Over the last term I have been running some creative writing workshops for Durand Academy, meeting a small group of year seven students and teacher Tiffany Knight for our after school ‘creative writing club’. The club had one rule – no judging or criticizing yourself or others. Writing was not a test, it was an exploration, and we would jump into the blank page together and see what we could find. The students had no experience of writing in this way and I was amazed how eager they were to leap in!
We explored the theme of journeys, creating stories and poems inspired by postcards, objects, visualization, and word games. We wrote about ‘things we had forgotten to pack’ or ‘arriving in a dangerous land’. For homework we ‘became cameras’ – jotting down objects and characters we had seen, and even snatches of dialogue we heard. The students were a bit shocked that such a thing is possible, and we discussed the ethics of disguising truth. We explored writing from different points of view, developing plot, description and dialogue. I was impressed how quickly the students developed confidence in expressing their ideas and following where their imaginations led. They were able to write in a focused and concentrated way – and sometimes it was hard to stop them! I am grateful to Durand Academy that they wanted to invest in their students in this way. Nam-Thanh wrote about the club, saying, “I’ve loved working with her and rate our sessions as one of the top events of the week.”
Students read their work aloud at each session, and I was fascinated when students seemed to recognize characters and places in each others work and would nod and laugh. They would even steal a character or setting from another student’s story and put it in their own. The characters and settings they were drawing on existed already, in films and books, and are part of their shared culture. They felt able to draw on these characters and put them into new stories, in much the same way as I draw on myths and fairytales.
The project ended with an ‘open mic’ performance where they read their work to family and friends. They ended with a group poem they had written together, and performed it as a chorus. It took me a while to realize that the title they had chosen for the poem came from a film – the latest Hobbit movie! But like all their words, is re-made into something that belongs to them.
An Unexpected Journey
The possibilities are endless
in a place like this.
What shall I do?
I started running
and then I flew,
like a bird in the air
soaring through the sky.
I saw a wild island shrouded in mist
from up high,
mythological creatures, Titans and Gorgons,
a sudden storm with a rhino cloud,
my wings began to fade.
I plummeted down to the sea shore.
Once every leap year,
you can dive into this
Sea of Rhymes!
By Aisha, Seun, Maya, Nam-Thanh, and Miss Knight