I’m in Guernsey. On one of the most exciting writing jobs I’ve had.
I was approached by Steve Willshaw from the education department here. I met him first in Lincolnshire, where he worked before he moved to the Channel Islands. You might know him from his Reading Passports project.
Steve had identified a problem in Guernsey. That a lot of children in Y7 aren’t keen on / confident at / happy reading and writing. But it’s not just a problem in Guernsey, as we know.
Steve wanted to set up a Sports Writing Academy. To use a lot of the reluctant readers’ / writers’ passion for sport to persuade them to see writing as meaningful.
He asked me to help him. Along with four high schools’ PE teachers, English teachers and several well-known Guernsey sports’ stars.
This is what we’ve done so far:
1. We met the Y7s and asked them what sports they liked to play / do. Then we asked them for more detail. The kind of detail that might help us develop a story.
2. I went away and thought up some story ideas based on their ideas. I wrote down ten solid ideas and sent them to the children, asking them to choose their favourite six. Which they did.
3. I wrote one story a month for six months. Some of the children read them and suggested edits, but also suggested local detail that would help me make all the stories very much set on Guernsey.
4. I came to Guernsey again and had a look at the settings the children wanted, to help me describe them properly. And also to work with the children on Guernsey – and Alderney – to develop six more story ideas.
By the end of 2014 we will have twelve stories. All defined and edited by the children. All set in the children’s familiar world. We also hope that the children will have developed more desire and confidence to read and write.
I said at the top that this is one of the most exciting writing jobs I’ve had. That’s not because I get to visit Guernsey, which is very nice. It’s not because today I went searching for sports taking place on the island on Steve’s bike, in the sun. There are two reasons it is so exciting.
One, because I like to work with the children on stories that they feel they are genuinely helping to write, meaning they become more interested in reading and writing.
Two, because I am writing about new sports like bass fishing (a spy thriller), coasteering ( a ghost story) and ballet (a family drama). It’s stretching me as a writer – in big ways.
Thanks for reading.