Monday 15 February 2016

A 1916 Commemorative Creative Writing Competition for Teenagers

Post primary schools all over County Clare are taking part in the library’s 1916 commemorative creative writing competition for 1st and 2nd Year students. The competition is based on Sheena Wilkinson’s latest novel for young people, Name Upon Name.

Set in Belfast in 1916, the story is told through the main character, fourteen-year-old Helen, whose parents come from mixed religious backgrounds. Helen grows up with Catholic, Irish values from her mother and urban, Protestant Ulster values from her father. Her older cousins are her idols: Sandy, who joined the army straight from school and has already seen action in France, and Michael, who runs away from home to enlist. But before he leaves for France, Michael is deployed to Dublin to help quell the Rising, where he’s expected to open fire on his fellow Irishmen, and Sandy writes home about terrible things on the front.

As readers of Name Upon Name will discover, letters are central to the story’s plot so in keeping with this format, students are required to write a letter or alternatively a diary entry from the point of view of one of the characters in Sheena’s book.

The author has kindly issued the following advice and guidelines to all entrants:

Some things to remember

“Your writing should be creative and imaginative but it should stay within the world of the novel.”

And she says

“I’m not a fan of ‘alternative endings’ – that’s because books already have endings the writer has really thought hard about and that it can be very difficult to add anything to. Often, you end up simply tying up lots of threads that didn’t really need to be tied up. And of course, the ending isn’t the place to start something new so it can be hard for your writing to have much sense of forward momentum. For those of you who like this kind of task, why not think about a prequel? There are lots of clues in the novel about things which have happened when the characters were younger. Again, you could use the format of diary or letter to explore this.”

Word count
“Keep your work under 800 words.”
“When I’m reading and assessing the entries, this is what I’ll be thinking about:

Content – How successful is this as a piece of writing? Was there enough happening to interest a reader?

Conviction – Does this really sound as if it’s in the world of Name Upon Name?

Creativity – How original is the response? Does it, for example, give voice to a character who point of view we didn’t get in the original?

Craft – How well written and edited is this? It’s a shame to write a thoughtful and original piece of work, and then to have it let down by mistakes in the English. Always try to make your work as accurate as you can. One thing I always do is leave my story (or chapter) for a few days and then come back to it with fresh eyes: it’s amazing what you pick up on that you don’t see the first time.”

Sheena Wilkinson
January 2016

Clare County Library wishes all entrants the very best of luck and look forward to a special prize-giving event for the winner and 4 runners up at deValera Library, Ennis on the evening of Thursday the 14th of April. Sheena Wilkinson will be with us to meet with the teenagers and their parents. The closing date for receipt of entries is March 18th 2016.

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