Lessons for Spalding High School students from live author

Dreams of writing best-selling novels in a lonely garret may have been crushed for some Spalding High School students.

However, they probably have a much more realistic idea about how to get published after a visit from author Christina James.

Students Holly Heatherington and Eleanor Toal interview author Linda Bennett during her visit to Spalding High School. Photo: SG171114-111TW

Students Holly Heatherington and Eleanor Toal interview author Linda Bennett during her visit to Spalding High School. Photo: SG171114-111TW

Christina – former student at the school Linda Bennett – was there to run crime writing workshops and to offer advice on getting published.

She was also doing book signings of her latest novel, Sausage Hall, ahead of an appearance at Bookmark in Spalding to talk to the reading group that meets there.

Sausage Hall, the name of an old hall in Sutterton, is her third crime novel featuring DI Yates and another of her books set in south Lincolnshire where Linda grew up.

She admits the visit, arranged with head of English Adrian Isted, was an opportunity to return to her old school to see what changes there were, but also useful research material for the book she is currently working on, which is set in a school.

Author Linda Bennett and head of English at Spalding High School Adrian Isted. Photo (TIM WILSON): SG171114-106TW

Author Linda Bennett and head of English at Spalding High School Adrian Isted. Photo (TIM WILSON): SG171114-106TW

She said: “I am interested in encouraging young writers. I wish I’d had more help when I was young and more confidence as well.”

In fact the students’ youth is greatly in their favour, as Linda told a group of 6th formers interested in writing.

She said: “One thing you can capitalise on is being young. Young writers are great. They are not hidebound by convention as other writers might be, though I expect grammar and punctuation to be pretty accurate. You can only break the rules if you understand them.”

One piece of advice she gave the budding authors was to enter competitions and then went on to offer the students the opportunity to take part in a short story writing competition.

Christina will select between ten and 15 of the stories submitted to be put in a book, and Print on Demand will give the winners a copy and put the rest on sale on its online bookshop, The Great British Book Shop.

Adrian, himself a former student at the school, said the chance to enter the competition and potentially get a short story published was a good opportunity for the students.

He said: “I know from previous experience that having authors in to speak to the students is invaluable. Although we try to make creative writing interesting there is no substitute for a live author coming in.

“There are some very keen writers (among the students) in their own time and I think it’s incredibly important that you broaden their horizons. You can get so bogged down with grades and exams, but any opportunity to broaden their horizons cannot be missed.”

• Sausage Hall is available from Bookmark in Spalding and retails for £8.99.