. The pair were soon met by a third and then a fourth.

Over millennia a great cluster of gas grew, becoming larger and larger as it devoured new material. In time it gathered enough mass to start fusion, nuclei collided with nuclei and the newly born star lit up. It blazed proudly at the piercing darkness of space. It radiated energy, light and warmth into the bleak emptiness, putting smaller stars to shame as they enviously eyed its size.

As it furiously burned through its fuel, it still wanted more. Although it outshone all of the neighbouring stars, it dreamed of outshining the galaxy, of being more.

Hundreds of thousands of years passed and the star was running out of fuel for the very last time. Its outer layers had long since expanded from its core and it had swelled to an unbelievable titanic size. It had aged and cooled and was reaching its end.

Unknown to it, from thousands of planets it was still admired, the creatures that resided there wove stories about it in a million languages. The star was the staring ruby eye of a mighty beast to some, the shoulder of a great hunter to others. In thousands of cultures it bore thousands of names and held thousands of hearts.

In less than a second its core collapsed and a colossal shockwave was unleashed. The star blazed brighter than the entire galaxy; illuminating the skies of a thousand planets as their inhabitants watched on in awe. At its death It shone brighter and more brilliantly than any before it had.


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