One: I recently attended the launch of Banovallum School’s First Story Anthology, Writing Outside the Box. It has been my privilege to work with the boys at Banovallum and their teacher Miss Lord since September last year. First Story is a UK charity that places writers in secondary schools to work with students on the writing and publication of an anthology of their writing. Every Wednesday during the Autumn and Spring term of this academic year we gathered in the school library to write together. The group, and the school, threw themselves whole heartedly into the process, with the core group of students taking an active role in events in Oxford and Nottingham Universities, and members of the school community entering the First Story competitions. Miss Lord was also shortlisted for her entry in the ‘home’ themed First Story National Writing Competition. I also had the great pleasure of working with the whole English Department when I was asked to deliver a Continued Professional Development session on strategies to engage writing in the classroom.
All of this activity culminated in the publication and launch of the Banovallum anthology on the 17th June. Everything between the covers, and the cover itself, is the work of the students and impressive work it is too. Over the last eight months or so, the boys of the Banovallum First Story group have grown in confidence immeasurably, and it was great to hear from the parents and teachers at the launch how much they have gained both academically and personally from being part of the project. First Story states very clearly on their website that ‘First Story changes lives through writing,’ and now, nearing the end of my first year as a First Story writer, I wholeheartedly agree. I have seen first hand just how much the First story process gives to students, teachers and writers engaged in it. It’s the sort of thing I would have loved to have been part of back when I was at school and I genuinely feel privileged to be able to work with both Banovallum and First Story in making this very special kind of writing happen.
Two: I became (for the third consecutive year) a runner-up in the Thresholds’ 2015 Feature Writing Competition with my essay on Norwegian author Kjell Askildsen’s Selected Stories. You can read the other shortlisted essays on the Thresholds site, including Richard Newton’s winning essay on the short fiction of South African writer Herman Charles Bosman.
Three: My story ‘Free Hardcore’ was published in Unthology 7 (Unthank Books). I was thrilled to be able to join fellow Unthologists Elizabeth Baines, Gary Budden, Adrian Cross, Elaine Chiew and Debz Hobbs-Wyatt as we read from our respective stories at the Project U Prose Event Launch. The audience was a receptive bunch of readers and writers, including Barney Walsh and Amanda Oosthuizen whose stories can be also be found in Unthology 7. Big thanks to Ashley Stokes for all his hard work as our host at the event and to both Ashley and Robin Jones for all their sterling editing work on the Unthology series.
Unthology 7 was also recently reviewed on Bookmunch, during which Valerie O’Riordan said the following lovely things about ‘Free Hardcore’:
Dan Powell’s ‘Free Hardcore’ manages to temper a quiet story about a marriage breakdown with a liberal pinch of surreal horror: this story has a League of Gentlemen-esque mania to it, alongside a disquietude that feels grimly inevitable and just as grimly memorable.
Four: About ten days ago, as part of my work with First Story, I attended the NATE (National Association for the Teaching of English) Conference 2015, leading a pair of workshops on the subject of Engaging the Disengaged through Writing. The teachers taking part in the workshop were a friendly and enthusiastic bunch who threw themselves into the sample activities I prepared for the sessions, and a number of them have already contacted me via Twitter to let me know how helpful they found the sessions and the impact the strategies I covered are having in their classrooms.
So, all in all, a busy few weeks and with me off to attend Jenn Ashworth’s First Person Narrative workshop in Norfolk on Saturday and the First Story Summer Residential just two weeks away, the next few are sure to be just as busy and just as rewarding. I also have a few pieces of exciting short story news to share with you just as soon as I am able. In the meantime, use the comments to let me know about any exciting writing related activities you have been part of lately.