‘The Huntress project was a unique opportunity for members of our after-school clubs to meet a local, published author and to inspire them to write the first chapter of their very own adventure stories.’
Hello, and happy Spring (finally!) I’ve just realised that I am long overdue an update of this blog, and wanted to write about an exciting opportunity I had at the start of the spring term. I had the chance to be involved with a brilliant project run by Brighton’s awesome Little Green Pig, all about helping young writers begin their own adventure stories. I made four author visits to two of the after-school writing clubs, where I usually volunteer as a Story Mentor. It was a little strange to be there as a visiting author, instead … and the kids probably found it a bit of a shock, too!
Workshop leader Adam did some prep with the kids before my visits, to support them to start crafting maps and inventing characters. He brought material like holiday travel books to after school sessions and the writers cut pictures/words that stood out and identified themes to feed into their own fantastical building of worlds and crafting of adventures.
I sent Adam links to some teaching resources made by Egmont and a Powerpoint presentation I’ve used when visiting schools. As a former teacher, Adam liked the resources, but LGP focuses on freeing up creativity over following rules so he also liked the emphasis in my presentation on what you maybe don’t need to be a writer – like how stuff like spelling doesn’t matter when it comes to stories (yay!) Then I made two initial visits to each of the Monday and Tuesday after school clubs, introducing myself, my book and my first chapter, plus sharing pages from my Huntress scrapbook.
My presentation was also used before my first visit, as a way to unlock creativity – the kids responded with free writing and then started making collages. The ultimate aim was for each child to write the first chapter of an adventure book, and hopefully continue their stories in their own time, beyond the scope of the project.
For my follow up sessions at the two clubs, Adam and I chose an activity to tie in with my book/adventure books and to serve as a warm-up before carrying on with the writing. Here are some of the activities we came up with:
– Describe a fantasy setting OR a fantasy ship
– Describe your dream adventure
– Freewriting with the keyword ‘adventure’
– Freewriting about a creature (magical or otherwise) who you would take with you on an adventure
-Use one of my exercises from my presentation e.g. what’s in your pockets or choose your special power
– Get into pairs and intro characters to each other
– One of us could bring some interesting objects and the kids could each choose one and write about it (inspire the free writing?)
– What magical kit would you pack for an adventure?
We chose to go with ‘get into pairs and intro characters to each other,’ and then introduce the story and protagonist to the group using a fun book-launch style format where each writer introduced their story as though it was their own book launch (to much applause.) I explained what my own book launch had been like and played the part of the ‘bookseller’ introducing each author to their audience.
We used one of the LGP values, ‘Be Brave’, to help each writer find the bravery needed to present in front of the group – a skill I think it must be so useful to practice from an early age – but I also told them how I could never have spoken in front of people at their age, and if they didn’t want to, that’s totally normal and fine too!
We were mesmerised by the resulting stories. Writers were naming worlds and creating tense, pacy chapters and introducing us to truly memorable characters. In one story we were transported to the Glowing Up Express, in another we met an army of sugar-shruggers. In other adventures we met a girl called Ore, and the lonely pooac – the only creature hot enough to survive the burning flood of roaxls.
Here’s what Adam said about the project after it wrapped:
‘I enjoyed learning about Sarah’s own journey of creating her characters and settings, and then to see the children’s own story-journey through collaging, map making and playing with letters to create such weird and wonderful words! These ranged from a slimy creature named a ‘pooac’ to ‘roaxl’ – a liquid that makes people disappear. Thank you, Sarah, for coming in and spending time with both the Whitehawk and Portslade clubs and inspiring some great, imaginative writing!’
I am beyond proud to have had the chance to work with these brilliantly creative writers, and for the project to be based on my work is a massive honour. Thank you, Little Green Pig, and keep writing!