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Sunday, 23 November 2014

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THE WRITE APPROACH

FOR as long as she can remember, writing has always been a passion for 17-year-old sixth form student Gemma Tunstall. It is a talent, she said, that has always come easily to her.

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YOUNG WRITER: Gemma Tunstall, 17, made it onto the shortlist of the Anne Pierson Cumbria Young Writers Award

In her spare time she will often pen short stories or even poetry. And last month her skill was recognised as part of a county-wide competition that highlighted the flair and abilities of young writers.

Gemma, of Salterbeck, Workington, made it to a shortlist of the top writers in the Anne Pierson Cumbria Young Writers Award 2012. She fought off competition from more than 600 other entries and became the only West Cumbrian entry in the running.

The awards, in their ninth year and held at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal on April 25, were set up by the trustees of the centre in recognition of Anne’s work – she was director there for over 25 years. She saw young people in all her work as being key to the future of arts.

Entrants were aged between 15 and 19, and the 14 who were short-listed were invited to the event to celebrate in their success.

As part of their entry they were asked to submit either a short story, monologue or poem – this year, ambition was the theme put forward to the young writers.

The entries were judged by Kevin Dyer, Zoe Sharp and Andrew Foster.

Gemma, who is studying at Workington Sixth Form Centre, said: “I decided to go for the short story which, surprisingly, didn’t take me too long. I had Raw, Beastly Ambition written and submitted by the end of last year in time for the deadline.

“The first draft took one day and the whole thing was finalised in a couple of days. It was a piece I didn’t think too much about or plan, I just sat down and began writing. The theme of ambition was a good topic, it gave me something to get my teeth into.

“I wrote a short piece, of about 1,500 words, on a moose being chased by a pack of wolves. I used the theme to switch perspectives from the moose to the wolves and then incorporate a human aspect as well.

“The story line just flowed really, I didn’t have to put too much thought into it. I am influenced by Maggie Stiefvater books so, if anything, that’s where I got my inspiration from for the short story.

“Once I got started with it, it was difficult to keep to a 1,500-word limit which was probably the most difficult thing about the whole process.”

Louise Saunders, Gemma’s English teacher at sixth form, and when she was a student of Southfield Technology College, said: “Gemma has always been a fantastic writer. She uses and switches perspectives and narrators through her work which gives it a very unique edge.

“This is obviously what stood out to the judges in the competition. It is a great skill to have and she uses it to her very best – she has always been really descriptive.

“It is very easy to teach someone like Gemma – I always look forward to reading her work. I was thrilled when Gemma told me she had made it onto the shortlist but not in the least bit surprised. She has always been one of these naturally gifted creative writers.

“Rather than describing a scene she will concentrate on one attribute such as a pair of eyes and that style will flow right through the piece. Any writing or English competition she entered in school she would be short-listed or win.”

“I really couldn’t believe it when I was told I’d been shortlisted,” Gemma added.

“I had applied the year before but didn’t make it through so the competition organisers invited me to enter again this year – I’m really pleased I did.

“It’s all been a great experience and going to the awards was fantastic. I got to meet and speak to the judges which was an experience in itself as they’re all professional authors and poets. They all gave me good feedback on my story.”

The finalists’ work was read out during the ceremony so they could hear their work in a professional setting. Their pieces have also been published in an anthology on sale at the centre.

Gemma added: “The competition was good practice for me as I’m currently writing my own book. I’m only up to the fifth chapter so far but it’s something I’m really enjoying doing in my spare time.

“I would love to use my writing skills in a future career in journalism as I’m naturally quite opinionated as well. So I’ll be looking to apply to universities next year.”

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