A leading author from the Isle of Man is encouraging new writing talent in schools.
Chris Ewan is mid-way through a six-month stint as Writer in Residence at 15 primary schools.
He said: ‘There’s been a real enthusiasm among the pupils I’ve been working with to talk about writing and reading and it’s astonishing to see how talented many of the children are.’
The initiative for Year 5 and 6 pupils (aged nine to 11) is funded by the Isle of Man Arts Council as part of its youth engagement programme for Island of Culture 2014, which is formally launched today (Monday).
Chris’s Good Thief’s Guide series, which is being developed for television in America by 20th Century Fox Television and the ABC Television network, and his more recent hard-hitting thrillers, published by Faber & Faber, are making him a well-known name in the book world.
In summer 2013 Chris’s thriller Safe House, which has sold more than half a million copies, saw him short-listed alongside household name authors for the coveted Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year.
Chris is delivering two, 90-minute, workshops in schools on the theme of ‘the coast’, a setting that features heavily in his next novel, which is due out in October 2014. He has already visited six primaries and will go to nine more before the end of March.
He said: ‘At every school I’ve visited, I’ve heard new ideas for the stories the pupils are going to write, set in and around the Manx coastline, and I’m conscious that I’m going to have to up my game when I come to write my own short story on the same theme as part of my commitment to this Island of Culture 2014 initiative.’
Chris’s own career as an author was encouraged when, as a teenager, he participated in a residential course for young writers and he said: ‘Perhaps the most heartening thing about this project has been hearing so many pupils talk about their dreams of becoming published writers and it’s fantastic that so many children are spending their spare time writing short stories and illustrating their own work, much as I used to when I was their age.
‘I’m grateful to all the schools, teachers and pupils who have participated in the scheme so far, and can’t wait to visit many more schools in 2014 to talk about Manx pirates, zombie crabs and hidden treasure.’
At 187-pupil St John’s Primary School, pupils are finishing off their stories after working out ideas and plotlines with Chris.
Pupil Samuel Perriam said: ‘It is inspiring to write our own stories with a famous author. Chris has experienced first-hand what it is like writing and selling books, which is important to me as I would like to publish my own writing one day.’
Reuben Allan said: ‘The way Chris starts out with his work is really interesting because of the amount of time he takes to plan his ideas before ever starting to write.’
Mirril Curtis added: ‘It was really interesting to find out how he starts off stories, which he spends months researching. He showed us his notes and how he divides up different parts of the story. His most recent books are very detailed in the plans and these are his most successful ones to date. We can learn from that.’
Breeshey Stringer said: ‘He inspires everyone to write, even people who don’t usually enjoy it.’