As I said in the last post, the format at my writing group is REALLY simple. I don’t do any formal teaching or give instructions or exercises, we just let the kids write whatever they like and they respond well to that, producing fantastic writing that’s really personal and important to them.

But there are ways you can inspire, help and teach them without putting them under pressure or making them feel like they’re doing homework and I’ll be sharing those as we go along.

First up: Top Tips

Something that always inspires me to write, is reading interviews with other writers. Mostly this is to reassure myself that they ALL find it difficult, but the best bit is when they give you their ‘Top Ten Tips’ for writing. Every writer gets asked for these apparently, there are dozens of them online.

When I first began working with my young writers, I started choosing an author each week and printing out their Top Ten Tips to give to the kids. Sometimes they’d heard of the writer, sometimes they hadn’t, it didn’t matter. They always looked forward to the tips because they’re quick, useful, often funny, and they come from REAL writers, which, I’m sorry, is always going to be more impressive than REAL librarians and REAL teachers (totes unfair, I know).

But the big benefit of these is seeing that every writer does it differently. It’s great when you read a tip and think, ‘Oh! I do that too!’ because you feel like you must be getting it right, but it’s also great to see the massive variation in writing methods because it drives home the point that actually, you can’t possibly be getting it wrong.

Continue reading “Top Tips”

It is a truth universally acknowleged that kids hate school. Even the ones who love it, are publically obliged to swear it’s hell on toast. Which makes me wonder why writing groups for kids are based on a traditional classroom model: An adult sits at the front, talks at you a bit, sets an exercise and then judges your work.

Not saying there’s anything wrong with classrooms or teachers, just that, for some kids, the classroom setting is tied up with notions about assessment and right/wrong, pass/fail, which isn’t really what creativity is about.

Most writing classes have to be run this way because it’s usually a one-off session or a course that people have paid to do, so of course you need to provide actual instruction. And this can be brilliant and helpful. But a regular school writing group has certain advantages that you don’t get from one-off taught classes and we can exploit these. Such as:

Continue reading “We Don’t Need No Education”

Welcome to The Blank Page Blog! Novels are all very well but I do love a good blog. They’re useful, bite-sized and create communities of likeminded people. Plus you get to use memes, and who doesn’t love a meme?

So I have set up The Blank Page for all things Fellowship, and I thought I would start with a post on being appointed as Seamus Heaney Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland and my plans for this year, because that’s probably the best way to introduce myself.

What is a Children’s Writing Fellowship, I hear you cry. Well, funnily enough, I asked Damian Smyth from the Arts Council the same question. And the answer was, ‘whatever you make it’. It’s essentially two years of time and space for me to write and work on projects that I’m passionate about.

So you can think of this first blog post as a statement of the things I’m passionate about and would like to contribute to through this wonderful opportunity, and my plans for working with schools this year.

A mini-festo, if you will!

Continue reading “Minifesto”