Children’s author, Chris Vick, visited St John’s Academy on Thursday October 5, as part of Marlborough LitFest 2023. Chris spoke to the whole of Year 7 about his novel Girl Boy Sea, which was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. He also shared with the students some tips about how to construct a good story.
As well as being a writer, Chris has spent many years working in whale and dolphin conservation. He is also a surfer. He told Year 7, “I love the sea – it’s deeply fascinating, a mysterious and alien place.” So it’s no surprise that the sea appears in all five of his novels.
Chris told Year 7, “Use your own experience and write what you know, don’t be worried about whether people will be interested. Don’t use long words when short ones will do. Re-writing can be a tough exercise but sharing your work and getting feedback can really help.
Chris emphasised the power of stories, “We believe stories more than we believe facts, we think and respond emotionally. Through stories we live through other’s experiences and face our monsters, face our fears.”
Girl Boy Sea tells the story of a British boy, Bill, who survives the sinking of his yacht in a huge storm off the coast of Morocco. After days in a small rowing boat he reaches a girl, Aya, clinging to a barrel. Aya is from the nomadic Berber tribe and had been escaping to Europe when her ship was also destroyed in the storm. As hope of being found begins to fade Aya tells Bill stories from The Arabian Nights – tales of magic, brave heroes, wily thieves, greedy sultans and courageous girls.
The novel explores the sea and nature, contrasting cultures, overcoming fear, survival, the power of stories. Aya keeps herself alive by telling stories.
Many Year 7 students who had read the book were keen to tell Chris how much they had enjoyed it. Connie, who is about to read it, said, “It looks really interesting and I like the sea.” And Louise commented, “I like the fact it has the stories of the Arabian nights in it.”
Chris’s latest novel The Last Whale, also Carnegie shortlisted, has as its title suggests a strong theme of conservation. To find out more about Girl Boy Sea visit BBC Bitesize – click here.