Friday 23 December 2011

School Visit to Brigshaw School 7 December 2011

I had a very enjoyable half-morning with some Y9 students at this very pleasant school. I arrived at about 9.15 – just in time to start my session at 9.25.
I started off reading a little from each of the threads, in my Holocaust story, Potatoes in Spring. I didn’t introduce it as a Holocaust story, but let the students “listen between the lines”. Many of them seemed to understand though I’m not sure that they’ve yet visited the Holocaust in Y9.
I then read a little to them form Alex Smith’s Calling for Angels. Alex won The Red Telephone competition last year and I edited the book. She really captured the voice of the fourteen-year-old. Her story stood out beyond all of the others, including three very good ones. We were astonished to find that she was just 16 and even more astounded to discover later that she had only been 14 when she wrote the book. I wanted to show the students what they might be capable of and encourage them to have a go.  
We then had some time for questions and answers. One question I’d never been asked before was “What do you drink when you’re writing?”  I guess the young man who posed that question was hoping I’d say gin and tonic or red wine. The truth is, I guess, that if I drink anything at all it would be Earl Grey tea. But there is also the sense that one is writing when one is not writing. The ideas continue to bubble along. I did explain this. I did not connect that with drinking.  The young man in question seemed worldly-wise enough to work out any such connection without any help from me.  
We finished up with a short creative exercise which demonstrates how story comes from character and how important it is that writers know their characters well. I left the students working on a scene where they put two main characters in their stories together. They see what happens. Also, they then let others read their work. They try to establish whether the readers understand the characters as they’ve created them.  Most of the time they do and this is because of the effort that has been put into knowing the characters before they’re written about.    
We worked in the school’s library and it was a joy to see it well-stocked and well-used. The students were extremely engaged and very polite and enthusiastic. A group of students were taking notes with a view to producing a piece of journalistic writing.  I’m interested to see how that turns out.
Find out more about Brigshaw School here.  

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