"Promoting Freedom of Expression, particularly the freedom to write and read, is central to the aims of English PEN and for this reason we are hugely keen to encourage as many young people as possible to engage with the importance of Britain's hardest won of human rights, by entering this year's Right Words competition."
English PEN Director, Jonathan Heawood
What to write? - Here are some ideas...
You can write a newspaper article - write an article to express something that you disagree with, or use your imagination to write a story you need to cover for your paper which highlights the freedom of expression being restricted.
You can write a poem - inspired by what you know about freedom of expression and by the pictures and quotes you can see on this site. It could be about the experience of someone defending the freedom of expression, or your own response to what you know about it.
You can write a fictional story - come up with a story where freedom of expression is being restricted; what would it be like, who would complain, and what would happen?
You can write a short dialogue / monologue - imagine you are writing a small part of a play where two people are perhaps talking about an incident where the freedom of expression was restricted. Alternately it could be the thoughts of one person spoken out loud and portrayed through a monologue.
You can write a song / rap - read through some of the material on this website and get inspired to write a song to put both your freedom of expression into practice and maybe say something about expression while you are doing it...
You can supplement your writing with a drawing, painting or collage
Think about restrictions – are there things you think people shouldn't be allowed to say, to talk about, in certain contexts?
Imagine what your life would be like without music, poetry, movies, books, the cinema and newspapers. What would you want to say to the world if you were denied those things? Think about how important it is to be able to express yourself and how you would feel if that ability was taken away from you.
You can choose your own title, but if you can't think of one to start with, have a look at these suggestions. Remembering what you know about freedom of expression, what do they make you think of?
Living without a voice
The illegal writer
Secret messages to the world
There's nothing on the radio anymore
They forgot to ban the internet
The banned newspaper
The government writes the news
Whether they are writing prose or poetry, many people find that the hardest thing is knowing where to start. But the truth is, it doesn't matter! Write something - anything - a first line, it doesn't matter if it's good or not, as it will only get easier – you just need to get yourself going. They're not set in stone, so you can always come back and change them later...
When you're done with your first draft, ask yourself a couple of questions:
Do I really know what my argument is? Could I express it in a single sentence or question?
Have I thought what the counter-arguments might be to what I'm saying, and have I addressed them? (Just imagine you're being interviewed by a really tough, really clever journalist who's trying to pick holes in what you've written.)
Some poems rhyme and some poems don't, some have repetitive rhythms and some are irregular - does the kind of poem you've chosen suit the subject you want to write about best? Read other poems to look at ways other people have used words. How do you want it to sound?
Read your poem aloud to hear the rhythm and the sounds of the words. Think about alternative words you could use instead. Play with the words and try different combinations. Which version sounds best?
Fictional Story / Dialogue / Monologue:
Is my main character someone I find interesting? (If I don't, no one will!) What makes this person interesting to me, unusual, engaging? Does that come across clearly in my story?
What is it about the story that will make people want to read on? Is there something in the first sentence that will make people curious about the second, something in the first paragraph that will make people want to read on to the next?
Song / Rap:
Writing songs is a bit like writing poetry; though they can be more structured and have verses and a chorus that may stay the same throughout the song. Think about the topic you want to write your song about and develop a rhythm that may best help you reflect the topic.
Advice from Lemn:
Poet Lemn Sissay, writer in residence at the Southbank Centre and one of the previous Right Words competition's judges, has offered these writing tips...
Try writing everyday - no matter how busy you think you are set aside say half an hour (minimum) every day dedicated to writing. Even if you don't know what you are going to write about spend that half hour with pen and paper. You will be rewarded.
Read as much as possible.
Keep a notepad on you to scratch down ideas which you can work on in your daily schedule.
Join a writers' workshop in your area; if you don't like the one you attend, find another. There are writers' workshops everywhere. Doing it on your own is all, but get support and feedback too.
If there was any book I could suggest for your own growth as a writer/artist it is The Artist's Way (Vein of Gold) by Julia Cameron. I use it myself.
Start to see where poetry is. It is around in Valentine's Day, at weddings, on adverts, when there is a war, when someone dies, it's on posters, on statues, in plays, in films, in songs. It is not as hidden as many believe...
The Right Words competition is being run by members of the Human Rights Watch London Network and Philip Cowell (English PEN Readers & Writers Programme Manager) in support of English PEN and Human Rights Watch. The site has been designed by Kate Gallé and developed by Tom Warren.