A Capsule of Time

Wellington clockWhat a brilliant day at Wellington College this week, with the whole school taking part in the performance and reading of my new short story, A Capsule of Time. The story (closer to a novella, at 17,000 words) was specially commissioned by Tom Wayman, Head of English at the boarding school, in Berkshire, to – slightly belatedly – mark World Book Day. I wrote it in eleven instalments, the first of which was read out at morning assembly on Monday, with the others being released on the school intranet at intervals during the school day. Time was set aside in each lesson, as well as during breaks and at after-school sessions, to allow students and staff to read the story on laptops, iPhones, iPads, tablets and interactive whiteboards.
capsule readersAs part of the day’s activities, I ran three creative-writing workshops for Year 9, 10 and 11 classes, dropped in on a write-your-own-ending workshop in the library and did a Q&A session in the evening, after the final instalment had gone out. Scores of students also produced stories of their own for a writing competition on the theme of Time, which was won by Lily Burnand.
I was given a pretty open brief for the commission – the story should be a mystery of some kind, set at Wellington College, and suitable for a readership ranging from age 13 to 18.capsule artwork As it happened, I already had the germ of an idea for something that didn’t have the legs to become a novel but which lent itself very neatly to being adapted into a long short-story. The result was A Capsule of Time, the tale of three students who unearth a strange metal canister from the school grounds and the scary and gruesome events which unfold after they twist off the lid. One of the most interesting challenges was to write the story so that it could be read in instalments spread out during one day – each section needing to work as a self-contained dramatic episode while also forming part of the whole ovearching narrative.
capsule story readers
As for the event itself, I was bowled over by how wholeheartedly the school – staff and students alike – embraced the concept, making my story central to the entire school day and generating a real buzz of enthusiasm. Here are some of the day’s tweets:

Wellington Learning‏@wellylearning
Martyn Bedford’s #capsuleoftime gets off to a great start in assembly: 1 story; 11 instalments; 1040 students.
Chloe James ‏@ineedthislink
Loving Martyn Bedford’s #capsuleoftime – whole school read in a sort of celebration of #worldbookday
Katie Barrow‏@katiebarrow12#capsuleoftime is getting dramatic
Denise Cook‏@Denise_E_C@WellingtonUK big read event: Instalment 3 of Martyn Bedford’s #capsuleoftime now live. Getting spookier!
Wellington Library‏@Welly_Library
#capsuleoftime Very atmospheric story by Martyn Bedford. Instalments coming thick and fast. Love the Dr. Who feel!
Stanley‏@WellyStanley
I hope my students in period 6 have been following #capsuleoftime – I need to know what is going to happen next!
Stanley‏@WellyStanley
#capsuleoftime it’s over an hour now – i’m having withdrawal symptoms…
Chloe James ‏@ineedthislink
It’s all got very macabre now (like exploding students wasn’t dark enough) #capsuleoftime #goodbyealice
Stanley‏@WellyStanley
#capsuleoftime A poll in house assembly suggested that the vast majority of the house are as addicted as me – brilliant.
Wellington Library‏@Welly_Library
#capsuleoftime Going home to share this exciting story with my daughter!

[Images and tweets courtesy of the Wellington College website.]

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