The results are in for last month’s Gigg Writes competition. The April entries were judged by S E Moorhead, author of the sci-fi crime thriller, Witness X. Described as “Silence of the Lambs meets Blade Runner”, Witness X is a dark and gripping crime novel set in a convincing near future. Born in Liverpool, S.E.Moorhead has told stories since childhood and, fascinated by meaning, motivation and mystery, she studied Theology at university. Over the last twenty five years, apart from teaching in secondary school, she has attained a black belt in kickboxing, worked as a chaplain, established a Justice and Peace youth group, and written articles for newspapers and magazines about her work in education and religion.
These are her comments and her choice of winners:
“Writing is an act of courage.
To put your thoughts on paper, in black or white, where they can be read and judged by anyone is brave to say the least, particularly when you are young.
I was very honoured to be asked to judge a writing competition of pupils and parents and I was blown away with the excellent standard of writing. Intelligent, lyrical and interesting, I was hooked right away with their interpretations of the theme ‘I have just returned from a visit with my landlord…’
Aspiring writers don’t exist. You either write or you don’t. These writers have already made tracks along the road to authorhood.
My advice overall would be to keep going. It is the writer who finishes the work in progress, writes through a difficult patch, keeps striving to be the very best writer they can by learning about their craft, that become the ones who succeed in the world of publishing.
These short pieces already show you have the talent.
Hopefully you have the tenacity – and one day you will see your name on the cover of your own book.
I can’t say I have chosen the BEST piece of writing to win. What I can say is that I chose the one that appealed to me the most. Reading is so subjective, what chimes with one reader might repel another. Who can say which is the best book in the world? If another writer had judged these pieces no doubt there would have been a different outcome, so take heart, you are all absolutely brilliant and clearly have a future in writing ahead of you should you so choose that path.”
Martha Richmond - Year 11 - Grenfell Tower
One thing that agents and editors look for is a strong ‘voice’. It is one of those things that you can’t teach, that you can’t really describe, but you know it when you hear it – the X factor. Martha has a strong voice. She is lyrical and passionate about the subject matter and uses beautiful phrases and delicious similes, such as the cabs being a ‘swarm of bees’ collecting their ‘pollen’. Again, one of the great skills of writing is taking a single moment and examining it close up. This piece does that very well – and in great detail considering the limitation of the number of words.
Heather Hodgson - Lost Seaside Grandeur
This piece appealed to me so much! In only 500 words, we have a complex and well-developed character. There is intrigue in phrases such as ‘my other life’ which give hints to so much more and lets the reader have space to fill in the blanks. There is also a playful attitude to words ‘my oh-I-do-like-to-be-beside-the-seaside weekend life’ and ‘love-crow’s-nest’. There is very particular detail, for example - ‘whiff of honey and lemons’ which draws a reader right into the fly-on-the-wall closeness which brings the words to life in the theatre of the mind. Finally, there is the quirky, specific detail of the cat in the wall and how that brings about so much chaos. A beautiful piece of prose on so many levels.
A few points about the other entries:
Roland Hodgson - Year 9
The beauty of this piece was the structure. The writer has the reader do the work, wondering what the link is between a visit to the landlord and the headaches. It makes the reader want to know more. I loved the line about the underlying health conditions. This played out well with the realisation of a friendship and popularity. To develop further, add in some specific detail about the protagonist’s friends or job, etc, so that the reader can actually ‘see’ what it feels like for her/him.
Thomas Reeson - Year 9
This is an atmospheric, lyrical piece and would have worked well even if it had been structured differently. This piece of writing has the feeling of a psalm, a cry for help, and the desperation is palpable. I’m not certain what is happening or how it relates to the theme, but it is a wonderful piece of writing which shows a true poet’s heart.
Martha Richmond - Year 11 - ‘Modern Day Slavery’
A powerful piece with a strong voice and important subject matter. It is ambitious, given the short amount of words, but takes us on an epic journey. To develop this piece, I would have focused more on the moment between relief of seeing the police officer and the moment the girl realises he is going to attack her. The moments in fiction that would only in reality be a split second are the ones that take a long time to write. These are powerful moments that I know you could write really well and totally captivate your reader.
Nick Peat - U6
This is an intelligent piece of writing. I love the subject matter and it is unusual. As writers we should never shy away from writing about what interests us. (I’m not convinced about writing just ‘what you know’ as some people suggest as this would be too limiting for me.) I love the questions that the characters raise.
James Reeson - Parent - ‘Pretty as a Picture’
There was excellent description in this piece, with some clever turns of phrase ‘men such as this remember those who make them wait, and I had no wish to be remembered’. I liked the specific detail of the matriarch and the letter-opener. I loved the idea behind the story.
Sarah Williamson - Parent
Here, again, is a writer with that elusive ‘strong voice’. There is beautiful description in this piece, it is very visual - the reader can ‘see’ it. The characterisation of the landlord is excellent. A very clear and competent piece of writing.