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«and LSE Creative Writing Competition 2013–2014 An Anthology Edited and Introduced by Kate Kingsley The 2013–14 Creative Writing Competition is ...»

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Reflections

By the Winners of the

First Story and LSE

Creative Writing

Competition 2013–2014

An

Anthology

Edited and Introduced by

Kate Kingsley

The 2013–14 Creative Writing Competition is the result of a

collaboration between First Story and the London School of

Economics. It is celebrated in conjunction with the London

School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) Space for

Thought Literary Festival, which is now in its sixth year. The

competition is open to students in state secondary schools in Bradford, the East Midlands, London and Oxford, and is promoted through the First Story, London School of Economics and Teach First networks. We are delighted to have this opportunity to involve students in a project that sources and showcases their extraordinary talent, and that invests in their futures as success stories of tomorrow.

Reflections Published by First Story www.firststory.org.uk Sixth Floor 2 Seething Lane London EC3N 4AT Copyright © First Story 2014 Typesetter: Avon DataSet Ltd Cover designer: Ben Lee Printed in the UK by Intype Libra Ltd First Story is a registered charity number 1122939 and a private company limited by guarantee incorporated in England with number 06487410. First Story is a business name of First Story Limited.

Reflections An Anthology

BY THE WINNERS OF THE FIRST STORY AND

LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS

CREATIVE WRITING COMPETITION 2013–14 KATE KINGSLEY | 2014

EDITED AND INTRODUCED BY

JUDGED BY JAMES DAWSON, KATE KINGSLEY, GERALDINE

MCCAUGHREAN, AND JON ROBINSON

Contents INTRODUCTION Kate Kingsley 9 Overall Winner and Winner of the Key Stage 5 Competition Nashrath Yasmin 11 Reflection of a Friend Overall Runner-Up Sharmin Akthar 13 Ignorance Is Bliss Runner-Up of the Key Stage 5 Competition Sania Riaz 14 Untitled Winner of the Key Stage 4 Competition Jamike Dike 16 Reflections Runners-Up of the Key Stage 4 Competition Farzana Akter 18 Think Before You Speak!

Anisha Faruk 20 A Vengeful Mind Khaya Job 21 Double Meanings Winner of the Key Stage 3 Competition Harriet Sutton 22 Untitled Runners-Up of the Key Stage 3 Competition Kenia Fenton 23

–  –  –

Geraldine McCaughrean, James Dawson and Jon Robinson for serving as judges.

Melanie Curtis at Avon DataSet for her overwhelming support for First Story and for giving her time in typesetting this anthology.

Ben Lee for designing the cover of this anthology.

Intype Libra for printing this anthology at a discounted rate and Tony Chapman and Moya Birchall at Intype for their advice.

Introduction Kate Kingsley Dear Reader, I’m thrilled to introduce the array of bright and brave young voices in this anthology. This is my second year as a judge in the First Story and LSE Creative Writing Competition, and once again I’ve been inspired not only by the quality, but also by the ambition of the pieces I’ve read.

‘Reflections’ is a broad theme. After all, you could call most writing a reflection in some way. So when I heard it was this year’s topic I wondered how the students would respond. The answer is: brilliantly. They rose to the challenge. In fact, they rose beyond the challenge. The winners and runners-up that we’ve selected come from different backgrounds and different cities.

But they all have one thing in common: they’ve defined the idea of ‘Reflections’ in clever and insightful ways, exploring subjects that range from the fictional to the observational to the autobiographical, and from the playful to the lyrical to the shocking.

They not only wrote about reflections but they reflected, reaching into themselves, taking risks with subject matter, and coming up with original, beautiful work.

I found some of the pieces to be witty and touching.

In ‘Reflection of a Friend’ for instance, the writer celebrates a friendship and illustrates in the meantime how our friends reflect aspects of ourselves. Other pieces take on dark and

REFLECTIONS

weighty subjects. ‘Double Meanings’, for example, describes a disturbing sexual encounter with grace and courage. Elsewhere, we have moving portraits of grandparents dead and alive. We have depictions of troubled souls, meditations on what lurks beneath the skin, and dispatches from the battlefields of the First World War.

While I was reading, a whole host of the writers’ vivid, unique images stuck in my head. Below is a cross-section of my favourites.

As I’m certain you’ll see from them (and from the rest of the book), ‘Reflections’ has truly inspired these teenagers to look into themselves and to come up with serious stuff. It’s wonderful to see the talent and creativity at work in this new generation of voices.

We breathe in unison while the landscape hangs behind us.

Friends peeling away from me like wallpaper.

He steals the silence and replaces it with his thumping pulse.

She’s the girl in front of the mirror pulling her hairband off again and again.

The silk cloths that dangled, danced and pirouetted around the church.

The sourness of a blooming self-hatred.





A flock of bullets fly overhead.

A rag from his jacket, cut crudely with a bayonet.

One word transforms him from a laid-back dad to a frightening lion.

Shattered glass slicing their bare backs.

The cracks are hidden inside of me.

They both stand proudly in the name of their past and future, but on different platforms.

Thank you and happy reading.

OVERALL WINNER AND WINNER OF

THE KEY STAGE 5 COMPETITION

Reflection of a Friend Nashrath Yasmin FROM KEY STAGE 5, AGED 16–18

LOXFORD SCHOOL OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

–  –  –

She’s comforting and caring. She’s the possible relative according to the possible-mutual-uncle-slash-dad’s-friend.

She’s gorgeous despite her disagreements.

She’s so different to what you’d expect her to be.

She’s a bunch of random and a handful of personalities.

She’s my friend and I hate to sound lame, but I’m lucky to have her.

OVERALL RUNNER-UP

Ignorance Is Bliss Sharmin Akthar FROM KEY STAGE 4, AGED 14–16

OAKLANDS SCHOOL

It was summer. The air sticky with love, laughter and an eternity of possibilities. But no one had noticed the girl in the thick woollen jumper, her steps whispering their secrets to the world.

No one questioned why someone would be crazy enough to wear a sweater under the sun’s fury. No one had noticed the falter in her stride nor the splash of blue and purple splotches painting her neck the size of hands. No one saw the fire in her eyes flicker to a meagre flame. If they had taken a second to look instead of just seeing, maybe they would have heard her soul screaming for salvation. Tasted the sourness of a blooming self-hatred. Smelt the everlasting scent of pure terror. Felt the jagged, artificial lines branding her from wrist to elbow. Maybe… But the world sees what it wants to see, hears what it wants to hear, feels what it wants to feel. And when the fate of the girl with the thick woollen jumper slithers from ear to ear, the sympathy will pour, compliments will shower over her passing, and the tale of a beautiful soul lost will haunt the world. But the world was too late to open its eyes.

REFLECTIONS

RUNNER-UP OF THE KEY STAGE 5

COMPETITION

Untitled Sania Riaz

LOXFORD SCHOOL OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Looking in the mirror at the reflection no one sees, The one beneath my skin, My soul, The real me.

All the times I wished for change,

And the times I wished for hope:

The cracks are hidden inside of me, That’s just how I cope.

Reflecting on the outside, As I am within, The people with their laughs and jeers, Causing me to hate my own skin;

All the times I’ve sat alone, Praying for a different life, Slowly breaking my soul, Cutting it with a knife.

–  –  –

Looking at my reflection, I see insecurity, a facade, and pain.

But how is it that I see a girl, With so much yet to gain?

Looking at my reflection, I see a light, I see some hope.

I see a girl, breaking her boundaries, Learning how to cope.

I see a soul with amazing friends Helping her along the way, I see a special person Creating the smile she has day to day.

Looking at my reflection, I begin to question life,

The answer:

Unattainable, But that’s what makes it right.

REFLECTIONS

WINNER OF THE KEY STAGE 4

COMPETITION (AGED 14–16) Reflections Jamike Dike

SKINNERS’ ACADEMY

I had my rifle poised, determined to clear as much of the path as possible before it was time to move. Adrenaline pushed us over the trench and we charged with a little bit too much gusto into the open plain. Parallel explosions shook the ground as we hastily made the journey from one side to the other, trudging over earth worked by nameless pairs of boots. Soldiers were struck down as bullets collided with fleshy torsos and skinny legs. I gingerly trod over barbed wire caked in black. By now it was down to thirty of us.

I heard distant cries of unlucky soldiers left to an undocumented end. I was getting close now, ducking my head low and aiming at peeping heads. Sometimes I grinned when I hit a soldier who had just killed one of ours; it gave me a sense of fulfilment. War is a competition, is what I always told myself. All I wanted to do was win.

I sprinted the last ten metres to the mouth of the trench, beckoning to the closest two soldiers as I threw a grenade into the dark, satisfied by the splatter of bodies as we stormed into the enemy’s lines.

As the smoke cleared, the face of a soldier my age, slumped

REFLECTIONS

on the far side of the clotted mud walls, became a beacon for my attention. The face was hysterical, frozen in stark horror as the ragged body bled out.

It was horrifying. I had killed someone. This was the body of the person I had just murdered. Murder. This was the first body I’d seen up close. It had always felt so far away. It had always felt foreign.

We carried on through the enemy trenches. Their smell mirrored that of ours. And in a way, they were like ours: the same pits, store rooms, makeshift quarters. I found it ironic, how the occupants of this trench were made out to be almost alien. Like they weren’t even human. Like they weren’t men with wives or children. Like they didn’t even have faces.

We soon saw a group like us, enemies picking off our advancing soldiers. But they were different. Weren’t they?

No, they were men like us. Just doing what they were told.

We were all part of the same crappy bunch, just on different sides of a not-so-wide ocean.

So I did not shoot those men. I dropped my gun and walked back to the place where we had entered. I looked at the body of the soldier my age. It was too beaten to hold. So I searched for a piece of his life, something sentimental. I had to make do with a rag from his jacket, cut crudely with a bayonet. Then I took the body of one of his less beaten comrades. I walked back across the field made hard by nameless pairs of boots, with the body slung over my shoulder and the rag in hand.

Distant explosions, cries of men, bullets colliding with skinny legs. All was hushed. So I took the German body to the dead pit.

I dumped him there and let the rag cover his face. I said a prayer.

Saluted. He played a good game.

REFLECTIONS

RUNNERS-UP OF THE KEY STAGE 4

COMPETITION

Think Before You Speak!

Farzana Akter

OAKLANDS SCHOOL

‘Khom khoto khor, khaz beshi khow.’ These are the words that sprout out of my dad’s mouth when my sister and I are having pointless fights.

‘I’m going first in the shower!’ my sister yells, her voice filled with hatred.



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