Author in suspense over whodunit

23rd October 2009 at 01:00

Horror fiction is a popular literary genre among Liverpool's primary pupils this term, so author Alan Gibbons may soon be reaching for his crimson ink and quill pen.

Or perhaps not. Because for all he knows, his next book might be comedy, adventure or time travel.

Before Mr Gibbons can start work, he must wait to find out the winner of a blurb competition which asked children to come up with a story idea in just 50 words. Five hundred Year 6 children from 11 primaries are taking part.

The winner will be chosen by the end of term, and the Blue Peter Book Award-winning author will have just two months to write a 10,000-word novel, working from the winning blurb.

The book will be published by the end of the school year, following a further competition for which secondary school pupils will be asked to design the book's jacket.

The name of the blurb-winning pupil will appear next to the author's on the cover.

The Book Factor project was set up by publisher Barrington Stoke after a similar scheme in Dundee led to the publication of Hide and Seek by Catherine MacPhail last summer.

This time, the publisher is working with the charity Booktrust and Alt Valley Learning Network in Liverpool.

The Book Factor provides teacher training, teachers' notes and pupil workbooks, plus a package of Barrington Stoke books for every school taking part in the competition.

These include Mr Gibbons' latest novel, The Number 7 Shirt, about a boy called Jimmy and his career at Manchester United Academy.

Mr Gibbons is visiting each participating class to advise pupils on writing blurbs and how to choose genre, time and location.

"Anfield cemetery is good for a ghost story, the Strand in Bootle is good for a car chase and the River Mersey can be romantic," he told his audience on one school visit.

Now he has to sit back and wait for his commission.

"I've seen ideas for dozens of stories I could write already," he said.

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