I once wrote a novel. It wasn't a long one. It wasn't a good one. But considering I was about 13 years old, it was an impressive achievement. My Dad bound it in a posh way (well, posh for 1994) and I showed it to all members of my immediate family. I don't remember much about the synopsis but I do remember it being very close to Joanna Trollope's The Rector's Wife. In fact, I may have called it The Vicar's Wife. It was all very exciting. There was even a sex scene - well, an implied one anyway, but controversial enough to raise the eyebrows of my Mum and my Nanna. All in all, a great first attempt at being a novelist. Okay, so probably not that great, given I stole my whole idea. But, I was 13 and I will forgive myself.
I wrote more after that. Sometimes happy, upbeat and romantic stories. Other times they were sad and tragic stories. I think my longest ever story got to 16,000 words. I wrote it on a typewriter and I was incredibly proud. I no longer have copies of the stories from my childhood. I think I destroyed them in my teens when I was experiencing a period of angst and felt some embarrassment at having a hobby that wasn't as cool as, say, playing the electric guitar. Those early writing experiences were incredibly important for me though and they were the start of a life-long love of writing.
I don't recall much support in school to nurture my creative writing. If you had a teacher who was passionate about writing, you were lucky, but in the schools I went to the emphasis seemed to be more on sports, science or drama. Writing was an also-ran. It seems much different now. Writing as an art form generally appears to be much more valued and accessible. And where once published writing was the preserve of those with traditional book deals, there are now so many ways to publish your words and the opportunities are endless.
For children and young people, the opportunities are there too to nurture their creative writing foundations. My daughter's school, as an example, encourages all of the children to write creatively and they promote Star Writers all of the time. This is a familiar approach at other schools too and I know of lots of wonderful organisations working to support young writing, such as Young Writers and The Book Trust .
I would love to see creative writing given as much importance as reading for our young people. For me, the two go hand in hand and I think in fact that they help each other. What a skill to have, to be able to put into words your thoughts and feelings, and to be able to create make-believe straight from your mind onto paper. I hope that the support for young writers only grows and that we see writing becoming much more widespread for children and young people. I know I certainly am looking forward to reading the great writing of the next generation in the future.