‘I Officially Published My Own Book’- Louie Judd, Y12

 

I officially published my first book: ‘Happy Collisions’, on Amazon the other week and the experience of doing this was utterly terrifying but at the same time, exhilarating.

When I was learning how to publish the book, I learnt a lot about the world and how much stupidity (or bravery – the words are interchangeable) a creator has to have to put them-self out there, ready for the world to judge. The experience has been invaluable, and I have learnt so much from the past couple of months.

My experience started during my GCSEs last year, as I was very stressed and needed a creative release.

I had written a couple short stories and posted them on an online website for free and they were slowly gaining attention from a wide audience. By looking at the statistics I could see that I had readers from Scotland to Bangladesh and all the way to Australia. It was completely overwhelming, and I was getting around 500 reads on each chapter as I posted them. My audience slowly started asking for an actual story, with a plot and character development.

So I came up with the idea and plot for Happy Collisions, for the duration of my GCSEs I worked on the story and eventually finished it; by the end of the experience it had received a lot of love from around the world and had racked up a total of 5 thousand reads for the whole book (in the span of 2 months).

Now, my 22 short stories book has gathered over 130,000 reads in total from around the globe (from over 100 countries) and the rest of my books have, on average, 10K reads. The extent to how far the internet reaches shocks me every day.

The response to Happy Collisions was incredible, and many readers began asking for a sequel. During the summer holiday of 2018 I finished ‘The Collisions Series’ (a trilogy) and eventually my book-writing journey was complete. I left it on the free website until the Easter holiday of this year, when I decided to publish it ‘properly’. I had found a publishing company that my mum had found earlier in the year and I was fully intending on publishing with them until half-way through the process when I realized I wasn’t totally comfortable with working with them. Instead of giving up or just signing with the contracts that I wasn’t sure with, I found an alternative direct publisher and chose to work with them instead, this was Kindle Direct Publishing; they enabled me to publish my ebook and paperback separately (which the previous company didn’t do) for free (also something the previous company didn’t do).  

My only criteria for the new publishing house was that they had a ‘print-on demand’ service. This means that when a buyer clicks the ‘buy’ button they get it from a ‘local’ print-house rather than one where the author is, (or in some cases, the author them-self). This was a major necessity to me as I didn’t want to have to pre-order 500 versions of my own book, only for them to never get sold.

I also wanted the publishing house to have no upfront fees. As a first-time author, I have no audience who are going to purchase my book from day 1, and therefore if I spend £25 on upfront fees, it would take me (if my royalties were £0.25) 101 copies to be sold before I get a profit. Of 25p.  

I then got to work editing and improving the original document until I thought it was ready; I eventually uploaded this to KDP and ordered a proof paperback version. The initial experience of holding my book for the first time was surreal. Finally, my book was finished, and I published it live as a paperback as well as an ebook. This feeling was the most interesting, I’d finally published my work as a legitimate ‘thing’ that someone could buy; and, in a narcissistic sense, I expected to be the new JK Rowling within a day… that didn’t happen, obviously, but the support I’ve got so far from family and friends has been amazing.

That feeling hasn’t gone away and I feel as though it never will, I can proudly say that I am a published author at the age of 17, which still is mind-blowing; but, at the same time, I’m still a child, I haven’t had much ‘life-experience’ and yet my work is out there for the world to read…

Throughout my publishing journey I was acutely aware of the lessons I’d be learning, not only to reflect on in my personal statement for Universities, but on my CV and in general conversations with actual adults. It is a weird feeling, when you’re going through an experience, to be thinking so clearly about how that present moment might affect your future.

But I can truly and proudly say that I am a different person since I started writing my books online, and then publishing one. Firstly, I learnt how to be patient throughout this experience, as I’ve had to realise that things don’t tend to happen overnight. Some aspects of the experience were mind-numbing: editing out meaningless spelling errors, changing character names over and over again and correcting my shockingly bad grammar… it took a lot of patience, but it was completely worth it as I now have a complete book that I am so proud to call mine.

I also had to learn how to be confident in myself and my own work, as I am having to have to promote myself and my book in hopes of convincing somebody to spend their actual money on my product. I am genuinely so grateful to anyone who spends any money or time looking over my stuff, whether it is my free chapters online or my book on Amazon; I have now got a sense of pride in myself and my book that I have to use as confidence when talking about my book. I have learnt so many lessons throughout this experience and to any shy author who wants to do as I have done, I give this one piece of advice: go for it, the experience is amazing and the lessons and rewards you get, (even if nobody buys your book) will last you forever. Or at least they did with me.

My new book, Happy Collisions is available on Amazon.co.uk right now and I would be so grateful if you checked it out.

 

Growing Pains, By Lourdes Muthiah Yr 12

I am a sufferer of Gerascophobia (minus all actual symptoms which include heart palpitations and nausea). According to Wikipedia, I have an abnormal fear of growing old and yet this fear is far from unusual. A study of 2,000 women conducted by Age UK in 2012 found 50% of women in their 20s were afraid of old age. Whilst, I am slightly younger than 20, I find myself fearing the natural aging process. The paradoxical element of my problem is that I yearn for the freedoms that come with age, learning to drive, moving out, living independently. What drives this fear of aging if it gifts me with so many privileges?

70 years from now, my generation will become the world’s elderly, inevitably falling into that part of life we never thought we would reach. The stereotype of the elderly being unable to work or do the things their youth permitted them and burdening their offspring with their existence seems to badly advertise the latter part of our life. In all honesty, I feed into this poor publicity and transform ageing into my own personal anxiety. I envisage my body slowly degenerating and my world slowly closing in on me as I retire to everyday monotony. But where does this seemingly irrational fear for an adolescent come from and how can one overcome it?

It’s possible that I am so concerned with my looks that my first wrinkle or grey hair will trigger a streamline of botox and dye to combat the natural ageing process. And, to an extent, it’s true. Our media-captivated society plants a huge importance on physical beauty and, in particular youthful beauty so it’s natural that my generation may place looks before intellect. The fact that my body will change without my permission leaves me feeling hopeless and seems to make my morning makeup routine redundant. I symbolise the culmination of media bombardment as I instinctively carry out anti-age beauty rituals unsure of whether I started because I wanted to or because I felt I had to. Whilst I have no plan for future botox appointments, I can imagine the nostalgia I will feel for my younger self a few decades from now.

But is this fear that superficial? Maybe it is the loneliness we so often affiliate with the elderly that could be the root. Two fifths of all older people (about 3.9 million) say the television is their main company whilst over half (51%) of all people aged 75 and over live alone. We have created a human use-by date, a time when we are useful and worthy of human interaction and a time beyond when we become sitting ducks. I may try to fight it but inevitably the loneliness of day-to-day life for the old will take me as its latest prisoner.

Surely, the way to alter this evidently destructive and bleak way of thinking is to pinpoint the moment I started seeing the elderly in this light. The media’s portrayal of the old as behind-the-times and unable to comprehend modern advances such as the latest technology has left an imprint of uselessness. Similarly, the beauty industry’s booming anti-aging market has made the assumption that age is something to prevent. The solution would be to consciously ignore the media and reject the beauty standards of today, both difficult but not impossible tasks.

Nevertheless how do I control a fear over getting old when it comes to the inevitable deterioration of health. To think that I may be a perfectly functioning person with a great social network and an enriching life and suddenly be hit with a life-altering turn for the worse seems terrifying. Then the doctors appointments will start. The many ailments that will plague me on a day to day basis will be answered by a reel of medications to be taken orally 3 times a day. A year ago, I met a retired consultant anaesthetist who had recently had a stroke which stole his voice. He was unable to speak intelligibly so used an electronic sketch pad to speak. Whilst it was a miracle he survived, I could not help but wonder about this quality of life for such an intelligent person. To have so much experience and intellect but be unable to show this or share your inner thoughts is deplorable.  

Worse still, I imagine my most real and hair-raising nightmare to be losing my mind, that gradual robbery of everything that I use to recognise myself – my personality, my intellect, my memories. Dementia, you’re a smooth criminal.  Dementia has one deceivingly honourable trait: it does not discriminate. It does not analyse and evaluate before going in for the kill. It simply chooses its next victim by the roll of a dice. That’s what scares me the most. The helplessness of growing old and the inability to prevent reckless killers like dementia.

Despite this seemingly despair account of the elderly, I know that being old can’t be terrible. The senior population have the experience and wisdom that I am yet to acquire. I look forward to all the knowledge I will possess when I am 80 years old. The aged can be described with adjectives such as venerable and distinguished(I’ve never heard of a venerable 16 year old). I imagine the countless stories I’ll have in a memory bank to pull out at the dinner table, for example, how I ended up in Kiev playing the flute on a street corner or how I single-handedly wrestled a crocodile on the Nile in order to rescue an infant caught in the infested waters.

It may not be possible to fully overcome my Gerascophobia but living in the present may be a good way to start. I’m evidently far too existential for my own good and my pessimistic view of the world may be a key influencer. In the words of an optimist, I can change. I can change the livelihoods of the elderly now and build up a new outlook on the later part of our lives.

In true Gandhi style, I can be the change I wish to see in the world.

 

The Ghost Story, By Noor Jameel Yr 8

I woke up to a loud banging noise. Each time the noise became louder
my heart was pounding even faster . I tentatively krept towards the front
door where I could see a monsterous silhouette, which looked as though
it was looking right at me .

Before I could seize the phone to call the police, I heard the sound of
glass smashing; I looked to my right and saw a brick covered in a pile
of shattered glass. Without even looking at the fragmented window, I
bolted back into my room and hid under the bed .

Minutes, that felt like hours, had went by and I could hear nothing . Just
as I decided to get out from under the bed, I heard a piercing creek and I
saw the door open. I tried to hold my breath, trying not to scream, as I
could see his big, black boots right in front of me.

After a few minutes, I could hear the man leave the room and without
hesitating, I climbed out of the window. But it was a trap. Just as I
managed to jump out of the window, I realised that I was face to face
with another prodigious person who was wearing a daunting white mask.

I tried to escape, but it was too late. By now his hands were already
grasped onto my arms which were being taped together. I looked away
for a split second and, everything was the same except for the fact that
the man had disappeared I made my way back into the house but the
window was no longer broken and the brick had disappeared too; but
the tape on my arms was still there.

I looked outside the window and the sun was already beginning to rise .
This was not just a dream.

I’m Funny About Windows by Bella Trobe, Year 12

There are over 25 million houses in the UK. The EPA estimates that the average house has 22 windows. That means there are at least 550,000,000 windows in the UK. From houses alone. That’s a whole lot of windows, and windows weird me out.

To me there is an immediate problem that arises when I look out of my bedroom window. To what extent is a window used for looking out? A thought first introduced to me by Mr. Twit (of Dahl’s ‘The Twits’), who asked “Who wants every Tom, Dick and Harry peeping in to see what you’re doing”. It’s one thing to question how often I watch unsuspecting strangers from my bedroom window, but another to think about how often I almost unconsciously watch tv through people’s windows or mentally chastise them for buying that sofa with those blinds. Because that leads me into a downwards spiral of how many people look inside my window, especially when I’m there. How many people have watched me through my window, and just from those few seconds, as they drove past, have created a potentially permanent image of me?

You’re estimated to see between 90,000 and 42.5 million faces in your lifetime. All the people you walk past in the morning, the strangers you lock eyes with through your car windows, the person who handed you your afternoon coffee make up this figure. But how many of these people do you make a judgement on? How many do you remember? Have any of these strangers made a direct and significant impact on your life, without you realising it?

I make up stories for people, as I watch them go about their lives, creating somewhat of a little fact-file; occupation, family life and what’s on their mind right now. When out at dinner I’ll asses the parties around us- are they married with those kids or is she just a much older daughter? Maybe she’s the aunt? Actually, the kids are really giving off bad ‘vibes’ to her- she’s the new girlfriend. This ‘judgemental’ characteristic of mine perhaps allows me notice and see more, but what if I’m blinding myself or prohibiting all sorts of potential memories?

I think it’s odd that every time you walk down the street you see a singular moment in time of someone’s life, and nothing else, but also that even then I feel this weird kind of empathy. I don’t know anything about that crying girl, or why she’s even crying. That guy with the untucked suit, running, I secretly egg on in my head, but what if he’s running from something and not towards something? This snapshot, this tiny, insignificant moment, is all they are to you.  

There are some people I see every day, and although I’ve never said a word to them I feel this strange kinsmanship. To the boy that wears the same baggy blue jeans and navy t-shirt every day, who walks just a bit faster than me; both with our headphones plugged in, even though you walk on the other side of the car park to me, I then follow you down the road until we separate, do you notice me? Do you want to know my name as badly as I want to know yours? Or to the couple that walk down the road I drive to school on, at 8 every morning, my indicator of how late I’m running (the further down the road you are, the later I am) where are you walking from? Where are you walking towards? How can someone that is so imperative to my daily routine not even know I see them or talk about them to my friends? How can I know that the you’ve worked matching outfits twice this week, but you have no idea that I know? It almost hurts me.

I was sitting in the back of my car in downtown Mumbai when I first saw a man hit a woman. It was hot outside, with a greyness in the air and loud. Really loud. Horns and yells and rabid dog barks. But the seats in the car where cool, my senses overwhelmed by that new leather smell. Everything stopped when I saw that couple though. I watched him lift up his hand in slow motion, and watching the girl scream, unable to drag my eyes away from the action, as she pulled away, ducking from his oncoming fist. She didn’t move away fast enough and simultaneously she and my heart were crushed by him. Barely any heads turned, no one did anything to help, and the majority of people didn’t even notice it had happened. Then the traffic lights turned to green and we drove away, leaving behind the couple and my childhood innocence. Those strangers changed my outlook on the world within a single minute, without acknowledging me or even knowing I was watching.

What if I am in that defining moment for someone? What if I was accidentally a part of someone’s happiest memory? Does anybody recognise me in the morning? This (maybe too large) large part of me desperately craves validation, and in many ways being remembered, even just by a randomer, makes feel as though I’m important. But windows are different. Because you have no idea who’s watching you through a window, who’s peering up from below. Windows create a frame from which you can look out of/in to, limiting what you can see. A window enables these moments, these still life portraits of a moment.

So, I’m funny about windows.

 

The Deep – by Lily-Anne Hyem, Year 7

There I stood with the bitter wind whooshing past my face, the drops of water splashing on my toes. I could see fish leaping out the water alongside the boat, the scorching summer sun hot on my face, the magnificent ocean stretched out as far as the eye could see, I stood there watching the dolphins leap elegantly out the water, as night began to fall I saw a bubbling coming up from the deep dark depths of the sea, an eye appeared; what was it? and then suddenly this huge shadow came up from beneath the ocean, a majestic, amazing whale I stared at the creature in awe and in that moment I captured the entirety of this massive mammal, the beauty of its expressive face and eyes as I looked closer at this beautiful creatures face I could see a sadness, like he was trying to tell me something, but then with an almighty splash making a tidal wave and the water turn white and frothy he was gone, leaping over the waves off to the distance, I raced towards the cabin where my dad was sitting on the bed reading a newspaper “Guess what I saw” I shout “ a whale, a real whale”

“Calm down Pearl” he insisted. “You need to go to sleep if you want to help tomorrow”

It was early morning I could hear the waves rushing at the boat hitting it with such force it shook. I whipped some clothes on and raced towards the front of the boat, within minutes we were motoring towards the shore, my eyes stared at the water, I could see it all along the shore the nets that tangle all the fish with no escape, the plastic bags that turtles eat and, all the general household rubbish like bottles, straws and tin cans that kill our beautiful sea life. I jumped out the boat and started to snatch and grab all the rubbish. I was out there all day with my dad picking it up, but didn’t make much difference as the tide would then bring in another load, it was like a full garbage truck being dumped every time.  I didn’t have to do research I had seen it myself, been there before trying to save this suffering sea life. I have been untangling turtles, dolphins and fish since I was young and still it had not got any better.

When we had finished collecting rubbish, the sun was slowly setting to its bed under the sea where under the waves a world awakes, as we were on the way back out to sea feeling better about ourselves I saw a dark figure it looked like a massive rock I shouted to dad to swerve, but as we got closer, I saw not a rock but the whale the amazing, majestic whale, plastic surrounded it, the tears rolled down my cheeks and splashed on my toes.

Interviewing Rebecca O’Reilly and Ruth Flegmann of Yr 13 about their Body Confidence Campaign that they started at the beginning of the year. – Louie Judd Yr 12

Firstly, can I thank you for taking the time with this interview on behalf of me and the Write On Team. Firstly, what inspired you to start the campaign of Body Confidence? And did you have any personal reasons to start the campaign?

(Rebecca) Originally, I had a plan to start a campaign revolved around body confidence, and promoting self love and self confidence in the school, as from past experience, I have known what it’s like to feel self conscious and unhappy in my own skin. Before the campaign idea came about, I was helping my sisters become confident and happy in their own skins, and then I thought that, not only do I not want them, but I don’t want any of the girls in the younger years, to go through what I had too in order to reach this point where I am finally accepting my body – I wanted to start the girls’ journey’s now, and know that they’re not alone. I knew this was going to take a lot of work, so I decided to ask Ruth – someone who I knew was extremely passionate about body confidence and loving yourself in your own skin. She was the first person I thought of instantly when I decided to take someone on board with me, as I knew together, we would SLAY this campaign.

(Ruth) Yeah, I joined the campaign because Rebecca asked me to but I was already so passionate about this issue that I was so honoured when she asked me. I’ve always struggled with body image from primary school- I’ve always been bigger than most of my friends and it makes me so sad to think back on how much time I wasted hating my appearance. Hopefully this campaign will help some girls to not have to deal with those rubbish feelings as well.

What’s the kind of responses you’re getting back from students in the school?

(Ruth) The response has been way bigger than I’d imagined- I honestly thought we wouldn’t have much reactions from the assembly. Loads of people have passed me in the corridors and said how good it was and the survey we sent out got a huge response. I guess it just shows that everyone who deals with these issues wants to feel like they are heard.


(Rebecca) Yeah, as Ruth said, we did not plan for such a huge response – girls were emailing us, we were receiving messages to do another assembly, and we couldn’t walk down the corridors without hearing ‘Body Confidence assembly’. It was great! Still now, we are still receiving such a positive response, which is far more than Ruth and I expected or could have asked for. We are so proud of the girls who have reached out to us and shared their thoughts and ideas with us about the campaign, and we are also so proud of the response we received, as we hope this shows that no one is alone in this journey – it takes time, but with the help of friends around you to support you, it makes it far easier to get through 

Is there a particular year group that have responded particularly well to the campaign?

(Ruth) Not really- obviously I’ve talked mostly to people in my year about it. All our friends are very supportive obviously but to be honest, I talk about it so much they’re probably sick of it by now lol

Is there a year group that didn’t react so well?

(Ruth) You know, people haven’t been negative, at least not to our faces. Obviously, you’re always gonna have some haters but that’s life.


(Rebecca) Yeah, it’s expected that we’re going to have some negative responses from the campaign, as not everyone may agree with what Ruth and I are promoting, but I think that, if anything, we have created positivity around the topic of body confidence – at first, it was definitely nerve wracking because we were standing up and promoting our bodies to the girls, and the entire school, who may not have accepted them before now, but the response was so incredible and supportive that if there are people who disagree or don’t support the campaign, it’s not going to impact Ruth and me greatly.

Are you planning on doing anything else in the next few months with the Body Confidence campaign?

(Ruth) Yeah, we will finally be putting up our paper chains. We also have a Body Confidence Club planned that we are really excited about; the main aim is to create a positive, safe and fun atmosphere for girls who feel less confident, or girls who are body confident and want to share tips on how they reached the stage of body confidence. We are also planning to introduce a ‘clinic’, which will be more personal, where girls can voice their personal issues and we can help them.

Are you planning on making a committee or club for the Body Confidence Campaign? And would you consider passing this on to another person in the school?

(Ruth) Yeah, as we said, we are planning on creating a club which can hopefully carry on after we leave. If we could, I would love to create a body confidence committee to carry on some of these things after we’ve left- perhaps people in L6. The thing is this issue is very important to Rebecca and I- it would be important that whoever takes over is as committed as we are but if there’s any girls willing to carry on, we would love that!


(Rebecca) Yes, we want the positive association that comes with Body Confidence to carry on and to do this, we need girls who are passionate and ready to commit to something like the campaign, as it requires a lot of work, but also a lot of dedication and passion!!

Did you think the reaction would be what it is? Did you expect a better reaction? Or worse?

(Ruth) Honestly we got a much bigger and better reaction than we thought. Considering we’ve only done one week of activities so far, the response has been amazing. But for me, the response that I personally get is not important- the important part is how seriously people take this message for themselves. I hope that every girl in BGS will respond to our assembly by looking in the mirror and loving what they see, seeing the truth behind the distorted portrayal of beauty in the media and telling themselves they are way more valuable than what they look like.

(Rebecca) Yeah, the response was absolutely incredible and completely unexpected, but as Ruth said, the response we received was not the aim – our aim was to reach out to the girls, even if it was only one, and help change their view of themselves into something far more positive and accepting.

How did you come up with the idea of the Spotify playlist? And how has the reaction been to it?

(Ruth) Well, Rebecca and I obviously love to dance. If you’ve been in the common room at break time, you might have even had to suffer seeing Rebecca lip-sync to the songs in there. So, when we were thinking of small ways we could help people increase their confidence, a playlist was obvious.


(Rebecca) Ruth, excuse me, you sing just as much as me… But yeah, music is something that connects so many people – it’s probably one of the only aspects in life everyone can relate too. Music, to me, makes me feel happy and safe and comfortable, and so the idea of the playlist came to me when Ruth and I were thinking of ways to make girls feel happy and good about themselves. And Lizzo is definitely someone that makes me feel good, and I wanted to share her, and the rest of my feel good songs, with everyone else!! I would also just like to announce that we have 245 FOLLOWERS!!! Thank you to everyone who supports the playlist and enjoys it, just as much as Ruth and me did when making it!!

Mad About Harry- By Ellie Simester, Year 12

Harry Banks is smiley and cheeky 10 years old who is well know and loved by lots of girls at BGS. Just before Christmas Harry was told he’d had a neuroblastoma relapse, which is incredibly rare. He has fought this type of cancer twice now, and has bravely endued chemotherapy, radiotherapy and even brain surgery.

However, even though the NHS has been amazing, there are no further treatment options available for him in the UK. He urgently needs funding for a groundbreaking clinical treatment abroad. To give Harry this chance we have to raise half a million pounds in the next seven weeks. The English Rugby team have already gotten involved, as well as Alister Cook (ex-english cricket captain) and the high street brand Misguided. Harry is an amazing boy, and deserves any change you can spare to fund his treatment in America. Every little helps, so please please donate and help us to share his story.