Friday, 17 April 2015

Writing Tips 1 by Bryony Paarce



This is the first in a series of new posts by the Edge. Each week we will be giving our writing tips. This week I tell you to GO BE A DORK.
If you have any specific questions about writing, do feel free to ask us by writing in the comments, or calling us on Twitter. One of us will try and address them asap. 
Enjoy

When I go into schools I like to say that aspiring writers need to be dorks. Not so much that it is necessary to be a giant nerd, as I was, but it is a great way to remember my top writing tips!

D = Daydream
Writers need to be able to daydream. Time spent making things up, wondering what if and why, interrogating experiences and observations is never time wasted and can lead to the best story ideas.

O = Observe
Writers tend to be (and need to be) keen and accurate observers. Not just observers of the stories around us that can kick off the process of inspiration, but observers of human nature. The best way to write consistent, human characters is to develop an understanding of real people, how and why they do what they do and say the things they say, what underlying hurts and pressures drive them.

R = Read
You cannot be a good writer without being a good reader. Read everything you can get your hands on, not only in the genre that interests you, but in genres that don’t, you never know what will inspire or interest you. In reading widely you will discover other voices that will feed into your own, other stories that will inspire you, you might discover how not to write, or discover a writer you want to emulate.
And from a practical point of view, you need to know what else is out there, imagine never reading YA, but spending years writing a book about sparkly vampires and only discovering Twilight when the agents you approach tell you to look it up.

K = Kwery or QUERY
Okay, I know it’s a cheat, the sounds are the same.
Query means that as an aspiring writer you should constantly query everything you see and hear, ask why and what if until you have built up a complete story in your head. Be annoying (if observing all your friends hasn’t been annoying enough already), get answers to questions and if you can’t find the answers, make up a story instead.

My final writing tip, once you have become a dork is both the most obvious and most difficult. The best way to become a writer, is to write.
No excuses - sit down and write.
The big difference between a published writer and someone who says they always intended to write a book one day, is that the published writer sat down and started writing, then kept writing until they got good enough.

Be a dork and write.



Friday, 10 April 2015

A New Library Teen Reading Group by Savita Kalhan


I’ve been a member of the library since I was about five years old. Wycombe library had an amazing children’s library and I made use of it every Saturday morning throughout my childhood. Then, when I was twelve,  I joined the adult library where bookshelves went right up to the ceiling. The reference library, upstairs, was well stocked and quiet, with lots of rows of tables and desks, and that’s where I ended up doing a lot of homework. Being the eldest of seven kids, our house was noisy and chaotic, so the library was the perfect refuge and I really don’t know what I would have done without it.
I’ve been going to a few Save Barnet Libraries, where there are threatened closures and down-scaling have put the libraries in jeopardy. We all know how important libraries are, how invaluable they are to local communities, and how one central library serving a huge area cannot serve the needs of library users. Local library branches are essential.
Save Barnet Libraries Facebook page

With the booming teen/YA market, there is obviously a demand for new books. The teen sections of many libraries vary greatly in size and content. Some councils and boroughs have been forced to reduce their spending on books, which generally means less books and therefore less choice. I think it’s important for kids to have choice when it comes to books. In my local library, the teen section is a very small area, although it’s still used by teens to borrow books. They often study in the library too. More books and more choice would be good though. So I thought why not volunteer to start a Teen Reading Group? It would be no more than an hour of my time once or twice a month, and if it promotes reading amongst teens and introduces them to a wider variety and more diverse books, then I’ll be a very happy person.

After a meeting with the manager of the library, the project was given the green light, and we will, hopefully, have our first meeting in a couple of week’s time. I hope the word will spread and more teens join. I hope the library can buy more books, offer more choice, and continue to inspire kids to read.
I'm starting with the CILIP Carnegie shortlist, and from there to a world of books!
And I hope the council sees how important libraries are and the part they play in peoples’ lives.


Savita's website

Savita on Twitter

Savita on Facebook

Friday, 3 April 2015

THEATRE FOR EVERYONE



Yesterday, one of my local secondary schools took students to Nottingham’s Theatre Royal to watch the matinee performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.  Last term one of my kids was lucky enough to go on a school trip to see TWO West End plays in one day, (The Curious Incident and War Horse) They left early and got back at 1am but it was absolutely worth it and the heavily subsidised cost was extremely reasonable.  It was a great experience for all the students.




There’s no getting away from the fact that arranging school trips to go anywhere is a major headache for staff with all the ridiculous form filling, health and safety checks, not to mention chasing payment up, but it’s well worth the hassle to take students to see entertaining, thought- provoking plays.

I’m grateful that many schools are prepared to put in this extra effort and time for their students as so many families can’t afford to take their kids to the theatre.  Schools may be providing the only chance many students get to experience a professionally produced play.  The price of tickets means that theatre excludes many people and that’s why it’s essential that theatres provide decent discounts for school parties, students and those on low incomes.

Theatre still suffers from an image problem.  This perception isn’t helped by the fact that many of them can feel slightly intimidating place (unless you’re going to see the annual Pantomime).  Maybe the atmosphere in many theatres is too formal, maybe it’s the fear of having a coughing fit mid performance that’s stresses people out, but there are plenty of theatres throughout the U.K. that are well run and welcoming to all.  The best theatres can make your visit have a sense of occasion without being stuffy.

Nottingham Theatre Royal
There’s another reason, apart from the cost, why many families rarely go to the theatre and that’s because they think it’s going to be boring and that they’re better off going to the movies.  I know that my kids would always choose the cinema over the theatre. However, many well staged plays can provide immersive experiences to rival that of any film.  For example, the stage version of ‘The Woman in Black’ is widely acknowledged to be scarier than the film and I’ll never forget Steven Berkoff’s production of ‘On The Waterfront’ which felt as powerful as the amazing Brando movie.

Theatre can get children and young adults excited about plays, books, stories.  So many wonderful children’s novels have been adapted into stage plays and watching these productions can introduce them to a whole new generation.

The West End is currently packed with such adaptations; Matilda, War Horse, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Railway Children, Treasure Island, Horrible Histories.  These fantastic plays should be available to all and West End theatres need to keep offering school parties discounted, affordable tickets.  It would also be great if more of these big productions toured the U.K. so people can enjoy them without all the added expense of going to London.

For students forced to study Shakespeare, it can be a revelation going to see the plays performed (I know that it was for me).  Suddenly all this weird language starts to make sense and the drama and intrigue of the play is revealed (I’m a sucker for performances of the Tragedies and Histories, but the Comedies just don’t do it for me).

It’s fantastic to see a theatre packed with teenagers watching productions that bring their set texts to life (like To Kill A Mocking Bird).  However, it’s always reassuring to see all the school parties and know that kids, whose parents can’t afford to take them, aren’t missing out.

 Schools have such an important role to play, not just in education, but in broadening students’ experiences and giving them opportunities that they wouldn’t usually have.  Trips to the theatre can be part of this and so, especially in these pressurised times, I’d like to say well done to all the schools that go that extra mile.

Did your school take you to see plays?  What’s the best play that you’ve ever watched?

 

Paula Rawsthorne is the author of the award winning novels, The Truth About Celia Frost  and Blood Tracks.  She’s a writer-in residence in a secondary school for First Story.