English: Visiting Author Meg Rosoff Educates, Enlightens and Inspires

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Meg with First Year Short Story Competition winners (left to right) Louisiana Vine and ex-Prep School Student Heroes Flynn Matthews and Rosa Witts.

What does it feel like to be a successful writer? 'Panicky, insane and out of control' according to Meg Rosoff, the latest visiting author to speak at Bede's!

On Wednesday March 19th, pupils from Year 7 at Bede's Prep School through to students in the Upper Sixth were fortunate enough to meet Meg Rosoff, a very successful writer of Young Adult Fiction and the odd picture book.

To coincide with the day of workshops and talks, the English Department worked with the whole Bede's academic faculty to mark the celebration of Bede's Book Day, which involved talking about favourite books in class and competing to find the highest number of book titles which had been hidden around the school.

Bede's Book Day began with students being given worksheets that they had to carry around with them, to write down the hidden book titles as they went to and from lessons.

They then had to look up the name of the author that matched the book - there were forty in total to find - before handing in their findings.

Luckily it was a sunny day - otherwise there would have been a few determined and soggy students arriving to lessons by the afternoon...

After completing this 'book hunt' the pupils returned their slips to me and I then provided appropriate prizes ranging from chocolate to Amazon Vouchers depending on how many books they had found.

Then it was time for the main event.

Meg Rosoff, who has won both the Guardian Children's Prize and the Carnegie Medal amongst many others, arrived at lunchtime ready to give a talk to the entire First Year and a scattering of other students.

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Meg signing novels for Year 7 and 8 pupils from Bede's Prep School.

Meg has published many books for teenagers, her most well-known probably being How I Live Now which was recently turned into a film directed by the Academy Award winning director Kevin Macdonald.

Meg entertained everyone with her witty and wise anecdotes, about why she first became a writer, what her influences are and what advice she would give to those who want to start writing, amongst many other very engaging explanations of her writing process and insights into her personal journey.

 

The poster for the recent film adaptation of Meg's novel How I Live Now.

She had the students giggling about her first attempt at a book about ponies which was deemed unpublishable for her chosen audience, due to her going slightly 'off-piste' with the detailed romantic relationship between a young girl and her horse's trainer!

From talking about her own family tragedies to the first time she fell in love, Meg discussed the importance of fully embracing all aspects of life in order to become a great writer.

Her message to experience the world and write, 'just do it', is truly inspirational.  It was really interesting to hear about how Meg followed her gut instinct and moved to England part-way through her initial degree, as she knew that it was the right thing for her at the time.

6Meg has had multiple careers and the students were inspired by her candid approach to telling us about them. Asha Wardle, who boards in Dorter House in Lower Fifth, said: 'Meg Rosoff gave an engrossing talk, giving an insight to what it really means to be a writer and what life is like.'

She continued, 'I was extremely excited to meet Meg as I fell in love with her writing almost instantly. Her abstract book ideas have had me rethinking my day to day life, which was a pleasant, yet totally unexpected side-effect of her writing.'

To end the talk, the winners of the Creative Writing Competition were announced - Bloomsbury House's Rosa Witts being Third, fellow Bloomsbury House girl Louisiana Vine being Second and Deis House's Flynn Matthews scooping the First Prize.

All of the winners received signed books and the top prizes also included Amazon Vouchers.

Meg then went on to hold an hour-long workshop with Sixth Form students of both English Language and Literature, about the finding your voice.

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Meg handing out awards for the First Year Short Story Competition.

Whilst linking into the narrative voice that you need to discover in order to write a convincing novel, students were asked a range of probing questions such as 'If you were an animal, what would you be?' and 'How old do you want to be when you die?' in order to begin to explore their own 'voices' and to look deeper into their own psyche.

All of the students found this exercise useful and hadn't really thought about these concepts before.

Upper Sixth Boarder in Dorter House Talia Tanner said, 'I found the workshop insightful and entertaining. Not only did we discuss novels and writing, we also explored our inner selves, or the voice of our subconscious. Meg Rosoff is a great speaker and I am looking forward to reading her newest novel'.

A notable jump in audience then followed, as Meg joined students from Year 7 and 8 who were visiting us from Bede's Prep School. They had been taking part in a creative writing workshop with Head of English at the Senior School Mr Oliver, which had focussed on writing engaging and original texts to entertain.

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Ms Jones and Meg speaking to the assembled students.

In particular, the students explored the themes and ideas of dystopian texts, noting how its best exponents use implication and suggestion to chilling effect.  The work produced was, in Mr Oliver's opinion, "sophisticated and incredibly imaginative."

This part of the day was, in fact, the favourite activity of some of the students, including Ben Peppard from Year 8, who said that he had "really enjoyed being given the freedom to write about whatever he wanted."

After this, the Prep students all had the opportunity to have a copy of Meg's latest novel, Picture Me Gone personally signed.

Overall, Meg made a very lasting impression on all of us at Bede's during each of her sessions. A student, who wishes to remain anonymous, reflected all of our own thoughts, when she said afterwards, 'I'm still getting over the fact I met her today!'

We now look forward to welcoming Meg back in the future to make her evening talk, that unfortunately had to be unavoidably postponed.

Casta Jones

Deputy Head of English