Five weeks until the events at Sutton Library because of World Book Night! Every week we will have a special event hosted online. This week, because there will be a book hunt competition on the day, there will be a book review competition. We will post a few example entries below. You can write about any book and post it as a comment below. The best few entries will be featured next week when we will have a story writing competition.
As a species, we haven’t survived this long on the planet by being good at Maths or Verbal Reasoning alone. Thinking rationally or logically is not the only thing that makes us human.
We’ve lasted this long by being perceptive, reactionary, opportunistic, cautious, inventive, imaginative, empathetic and above all… using our senses. And the more I think about it, the more I realise we have hundreds of those.
Think about it. You get a sense there’s been an argument in the room just before you entered it; you can almost touch the atmosphere. Or that sense of foreboding when you know something is about happen; you can feel it. Or when you know your best friend is troubled, even though they haven’t said anything to you. Or when you pick up the phone to call your mother and this voice says, ‘But I’ve just called you.’ Or your sense of spatial awareness, or fear, or excitement, or intrigue, or nosiness, or greed, or jealousy, or dread…
And then there’s what we sometimes call our ESP (extra sensory perception). Usually this just means ‘all the other senses we can’t explain’ but in the case of the ghost hunters in my CRYPT books, this means their ability to communicate at a paranormal level. CRYPT agents often ‘hypersense’ which means connecting with a ghost so closely that it seems the agent is there, in the past, in the place and time when the ghost really lived. It’s a weird experience.
You’ll have heard the phrase ‘appealing to your readers’ senses’. Well that doesn’t just mean telling them what someone or somewhere looks like. It means describing the atmosphere - how does it feel to be there? How do your characters feel? How does the reader feel when they’re reading it?
A lot of people ask me how I manage to make my stories gripping. It’s because I think - all the time - about those other senses we have. So I write to scare, excite, baffle and intrigue. I don’t just say what a ghost looks or sounds like. A scary place can assault your senses in so many more ways than that.
So here’s a tip: when you write, consider for a moment how your characters are connecting with their surroundings. How is the atmosphere seeping into them. Is it in their head? Or their belly or their heart or their chest? Or is it felt through a sweatiness in their palms? Or does it make them glance over their shoulder because they’re sure someone - or something - is looking at them? Or do they get a sense that something awful is just about to happen?
Mind reading, fortune telling, hypersensing, ESP, call it what you will but I just call it being human. And that’s good news for writers like us. It opens up so many more possibilities for the way we describe things. And with so many senses at our disposable, you’ll never get writer’s block: if you’re in an English exam and you have to write a story and you can’t think of anything, and your mind goes blank and says ‘game over’, how does that make you feel? Scared? Nervous? Terrified? Well, write about that then.
Appealing to your readers’ senses is great fun, but it can be tiring too. At least I find it tiring. Every time a character in my story feels something, I feel it too. Every time they get scared or angry or confused or excited, I feel it too - and then I write about it.
It’s a wonder I manage to write at all with all these feelings floating around.
But it all kind of makes sense. Don’t you think?
As I walked through the doors, I prepared myself for the worst. It’s that age-old fear of walking into a room to searching glances, the feeling you don’t belong. As I ascended the stairs, I became acutely aware of my informal attire. Was this a formal meeting? Awash with panic, I emulate breathing techniques worthy of One Born Every Minute, as I walk through the door.
Let me reassure you, I don’t have a phobia of doors, or stairs for that case. These are the thoughts of an irrational teenager, embarking on a new experience. As you’ve probably guessed, the other side of the door was not a cause for concern.
It was the first MyVoice meeting for Gateshead Central Library.
Inevitably, I was mistaken. Susan Kershaw, the Volunteer Co-ordinator, welcomed me with open arms. Well, not literally, we’d only just met. Regardless of this, as the room began to fill with teenagers, we all began to discuss matters. The polite (which schools we all roamed the halls of), the inane (‘this Pakistani man stole basmati rice in the riots and posted a picture of it on Facebook, I felt ashamed for Asians everywhere’) and the general banter that made me glad I came. Meetings became gradually more informal, until we reached the stage of sharing popcorn alongside incredulity at absurd television programmes. I can’t put it into words how much I’ve benefitted from this group, which may render this article useless, but it’s true. In a nutshell, if the prospect of spending other people’s money and receiving a free invite to numerous events isn’t up your street, there are other perks.
Meeting on a weekly basis for a couple of hours is a small commitment, with huge benefits. At school, we’re all given a ‘label’. The smart one. The pretty one. The arty one. It’s just a fact of life, it’s easier for people to put you in a box, and I’ll admit it myself, the box is pretty cosy. But until you’ve pushed the boundaries and volunteered with MyVoice, where you may find yourself in a room making decorations one day and on a stage in front of dozens of people the next, you haven’t realised your potential. For a couple of hours every week, be whoever you want to be – let your voice be heard.
Review by James, Digital Champion, MyVoice Kent
‘A Monster Calls’ is a book by Patrick Ness; however, the idea for the book was by Siobhan Dowd before she sadly passed way from Breast Cancer in 2007.She also managed to come up with the characters and the beginning before her death. The story was then completed by award-winning author: Patrick Ness.
The book itself is an original and unique take on a boy coming to terms with a great loss. The main character, Conor, is a quiet 13 year-old boy, who is witnessing his terminally ill mother slowly slip away from his grasp. Conor is terrified by a monster that haunts his every sleeping moment, however when it does finally appear in real life, it is very different to the one he expects. This monster tells him three important stories, each significantly corresponding to the situation Conor is in. It appears every night at midnight, and Conor begins to find comfort in it. It is left up to the reader to decide whether or not the monster is real.
As his mother’s condition starts to deteriorate, Conor has to stay with his Nan, of whom he doesn’t get on well with; however, they soon find a common interest. ‘A Monster Calls’ is utterly compelling and an instant classic for young readers. It kept the right balance between being unrealistically happy, whilst not being too depressing. The book kept me reading for hours on end and after finishing the book, I genuinely felt empathetic for Conor. This book is an all-time favourite of mine, however, I would not recommend it for anybody under 13, as there are very upsetting parts. A moving and gripping book, with a realistic plot and characters, ‘A Monster Calls’ is a book that I will not forget for a long time.
I volunteered for the MyVoice organisation as their advertisement caught my eye as it was offering worthwhile work experience in thinking, organising and promoting events to encourage young people to visit Gateshead’s brand new library. I saw this as an ideal opportunity to get some work experience that I can write on my CV and shows I have valuable skills to offer.
I was very nervous and apprehensive about joining the MyVoice group as I am not the best public speaker, however since joining I have grown in confidence as the group enabled me to feel self-assured enough to put my views and ideas across. Now I do not shy away and I will speak my mind and feel confident in front of crowds. The skill I gained from joining the MyVoice organisation is that I have found a flare for marketing as I promoted our events using the summer 2011 riots. This ignited a passion inside me and since my article was published I have used these new talents to write promotional material for my school.
The MyVoice group also introduced me to a fantastic group of people my age who are bright, welcoming and easy to talk to. They make our weekly meetings fun and the time simply flies by. Being a part of the MyVoice group gives you a sense of belonging and achievement, as the events you organise help benefit your local library and enables its amazing resources to be promoted. Going to Gateshead library needs to be seen as a place for young people which is why the MyVoice organisation is so valuable. Our work encourages people to come down to the library, so hopefully they will become regular visitors and use the resources on their doorstep.
Also do not assume you have to be a book worm, I most certainly am not but this did not put me at a disadvantage. Being a part of the MyVoice group does not mean reading a pile of books every week, all you need are ideas.
I would 100% recommend joining the MyVoice group as it gives you hands on work experience, it allows your voice to be heard and you can make a positive impact to your local library and community.
Join MyVoice today, where the future generation are given a voice that is heard.