Meet our second shortlistee
Shortlistee number two is Clare Rees, author of Jelly – a hilarious YA story unlike anything we've ever read before!
Clare is the Head of English at Luckley House School. She feels privileged to work with teenagers and loves that she gets to spend her days encouraging reading and writing skills in others. Clare has an MEd and an MA, and has had educational resources published by Pearson, AQA, Teachit and Zigzag. These have included co-authored books, lesson resource collections and teaching units. She has also written education articles for The Independent and ‘Secret Teacher’ blogs for The Guardian. Originally starting out life as sample materials for students to critique, Jelly can be seen as a creative writing lesson which got a bit out-of-hand! Clare has loved writing it, and has just started working on the sequel with her Year 9s.
Can you describe your journey as a writer so far?
If my writing was a journey, then it would be one which involved detours down interesting country lanes, rail replacement bus services, and sudden, surprising changes to the destination.
I have always enjoyed planning lessons for the students in my classes – in particular the challenge of engaging students who think they don’t like, or ‘can’t do’ English. At some point this moved on more seriously to writing lessons and resources for publication. Most of the resources I have had published were also for use within my own lessons, but I have worked on wider commissions. On these lengthier writing projects I have been lucky enough to work with editors who have helped me to improve my work, often looking at it from perspectives which would never have occurred to me. I have particularly enjoyed this ‘fine-tuning’ of my writing.
It was when I started planning a series of creative writing lessons last year that a new stage of my journey began. I had written short books for my own children and their cousins, but hadn’t really considered that anybody else might be interested. However, I started Jelly during a Year 7 lesson on planning and kept writing it as a tool for modelling writing techniques to the students. They liked the continuity (and loved critiquing their teacher’s work!). I also wrote sections for use within Year 10 and 11 lessons.
The stage that I’m at in my writing journey at the moment is a really interesting one, but it’s also one that shows me how much I have to learn. I’m looking forward to it!
What is your shortlisted story about – can you give us the ‘elevator pitch’?
Sea levels have risen as a consequence of environmental disaster, releasing ancient monsters from the oceans. Inspired by a fourteen-century Viking romance, Jelly is about a group of people trapped just off the coast and their attempts to reach land. It features a giant jellyfish (kraken) as the main villain.
What is your top writing tip for people thinking of entering the competition next year?
Children have really strong opinions about books. They are really good at telling you what they like reading about, and what they will abandon after the first page. It’s probably worth checking with your target audience what they find interesting. If you can face the (often brutal!) truth, then you can get some useful advice.
You can find Clare on Twitter: @ClareRees3