Brooke Weston Academy’s English teacher and author, Victoria Stevens, spoke to Year 7 and 8 students about her books and inspired them to create pieces of flash fiction during creative writing workshops.
‘Don't Forget Me,’ a book Victoria started writing when she was sixteen, is her first novel. She said, ‘I’ve written four books that I would consider ‘finished’, although I’ve written bits and pieces of many others over the years! My second published book is called ‘Tell it to the Stars,’ and it’s a coming-of-age story about a young girl called Jenna whose perfectly put together life starts to unravel at the seams when, amongst other things, her best friend Eddie becomes dangerously obsessed with the idea of being able to tell the future from the stars. It’s a little dark but a lot hopeful!’
Victoria studied Creative Writing at the University of Roehampton in London, where she earned her Master's degree. She has been teaching at Brooke Weston for just over two years, and said, ‘It’s definitely harder to balance writing with a job as full time and important as teaching! I definitely treat it as a hobby, finding time in evenings and weekends and during the holidays to grab an hour or two of writing time. I always find the writing itself takes much less time than the rest of the writing process! ‘Don’t Forget Me’ was written over about six months but took eleven years to get published. ‘Tell it to the Stars’ took around three months to write and was the easiest story yet to get down on paper. I can write anywhere - train, car, cafe, at my desk, on holiday - as long as I have music to write to and something to write on. I’ve still got napkins with plot revelations scribbled on the back! I do try and write at my desk when I’m at home, though, as I know I can stay focussed there.’
Speaking about her own reading habits, Victoria said, ‘I adored reading as a child! I remember reading the first Harry Potter book when I was six years old - my Nana had been recommended it as an up-and-coming book by someone in a bookshop! I used to read a lot of Sarah Dessen when I was younger; for me, she’s the queen of relatable, contemporary coming-of-age stories! I started writing because I had ideas for books that I would’ve liked to read when I was at school…so I wrote them!’
During the creative writing workshops, students were encouraged to engage with the idea of being able to read their futures in the stars and were then tasked with creating a piece of flash fiction that contained no more than 100 words. Victoria said, ‘The story had to start with the line “I saw it in your stars…”, and the results were fantastic! We’re in the process of identifying our favourites and awarding book prizes.’
Victoria’s top three pieces of advice to students with aspirations of becoming an author are, ‘Keep going; don’t give up when you lose your spark - writing a novel is a gruelling, challenging marathon, not a sprint. Writing is rewriting; nothing you write is ever done just because you've written the last word. Write what you know or be prepared to do the research to make it as authentic as possible.’
Lauren Fitzjohn, Literacy coordinator at Brooke Weston, who organised the event said, ‘We are extremely lucky to have such an asset to our teaching staff in the form of Miss Stevens; her knowledge and experience as an established writer is both inspirational and insightful. She acts as a wonderful role model to our students, demonstrating to them that they too can fulfil their aspirations and dreams. Who knows we may even have a future author here in our school just waiting to be inspired!’