Students inspired at summer writing camps

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Posted on 26 July 2017

Students from five high schools in Staffordshire and Cheshire have had the opportunity to write and publish their own novels about Stoke-on-Trent, thanks to Higher Horizons+ and the White Water Writers programme based at Keele University.

The week-long White Water Writers camps bring groups of students together to collaboratively write and publish their own full-length novel in just one week. The programme helps develop their writing and communication skills, teamwork and attention to detail, whilst raising attainment and achievement as well as aspirations and self-esteem.

Year 10 students from St Margaret Ward Catholic Academy, Haywood Academy, The Discovery Academy, Ormiston Horizon Academy, and The Oaks Academy took part in the writing workshops throughout June and July, and came together this week to launch their books with an official book signing event held at Keele University.

Dr Yvonne Skipper, a lecturer in psychology at Keele University who runs the White Water Writers programme, explained:

“The programme is based on psychological theories and research. It aims to raise students’ aspirations at the same time as raising their skills in order to help them achieve their ambitions. The project is facilitated by university student volunteers who guide the writers through each stage of the process, from planning and story development, through to writing and proofreading. However, a key element of the project is that no adult touches a key or offers ideas about plot, etc. The book is truly the work of the writers. We are very impressed with the amount of effort the writers have put into the project as well as the quality of the finished novels.”

As part of the event, students gave short readings from each book to a packed audience of family and friends, all eager to get their hands on a first-edition copy.

Each book was themed around a certain period in Stoke-on-Trent’s history, ranging from the distant past to the distant future, with the first book set in 1851 and the last in 6017. Each group had only a short brief to get them started on writing their stories: that something strange is happening in Stoke-on-Trent and a group of friends come together to try to understand it. The theme for the novels was “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

All of the books are now available for sale on Amazon.

Joseph Isoko, 15, who attends The Discovery Academy in Stoke-on-Trent, commented:

“Writing the books encouraged us to work as a team. It was hard at first, but we worked together to achieve it.”

Theepiga Nagulendran, who attends The Ormiston Horizon Academy in Stoke-on-Trent, commented:

“It’s amazing to be a published author. The opportunity was great, and allowed us to write creatively. I definitely want to carry on writing.”

Rebecca Barber, Higher Horizons+ Keele Hub Manager, commented:

“The White Water Writers project is a fantastic opportunity for learners as they are able to use skills which will assist them in their future endeavors, such as teamwork, negotiation, leadership and planning. Through speaking to learners during the celebration book signing event, the one sentiment which will be taken from the camps is that if they are able to write a book within a week then throughout their lives, anything is possible.”

Rebecca added:

“We are extremely proud of the learners who took part in the camps, as to write a book within a week and become a published author is an amazing achievement.”