The Challenges of Running Children’s Writing Camps

I’m giving a children’s writing camp this summer and I’m looking forward to it. It’s been about two years since I gave a writers’ camp to children, and in that time, I’ve gathered lots of ideas for working more effectively with children, and I’m dying to put these into practise. Working with children brings lots of challenges, and careful preparation will ensure I can rise to those challenges.

 

Here’s a flavour of the kinds of challenges I’ll be dealing with.

child writing
Writing with children: a joy and a challenge

Condensing five days into three days

I always gave five-day writing camps before, lasting two hours each. But on the suggestion of fellow writer and mother Orla Shanaghy, a great promotor of my camps, I’ve adjusted the format to a three-day camp with longer sessions. I’m hoping this will be more convenient for working mothers. But it does mean I’ll need to hold children’s attention for longer. Other writer-mothers on a Facebook group I run suggested things like adding drawing activities, word games and lots of breaks. I’m confident that if I act on their suggestions, the time will fly.

Dealing with personalities

From previous experience, I’ve found that there are two extremes of personality I need to deal with in children’s writing camps. One is the loud child who is brilliant at distracting everyone else with their lively wit and imagination. The other is the shy child who regards reading aloud as the equivalent of swallowing nails. For the loud child, boredom may be a factor, so I’ll keep the workshop moving and give them tasks to do. And for the quieter ones, I aim to make the atmosphere as warm as welcoming as possible, so they’ll realise that reading aloud isn’t so awful after all.

Managing volunteers

When you run a children’s writing camp, you must have other adults available for health and safety reasons. These people play a very valuable role, but they’re a responsibility too. My main responsibility to them is to make it clear what I’d like them to do, so they’re not just sitting there. They’ll have lots of practical things to do, like hand out writing materials and take children to the bathroom. But they play a creative role too, helping children who are quieter or work more slowly. Essentially, they’re a second pair of eyes and hands.

Have you ever run a children’s camp of any kind? What challenges have you come across and how have you dealt with them?

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Making a Press Release Newsworthy

When I started my business, I specialised in writing press releases. But as the world moved more online, that side of my business waned, and in the last two years, I have probably written only two. So it was a real blast from the past when I received a call from the owner of a well-known company, asking me to write a press release.

The owner had recently launched herself in the UK market, and is planning to use her press release to introduce herself. Journalists love juicy newsworthy angles, and the owner had been on a well-known TV programme which would be familiar to UK audiences. She felt that this would attract the interest of the UK media.

press release pic

Creating the Press Release

As a former journalist, I’m used to writing news articles, so I write press releases in that style. This means the main message of the press release will come through clearly in any coverage the business receives. It also means the coverage will be more factually accurate.

So I focused on the five Ws of journalism: what, when, where, who and why. I start with what, to get straight to the point about what makes the business newsworthy. When and where also covers practical information that people need to know.

I then elaborate on who is involved in the story: a well-known business owner or customer, or a person who may have benefited from the business. And I finish with why, because the reason why business people do what they do can be compelling, and makes for a memorable quote to finish.

Newsworthy Press Release

The service the company offers is quite feelgood and lifestyle oriented, but her style of speaking is quite crisp and matter of fact. So I aimed to create a press release that reflected her style, even though many of the outlets she’d be approaching would be more soft-focused.

Journalists really want to know if you’re media friendly, and this business owner certainly had that quality. So I hope that journalists will see that quality in the press release, even though it doesn’t have a current news angle. It’s more about introducing the company to the UK media. Certainly, the client was happy with it, and that’s my main priority.

Do you still send press releases? Do you still feel they’re relevant in an online world? If you’re a journalist, do you still rely on them as a source of news?

How I Got Paid for Reading

Recently, I got paid to read. What a delight for a bookworm like me. After all, it was my love of reading that naturally lead to my love of writing. But being paid to read, while still fun, is a different ballgame. You have to put your critical hat on. The reading I was doing was for a developmental edit, which is also known as a reader’s report.

pperson reading book

 What’s In a Reader’s Report?

A reader’s report is a comprehensive report that evaluates how well a story works. In this case, it was a novel, but you can also get reader’s reports for memoirs, collections of short stories or single stories. You give people overall recommendations on different aspects of their story: their plot, characters, setting, viewpoint and dialogue.

In a reader’s report, you don’t correct spelling or grammar, but you can flag up errors that keep repeating themselves, or give general tips to help a author improve their language, such as cutting down on adjectives.

 The End Result

In the final report, you give overall recommendations, and then you give a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of how to implement those recommendations. First, I read the story the whole way through. While I made notes, I aimed to read it as a general reader would, so I could immerse myself in it. These notes formed the basis for my overall recommendations. Then I read more analytically, going through each chapter to give chapter-by-chapter recommendations.

Reader’s reports are a really good idea if you’ve done a first draft of your story and you can’t figure out how to take it forward. That was the case for this author. They’re also a very good idea if you’re at a point where you can’t do any more with your story and you’re considering your options for publications. You may have shared the story with friends, family or a local writer’s group, but a professional opinion will help you take your story to the next level.

Have you ever had a reader’s report done? Have you ever compiled one?