Last term I spent a day with pupils from Calstock and Stokeclimsland schools, working on story-writing, map-making and cover illustration. The results have come in and they're mind-bogglingly magnificent! Here are some of my favourite maps.
A few more of the great selection of ghost stories by pupils from Calstock and Stoke Climington schools in Cornwall. I wish I had space to publish them all, but in the end I've had to just select a few of my favourites. I can't believe how well you all write!
Robert B has a fantastic writing style.
"Alan cursed the fact that he was wearing his ripped jeans. It was tipping buckets of rain on him and the denim was itching him like mad. H e ran to find cover but the only place he could find was an abandoned steak house. It looked like no one had been it for years, but Alan didn't care, he just wanted to get dry."
Ellie B's intro to her story had me wanting to read on.
"The great scary ship stood in front of Zoe. The cloudy and foggy weather matched her mood.... The bullies had dared her to go on 'the ghost ship' and here she was. She took a deep breath and walked along the white and silver plank that led to the vast iron door."
I loved Ivy's mixture of scary and funny - very clever.
"It was foggy. Very foggy. She stopped in her tracks as she felt a shiver going down her spine as fast as lightning bolt being sent down a tree. Lilian was quiet. She was never quiet."
Ellathea, you are without doubt a writer. Wonderful stuff.
"This is not the weather for June. Ice cold hail empties the sky; in its viciousness we are forced to seek shelter in the timeworn, rickety cemetery. The longer we stay here the less time we have to live. The hound catches its breath as it picks up our scent; its warm rotting breath burns the backs of our necks."
Hattie P has a terrific, pacy style.
"His mind thought not to open it, his gut said open it."
Here's the beginning of Jacob L's imaginative ghost story set in an asylum
"He ran through the maze of hallways in the Asylum, dodging abandoned nursing trolleys, left right and centre."
And Jarvis has written a great and spooky elvish tale featuring an Infinity Bow.
"14-moon old Glendor and his best friend Grinor, 13 moons, silently crept along, looking for animals by moonlight."
And some great scene-setting from Tommy B
" He needed the money. He was told there was enough gold in there to cover a mountain! He day-dreamed of that gold when he heard a bone-chattering crunch under his feet."
Bluebell caught the essence of a nightmare really well
"I was sweating more than I ever have in my life. Why are the skulls staring at me? Why don;t they laugh at me any more? What has changed about me? I cried and cried. All of my friends, all of my family, gone. Dead."
And finally, James C wrote a five-chapter thriller with a real kick to it.
"Footsteps echoed in the darkness, something impaled itself through my stomach. A bullet. I stopped moving. I was done for!"
Congratulations too to Jess T, Reggie W, Tarik Y, Kizzie W and Zack T and to all those who haven't had a mention but still produced really engaging (and distinctly scary) stories. Now you can scare your friends or family through the long dark nights of winter!
The pupils at Calstock and Stoke Climsland schools in Cornwall have done an awesome job in redesigning the cover of The Skull in the Wood. I can see some of you getting jobs as illustrators in the future - they're fabulous!
Some excerpts from the pens of the fabulously creative (and gory-minded) pupils of Calstock and Stoke Climsland schools in Cornwall. Well done all of you - what terrific writers you are!
Here's a really cool bit from Max at Calstock:
"Matt in his spare time was a successful drummer and was self-taught. He made his move. The drumsticks in his ripped jeans - they weren't ripped for style. He brought them out in front of him like samurai swords...."
And a very strange but marvellous opening from Lola
"It was a windy day at the Tombstone. Daisy the cow was in the kitchen doing some baking. After she finished, she put her blue pom-pom hat on and went down to the garage to sharpen her knives. When she had finished, she had started walking back towards the house when she saw something in the snow. It was a deer skull.."
Martha's writing is stunning.
"The more I looked, the more I understood what it was. It was razor-sharp like a surgical instrument. Instead of ink, it had blood. Lots of blood. It was a murder weapon for sure..."
Here's a tense introduction from Jack at Stoke Climsland - really good.
"Lucas ran. He ran through the grey forest, his small jumper slowing him down. The sweat on his forehead was wiped away as he skidded to a halt. The old abandoned house standing up with its graveyard. The temptation was too high. He had to look in the old house."
And a frightening plot from Nathan at Stoke Climsland.
"He saw a box. What was it? He went over to it and opened it up. It wasn't heavy so it wasn't money, but it was a cobra skull with the body and the heart was still beating."
Eirinn from Stoke Climsland had some great dialogue, plus this gruesome description
"She knew it had to be a human skull, it was fresh because there was blood, flesh, teeth and gums. As she got closer she saw that the holes where the eyes go were twice the size of her thumb."
Congratulations too to Scarlett S for her story about Bonny in the graveyard, William R for his hospital ghost story, Mary B for her spooky tale about Lily in Callington Wood and Verity B for her prison story about Bethany.
More to come in another blog!
I went to visit Tor Bridge High in Plymouth back in November last year, on a day organised by their fantastic librarian, Mrs Bowles. My visit was to launch their Winter Writing Competition, so I worked with different year groups - 7, 8, 9, and 10 - on creative writing that sends shivers down your spine.
The students had good fun and produced some great pieces of writing. Some were horribly creepy, and some downright yucky (in a good way). But the best bit for me was the huge wave of enthusiasm for creative writing in general - and especially for the competition.
The theme for the competition was a picture of Wistman's Wood on Dartmoor - the weird and haunting wood that inspired The Skull in the Wood (though in the book, I call it Old Scratch Wood - Old Scratch being another name for the Devil.)
I've been reading through the anthology produced by Tor Bridge High and am blown away by how good the work is. There are far too many excellent pieces of writing to feature here, so I've just picked some of my favourite bits from among the students who attended the workshops.
I think this is an astonishing piece of writing, Amber - no wonder it was one of the winners. Not only does it create a truly strange atmosphere, but it has a lovely rhythm too.
This has real pace, Lewis - it's a very impressive way to tell a story. I love the fact that you use strong, simple sentences - they really work.
A great way to start a story! It's utterly intriguing and makes me want to read on and on.
What brilliant detail, Cameron! That bit about the S and the W is really well judged - I can just see it. And I always enjoy a good skull in a story!
And to all the other terrific writers I couldn't squeeze in here - congratulations - and keep on writing!
I've had a fantastic batch of spooky stories and artwork from Harrowbarrow School in Cornwall, which I visited in January. I gave a talk for year 5s and year 6s, and then ran a creative writing workshop with an impressive group of year 6s who produced some terrific work. They've been finishing off their stories and pictures, and they are truly blood-curdling!
Unfortunately I can't publish them all here in their entirety, but I've chosen some of my favourite extracts. Here they are.
"Ben staggered into the pitch-black cave. He had a torch made of steel, a bag made of leather and a pocket knife. He felt the walls, which felt like they were closing in on him. They had gushes of blood all over dead people on the floor. Ben tiptoed further into the depths of the cave. He saw a light up ahead – it was a kind of golden glow. He limped toward the light. His bag bashed against the Stone-Age wall. The ceiling collapsed and Ben dived to save his life. He looked behind him, eyes full of red-hot fear. The entrance to the cave was blocked by gigantic boulders and rocks…."
The Skull in the Cave, by Lewis - really spooky stuff!
"Please! Just let me go! PLEASE!’ She banged at the door but it wouldn’t budge. She hung onto the floorboards, but unfortunately they were snapping into tiny pieces. Then she slipped and fell into darkness. Her scream was echoing through the floor. It stopped after a few minutes and before she knew it, she was never seen again."
Kyana's spine-tingling story about a visit to creepy bungalow infested with skeletons
"Bill noticed the dark sky devouring the blurred moon. Vaguely, he just made out the silhouette of a wide-eyed white tawny owl isolated in the dull sky, a beacon against the misty brown. Threading in and out of his mind was the piercing screech he rememberd from the deserted station, blank with sound apart from the occasional snores of the slumbering guard"
Hebe's amazing 4-chapter story
"Recovering from shock, a swarm of memories flooded his brain. He remembered somebody shouting “Thomas!” He remembered a dry, flat scorched wasteland of nothingness. He remembered a needle as sharp as jealousy being lowered towards him. A dark-haired girl sprinting. Somehow they all made sense though he was not sure why."
By Thomas. And wow, Thomas, what a great description!
"I feel as if my eyes have dropped out. Stumbling back, realising I need to go back in. As I slowly get back onto my feet, a shiver fills my spine, my legs tremble and my arms cover in goose bumps. I trudge into the colossal dome, a necklace of sweat forms around my neck. An eternity of stone lay before me. The deep voice boomed “This is the maze of the danger, the maze of horror, the maze of DEATH”
By Rebecca, who certainly knows how to tell a good tale!
“Wow,” Maddie exclaimed. “Look at that amazing old fairground.” She had never seen anything like this in her whole life. Just then, an idea popped into her head like the sun coming out on a cold winter’s day. She saw a small hole in the big heavily chained gate. She managed to get through but she sliced her hand on the barbed wire. She screamed. A prickle, a horrible pain, ran through her hand. But what Maddie did not know was that this would put her life in a spin forever."
By Phoebe - a fantastic writer in the making
Congratulations to you all - these are really good reads - and you are REALLY GOOD WRITERS! And some very interesting artwork too.
And a huge thank you to Miss Pinfield for sending me these and for organising the visit.
An amazing 850 children turned out for the Shrewsbury Children's Bookfest Book Award and The Skull in the Wood was one of the six titles nominated. Children from 32 schools in Shropshire read all the titles and voted on their favourite - Bomber Dog by the lovely Megan Rix. And in the run-up to the awards, schools put their hearts into bringing the books alive - making videos, creating artwork, putting on plays and writing poems.
Greenfields Primary School in Shrewsbury produced an utterly terrifying trailer which I'll try to post here soon. And Grace from St Lawrence C of E Primary School had winning entries in the both the art competition and the poetry competition. They're both incredibly atmospheric - I love them!
And Grace's poem was also picked as a finalist. Well done, Grace!
I’m left right at the rim
Of the crumbling face
Of a part of the wood.
The breeze scuttles
Through my wild hair
But it nips on my skin
And tugs on the roots
Making them blood red.
I am ready to go home.
I was ready to go home
A long, long time ago.
There is a putrid stench
In the atmosphere, quite subtle,
Yet quite repulsive.
It is unpleasantly warm
Though my hands are still bitter and bleak
The piercing particles
In the scratching air,
I have no intention to move
Since Matt has vanished and left me here.
So now it’s just me
And Jez at my side
And she is the only one that cares.
It seems the hawkish, spiteful vegetation
Is observing me,
Swiftly I look at the foliage
I try to imagine them
Being thoughtful and generous,
But all I see is them crinkle with sin
And hiss with evil,
Unexpectedly a foul bloody stench
Fills my nose.
There is something dreadfully wrong,
I knew it all along.
Grace Keeling St Lawrence CE Primary School
Ben Towe, the headmaster of Lewannick Community Primary School in Cornwall, has sent me two fantastic spooky stories written by his pupils after my ghost-story writing workshop there in February.
Well done, Florence and Rosie-Jane - your stories are utterly spine-tingling!
Here are a few extracts, first from Florence's story 'Drugged in Hell!!'
'Her croaky voice echoes round the hollow building. "The stables need cleaning, the horses need feeding, and I think one's dead! I saw it on the floor this morning!" She bellows at me as if I'm her pet....'
'Covered in mud, horse dung and smelling like a dead dog, Liza slowly walks home. The joyful sun disappeared and the coral moon rises. A glow shimmers as bewitched barn owls alight. Liza trips, her head buried in the oozing mud. Puzzled and confused, Liza pulls herself up. Was she pushed over by a kid? Or did she trip over a log? She soon discovers that at the bottom of her sore feet was a rotting, crumbling skull with wriggling maggots and slimy worms crawling in and out of it! It looked like something out of a horror movie! A white trail of marrow lead to a nearby muddy lane flowing through aqua-green trees....'
' A cheesy grin grew on the skull's smug face. "Nooooo!" Liza bellowed. "It was you!" she shouted at it. "I have to find out what's going on." And with that, Liza grabbed the skull and dashed to Oak Wood Library. Maybe she will get some answers, maybe not..."
Brrr! I hope she does! That's pretty scary! Congratulations, Florence!
And here come some bits from Rosie-Jane's story, 'The Demon Doctor'.
'As I walked out of the old thatched cottage to see what all the banging noise was about, all I could see was a spooky nightmare. I curiously stepped out onto the cracked path, and as I did so the door slammed behind me. I squealed in fright and ran off into the distance, branches slapping me in the face, stones scattering as I ran...'
'When I woke up, I found the old box lying hopelessly on my bed. "But the nurse put it on the bedside table," I thought warily. Now I heard voices - but no one was here. I checked my digital clock. It was only 3.15 in the morning. I didn't think anyone would be here because it was early. I listened to what was being said: "The moment you open the box...the myth will come true. Your nurse will be killed by the Demon Doctor!"
Terrifying stuff! Especially in a hospital - what a great setting for a ghost story, Rosie-Jane!
Thank you both and to all the pupils at Lewannick who took part and wrote such great stories.
Alas The Skull in the Wood didn't win the Waterstones Children's Book Prize, announced on 3 April 2014. But it was utterly fantastic to be nominated - thank you Waterstones! A great party in their flagship branch in Piccadilly. And most exciting of all, my book was on display in the front window!
Widcombe C of E Junior School's wonderful librarian Hannah Sackett has sent me some pictures by year 6 students inspired by the 'finding the box' scene in The Skull in the Wood. The key is by Alex, the watch is by Ella, the scary hand by Henry, and the diamond-encrusted locket by Florence and Lizzie. Fabulously spooky! Thank you!