Friday 4 August 2017

A Thread Running Through

One of the best parts of my job is getting involved with schools and helping to spread the buzz of reading and creative writing.  A Thread Running Through, a fantastic anthology of student's creative writing and illustrations - all related in some way to themes, locations, characters or ideas from Secrets of the Tombs. The work covers all sorts of genres from horror to rom com, and formats from poems to short stories and even play scripts. Ranging from immortality to archaeology, from exploration to discovery, from skeletons to curses, from love to friendship to treachery and back again, there's truly something for everyone in this book -  and you'd be amazed at some of the new adventures Cleo and Ryan find themselves facing!
reading and writing for pleasure. I'm especially proud of having been Author in Residence at Litcham School in Norfolk this year, where we've been working together to produce

A great deal of work over the year culminated in a truly beautiful book (with a cover brilliant designed by one of the students, Fred Foulkes), which we launched with a special assembly and a party in June. It was a wonderful day and really exciting to see the students enjoying that magical feeling of seeing their work in print and holding an actual copy of their actual book in their hands.

Huge congratulations to everyone who contributed, and a big thank you to all the school staff who were so helpful, to Swaffham Rotary Club for supporting the project, and most of all to Cathy Berry, Litcham School librarian, who make the whole thing happen and worked so hard to see it through.

To tell you more about the project and to make sure I include all the thank you's, I've copied my foreword to the anthology in full at the end of this post.

My copy of the anthology, signed by all the contributors is now one of my most treasured possessions. It's full of great writing and illustrations as well as a lot of happy memories of working together and our lovely launch event.
Beautiful bookmarks for the launch event

No launch party is complete without themed cupckakes

These cakes in their pyramid box won the cupcake competition

I'm also very proud that one of the contributors, who was also a key member of the student editorial team entered her story from the anthology into the Norfolk Young Writers Competition and was one of the six finalists. You can read Amelia's story in full here.

The editorial team hard at work

Just some of the great artwork in the anthology
I also contributed a piece to the anthology - rather foolishly crowd-sourcing the format, genre and topics from the students, who came up with the brief of a comedic poem including all of the following elements. Here is what I came up with (the students' writing was of a much higher quality, I assure you!)

Prison Poem by archaeologist Professor Lydia McNeil

By Helen Moss

Have you ever woken up in a filthy dark cell?
Cockroaches in your hair, and as for the smell!

How did I get here? It’s not my fault.
I was in an old Indian temple exploring a vault.

Full of Keralan treasures carefully stored,
I was translating the writings that kept the record.

Then the guards stormed in and marched me away.
‘You’ve stolen Vishnu’s statue!’ was all they would say.

‘Gold and bejewelled and with mythical powers.
It was there! Now it’s gone! It’s not yours, its ours!’

It’s all happening again. Am I under a curse?
Missing treasures! The grail in Peru was the first.

Then the Benben Stone and the Chinese scroll,
It seemed the tomb robbers were on a roll.

But, at last, in Mexico the real traitor was busted.
Someone I trusted. It was all done and dusted.

So I thought. But it seems he’s back on my case.
That fiend must have put a new spy into place.

Cleo kept saying she had her suspicions.
My daughter warned me. I should have listened.

She and Ryan had heard someone talk about
Stealing the god’s statue. And then it went walkabout.

Cleo was such a quiet girl before she met Ryan,
Always studying equations or science or Mayan.

Helping me catalogue old pots and bones,
But when Ryan’s around, things go all Indiana Jones.

What’s happening now? The guard is bringing me a curry.
‘A friend of yours sent it,’ he says. ‘Don’t worry!’

I’ve eaten it all when I see tiny dragons before me.
With fiery breath and talons to gore me.

Or is it just moths flapping around the lights?
I feel dizzy. I feel sick. Something’s not right.

Another guard is coming. I rub my eyes.
Am I seeing things again? No, it’s Ryan in disguise.

Now Cleo’s appeared too, with a laundry wagon.
I’m bundled inside before you can say imaginary dragons.

We’re hurtling along corridors and out of the door.
The rescue plan works and I’m free once more!

Out on the street Cleo gives me a hug
‘Mum!’  she cries, as she squashes a bug.

‘Your old enemy set you up and had you thrown in jail
Then used you as a guinea pig.  But we made sure he’d fail!’

‘A guinea pig?’ I ask. I’m feeling all at sea.
Ryan grins. ‘Yep, seems he’s still seeking immortality.’

‘That vindaloo was sent from you-know-who
He’s testing his potions on prisoners like you.’

‘If they work, well and good, you get life without end.
If they don’t, which they won’t, you go round the bend.’

‘Or die in agony. Mercury’s hardly a tonic.
And arsenic and wormwood won’t make you bionic.’

‘Just like those captives in ancient Xi’an,’
Cleo chips in. ‘But we put a stop to that horrible man.’

‘We found Vishnu’s statue hidden in a shed.
The special powers come from the jewels on its head.’

‘They say the sapphires can turn back time.
But now it’s safely back in its shrine.’

‘I’m hungry!’ laughs Ryan. ‘Let’s eat, but not here.
I know a great place for sag paneer.’

Ryan and Cleo saved the day; those dragons have all flown.
I should never have doubted; they’re the best team ever known! 

Foreword to A Thread Running Through
It has been the most extraordinary honour and pleasure to be Author in Residence at Litcham School this year. Thank you for inviting me and to all the staff and students who have made me so welcome.

I’m delighted to introduce this very special anthology of creative writing by students in Years 7, 8 and 9.

While younger children often enjoy writing stories and poems for pleasure, there can be less time for this as we go on through school.  Writing becomes a more serious pursuit, for a specific purpose or on a set topic. This is important, of course, but it’s also a wonderful thing to write just for the fun of it – the fun of experimenting with language, expressing our thoughts and feelings, and seeing where our imaginations take us.

In this anthology students were free to write whatever they wanted; any subject matter, style, format or genre. The only guideline was that we used the Secrets of the Tombs series as our jumping-off point. With its themes of archaeology, mystery, the search for power and immortality, betrayal, friendship, teamwork, love and the discovery of other civilisations, there was plenty to choose from.

As the pieces started to come in, it was great to see how much fantastic writing emerges when the author is having fun. And such a variety too! From the scariest of horror tales to witty comedies and thoughtful romances. From fast-paced adventures, to mysteries and political thrillers, science fiction and dystopian visions. Stories, diaries, poems and even a play script – they are all here!

I’m also hugely impressed by all the wonderful illustrations that students submitted to accompany the written pieces. They add so much to the anthology – as does the excellent cover and the overall book design.

A special thank you goes to the team of student editors, who worked so professionally to bring out the best in all the contributions. I would also like to thank Swaffham Rotary Club for funding the Author in Residence programme, and school librarian, Cathy Berry, who has organised all the visits and has worked tirelessly, far above and beyond the call of duty, to make the idea of this anthology a reality.

Congratulations to everyone who has contributed. I hope that you’ve had fun and that you’ll enjoy the thrill of being published writers, editors and illustrators.

Happy reading!

Helen Moss
May 17th, 2017

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