First Year Pupils Reflect On 'The Lives Of Others' In Travel Writing Competition

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This week, the winners of the First Year Travel Writing Competition were announced in a prize-giving event and reading by award-winning writer Suzy Joinson. 

Over a month after the competition launched, with its intriguing stimulus phrase of ‘the lives of others’, the year group gathered en masse in the recital room to gain a very special insight into the world of writing for a living. 

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Suzy, whose first two novels gained international acclaim, explored with pupils the attributes needed to carve out a successful career, and how to craft the most memorable prose. Explaining the mysterious process of turning those first tentative scribbles into a finished piece, she laid heavy emphasis on two distinct processes: the rush of an inspired first draft, followed by the patient and precise crafting of the finished piece. No writer, asserted Suzy, gets it right first time, reminding us of Thomas Mann’s paradox that a true writer is someone who finds writing more difficult than others.  

The trick, it seemed, was perseverance, something which any of us can acquire. 

As we reached the end of our interview - a discussion that took in the perils of eating abroad and surviving in tropical heat - one question gave the room a palpable sense of expectation: who would win the competition?

With every pupil in the year group putting forward an entry, the judging had never been so tough, but Mr Vaux, this year’s head judge, managed to whittle down the entries to ten pieces which showed a superb mixture of inspiration and careful crafting.

Our long-listed writers included:

Will Quibell and Harrison Findlay (Camberlot), Sophia Malik and Elizabeth Morgan (Charleston), Evie McCabe, Atlanta Woodhall, Elfie Day (Crossways), Elvis Abraham (Deis), Shaun Manweiler (Dicker), Annie Cairns and Trinity Gott (Dorter), and Samuel Hartley. (Stud)

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Our short-listed writers were Thea Adams (Bloomsbury), whose piece on the Detwiler wildfire really caught the judge’s eye with its superb turns of phrase, as well as Renata Trigueros-Santacruz (Crossways), whose heart-wrenching and emotionally complex tale of a mother really impressed with its ambition and maturity.  Completing the shortlist, we had a wonderfully mature, sensitive and evocative piece from Eric Oxenden Rodriguez, whose writing benefitted from a powerful juxtaposition between the settings of Gatwick airport and rural Uganda. And the final name on our shortlist was Will Green, who really impressed with his vivid evocation of favella life in Rio de Janiero.

But there could be only one winner.

For his sun-soaked account of a family holiday to Laganas in Greece, featuring some staggering word choices and a thoroughly exciting encounter with a sea turtle, first prize went to Dorms pupil George Linehan.  

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For the teachers and audience members in attendance, this was certainly a worthy winner, though every pupil could take heart.  This year’s entries were, by far, the strongest of the last few years. The English department would like to thank every pupil who entered and spent time devising and crafting such varied and interesting pieces. The stimulus phrase inspired some marvellous flights of fancy, from seeing ballet in Russia to Elk stalking in Norway to deep sea diving off the coast of Wales. 

Later in the year, we will be able to read the winning entries in full in the Small Island creative writing magazine, and also catch up with a few of the winners in the Small Island podcast. 

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