The HG Wells Short Story Competition is now in its 6th year. Back in 2009, our first-ever winner was Will Jarrett, who was just 13 at the time! We caught up with Will to find out how life has changed since winning the £1000 writing prize and to ask: is he still writing?
(By the way – don’t forget that the closing date for this year’s competition is 14th July!)
You were our very first winner back in 2009, and just 13 years old at the time. What prompted you to enter the competition?
I think it was my English teacher Mr Dickens who first pointed the competition out to me. I never thought I’d be able to win, but I liked writing stories and thought it’d be good experience, so I went for it. I must admit the £1000 prize was a factor too!
Have you always loved writing? What is the first thing you can remember writing?
I’ve loved both reading and writing for as long as I can remember. When I was in primary school I liked writing descriptions of scenes: haunted houses, deserted islands, that sort of thing. The first proper story I remember writing is ‘The Snow Leopard’, a short story I wrote in Year 6. Each member of our class had to write a story for the children in Year 1. I can’t remember if it was any good. I’ll have to dig it out sometime!
Do you still write now? If so, what kind of writing do you do?
I do still write, mainly short stories but occasionally poetry (although in general I don’t like to subject people to those!) In fact, I was thinking about entering the HG Wells competition once again this year, just for fun. On the whole I write short stories, often along the lines of horror/sci-fi.
How has your writing changed since 2009? Style, inspirations, output, even how and where you write…
I’ve certainly read a lot more since 2009, and my style and inspirations have changed in that regard. Among my primary inspirations I’d include Stephen King, George Orwell, Douglas Adams, Ben Elton, HP Lovecraft – and HG Wells, of course! I’ve also been reading more ‘classics’, although whether my writing style has changed because of this is hard to say.
As for output, I’ve got a lot of room for improvement! Without a deadline, my stories generally crawl along agonisingly slowly (this is one reason why the HG Wells competition is so good, it gives an incentive to write).
When I do have to write a lot in a short space of time, I set myself a free day and plonk myself in front of the computer. I tend to edit a lot as I go along, which is a bad habit which drastically reduces my writing speed (there’s a lot of fretting and pacing up-and-down involved!) So I really need to work on that.
What differences did winning the competition make to you as a 13 year old?
It was certainly a confidence booster, and probably set me clearly on the path to studying English Literature at University. It was also really lovely to meet everyone involved in the competition, many of whom are really inspiring writers.
Has it affected what you’ve done in the last five years?
Most definitely! More than anything it’s kept me writing. As I say, although I always thought I would probably study English, the competition made me sure that writing is what I want to do with my life.
What advice would you give to a young writer entering our competition this year?
My main advice would be to make sure you finish your story! I’ve known lots of people who’ve started writing for this competition but not finished. You’ve got to be in it to win it. Another piece of advice would be to write a story for the competition, clearly tailored to fit the theme, rather than entering a story you happen to already have.
Another piece of advice (although I’m being a terrible hypocrite in saying this), is to try to write your story first, and edit second, rather than editing as you go. Very tricky advice to follow but I think it does allow you to write a story which ‘flows’ better.
Who are your favourite writers these days? Are you inspired by short stories, novels, non-fiction writing, media…. ?
My favourite writers are the ones I mentioned above. For inspiration, I generally I read novels, although I do like the occasional short story (William Golding, Stephen King and HG Wells have some particularly good ones).
One last question: what did you do with the prize money? Did you invest it wisely or spend it all on fun and games?
I invested it wisely, of course…! Well, I spent about £200 on a mountain bike, and the rest just went into my bank account. I’m planning on going sky-diving this summer, and it will come in handy then!
Will Jarrett biography
Will was born 1995, and went to school at Sandgate Primary and the Harvey Grammar School in Folkestone. Other than writing, music is his main hobby. He enjoys composing electronic music, and plays the clarinet and piano. He has a brother and two half-sisters, and is planning to go to Oxford University to study English later this year (grades permitting).
Thank you Will – and congratulations on being our first winner!
Who will be this year’s winners? Time will tell: but as Will says, you have to be in it to win it! The closing date for entries is 14th July.
For more information about any of our events, email firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with us on our Facebook page.