When I first got back into creative writing in 2012, I spent most of my lunch breaks in the local library getting books and resources to help with my writing. It could be anything from books about Magic Lanterns to books about bullying and friendship. I would also spend time talking with the librarians about my writing, my goals and dreams, especially my dream of becoming a published author.
It was with great surprise when I was approached to run a school holiday workshop. At that point, I hadn’t published a book! The workshop was a success, and the library asked me about running a regular group for young writers. I said yes and have been doing it ever since!
The group is quite casual, giving the kids the opportunity to ask burning questions about writing, editing, publishing, and reading. We share writing tips, book recommendations, and even do some writing with fun prompts, such as using chocolate bars (that’s one of the favourites).
In the Kidlit community, I hear so much about doing school visits, but not so much about running groups outside school. One thing that I’ve found through running this group is that there are teens out there who really want to write, and there are libraries who are wanting to run activities for teens.
Working with teens is so rewarding. Each person I work with is looking for their own writing style. Many of them are also finding the information given to them at school doesn’t necessarily fit that style. Having the opportunity of a regular writing group gives them the opportunity to explore different genre, different writing prompts, and different styles. I know that my writing style never quite fit in with what my teachers wanted, and the kids have enjoyed hearing about my experiences as a teen writer.
The teens are also growing in confidence as writers. I love watching this grow from week to week. There are many kids who come along and, on their first time, hardly say two words. As time goes on, their confidence grows as they start asking questions and sharing the pieces they have written during the session, to bringing in work they have done at home or at school to share with the group.
I hope that by coming to the group, these teens will grow in confidence and one day I will be looking at the shelves of a bookshop, spot one of their books on the bestseller shelf and say: “I knew them when they were first starting!”
To start a regular writing group, contact your local library or even your local school, and see if they are interested. They may have a group of teenagers that come to the library after school who would enjoy the opportunity to talk about writing regularly, or the school may want to start a lunchtime or after school club with students who are enthusiastic writers.
For this service, I charge less than a traditional school visit as the group is smaller and it’s a regular income instead of a once off. It’s also less structured than a school visit would be, to give the students the opportunity to ask the questions they want to ask, in an environment that is comfortable for them.
Oh, I nearly forgot, I always have some sort of reward for the kids who participate, usually a chocolate frog or a lollipop. It’s amazing how much this small reward can get kids involved!
When looking at writing groups, find out about what requirements there are, such as Working with Children checks and insurance. The requirements may be different depending on where you are. Having these in place before you contact the library or school will make it much easier to get started.
Melissa Gijsbers is an Australian author who has three middle grade books published, all written during the Chapter Book Challenge! She has two teenage boys and runs a regular group for young writers at her local library. You can find her online at www.melissagijsbers.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/melissagijsbers.
Today's prize is a copy of the book "W by