January is all very well but September has always felt like a much more exciting New Year to me. Probably because of the stationery. So what better reason to buy some super sharp new pencils and… start a Creative Writing Club?
If your school doesn’t have one already, there are SO many good reasons for starting one.
- It’s hugely beneficial educationally and psychologically to be creative. You’ll be giving your students such an important gift.
- It’s also an amazingly relaxing, heart-warming, and bonding experience just to sit in a room with a bunch of people quietly putting their thoughts on paper. And when they share those thoughts with you it’s honestly such a privilege and a joy.
- It’s SO much fun! Teenagers have incredible imaginations and ideas. My group inspire me constantly by coming up with stuff I could never have thought of. My mind is regularly blown.
- You get tea and cake!
- You get to hang out in the library after school like the cool kids in The Breakfast Club.
- It doesn’t cost a thing!
- It’s super easy!
Seriously, it is. If you’d like to set up a group but you’re worried that it’ll be a lot of work, or that you have to be a writer yourself, don’t. It’s so easy. In fact, the less you do, the better your group will be. I think the worst thing you can do is march in with a lesson plan and a PowerPoint presentation. It’s tempting to do that because we worry that if we don’t control things, nothing will happen, or if there’s a silence we need to fill it. But creativity happens in the gaps. In the unstructured, daydreaming, free time that teenagers get less and less of as they go through school.
All you need to provide for your group is time and space (and cake, obvs). If you’re new to this, have a look through the early posts on this blog, where I outline what I do with my group. It mostly involves letting my young writers bring their own ideas and letting them get on with it, but there are also some resources for writers who like writing prompts, or writers who want advice with things like character building, idea generation, dialogue writing etc.
But honestly, I’ve always got the best results by letting my young writers just pursue their own ideas. They’re always much more enthusiastic about those ideas than they are about any prompt or exercise I could give them. And if you give them five minutes to think, they always come up with something they want to write. It’s such a gorgeous thing to witness the light suddenly come on in someone’s eyes and see the real world disappear for them as they dive into a new one.
And all you need to know about writing is how to listen and tell them what you loved about their work. There’s advice on that here too, but really it’s very simple. If you’re a reader, you’ll be fab at it. And your feedback and encouragement could mean so much to them.
I was a young writer once and I would have loved to have had writer friends and someone to encourage me but my school didn’t have a writing group so it was quite a lonely experience. I created this website because I know what these groups could mean to kids like me. So this is my annual plea to teachers and librarians to start your own club! Please Please Please!
And do feel free to email me if you have any questions or worries about starting a group or just want to chat about it!
And if you’ve already got a group going, yay, and here are some opportunities you could tell your young writers about:
- Fighting Words NI have expanded their Write Club sessions so that, as well as the zoom groups in Prose&Poetry, Journalism and Playwrighting, there’s now an in-person group starting tonight 4.30-6pm at the Skainos Centre on Newtownards Road! Write Club is always free and all teens are welcome.
- Fighting Words are also running a free story-writing workshop for 12-18s at the Skainos Centre on Thursday 22nd September 6-8pm. Participants will invent characters and create an original story set in Belfast and brought to life by an on-site illustrator! Book your place here.
- The Paper Lanterns Journal of writing for and by young adults is always open for submissions (and if you have a club, why not subscribe to the journal! It’s always so inspiring for young writers to see published work by people their age, and they’re based in Ireland!)
Hope you all had a fantastic summer. I was off camping for two months and I actually really missed my writing group! It’s been great to get back to them and read what they’ve been writing. (One of them finished a whole novel! My inner teenager is in a state of deep awe.)
I shall be back with more opportunities and 1990s based memes and in the meantime, all my best to you and your young writers for the year ahead.