Monday, 16 March 2009

Workshop on Writing for Children, Stoke, 14 March 2009

I met with thirteen enthusiastic students last Saturday – including one of the librarians from the library that had organised the event and the town’s writer in residence. It was good to meet Nick Corder at last. We’ve been in email contact for just over twelve months. Some of the other participants were some of his OU students. There were about three people who had not done much writing before and there were a couple of secondary school teachers who were looking for something they could take back to the classroom. Each member of the group brought some useful experience to it, and all shared a love of reading and writing.
I started off giving them a few facts about the child we were concentrating on – upper junior school. Of course, that child has his / her actual age, their physical age, their reading age, their mental age and their emotional age – so we definitely mean generalisations here. I introduced them to Laura Berk and Piaget.
The first writing exercise was about finding voice. This is as much to do with the perceived reader as with how the writer speaks. They must be addressing the child.
We then went on to look at plot, and how to maintain a balanced structure in a story. We looked also at character. Over lunch they completed my Character Magic exercise, where they answer 32 questions about two characters, then forget their answers and write a short scene between two of the characters. Whoever reads the scene can usually get most of the answers about the characters correct.
We also talked for a short while about narrative forms and the advantages / disadvantages of each one and also how you can mix and match them.
We then played consequences to force them into a story. That was something they could go and work on later.
Finally we talked about editing processes and publishing opportunities.
I think I gave them loads of information and some opportunity for writing.
I enjoyed myself too. I’d happily run such a workshop again.


Michael Stone said...

As one of the thirteen students I'd like to thank you for coming down to Stoke. I enjoyed the day and wish there had been a similar opportunity eight years ago when I first decided I wanted to write. You are an excellent teacher and I was very impressed how well you presented potentially difficult concepts in an understandable way as well as generating -- and maintaining! -- enthusiasm. Thanks again.

Gill James said...

I'm so glad you found it useful.