Madalena came to the UK from Portugal, aged 11. She spoke no English before she arrived. She was selected for the First Story programme at St-Martin-in-the-Field’s School for Girls, after entering a creative writing competition organised by the school.
Madalena was later nominated for a fully-funded place at First Story’s summer residential programme. She spent a week in July 2018 at an Arvon writing retreat, with 15 other students from across the country, where they participated in writer-led workshops, attended two evening presentations by writers, and took part in group games and readings.
How did you find the writing workshops?
Editing my writing in the workshops felt like a real-life scenario, as something that ‘real’ writers do. It made me feel my work was important. Participating in the workshops helped me gain confidence for the creative writing section of my GCSE exam. Doing the First Story sessions every Friday, I felt like I could respond more quickly [to a stimulus]. I am thinking about it in a different way.
What did you most enjoy about the summer residential?
I felt really nervous – same feeling as moving to England. You don’t know how to conduct yourself. But, I’ve liked the lounge sessions and I’ve liked cooking. I’ve bonded with people whilst doing that.
What have you learned from being part of First Story?
You learn at First Story that everything is writing material! I’ve learnt more about the other people in my group, as they became more open through the personal writing in the sessions. Hearing classmates share their writing, I felt respect for them. I enjoyed thinking about their motivation as authors.
How has First Story changed you?
I have a perspective on my writing and understand that I need to like and feel my writing – not other people. I am thinking about it in a different way.
– First Story residential staffer
“She was desperately nervous about reading but had contributed amazing ideas to the workshops. When she read on the last night, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. She says she feels so grateful for the experience, and yet we feel so lucky to have spent time with such a thoughtful, talented young writer. She has grown and developed so much this week. She’s also an amazingly creative cook and I’ll never make Spaghetti Bolognese without a little ginger in it again!”