Go to the WilliamHussey home page | skip to main menu | skip to content

Spectacular Writing from Jersey Schools!

Signing books at Grainville

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the wonderful Grainville School in Jersey for a day of events that included Haute Vallee School, Le Roquier School & Jersey College for Girls. As well as the usual Witchfinder Experience (during which we discovered lots of devilish goings on and executed a particularly bloodthirsty witch), I also engaged the children in a HUGE creative writing workshop. As ever during these sessions, I was amazed by the creativity of the pupils. My main aim as a writer is to get kids excited about reading and writing their own stories, and I am delighted to report that the children of Jersey did their schools proud.

The central story we all collaborated on involved a dark conspiracy to split the world in two! Together we built a strong main character called Jill – a clever, sensitive girl who eventually found the strength to overcome her grief for her dead brother and stand against Armageddon! Again, I was overjoyed (and a little awed!) by the ingenuity of the children during our storyline brainstorming.

After the visit, the brilliant Miss Basu sent me a collection of the children’s stories. They’re so good I just had to share a few lines with you.

One of the things I try to impress upon young writers is the need to grab the reader’s attention in the first paragraph or, better yet, in the very first line. This advice was taken on board by Justyna, Zoe, Ross, Trudy, Aimee, Andre and Chiannon in the opening to their joint story:

‘The suffocating silence of the desert seemed unbreakable. Nothing but the barely audible sound of wind humming softly in the distance. Unbearable heat radiated from the demonic ball of flaming gas they all once had loved so much.’

Wow! What an opener! I loved the sense of arid desert silence being eternal and unbreakable. I was immediately hooked. The same is  true of this poetic opening sentence from Sophie, Matt, George, Molly, Eleanor and Jordan:

‘Blistering winds tore at the clouds, pulling at the edges like strands of an old man’s hair. The rain battered against the windows; the rustling of papers could be heard inside his room.’

I love the imagery here and the fact that everything seems so alive: the clouds, the rain, the papers. The atmosphere is evoked so brilliantly, and we are immediately intrigued as to who ‘he’ might be.

Another striking opening comes courtesy of Jasmine, Mollie, Alice, Alia, Sam, Bennie and Jamie. This one puts us directly in the thoughts and feelings of the main character and plunges us into the midst of an incredible mental tumult:

‘Thoughts spinning out of control through my mind. Bashing up against my dented skull. Like a broken record, never stopping. Screaming inside my head, repeating the same dreaded words over and over again…’

I love the staccato rhythm of this writing, pushing us on like a train hurtling along its rails. The imagery of thoughts bashing against a dented skull is great, conveying the turmoil of the character and how unpleasant those thoughts must be. I, for one, want to know more about this intriguing person and what has happened to her.

This piece from Jack Evans-Rentsch is perhaps less overtly dramatic but is just as atmospheric and intriguing. Despite the character here claiming this is a calm place, I feel tension bubbling under Jack’s words:

‘The keys were laid out in front of him clearly as he played. White on black, black on white, his fingers moved to the tempo. The light blazed down on him with the musty smell of the old wooden stage and the hot feeling of the light. The audience was looking, watching, waiting with eagerness as he played. A white rose lay on top of his gleaming black piano. The mood was relaxed. He felt happy here. Calm, soothing. It hadn’t always been like this.

Two years ago Alex Grabrier was sitting in his therapist’s office. He wore his black suit with a gleaming white shirt and a blood-red tie.’

The final image in the paragraph of the blood-red tie contrasts so cleverly with the white rose and, with an almost brutal ease, throws off the tranquillity of what has gone before. This is actually very sophisticated writing, and for this reason I decided to award Jack the prize for best creative writing piece.

All of the entries had something to recommend them and, as I’ve already said, I was incredibly impressed with the students’ work. An effective piece of character-building was shown by Lara Peters who, in her opening paragraph, used words very economically and very effectively to give us a strong character sketch, particularly in the second sentence where actions are used to hint at character type:

‘She was a quiet girl, kept herself to herself. She stumbled around the school, listening to every movement, every word. Her name was Jill Blackmore.’

Back to dramatic action now with Charlotte le Gresley. Again, the action is tense and very well drawn, and I love the imagery of ‘scars’, suggesting the Earth is wounded:

‘I saw the sea, and any sense of normality, disappear into the vast darkness. Into the scars of the Earth. The boats, the swimmers, the buoys, everything in the stretch of blue was sucked into the swirling vortex of black. Screams, like the chorus of panicked birds, filled the air as the great waters fell. I stood on the edge of the precipice and watched the pure rock, crust, and souls fall into the abyss.’

Phew! I was there on the precipice too, weren’t you? Very effective writing.

I can’t include snippets from everyone’s work here (although I must make mention of William, George, Arianne, Danny, Lucy and Kelsey’s terrific image of ‘mountains crumbling like fresh cookies’), but I really appreciate all the hard work put in by every student, and I can assure you I read and enjoyed every entry.

It is a wonderful thing for any author to think that a visit could inspire such clever and creative responses. But I am a little worried… After all, on the basis of this inspiring selection, in a few short years these children could be fully fledged authors in their own right! I’d better warn all my author friends – we need to up our game!

Leave a Reply