Budding young creatives will have the chance to let their imaginations run wild in creative writing challenges set by well-known authors in University of East Anglia’s (UEA) online version of the Festival of Literature for Young People (FLY) launching on Monday (6 April).
The annual celebration of young people’s literature would normally take place in June, however amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of events across the country, UEA’s Outreach team and Creative Writing School have decided to hold a re-imagined digital version of the event.
Launching as FLY: The Lockdown Diaries, the eight-week online challenge is comprised of a series of weekly creative tasks (50 words or less) which will invite children to reflect upon their experiences of the nationwide lockdown and share their highlights, insights and struggles. This challenge forms just one part of this year’s FLY festival, with more activities, workshops and digital content launching later this year.
During the challenges children from across East Anglia aged 11-16 years old will be asked to write in unique formats, including condensing a novel in a tweet, a three-word poem, or a cliff-hanger sentence, and submit their work to the FLY website.
The challenges have been set by UEA students, staff, alumni and award-winning authors. The festival will kick off with a challenge to write an acrostic poem to spell ‘Lockdown’ set by children’s fiction writer and FLY patron, Alexander Gordon Smith.
He said: “These are strange and scary times for us all, but in strange and scary times we tend to turn to stories. I’m taking this time to write some stories of my own, because I know that these stories will teach me that we have what it takes to get through this.
“The lockdown challenges will extend that opportunity for young people to get involved. Writing can be a solitary job, but stories are what bring us together, and I am enjoying finding new ways to share stories with people during lockdown.
“We need stories more than ever, so no matter what stage you’re at in your writing journey, keep writing, and keep sharing!"
At the end of the virtual festival, a selection of stand-out pieces will be published in a regionally distributed anthology. Young people will also have the chance to win several book tokens, a feature on FLY’s website and interact with some big names in the world of children’s literature.
Dr Sophie Scott-Brown, FLY’s Academic Director and UEA Philosophy lecturer, said: “FLY has always been a celebration of creativity for and by young people. Whilst we are very sad not to be host our regular festival event, we want to keep its spirit alive. Never have active imaginations been more important!
“We hope that FLY: The Lockdown Diaries, and all the other FLY projects to come later in the year, will not only inspire young people to enjoy writing for themselves, but also connect them, and their families, with our wonderful community of writers here at UEA.”