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Lighthouse is glad to support National Encourage a Young Writer on 10 April and where better to do so than by turning to our own Young Writers scheme that encourages creative writers aged 11 to 18 to explore and develop their ideas.

Lighthouse Young Writers attend workshops (in person or online) led by professional writers, see performances (when possible) at Lighthouse for free and have their work published online, in print, and, if possible, performed on a stage in front a live audience.

We asked Helen, one of our Young Writers, to write a short piece about how the scheme has benefitted her writing; while course leader Tabby Hayward has contributed an article about how writers can develop their ideas as they find their voice.

Being a part of Lighthouse Young Writers has been instrumental in the development of my writing skills over the past two years, as well as my confidence in my own writing, even if I don’t share it with others. Through the course, I have been introduced to new styles of writing, such as scriptwriting, flash fiction, pantoums and villanelles, as well as having the opportunity to enter competitions, and I have been encouraged to write more in different genres. I have met lovely people with very similar interests to me, and before the pandemic began last year, we were lucky enough to see quite a few plays and pantomimes in the Lighthouse theatres, and the Zoom calls we have done over lockdowns have been just as engaging as in person sessions, and I have enjoyed having writing to look forward to each week.

Helen, Lighthouse Young Writer

Tabby Hayward

Hi, I’m Tabby and I’m the Lead Facilitator of the Lighthouse Young Writers groups, working with two groups of young writers aged 11-14 and 15-18 on Saturday mornings during term time, to help them develop their writing in a range of forms, including poetry, script writing, and short stories. This is as wonderful as it sounds! As well as (I hope!) proving helpful for the young writers in the groups, it has also taught me a huge amount about ways in which to inspire and encourage new writing.

Writing can often feel like quite an isolated process, and I frequently wish that something similar to these Young Writers groups had been available to me when I was growing up – although to be honest, I may also have been too shy to take advantage of them! I was very much a secret writer for a very long time – I worked on various ‘novels’ and short stories all the way through primary and secondary school, but I never shared them with anyone, except for (sometimes) my parents, and occasionally sending them to competitions. Getting recognition for your writing, seeing it in print, and getting opinions on it from people who are not your parents are all really important ways to help you develop your writing – especially as a young writer, but actually I think these are important steps for a writer at any stage!

This is why I frequently share competitions and writing opportunities with the young writers in the Lighthouse groups, and encourage them to submit their work, as I think this validation is really important. We’ve had some amazing successes in the Young Writers groups, including Foyles Young Poets commendations, an audio commission from the BBC, a winner of the inaugural Louise Rennison Funny Award, and winners and shortlisted poems in the Live Canon Children’s Poetry Competition. Inevitably, there are also competitions that young writers have entered and not won. However, simply submitting the work in the first place is a fantastic achievement – it’s a brave, vulnerable and powerful thing to do – and the best way to respond to a ‘No’ is to get straight back to work, keep writing, and keep submitting!

Hearing other people’s responses to your work and having a chance to hear and respond to their work too, can really help to push and develop your writing. The Lighthouse Young Writers have grown so much in confidence in sharing their work over the course of these groups, and although they all have their own unique styles, I can see how they are inspiring one another, and encouraging one another with their enthusiasm for each other’s characters, stories and styles, which is fantastic. We do some silly and some more serious writing exercises and prompts, and the workshops challenge everyone to try new forms and styles. Encouragement is so important for all writers, and I’ve been really lucky to have been encouraged by some wonderful writers who I admire and look up to hugely, and who have helped me to develop and believe in my work. I hope and believe the Lighthouse Young Writers groups are encouraging a brilliant new generation of writers too!

Published 5 April 2021