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The Day AI Tried to Steal My Contest: Tears, Triumph, and Two Wins

In my last blog, I wrote about how I'd found some interesting uses for AI. I felt like AI and I had a rapport, an understanding, almost a friendship. But we're not friends anymore, I feel betrayed and disappointed.


It's all to do with my creative writing competition.


I invited children aged 8-13 to write a story of up to 500 words with the theme of hope. The best stories would be compiled and edited and then published in a real paperback book. Exciting prize!


The stories came flooding in and I loved reading through so many well-crafted compositions written by children who had clearly spent a long time making their stories shine. Some were so heartfelt they brought tears to my eyes.


Then something entirely different brought another type of tears to my eyes. One style of writing kept appearing, with very similar protagonists, following very similar patterns and I became suspicious.


There are plenty of free AI checkers available - sites where you can enter text and it will reveal the percentage of AI generation. Sadly, the twelve submitted stories I suspected, due to their similarities and their Americanised spellings, did show up as being 100% AI generated. My sadness is less about the duplicity of the children, more the fact that they no longer have the opportunity to be published in a real book. I'm sure they all have talent and could have written perfectly well without ChatGPT or any other AI tool.


In a way, I feel slightly responsible. Firstly, it was not specified in the rules that using AI was not allowed (next year I will be very specific). Secondly, just a few weeks ago I'd been proclaiming the benefits of AI (although NOT for creative writing!)


So, although AI is useful when used correctly, it cannot replace the far superior creativity of a real human - not yet, anyway.


Take the opening of my new series for example:

It was the day I found my first clue.


AI changes to this:

On the particular day, I stumbled upon my inaugural piece of evidence.


It's not bad, it's just a bit plastic, unnatural, studied.


Anyway, the first piece of good news is that one girl, having been told that I'd identified half of her story as AI generated, rose to the challenge. She apologised, asked for another try and subsequently delivered a far better story in her own words. She'll certainly be included in the final selection.


The other good news is this: Eighteen months ago, a ten-year-old Italian girl moved to England with her mum and siblings to be with her Dad after four years apart. She spoke no English apart from, hi, colours, and numbers up to ten. Her mum encouraged her to enter the competition. The story is certainly beautiful, but for me, the most beautiful part is that this little girl worked incredibly hard to write her tale in a new language. You will be able to read it in a few weeks when I publish the book - yes, she's definitely a winner!


Having roundly accused ChatGPT of its clandestine actions, I received this response:

"I'm sorry to hear that. My goal is to help users learn and improve their skills, not to encourage or facilitate deception. It's important for children to develop their own writing abilities and creativity. I'm here to help in a way that supports honest effort and personal growth."


Fair enough.


If you haven't read The Runaway Children of Chennai or The Secret Children of Mumbai yet, can I tempt you with these new reviews - thank you to everyone who has been kind enough to read my books and add their generous comments.


A wonderfully though provoking story which draws you into a world very different from our own. The tale of Rish and Mariam is beautifully told and moves at a pace that keeps the reader engrossed and asking for more. A book for all ages. (TRCoC)


A beautifully crafted and thought provoking story. I have also bought this for my grandchildren. Would definitely recommend for young and old alike.  (TSCoM)






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