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Moving on From War Horse and Discovering Young Writing Talent

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Well, the film of War Horse came and went, much loved by many, less loved by others. I thought it was a wonderful adaptation of the story, as the play is too. The book used to sell only a couple of thousand of copies a year and was translated into four or five languages. Now, after the National Theatre and the Spielberg factor, it has sold well over a million copies and is translated into over 40 copies. I love the thought of people all over the world reading about Joey and Iddesleigh and Albert.

But there is, I am discovering, a life after War Horse and it's time to get my feet back on the ground. I've been writing seven short stories for my biography to be published by 4th Estate at the beginning of June. It's called War Child to War Horse and written by Maggie Fergusson. She wrote it in seven parts, seven ages of my life (I am rapidly approaching 70). So for each chapter I have written a story, a fictional story based on some kind of happening during that decade of my life. Writing these stories has made me think a lot about my life, but also about how we become writers.

I am judging and championing the Wicked Young Writers' Award for a third time this year, and very much looking forward to reading this year's crop of entries. Every year I am struck by the honesty and fresh approach to the writing by young people of all ages. Some of the best stories from last year's award were singled out because of their honesty and the fact that the writer allowed the story to flow, without feelings of inhibition and fear. Far too many people and young people think that writing is for clever folks, but they're wrong. It's as natural to us as swimming. Provided we're not frightened of it. We tell stories every day of our lives. Usually we do it orally, because that's how we communicate. We can deal with words, use them well, let them flow, when we speak them. But then for many of us, when we sit down to write in front of that blank page, that's when the fear can often kick in.

What I've discovered over many years of writing and what I've realised writing the stories for my biography is that writers need to constantly recharge their creative batteries by keeping in close touch with the world about them, by meeting people, going places, by looking, by reading, hearing, feeling, by drinking in the world about them.

It is from that whole well of life experience, of memory and reflection that writers derive their inspiration. Live life this fully and you can conquer the fear, so that the blank page never stays blank for long.

www.wickedyoungwriters.com