Yesterday morning was spent with twelve gifted and talented children from Orchard Infant School, Manor Infant School and Waterside Primary School as we got stuck in to a writing workshop.
The session started with a brief introduction to me and my books, with me reading The New Forest Friends & The Litterbugs. I then explained how I went about writing them and my inspiration for the stories.
Then, using some large sheets of paper, I invited the children to help me create a couple of cartoon animal characters that they could then use in their stories. Some brilliant suggestions followed, with us settling on a hamster that could swim underwater called Libby and a life-guard Octopus called Harry.
We then constructed a bubble map of possible directions the stories could take, additional characters, various settings, and different story genres to encourage the children to come up with their own unique perspectives. They then went off to construct a story hill ("story path" or "story mountain" I heard used too) where the children map the outline of the tale by identifying the beginning, middle and end.
We then managed a quick break for squash and biscuits before sharing our ideas with the group and then plunging properly into the writing. The children all had their own pace, so some managed to complete a story within an hour whereas others had something of a much grander scale in mind so needed to take theirs away to complete. We had cave fires, magic whirlpools, mean sharks, volcanic danger, snow and much more, so it was encouraging to see the diversity of their ideas. Bearing in mind these were infant-aged children, reminders to include good description and use similes cropped up several times, but where they did use them it was great to see their adventures become more vibrant.
It was great fun, not least because the children were enthusiastic and eager to take part, and I'm looking forward to receiving all the completed stories via the adult representatives from the three schools in the coming days.