I’ve just finished my annual creative writing camps for kids. I always think it’ll be a relief, to know that it went well and to be released from the anxiety that comes from being some way responsible for the wellbeing of small people for a week. In fact, it’s a sad moment, as I become fond of them and saying goodbye triggers a tug of my normally under-used heartstrings.
The camp was for 8-12 year olds and took place in the rather luscious surrounds of an arts centre called the Coastguard in Tramore, Co. Waterford, which overlooks the sea, and which has a cafe that caters beautifully for the sugar cravings that come after a creative-writing class.
Want to know what happened? Here’s a flavour of the shenanigans.
Day 1. Playing with Words
As the children were largely at the younger end of the 8-12 spectrum, I thought I’d break them in gently with some fun word games. The highlight was when they got to make up words of their own, with definitions to go with them. They did lots of activitis that encouraged them to play with words and get to know each other.
Day 2. Creating Characters
This was the day they got to play God and create characters of their own. I gave them a picture of a quirky girl and they gave her an identity, a name, an age, a place to live and other colourful details, including a secret about her that no one else knew. They walked like her, they talked like her and they did her family tree. Turns out children love family trees and are particularly entranced by their own.
Day 3. Travelling to New Worlds
This was a day for travelling through space and time. The children invented their own countries and sent postcards home from them. They also imagined that they were aliens who had just landed at the Coastguard and were sending a report to their spaceship commander, outlining what they saw.
Day 4. Hatching Plots
No story is complete without an event, and the children came up with lots of ideas for action filled stories. They told the stories behind wacky headlines and they did a compiled a story in a group. Each person in the group started a story and the other members in their group had to continue it. They had to do the same for the others in their group. In this activity, stories can go in weird and wonderful directions.
Day 5. The Big Story
Finally, it was time for the children to put their newfound skills to good use and write a full length story. They planned their story using a story spine. This is a series of sentences with blank spaces left in, which you fill. Those details you fill in then form the basis for your story. When they’d done that, they wrote their story.
The template for their story was that their character was charged with finding the treasure stone, to bring it back to their homeland and save their people. To do this, they had to travel through a dangerous land and defeat the monster who was guarding the stone. Despite their young age, the children rose to the challenge and produced stories full of imagination and colour.
Now it’s time to hatch plans for the next camp.