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Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Spectacular Writing from Jersey Schools!

Friday, March 8th, 2013

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!

I Want To Be An Author!

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

One of the great things about being an author is inspiring other people to give this writing game a go. To hear that a child has been encouraged by my work to take up writing is a huge honour, and so imagine my delight when a very special young lady called Grace Lewis-Bettison announced to her mum and dad that, when she grows up, she wants to be an author like her ‘Uncle Bill’. Some eagle-eyed fans of the Witchfinder books may have noticed that Gallows at Twilight is dedicated to Grace, her brother Noah and their cousin Eleanor. Grace is a very intelligent girl and she does the two things every would-be author must: she writes a lot and she reads a lot! To encourage Grace with her writing I’m publishing her first story on this website today! So sit back and enjoy ‘The Story of Terry the T-Rex’ and Grace’s brilliant drawing of Terry and his friend Sharpy!

(Please click to enlarge)

Caterham Kids Creepy Creativity!!!

Monday, March 26th, 2012

At the invitation of brilliant school librarian Jane Damesick, I recently visited the wonderful Caterham School in Surrey. I was due to hold one of my infamous Witch Trials on school premises (and, as usual, I found that the place was rife with foul sorcerers!). What made this visit particularly special, however, was all the amazing artwork and creative writing projects awaiting me in the library! One of the greatest hopes of any writer is to inspire other people – especially young people – to be creative, and so I was truly moved by all this terrific (and terrifying!) work kickstarted by the Witchfinder books. Jane has very kindly forwarded me lots of photos of the children’s ingenious pieces and I am determined to post all the pics here over the next week or so. Here’s the first batch of witchy goodness from the talented kids of Caterham! CLICK THE PICS FOR A MORE DETAILED LOOK… IF YOU DARE!!!!

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The 3rd Set of Signed Witchfinders!

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Another chance to win a full signed set of the Witchfinder trilogy! After competitions hosted here and at the excellent Bookgeeks now it’s the turn of the simply stonking Book Zone for Boys! Head on over there now to enter the competition to win the 3rd set of signed Witchfinders in existence. Then take a while to stroll about the Zone – one of my favourite blogs with loads of great features and author interviews. Happy browsing!

Witchfinder on the Radio

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

After a day of very exciting WITCHFINDER events yesterday at the brilliant Sir William Robertson High School in Welbourn I drove over to Lincoln for an interview with James Hoggarth on his BBC Radio Humberside Evening Show. You can hear me rambling on about loads of subjects from my beginnings as a writer to the importance of local libraries, school visits and getting kids excited about reading and writing. Just follow this link and skip ahead about an hour into the programme. I’m on for about 50 minutes or so, the interview interspersed with some very groovy music!

I’d also just like to thank Mrs Morton & all the staff and pupils at Sir William Robertson for making me so welcome at their school!

A Fanboy Thrilled

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

 

Writers are big readers. They have to be. It’s something I always stress to kids when I do creative writing classes in schools – you want to be a writer? Then the first thing you have to be is a reader. A wannabe builder wouldn’t start his career without the guidance of an experienced mentor, and it’s the same with writers. We need guidance, someone to show us the tools of the trade and how to use them effectively. Unfortunately there isn’t an apprentice scheme for scribes. We can’t just pop round to our favourite writer’s house and ask to stand over his or her shoulder while they hammer out their words.  There’s really only one way a writer can learn his craft, and that’s by reading – observing from a distance the way in which experienced artisans ply their trade, picking up tips from a growing, often intuitive understanding of how words are put together. Then it’s just a matter of lots and lots of practice.

Reading a lot will inevitably lead to obsession with certain authors. (more…)