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From a furry friend in Peru, to more writing workshops in Teesside!

Hello Everyone,

Phew! I’m back, made it!  Survived the Inca Trail: four days, three nights (yes, I had to camp!), 45 km, 4200 m above sea level (oh, the air’s thin up there!) and very little of the hiking was on a nice smooth flat surface (think Roseberry Topping x 1000 and you’ll be somewhere close).  But it was exhilarating to have done it and, as you will see from the photo, I made a new friend too.

So now it’s back to reality and, more importantly, back to writing.  Over the next few weeks I’ll be running the workshops at Saltburn, Darlington, Hartlepool and Norton so if you haven’t already booked on them and are hoping to attend please ring the relevant library to secure a place on the workshop(s) of your choice.  Don’t forget that you can attend any session, you don’t have to go to your local one and you can attend different sessions in different places if that suits your best.  Just a quick reminder that session one is on character and plot, session two covers narrative structure and perspective while session three explores writing descriptions and dialogue plus some tips on editing your writing.

I’m sure that many of you are already well underway with your competition entries so feel free to use them as the basis for the activities we will be doing in the workshops.  However, if you are still looking for inspiration then hopefully the workshops will help you generate some ideas.  And of course you can (and should) make the most of any nice weather to get out and about in the Tees Valley to draw inspiration from the places that might well feature in your stories.

And with that advice in mind here is this blog’s writing activity – slightly different to the usual prompt but I hope it will get those imaginations whirring away!

Step 1 – go somewhere (in the Tees Valley) that either you’ve never been to before or haven’t been to for at least 10 years.

Step 2 – find a spot to station yourself (street corner, park bench etc.)

Step 3 – note down: 2 buildings/natural structures nearby, 5 people who pass you, 1 animal you see, the weather, any smells you detect, 2 forms or transport and 1 other random thing

Step 4 – return home and use your notes to create a narrative.  You can tell the story of one the people you observed, or maybe the animal, or one of the forms of transport (the passenger/driver maybe) or even of the building (e.g. what is happening in there that you couldn’t see?)  Use the other notes to vividly recreate the scene and generate some tension and conflict in the narrative.


More soon,


The festival is almost upon us!

Hello Everyone,

Well what en exciting couple of days ahead of us as I write this on Thursday morning (8th June).  By tonight the votes will be in and by tomorrow we will know the result.  But far more exciting is the fact that Friday is the first day of the Crossing the Tees fortnight.  Two weeks packed with events kicks off with Lipstick Library at Stockton Central Library 6.30pm and there follows a fantastic array of talks, readings  and workshops between then and Saturday 24th June.  Please do check out the full festival listings elsewhere on this site or pick up a brochure from your local library but there are some highlights I particularly want to draw your attention to.  

Firstly Natalie Scott who is an amazing local poet will be offering a creative writing workshop at Middlesbrough Library on Saturday 10th June and a reading/performance of her work in progress (a poetry collection entitled Rare Bird – Voices of Holloway Prison) on Tuesday 20th June at Acklam Library.  

The Stockton Book Fair, a full day event being held in Stockton high street on 17th June is definitely an event not to miss.  Not only will there be lots of exciting and interesting things going on but this is also the official launch of the Crossing the Tees short story competition. I will be there all day so do come into the marquee and talk to me about the competition and the workshops/mentoring I’ll be offering in the run up to the competition’s closing date (30th September).

And finally, for those of you hoping to enter the competition who want to get a head start on your prize winning stories join me at Hartlepool Central Library on 14th and 21st June (6.30-8.00pm) for a series of two creative writing workshops designed to get you writing Fab Fiction in Four Hours!

I look forward to meeting many of you during the festival fortnight.  And, as promised, here is this post’s writing prompt (themed along the lines of the other important something happening this week)

The votes were in…


Join in with a writing challenge!

Hello Everyone,

Well, as many of you will know, we are now deeply into exam season, with many students sitting for their GCSE or A level qualifications. And it isn’t just the students who are busy this time of year. For the last four years I have been an exam marker for AQA’s Creative Writing A level.  Sadly the course has been scrapped as part of the Conversative Party’s education reforms and this is the last year students can take this subject.  But during its short life this unique qualification has given many sixth formers the chance to develop their creative writing skills and work towards producibg professional, publishable work.

As a marker for the exam module ‘Writing on Demand’ I have been fortunate to read the work of many talented young writers and have often marvelled at their ability to produce high quality writing in exam conditions.  The exam requires writers to produce two texts, each approximately 300 words in length, in response to a specific brief and all in two hours.  Students’ writing is then assessed on how confidently they have developed ideas, met the brief, used language imaginatively, crafted their work and maintained high standards of technical accuracy.  It’s quite a challenge and one I thought some of you might want to try yourselves so this post’s writing prompt is an ‘exam style’ one.  Remember you only have an hour to plan and write a skilful, highly developed piece!

Your time starts now!

“A national newspaper runs a weekly column for which people write about someone who has been an inspiration to them.  This might be a real living person, an historical figure, or even a fictional/literary figure.  You have been asked to contribute to the column.  Write a 300 word piece that discusses someone who has inspired you.”

Enter our very first Short Story Competition!

Budding authors and creative writers are invited to share their stories with us for a chance to appear in a published anthology and take home a cash prize! Up for grabs is 1st Prize £100, 2nd Prize £75 and 3rd Prize is £50.

The theme for your story should be inspired by the idea of actually crossing the Tees – think about the wonderful area in which we live, and what that means to you.

Entry forms can be downloaded here – Short story competition – entry form

Closing date for entries is midnight 30 September 2017. Look out for writing workshops with our Writer in Residence throughout July and August for help and advice with your writing and mentoring sessions will also be available – more information is coming soon.

Free to enter and open to everyone aged 16 or over, terms and conditions apply.

Good luck!