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16 May 2020

Posted by Charlotte Waugh

Message in a bottle

Group one-26 in attendance

Inspired by the amazing story of Jasmine Hudson who’s bottle travelled over 6,000km of ocean to reach Southern Australia,  this weeks session was themed around “message in a bottle”, encouraging the Young Writers to focus on letter writing and imaginative fiction. 

To start, we watched the trailer for The Life of Pi, a film about a boy that becomes shipwrecked with some unlikely friends. The group considered the mood, visuals and sounds presented in the trailer, alongside a consideration of the likely emotions that would be felt in that situation. 

The Young Writers were then given the following questions to inspire the construction of their very own, original protagonist. The prompts were answered in first person so the thoughts and feelings of the character could be internalised, offering a lot of opportunity for character development and the creation of a new gripping storyline.

You can have a go at this activity at home by thinking about the following questions, be imaginative with your responses!

Who are you? 

Where are you from?

Where were you headed when you became stranded?

What is the island like?

What is the weather like?

What plants and animals have you seen?

What do you eat?

Do you live in a shelter?

How are you rescued and after how many days? 

From this, the Young Writers were asked to write a letter, addressed to someone/no one in particular that they will metaphorically (or in real life!) place in a bottle and send across the ocean. With the help of the answers from the previous activity the messages would encapsulate the surroundings of the character and detail how they are surviving, what they enjoy and what they dislike. 

Whereas the previous letter’s recipient was unknown, the Young Writers were next given the challenge of addressing a letter to themselves... with a slight twist. The idea was that the letter could travel through time and so would be able to reach their future or past selves with a very important message. For example if the writers were to address the letter to their past selves they may warn them of the things they currently take for granted and perhaps give tips on how to survive lockdown. 

Group two-22 in attendance 

At a time where we are stuck in our houses, we can only think about the times we have had the luxury of travelling, and so the second group took a focus on non-fiction travel writing to remember and cherish those fond memories we have around the world.

The group were given the example of the cereal traveller who has challenged himself to eat cornflakes in every country of the world and document his experiences through his articles. This showed the many peculiar, yet original forms that travel writing can take

As a warm up, the Young Writers began with some free writing as an audio piece was played and they free wrote for 10 minutes. The aim was to be as descriptive as possible, understanding what the sounds evoked and meant to them and how they can utilise all of the senses when describing the location and setting the scene.

From this, the Young Writers were asked to plan their travel pieces, thinking about only one place and experience they would love to expand on in more detail. 

Below are the tips and inspiration we showed our Young Writers before they began their pieces, if you wanted to try this out at home. Our amazing host Susmita even told of her travel adventures and shared some personal anecdotes to inspire us all which are also attached. 

Examples of travel pieces for inspiration-

´ https://www.teenink.com/nonfiction/travel_culture/article/1010984/The-Travelers

´ https://www.teenink.com/nonfiction/travel_culture/article/48614/Over-The-Hills-And-Far-Away

´ https://www.teenink.com/nonfiction/travel_culture/article/52314/Desp-Air-Travel


´ https://www.rediff.com/news/2001/jun/01diary.htm Susmita’s Diary

´ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTmxYN4rZo0 Tips from editors

´ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0I0OGYh1Bc Tips from Pico Iyer

Hannah shared a beautiful travel piece that she wrote during the session.

South Of France

There’s a day I can recall when I remember togetherness,

A day with twisty lemon trees on the patio,

40 degree sun warming the back garden pool.

It was a week in fact of new beginnings as a child, a time I learnt what love really looked like, what it actually felt like, and the importance of family that was lost when I had to grow up.

When I think of this place, house, back garden, I think of how lucky I was, and what being a child felt like in the South of France.

What was it about that one tub of pistachio ice cream on the oak table in the kitchen that gathered everyone I loved around me.

Maybe it was the adventurous culture of each colourful painted shop, the cooked chocolate smell that seeped into those who walked by.

The feeling of the straw hat on my scalp as I skipped down the stacked alleys of the street market.

And the stickiness of my swimming costume as I dived into that pool with the alarm that would often sound if you forgot to turn it off.

Perhaps it’s the monopoly game on the balcony, with the lizard that joined in, or the safety of the button patterened sheets as I lay in the bunk bed each night.

How I wish for another bite of that hot filled pastry, to sit amongst the rocks by the water fountain.

So will it be the beauty of the south of France to remind me what togetherness feels like again?


Hannah Dickinson

We would love to read the pieces you have created, inspired by these activities, you can email them to youngwriters@artfulscribe.co.uk, they may even feature in next weeks blog post! 

Until then, stay safe and keep writing...


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