Writing While the World Stands Still

COVID-19 has brought with it a whole new normality for all of us at St. John’s, our routine replaced by working from home and with new limits placed on our lives. We might also find that we have new time to sit and to contemplate; that we are feeling a new sense of anxiety, frustration or even new gratitude for the small things we take for granted.  As an English department, we recognise the solace that both reading and writing can offer at a time like this. We want to make sure that St. John’s students can be empowered by their writing; as a form of escape or a way to voice how they feel.

So, each week the English department at St. John’s will be setting students a new prompt to inspire them to write during these difficult times. At the end of each week, we will choosing the best entry and – with the winning student’s permission – we will be publishing it here for other students, parents and staff to read and enjoy. At the end of all this, the English department will be producing an anthology of all the weekly winners- a testament to look back on how the world stood still for a while.

Winners to be announced shortly.

View the finalists’ submissions in our art competition for St John’s Marlborough students – Design a book cover! Design a Book Cover Competition Finalists and Winners


Week 11 Task

Life in ‘lockdown’ can feel as if it is moving slowly. For some of us, we may have felt the boredom setting in now and again. But alongside the boredom, we may have found some positives too: peace and quiet, time to sit and to contemplate, moments where we do nothing more than soak in some sunshine. With time on our hands, we often start to notice things that might normally pass us by amidst the fast pace of normal life. What have you found the time to notice during lockdown?

Week 11 Winners


Week 10 Task

The last few weeks have been a time of mingled emotions for most of us. Frustration, sadness, boredom, bliss: you may have felt all of these and more.

Since the murder of George Floyd on the 25th May, there has been an eruption of anger across the globe, giving more power than ever to the Black Lives Matter movement. This has shown how anger can be used productively, how it can be turned into solidarity or used as motivation to learn and maybe even to change. So, this week I want you to write about anger. Your own anger.

Week 10 Winners


Week 9 Task

Take a moment to reflect on what it may be like for those people who are less able to leave the house, even if the sun is shining. Those in care homes, or the clinically extremely vulnerable, for whom leaving the house may bring a host of anxieties. If you could bring the outside in for them, what would you bring? For your writing this week, I want you to bring the outside in for someone. You can put it in a bag, or in a box, even if it wouldn’t normally fit.

Week 9 Winners


Week 8 Task

In the last couple of days, sunshine has been replaced by cloudy skies and a smattering of rain. The news this week has been bleak. And Covid-19 continues to alter many aspects of our lives. So, if I asked you “what colour is today?” you might say “grey”. But I want you to look more closely.  With a notebook and a pen, take time to observe the world around you. Use this to write a poem about the colours of your day. Start with the line “Maybe you think the colour of today is grey. But it isn’t.” Start each new line with “It is…” And then finish your poem with the line ”It is not grey”.

Week 8 Winners


Week 7 Task

This week is all about memory and identity. Where do you come from? Close your eyes and think of the house, the door, the street that answers that question. It might not be the one you live in now. What are the smells, the tastes, the sounds of that house? What memories do you have from there? I want you to try to write an “I come from…” poem using all these memories.

Week 7 Winners


Week 6 Task

Think about what you miss about school now that you aren’t there, perhaps some of these things have surprised you. Try to use lots of sensory description in your writing – the sights, smells, sounds, tastes, feelings that school brings with it – which of these do you miss now you aren’t there? Or if you don’t want to write about school, think about what else you have been surprised to find yourself missing.

Week 6 Winners


Week 5 Task

Think about a friend. Now, think of something that really reminds you of that friend, an object or memory that you share – the quirkier the better. Now write as if you are talking to your friend, discussing the unique details of that memory. Pack your writing full of more memories if you like – make sure they are real ones, maybe even memories which seem a bit embarrassing when you write them down.

Week 5 Winners


Week 4 Task

There are two options for this week’s writing task.

  1. Make up a word and define it. As a challenge, try to make up a word for something which you think we have all experienced during lockdown.
  2. Write about a feeling you can’t find the right word for. Use the opening line: “Where is the word for the feeling you get when…”

Week 4 Winners


Week 3 Task

Write a piece with the title ‘Life After Lockdown’ in which you think about what you are looking forward to, once normality returns. Write as if you are talking a friend or loved one and describe how what you are doing now will be different when your freedom is returned to you.

Week 3 Winners


Week 2 Task

Last Thursday many of us applauded NHS workers from our windows or our doorsteps; at 8pm this eruption of sound spread across the whole of the UK and was a powerful moment for us all. This week, try to capture this moment in a 400 word description with the title “A Sound Breaks the Stillness”.

Week 2 Winners


Week 1 Task

It’s a beautiful day! Sit outside in your garden or look outside on your own for about five minutes. Don’t take anything with you! No phone, no pen, no book, maybe just a drink, and sit and look and listen to everything that’s going on outside. When you’re ready, come back in and write a 400 word description with the title ‘While the World Stands Still’.

Week 1 Winners