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Jane Austen College student joins National Centre for Writing's prestigious Lit From the Inside programme

Published on 15/05/20

Jane Austen College student, Casper Rhodes-Leeder, has been selected to join the National Centre for Writing's prestigious Lit From the Inside programme. We're incredibly proud of the achievement. Casper has written a blog about the experience, programme and what comes next.

When I found out that Dragon Hall was the National Centre for Writing, I was amazed that it had been right on my doorstep for so many years. I often feel that Norwich is overlooked. Few people outside Norfolk know about the rich history and stories that make up this beautiful and unique city, so I think it is so exciting that it’s the location of England’s first UNESCO City of Literature. I have had a passion for reading and writing which started at the age of 7, when I, like many other children, read the Harry Potter series. Since then, I have ploughed through Steven King, lived in Philip Pullman’s imagining of Oxford, and made friends with characters like Joe Gargery and Elizabeth Bennet. As well as my passion for reading, I love to write creatively and my poetry has even been praised by Lady Anwen Hurt. So when I discovered the Lit from the Inside programme, described as “a behind-the-scenes look at the literary arts scene” on the NCW website, it felt perfect for me.

Since January, I have been meeting monthly with 18 like-minded 14-17 year olds and the fantastic Victoria Maitland and Hannah Garrard, where we discuss and share our reading and writing endeavours. Whilst this programme has created a welcoming community for myself and other writers, it offers so much more than just that: workshops and interviews with celebrated authors, opportunities to publish reviews and blog posts, visits to literary events, such as the Verve poetry festival in Birmingham this February, and the pleasure of judging this year’s Young Norfolk Writing Competition.

Despite the COVID-19 crisis, we have still been having our monthly meetings in the form of Zoom calls. The NCW has even continued to hold online writing workshops, such as the one I attended last Tuesday with author Jan Carson. Whilst we won’t be able to attend other literary events this year, or interview authors face to face, the amount of opportunities given to us is still huge, and I am so grateful to have been selected to be part of this programme. I am excited to still judge (and perhaps enter) the Young Norfolk Writing Competition, which I recommend to anyone aged 11-18 who enjoys writing. You can enter any form of writing, from song lyrics to essays, even in audio format.

I am certain that the Lit From the Inside programme will open opportunities to me well after the year that I take part in it for. I am currently looking at university courses related to sociology and media studies, and I think that taking part in this programme will show that I have a passion for telling stories, both my own and others’. Whether I pursue a career in publishing, journalism, or creative writing, the Lit From the Inside programme has given me an inside view into creative industries that is so valuable and has equipped me with tools that give me many options for my future.

I hope that perhaps reading this article inspires you to take a look at the events and opportunities offered at the brilliant National Centre for Writing, or even to become a “Lit Insider” yourself. If you take a step inside Dragon Hall, I am sure that it will be hard not to become inspired, as even the building itself has a story of its own to tell.