It is easy to say, off the top of your head, that it is impossible to teach someone to write. There is a huge array of creative writing courses out there, and not one of them is going to magically make anyone ‘become a writer’ if they don’t already have talent and drive.
However. You can, it transpires, encourage people of all ages to tap into their innate writing talent, and to let their imagination run wild. You can show them different ways of writing, help them find a starting point, and stand back and watch the amazing results.
Last September, I started a writing club at my children’s primary school. I did it out of a vague idea that it would be fun, coupled with a feeling that I should do something nice for a school at which all three of my children are extremely happy.
I roped in Craig Green, the school’s other resident writer-parent, and the writing club was, instantly, something amazing.
The children who come along every Monday (and they are a diverse group) are, when they step into the club, bright, keen, ambitious and imaginative. We have watched them grow in confidence until even the shy ones are often jumping up and down in their desperation to be picked to read out what they have written. If they don’t want to read aloud, Craig (who has the voice for it) will do it for them. Everything everybody writes is appreciated. We have set them to work writing stories, plays, poetry, haikus and letters. They always seize the task and throw themselves into it. Both of us are phenomenally proud of our writers.
We go nowhere near the National Curriculum, and never give a moment’s thought to SATs or box-ticking of any sort. We encourage children to write for the joy of it; and they respond in an overwhelming and phenomenal way. I see in their faces the same joy that I take in losing myself in writing my books.
Inspired by this, Craig and I have set up a writing venture, Barrington Green (named after a village we invented, using our names, to use as a setting for much of last term’s writing. There is a map of Barrington Green that I made myself, so it does exist. It was recently invaded by aliens, which was unnerving for the residents, though no lasting harm was done). With the help of Falmouth Town Council, we are offering workshops and courses to children from the wider community. They will take place in the Council Chamber, which, as settings go, is very grand indeed.
This part is mainly interesting if you live in Cornwall. Things will kick off with a workshop for children aged 8-13 on May 1st. We have ten places available, and they will be given to the children who produce the most striking written work about, or set in, Falmouth. It can be a story, a poem or a script, and we are interested in things that make us gasp or laugh; things that are original. If your child, or any child you know, would like to enter, they should write something in 500 words or fewer and email it to email@example.com before Friday April 20th.
That workshop will be a warm-up for our intensive August summer school, from August 6th-9th, with sessions for children from 8-11 (mornings) and 12-16 (afternoons). We have already booked in guest speakers including TV writer James Henry and children’s author Liz Kessler, and children will have a chance to try out many different ways of writing, as well as working on their own longer project.
We will be offering some scholarship places for this week – details to follow. To join our mailing list, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find us on twitter @BarringtonGreen.
And, wherever you live, even if it is far from Cornwall (and let’s face it, many places are), encourage your children to write. They are amazing.