Ten Words for Tender

On October 17th, in The British Library, Tender held a really special event to launch the Ten Words for Tender project. The idea for this project came from one of our Youth Board meetings during the year. We were looking for ideas to celebrate Tender’s tenth anniversary.

One of our Board members Maisie, came up with the idea of gathering ten words that describe relationships. We remembered hearing about a six word novel supposedly written by Ernest Hemmingway:

“For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn”

We decided to ask people to write ten word love stories for us. We asked professional writers, young people, Tender staff and other friends and supporters. We began to build up a brilliant collection of stories which reflected different kinds of relationships and different emotions. They were all very different but we began to see lots of common themes emerging. The stories were not only entertaining and moving, but they provided a starting point for discussions about relationships.

We asked two professional writers Daniel Rachel and Caroline Green to deliver a workshop to a group of young people from Access Adventure at The Pirate Castle Youth Club. They used the ten word story ideas as a starting point to talk about what makes a healthy or unhealthy relationship. The young people created some fantastic ten word stories as a result of just one workshop.

We decided to launch our growing collection with a celebratory event. We wanted to hear about our different contributors and their approaches to the challenge so we held ‘conversations with the writers.’ This project is an opportunity to allow writers to consider different ways of creating stories. It’s also a chance to encourage people to take up a pen and give it ago, even if they don’t usually get involved in creative writing. We decided to hold the event in The British Library to honour the fact that we are celebrating literature. We invited a selection of our contributing writers as well as the young people from The Pirate Castle. To close the event, we had the fantastic Warsan Shire come along. She has just been named the first ever Young Poet Laureate of the year but still managed to find time to write some ten word stories for the project.

For those who couldn’t make it to the event, we have collected some pictures and notes on the contributing writers as well as a selection of our stories. To see more of the stories (and to contribute your own!) you can go to our twitter @TenderUK or search for the hashtag #tenfortender.

If you’d like to hear more about the project or to see how you can arrange a workshop in a school or youth centre, contact Doireann Larkin on doireann@tender.org.uk.

Daniel Rachel was our MC for the night and the first writer he spoke to was Caroline Green, a Young Adult fiction writer.

“A boy. A girl. Pounding rain. A shared umbrella. Love. ”


Isla Gray told us about her work writing for TV shows like Hollyoaks and The Cut.

“The best thing about you is the first I knew”


John Harvey is a crime fiction novelist who has published almost 100 books. He wrote a post about the event on his blog here.

“Mum, only wish I’d told you while I still could.”


Erica McKoy is a young writer/radio presenter and a member of Tender’s Youth Board (a frequent guest blogger on this site!)

“The Belly growled as it wanted more food for thought.”


Rebecca Wait has just published her debut novel. She also teaches in a secondary school and has taken the ten word project in to her students for them to try it out.

“You run through me; ‘Blackpool’ in a stick of rock.”

“After you left, I kept your dog. My dog, now.”


Warsan Shire, the Young Poet Laureate for London came to speak about her new role. She read us her ten word stories and also two of her poems. We were really excited to have the privilege of hearing her work.

“We broke the spell of bad love in our blood”


A group of young people from the Pirate Castle also presented their stories for us:

“Love your singing. You should go on The X Factor”

“I love you dad. Can you learn to love me?”

“I will always love you. I love you too sweetheart.”

“One couple. One dream. Two words, they said: ‘I do'”

We invited the audience to contribute more stories after a night of inspiration. Looking forward to the next event for Ten Words for Tender. Check out our facebook for even more photos.

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