Thursday, 12 June 2014

Seeking Out Other Writers

Whilst trying desperately to stay focused on my own writing (and mostly trying to FINISH stuff I've started on the MA), I am also working on a new venture. I am very fortunate that my 'Real World job' (messing about in Secondary English teaching) affords some cross-over with my writing-life, and at the moment I am setting up some projects that will allow me to build on this.

This is all very distracting ... Or is it?

I've set up two writing groups so far. One with group of very enthusiastic yr8 students and one with an eager group of yr12 students. As most of you will realise, we're in the last few weeks of the school year but this is a great time to try things out with a view to establishing something more permanent in September. The groups are at different schools, there's no additional money to make this happen, it all needs planning for, and I still have time-consuming commitments related my key role ... But it's something I've thought long and hard about and I think I can make it work - got to be worth a try at least ...

The best bit? The VERY best bit? Gathering together with other writers and writing, of course.

What a thoroughly egalitarian activity writing is. How wonderful that when you get a group of enthusiastic writerly types together, regardless of age, experience or expertise - they enrich each other. As with any good teaching-type experience, I know I am benefiting as much from them as they are from me. I've got lots of ideas to get them writing, and I'm writing alongside them in every session.

My priority in the first instance has been to convince them to make a commitment to their writing. To write everyday. I know this was my first critical step into thinking of myself as a writer, and writing. I've shown them some of my (messy) notebooks. Of course I've not let them read them and I've promised them I will never read theirs. A writer's notebook is a private space.
'A notebook can be a clearing in the forest of your life, a place where you can be alone and content as you play with outrage and wonder, details and gossip, language and dreams, plots and sub-plots, perceptions and small epiphanies.' Ralph Fletcher
They're all very busy people of course but I've suggested that even just ten minutes everyday with their notebook will make a HUGE difference to how they think and feel about their writing and themselves as writers. In case they get 'stuck' I've given them some writing activities to try out. You can access this resource here: Being a Writer Prompts - you may find some of the ideas useful. I'm still wondering why I was so certain in the session on Friday that 'Love is orange'? I'd love to know what colour you or your writing buddies think it is.

We've got four packed sessions to go and in each group we are working towards publication. We are working towards having a finished piece of writing by the end of our brief diversion into writing to spur us on to making a longer term commitment. I did say I was learning as much from them as they are from me!


  1. This is SUCH a brilliant idea and I cannot praise you enough!!For a start, it is getting future writers to practice their craft. I started writing in Yr 7 at the behest of Mrs Myers, an inspirational teacher who set us imaginative pieces to do. The curricum doesn't give enough space to creative writing.
    Secondly, for kids to see a teacher/adult writing and writing WITH them is such a supportive thing to do. As you say, it fosters the ''we are all writers'' idea. I do this with my GCSE students too is a revelation to them! Same problems apply to us all.
    If just one of your groups goes on to become a professional writer, you will know you have been instrumental in setting their feet on the path!!!

    1. Thank you Carol, I really appreciate your comments and they confirm what's driving me to make this work.
      I've been in teaching for years and I've always tried to do it well but what I've learned since I've been writing has completely changed my approach. I'm very excited about my new venture and very keen to make it work. Like you say, if just one student goes on to write professionally I'll have all the justification I need. And the writing with them is CRUCIAL. It's the demystification thing - it's SO powerful, isn't it.
      Thanks again xx

  2. Love is a rainbow, because it stretches as wide as you need it to and embraces the murky purple days as well as the lovely yellow and orange.

  3. Jo, thank you so much for this - it is absolutely beautiful xxx