Beyond the wall

This weeks module for my Writing for Young Readers course covered genre, form and audience. It touched upon the types of genres specific audience groups prefer, their understanding of language, and how to tailor my writing to cater for each reading level. The assignment that followed required me to choose a genre, form and audience and write up to 500 words on a subject of my choice.

Initially I decided to write a poem for 6-8 years. In the interest of complete transparency, I only chose this based on the amount of effort I thought I would have to put in. I’m quite good at writing poems for comical purposes, so I figured I would be able to knock one up in no time. Little did I know my ignorant laziness would present me with a lesson to be learned. Writing for this age is not an easy feat, especially when you have nothing to draw reference upon. I don’t ever spend time with any children of this age, so I’m massively out of touch with their level of understanding, even after completing this module. I just don’t know what they’re in to. I tried to think back to when I was of that age, but I simply couldn’t remember. Groovy Chick, Goosebumps and Tammy Girl is all I could think of, and even then, was that more 12+. Who knows? Was everything I came up with patronising? Probably.

So I bailed. I’m going to have to let that idea settle while I learn more about this age group. I’ll be doing some market research, so if anyone has suggestions on books to read for this audience then please let me know in the comments.

Instead the end product was something that came to me this morning. The book I’m reading at the moment is called ‘The Girl With All The Gifts’ by  M. R. Carey, which provided some inspiration into the premise of the idea for my story. It’s the idea of being trapped somewhere, knowing your a little different from everyone else around but not really understanding why. I wrote this with the intention that it would be an adventure story for the 9-12 age bracket. I haven’t had any feedback from my course yet, so I don’t know if I’ve hit the marker in terms of getting the language  and sentence structure right for this age. I would love to hear if anyone has any feedback 🙂

Beyond the Wall

Kate had never been on the other side of the wall before, though she’d always wanted to. The boys in her class had said they jumped over once, but she didn’t believe them. They also said that girls weren’t able to climb walls like can boys, so that’s how she knows they are liars. Kate’s a very good climber. Good enough to beat Billy over the wall, that’s for sure. The boys at school are always saying stuff like that. Girls can’t do this, girls can’t do that. Billy once told Kate that no girl could ever become an explorer, or an adventurer. “Girls have to stay on the base, it’s too dangerous for them outside” he would say, but that only made Kate want to do it even more.

That is where Kate and her family live, at a place called the ‘base’. Surrounded by walls as tall as buildings it’s guarded by men with helmets and guns. There is a supermarket and a swimming pool, and their school is on base too, so the women and children never get to leave. Everybody who lives on the base has a dad or husband in the army. Her dad is a solider, so she doesn’t see him very often. He goes away for months at a time, but they spend lots of time together when he comes back. Kate’s dad said she can do anything if she puts her mind to it, and that she believes.

One Friday at school, Billy and the boys were giving Kate a really tough time. In class they were all learning about the Pacific Ocean. Miss Mulberry told a story about a lady called Sharon Sites Adams, who was the first women to sail across the Pacific all on her own back in the 60’s. It was the coolest thing Kate had ever heard. “Miss, when I go to Secondary School, will I learn how to sail like Mrs Adams did?” Kate said. Before Miss Mulberry could reply, the boys burst into laughter. “Ha, in your dreams” said Billy. “There’s no Ocean on base, and you know you’re never leaving” he scoffed. Leaning backwards into the heels of his chair, he reached his hand out to Danny, who gave him a low high-five under the table.

When the whistle blew Kate collected her bags and ran straight through the halls and out of school. Red with anger, she didn’t stop running until finally she made it to the wall at the edge of the base. She stood for a minute, starring at the patterns in the cement. Shutting her eyes she wished she had the courage to make it over that wall. Imagining what it would be like on the other side she squeezed her eyes tightly to fight back the tears. All of a sudden Kate began to feel strange. Slowly opening her eyes, she could see fields of green all around her.  She was beyond the wall.

Fun, or Fair?

Fond as I am of giving myself various virtually unattainable challenges to juggle around alongside that other task some people call life, I have set myself quite a hefty goal in order to expand my writing experience and aid me in catering for the tiny humans of the world.

I have recently joined a Writing for Young Readers course with the Commonwealth Education Trust, to guide me with my plan of beginning writing my first children’s book before the year is up. Despite the Gollum-esq voice in my head looping the words “write a book she says, ha! End of the year she says…never”, I’m actually relatively confident. So far the course lectures and writing tasks have been an informative an enriching experience and I’m really looking forward to continuing with the modules and having others read and review my work.

To help me on my journey I thought it would be nice, and beneficial to me,  to share with you each of my writing assignments to gain some feedback from outside of my course.

The first piece I wrote required me to choose a particular viewpoint, then write a story from it inspired by things I’ve experienced in my life and the myths, legends and culture of my country.  While I know tourists may visit each year and soak up the ‘British Culture’ that we so willingly bottle and price for them, there was not a great deal I could relate to my own experiences. I spent a good while mulling this over, and even researched into English Folklore, but the results from this didn’t seem natural, it was like I was telling someone else’s story. In the end, I kind of did tell someone else’s story, so I guess I may have cheated somewhat. I was inspired by a story my Grandma told me when I was a child about something she experienced in her youth.

I decided to draw upon this for inspiration, as although my Grandma and I came from different eras,  different continents and essentially a different world, her story really resonated with what childhood and teenage years meant to me. It embodied a sense of adventure and rebellion, which I  believe was and still is a fundamental part of youth culture in the UK, and perhaps the world over. Having been given a 500 word limit and an example story in the form of an opening paragraph I think it was safe to deduce we were only expected to produce an extract, so that I did. For this story, I aimed to write with the 8-11 age group in mind.

I plan to finish this story off the way my Grandma told it, as the twist is yet to come, but for the sake of ticking boxes, here was my first submission. As always, feedback is welcomed and appreciated.

                 Fun, or Fair?

Cynthia had just turned sixteen when she experienced her first night at the fair. Still at school, she would dedicate evenings to her studies and was the type of girl who was successful in all her endeavors. By no means was Cynthia a rebellious or unruly young woman, but on this particular day she was bored of it all. “I’m just sick and tired of always doing as I am told” she said to Lilian, with a sigh. “And what do I get in return? I get treated like a baby. I am greeted with a big fat no to all I ask for”.

Earlier in the day, Cynthia’s mother had forbidden her from going to the fair that night. She had been given no reason; a simple ‘because I said so’ was always sufficient enough in her mother’s eyes.

“Just how sick are you then?” Lilian said with a grin, slowly raising her eyebrow as a sneaky look of satisfaction crept across her face. They had been best friends for four years, ever since they met on the first day of High School. Needless to say Lilian had always been the more daring of the two; a quality that hadn’t gone unnoticed by Cynthia’s worried mother. “What are you on about Lil?” said a rather puzzled Cynthia. “Look Cee, It’s time to stop asking and just do” Lilian teased, as she pranced towards the door. “Now get in to bed, and remember, you’re really sick okay?” Then faster than a blink she was gone. Voices erupted from downstairs as Lilian spoke to Cynthia’s mother, but they were much too far away for her to make out the words. Her heart racing, she ran to her bed with the sound of heavy footsteps ascending the staircase.

She closed her eyes as her mother entered the room. “Are you okay darling? Lilian said you aren’t feeling too good”. Her mother sat down at the end of her bed and reached for her forehead. Then, there it was, the first lie she would ever tell on the edge of her lips. Cynthia hesitated for a moment, contemplating the seriousness of the situation she was about to get herself into. “Yes mother, I feel terrible”, her voice trembled as she spoke. “Oh dear” her mother replied, “Yes, you do feel rather warm. You’re best off getting some sleep so you’ll be better for school tomorrow”. Pulling the covers over her, her mother got up to turn off the light. “Sleep tight” she said, before shutting the door behind her.

As Cynthia lay still for a few minutes wondering what would happen next she heard a faint tapping sound; a of handful stones hitting glass. She tip-toed to the window and opened it, Lilian was standing below. “Quick, shimmy down the drainpipe, nobody’s looking”.
Her palms began to sweat as she peered down at the ground. Oh well she thought, it’s now or never, and with a deep breath, Cynthia edged herself out of the window.