What We Do
First Story’s writers are all published authors, poets and playwrights with performance and teaching experience. Our training and support programme ensures a consistent high-quality experience for both students and teaching staff. As well as facilitating writing workshops and editing their First Story group’s anthology, our Writers-in-Residence act as an inspiring presence in the school, from participating in events to working closely with teachers.
First Story’s Young Writers Programme transforms participants into published authors. Weeks of intensive writing workshops culminate in the production of a professionally designed, printed anthology. First Story has been publishing books for over a decade, supported by talented professional editors, designers, typesetters and printers. Each book has its own ISBN and is included in the collection of the British Library. Copies are gifted to all featured young writers and to the school’s library. Each school’s publication day is celebrated and we support schools to organise book launch events.
Young Writers’ Festival
Open to all First Story participating schools, our annual festival brings together hundreds of young people from across England, for an inspiring day of writing workshops, plenary sessions and readings. Held at the University of Cambridge in 2019 and online in 2021, the festival is a unique opportunity for young people to engage with literary world conventions. Keynote speakers have included Malorie Blackman, Philip Pullman, Grace Nichols, Mark Haddon, Patrick Ness, Jackie Kay, Juno Dawson and Angie Thomas. There’s also an affordable bookshop, enabling young people to buy their favourite YA titles for just £1, plus a dedicated CPD session for teachers.
Being recognised in a competition – knowing someone read your work and saw merit in it – is incredibly validating. Our regional and national competitions, from Six Word Story in the autumn term, to 100 Word Story and Writing Stars in the spring, are invaluable confidence boosters, giving young writers the self-belief and encouragement from having their work seen by professionals they need to keep going. There are prizes for winners and runners-up , plus books given both to students and schools’ libraries.
First Story’s regular Connect events, staged in collaboration with respected universities and/or arts venues, encourage young writers to connect with each other, as well to local cultural and higher education opportunities near to where they live. Connect events offer young people the chance to explore creative writing in stimulating and inspiring new spaces, working with new writers and artists. Participation encourages aspirations and expands horizons. Connect events are intended to encourage young people’s sense of entitlement to access and occupy what may be considered ‘establishment’ spaces, to promote higher education pathways, and to provide opportunities for young people to build cultural capital.
National Writing Day
National Writing Day is our annual celebration of the pleasure and power of writing creatively, inspiring all ages and abilities to try writing for pleasure and self-expression. Each June, we partner with some of the leading literacy organisations and publishers in England, to create a programme dedicated to schools. With our support — plus access to free, high-quality resources produced by leading education experts — everybody can participate and the whole school can celebrate writing together.
Alumni progression opportunities
We are developing a growing portfolio of post-programme progression opportunities, exclusively available to First Story Young Writers Programme alumni. At the heart of our alumni projects is our new Young Ambassadors programme, which will continue to support young people in subsequent years, to further develop essential life skills and build valuable cultural capital. For a smaller number of alumni — those who evidence the greatest passion and potential to develop as writers — we also offer a week-long summer residential writing course and one-to-one creative writing mentorships with an established writer from the Folio Academy, in partnership with the Rathbones Folio Prize.
Summer residential course
First Story’s summer residential is a life-changing opportunity for a group of talented young writers, who are invited to spend a week at a prestigious Arvon writing retreat in rural Yorkshire. All First Story participants may apply for a place. In partnership with our funders, teamArchie, 16 students who have shown great potential in their writing are offered fully-funded places to spend the week at Arvon, learning from talented professional writers.
Our new Young Ambassadors Programme offers ongoing support and opportunities for students who have completed a year of the Young Writers Programme. Participants will play a key role in fostering and nurturing a positive culture of creative writing in their schools, and create new opportunities for their peers and teachers to practice writing creatively throughout the school year. Young Ambassadors will be trained and supported to mentor new First Story students, take on special creative writing commissions, and judge First Story national competitions. They will also have the unique opportunity to work with an external leadership coach and a media expert, to devise, develop and deliver their own creative writing events. At the end of the year, Young Ambassadors will have built transferable leadership skills: complex problem solving, time management, service orientation and decision-making, as well as helping to embed culture of creative writing in their school.
Support and resources for teachers
Equipping teachers with the confidence, knowledge and skills to continue teaching creative writing is central to our mission. Honed over more than a decade, First Story’s pedagogy is sector-leading and our Writers-in-Residence freely share their expertise. Working with First Story typically leads to increased enjoyment of creative writing by participating teachers, as they build their own confidence and skill as practitioners. First Story schools have access to high-quality classroom resources, developed by specially commissioned First Story writers, exploring diverse themes during the school calendar, such as Black History Month, LGBT+ History Month, International Women’s Day and Earth Day. Our exclusive resources equip teachers with strategies to help embed a culture of creative writing more widely across the school to support the whole curriculum.