On Friday 19th January the writer and novelist Joanna Quinn visited Wey Valley Academy. Quinn was born in London and grew up in Dorset and is an alumni of the school . When at Wey Valley, Joanna entered a WH Smith Young Writers Competition and was published and this inspired her to become a published author. In the workshop held for Year 10 and 11 students, Quinn read from her latest novel The Whalebone Theatre (2022). This novel went straight into the bestseller lists in both countries (UK and USA). The book was a ‘Read with Jenna’ pick and was chosen by Her Majesty  Queen Camilla for her book club ‘The Reading Room’. It was shortlisted for a Best Debut Fiction at the British Book Awards, The Authors’ Club Best First Novel award and The Society of Authors McKitterick Prize. It was Waterstones Book of the Month in August 2023. It has also been sold into fourteen countries worldwide, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden , Holland and Denmark.

During the workshop, Quinn explored what an opening to a novel should look like and that sometimes your opening line is an ending and vice versa. Quinn then went on to consider famous opening lines from such works as Rebecca (1938)by du Maurier and The Secret Garden (1911) by Hodgson Burnett .The Year 10 students then had to write their own effective opening line and to share this. The author then continued to explore character -‘remember the detail in character and why a person is acting in a certain way ‘. Joanna then discussed how she had recently  been approached by a television company for The Whalebone Theatre  to be possibly translated into a series. One Year 10 student said of the session ‘it was so powerful to see an ex-student of the school returning as an acclaimed author – this has inspired me to write and to be published’. Quinn then  signed copies of her latest novel for the students. Mark Chutter, Head of Performing Arts and Teaching and Learning Challenge Lead, said ‘my thanks to Joanna Quinn for such an innovative workshop today with tips for our students studying for  their GCSE Language examination and for inspiring them to write professionally as a future career’.

To read the Dorset Echo article click here