Saturday, 8 November 2014

I'll be there for you - by Keren David

I ran a creative writing workshop yesterday, with a brilliant group of  Y7 boys from St Albans High School as part of the brand new St Albans Literary Festival.
We all need friends....
We talked about their favourite characters in books that they'd read. Then they created their own characters by answering a questionnaire that I devised. After that they got into pairs, introduced their characters to each other and set about weaving a plot around those two people.
It's an exercise that I'm particularly fond of, because it was the way that my first book was born, in a classroom at City University where I was taking a course in Writing for Children.  My character (14 year old boy in witness protection) met a disabled athlete dreamed up by author Amanda Swift who taught the course. We sketched a basic plot, and at the end of the lesson I felt so inspired that I asked Amanda if I could steal her character for my book.
I also like it as an exercise because it demonstrates a way of approaching writing that is quite unlike the usual stereotype of the lone author thinking in solitude. By chatting and debating -  noise levels were high -  the boys came up with fabulous plots. At the end of the workshop, they were so enthusiastic about this collaborative way of working that I suggested that they find writing partners, to help them develop their ideas and critique their work.
After all, in the world of children's writing we help each other out all the time.
This week I delivered a copy-edited manuscript which has been read at various stages by at least six writer friends, all with helpful advice.
I posted to an on line writers' group which encourages members to meet their daily deadlines -  and to several other friendly forums dedicated to sharing news, advice, career guidance and  just a little bit of gossip.
I met another friend to give her feedback on her novel, and had a quick read of another friend's new project to give advice before her deadline.
I had cocktails and dinner with six writer friends and an evening in drinking wine and eating cake with two others.
A writer friend had to pull out of the St Albans festival, so was looking for a replacement. I stood in for her, and met two author friends who I'd previously only met online.
Today, I'm going to be taking part in STREAM, a new children's and teen book event in South London -  alongside countless author friends.  Details (it's not too late to book if you're reading this in the morning) here.
Sometimes, I feel it's my writer friends that keep me going in this up-and-down world of being an author. I don't think I could do it without them. And I have to keep writing, just to stay in this wonderful community!


Sue Purkiss said...

Oh, I like that exercise!

Sue Bursztynski said...

Sounds wonderful! I might try it myself, if I can think of a questionnaire. See, I've just been told I have to teach an elective in creative writing at my school next year("But you're a writer! Of course you can teach it!"). And I need to do something to prevent it from turning into "English Extensions" where they dump all the bits they can't fit into the regular English course. (I pointed out at an English meeting that if they try that, nobody will want to choose it). This might be one of the things we can start with. It would be Year 9 and 10.

Writer Pat Newcombe said...

sounds like a great exercise. I might try that myself when I'm stumped for ideas.

Nicola Morgan said...

Great post, Keren! As part of that community, I agree.

Love that exercise, too.