A big shout-out to all the students I met at Clayesmore in Dorset today. I was in Iwerne Minster to lead creative writing and journalism workshops as part of the school’s writing week.
My first session was with students from the prep school. I’d been asked to talk about becoming a Doctor Who writer, and it was soon obvious that there were some serious Who fans in the room. Working in groups, the students came up with an opening sequence for a science fiction radio play. We worked on what makes a good scene and they left with their hook planned out. I would love to see (or hear) the final plays. Some cracking ideas there.
In the afternoon, it was the turn of the sixth form. This time I’d been asked to focus on journalism, so talked through my magazine career, from my first staff-writing job on T3 through to launching Countryfile Magazine and beyond.
To bring in a practical element, we looked at the news pyramid, the basis of every good news story for the last 100 years. The students then put this to use, composing a news story based on a fictional event. We had whistle-blowing reports exposing the fact that the American Secret Service has been using a former super-villain as an agent (see Despicable Me 2), the terrible news that a lupine terrorist has been persecuting the little pig community and eye-witness accounts of the Great Gatsby’s tragic car crash. And that was just the beginning. I really enjoyed the session – especially when I was asked to spill some of the dirty tricks magazines play on their rivals. Dirty tricks? Magazine journalists? The very idea…
So, a big thank you to the staff and pupils of Clayesmore for making me so welcome. Oh, and to the catering staff in the school canteen as well. The steak pie at lunchtime was wonderful!
Actually, talking about food, there was another highlight. I arrived in Iwerne Minster with an hour to spare, so scooted back to neighbouring Fontmell Magna and the Old Malthouse tea room. There I sat, working through the plot for my new YA novel with a pot of Dorset tea and an extremely tasty sausage roll for company.
If ever find yourself passing through Fontmell Magna, I recommend stopping off. A lovely brew and a friendly welcome. I might have to make an excuse to head back to Dorset for another pot!