The course helped me focus on what I wanted to write, and gave me ideas about how. It challenged me to have a go at all sorts of writing, and it gave me a chance to relax and have fun with writing stories as well.
|Recommended reading: picture books|
Over the course of ten weeks, we talked about every type of children’s writing, from picture books through to YA and crossover novels. I picked a list of recommended reading (that wasn't easy) which included classics and contemporary novels.
We analysed what made them work, talked about structure and word length, ways of planning and plotting and just giving it a go. We talked about getting published, approaching agents and joining helpful groups like SCWBI. Maurice Lyon, editorial director at Frances Lincoln Children’s Books was kind enough to come and share his wisdom about all aspects of children’s publishing (I learned a few things!).
|Recommended reading: chapter books|
Others did though, and tried their hands at exercises for plot-planning, character building, world-imagining, finding your voice. We looked for stories in our own backgrounds, we rewrote traditional tales. Every week some students found the exercise particularly difficult, others had their breakthrough moment. Some only attended a few classes, others found it had a profound effect on how they thought about their whole lives.
|Recommended reading: YA|
I learned a lot from teaching the class. It was actually very helpful to discuss areas of children’s writing which I’d never tried myself - fantasy, say, or picture books. I also realised how important it was to step away from formal ‘how to’ teaching, and give students the chance to talk about how writing made them feel vulnerable and nervous. That’s why writing exercises were important. They force you to come up with instant ideas, which often aren’t great - how can they be after ten minutes thought? At first everyone was striving for excellence, for a polished finished product. Then gradually they realised that the whole point of writing in class was to show that getting started doesn’t have to be perfect, it can’t possibly be polished, but it is possible in an hour to go from a blank mind and page to the start of something that might grow. That's what I'm going to try and explain to my students right at the start of term this time. I still feel bad about the lady who never came back.
If you’re interested in signing up for the course, and you're free on a Tuesday night between 6.30 and 8.30pm, and you can get to Islington, details are here. I’d love to see you there.