Doors open inwards to enclosed spaces and outwards into wild city streets, quiet country lanes or even undiscovered worlds. There may be tiny doors in the skirting board or amongst the roots of trees, doors into the mountainside and heavily barred and bolted doors that guard the entrance to a fortress. Doors can take us … Continue reading Door
Here’s another way to create a character that might develop into a story. Jonathon Miller, the director, said that sometimes a prop, and a direction to handle or hold it in a particular way, could help an actor get a better sense of the character they were playing. The example he gave was a handbag, … Continue reading Pencil case
If the glove fits
Actors, when taking on a new role, often choose an item of clothing to help them get into character. Most commonly, they choose footwear. When they put on a pair of clumsy, outsize boots, comfortable carpet slippers or a pair of stilettos, their posture changes immediately. Their shoes affect the way they move about and … Continue reading If the glove fits
Mr Pepys, the diarist
Samuel Pepys was a civil servant in late 17th century London. He kept a diary for ten years. His daily entries recorded who he met and who he entertained, his conversations with his wife and his noting of business, good food and theatre visits. His record of his everyday life allows us to have a … Continue reading Mr Pepys, the diarist
What are you eating?
Perhaps you could keep a food diary. Nigel Slater, the chef and writer, said in a recent interview that he has kept a food diary for years. His books all emerge from these daily records of shopping, growing, cooking and eating. Perhaps you could start your writing by listing what you have eaten. Was it … Continue reading What are you eating?
Whatever the weather
The weather is always a topic of conversation in countries like England where the weather is so changeable and often seems unpredictable. A weather diary is interesting from a scientific point of view and you might wish to get technical -note the wind direction, learn the names of cloud formations, note the temperature. You may … Continue reading Whatever the weather
We’ve talked about Gilbert White and his diaries and letters before. It is worth returning to him. His notes and observations are full of life. He captures details of each day so that we can imagine the seasons and something of the life of people at the time. He writes often in note form. Look … Continue reading Natural histories
The start of a new year always brings a flurry of advice about becoming the new you. We may be making lists of the things we resolve to do in the coming year. You and those you write with are already writing. You may not be writing every day (and that is a gentle aspiration) … Continue reading Pause
Start with the image
The calendars we have made in our writing club combine words and visual images. We prioritise the words and create images later. We have often chosen simple painting and pattern making techniques -wax resist, collage with objects and collage using paper. You will have many ideas about what medium to choose. We have not yet … Continue reading Start with the image
It is possible for one person to create a whole calendar alone. It would be a labour of love. Twelve months. Twelve illustrations. If you are part of a class or group, then the work can be shared. Start with a theme. One that easily comes to mind is the seasons and the months within … Continue reading Seasons
The Names of the Months
We are approaching the end of the year and may be thinking about gifts and new diaries. Even though we can find the date quickly on our phones, it is nice to have a calendar to remind us of the days and the passing of the seasons. You might like to create your own calendar … Continue reading The Names of the Months
I found this box in a shop that was full of second hand furniture and trinkets and nick nacks of all kinds. It is not an especially attractive box, but something made me open it. Inside was a folded sheet of paper, blotches and faded with old age. I discovered that it was part of … Continue reading Letter box
A box of rings
Sometimes a box might contain a collection. This bejewelled box seemed to invite a collection of sparkly things. It contains a collection of rings … …. which could also be a collection of characters. Four rings, four characters many more than four stories. Choose a ring and build the character who might wear it. Give … Continue reading A box of rings
What’s in the box?
Make a collection of small boxes and tines. Save small food tins – cream of tartar, Colman’s mustard, mini mints. Find decorative tins and boxes in charity shops. Hold on to interesting boxes: camembert boxes, small chocolate boxes,. They have a gazillion uses. Boxes can slightly push writers to step out of their comfort zone. … Continue reading What’s in the box?
Many years ago I was given a carved sandalwood box. When I opened it, I discovered that it contained a collection of smaller boxes, neatly fitted into the space. My students knew me well. I still use this collection of boxes. Each box, just like the one that holds them, is filled with surprises. It … Continue reading This box
Here’s a way of looking closely and writing poems, as a group, in pairs or alone. We were prompted to write about it now, because pumpkins are such a good subject for this approach. However, there are all kinds of fruit and vegetables which work well. The idea is fairly simple. Start with a fruit … Continue reading Treasure boxes
In Philip Pullman’s magic novel, The Firework Maker’s Daughter, Lila, the daughter in question, learns to invent and make fireworks herself. When she does so, her father encourages her to name them. She makes Golden SneezesCrackle DragonsTumbling DemonsShimmering CoinsJava LightsLeaping Monkeys. Invent some names for your own fireworks. Make a list. Choose one and describe … Continue reading Firework makers
Here is another way of writing about fireworks that could be displayed in your firework books. Yesterday we focused on sound. Now think about the whole experience of watching a single firework or a whole display. Continue to think about sound. Add movement, pattern, colour. Think about pace: crescendo and diminuendo; how some fireworks are … Continue reading More fireworks
Here is a way to use the firework book [yesterday’s post]. Focus on sound. Make a list of onomatopoeic words that capture the sound of fireworks. Try to push beyond the usual words – bang and whoosh and screech – and invent some new words. Use consonants on their own - k k k k … Continue reading Fireworks
Remember, remember, the 5th of November, Gunpowder, treason and plot. Whether or not we remember the plot, people in England often have bonfires and fireworks around this time. Those of celebrating Diwali may also be letting off fireworks, so, today we’ll show you how to make a folded book which Paul Johnson describes as a … Continue reading Firework book
If you have made a set of characters from card (see last week’s posts), you are all set to create a drama. You can make a simple theatre (more card) and even some scenery to slot down as a background. Add strips of card to your characters so you can move them on and off … Continue reading On stage!
Read lots. Write lots. There is a real benefit to making freewriting a frequent, even daily, habit. The more you write, the more fluent you become. Confidence grows. And you are likely to find yourself playing, experimenting. Freewriting is for you alone. You can write whatever you wish. It can be freeing in many ways. … Continue reading Writing freely
Ask a writer for advice about writing and they are more than likely to say, ‘Read lots. Write lots.’ When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else.Zadie Smith There are all kinds of reasons for reading. The tricky thing, sometimes, is to convince … Continue reading Read lots!
Here’s another use for cardboard, both thick and thin. Create card characters using the thick card from boxes. Cut rectangles and draw your character. If you wish, you can cut the outline of the character, but if you leave them as rectangles, there is space to add a speech bubble or three. Give the character … Continue reading Cardboard Conversations
We have had fun writing and drawing on cardboard. There is usually quite a lot of cardboard around – thin card from food packaging and stouter card from boxes. One of the good things about a cardboard box is that its corners provide an instant hinge. We made simple house books, some cut flat and … Continue reading Cardboard
What do you like to write on? Does it depend on what you are writing? Paper – or screen? Do you prefer plain or lined paper? Narrow lines, wide-spaced, or perhaps you prefer squared pages. Perhaps it depends on what and where you are writing. Do you like loose sheets of paper or a notebook? … Continue reading Paper
What cats really say
Different languages have different words for the sounds that animals make. You may think that bees buzz but in Bengali they bhonbhon, in Japanese they bunbun, in Estonian, summ-summ and Korean they have a choice between boong-boong and wing-wing. Cats say ngeong in Indonesia and in Nahuatl (Mexico) they say tlatzomia. The Scottish poet, Alistair … Continue reading What cats really say
Words you didn’t know existed
The English language is full of words from all over the world, brought to us by traders, refugees, conquerors; collected by travellers, emigres and empire builders. It is one of the reasons for the richness of the language, and for the difficulty of its spelling. The words we have reflect who we are and the … Continue reading Words you didn’t know existed
I came across a copy of the Gobblefunk Dictionary yesterday. It’s a dictionary devoted to words that Roald Dahl invented and used in his novels, especially in The BFG. There’s a real pleasure in inventing words, and if you are reading a story by Roald Dahl you will have a head start. How about your … Continue reading Gobblefunk
We’re going to keep going with words this week. It is a simple practice that you can weave into your day: first thing in the morning, after lunch, or just before when you are waiting for that bell to ring. You don’t have to write them down. Everyone can just put one word in their … Continue reading Homewords
Body of Words
Hello! We’re back. Let’s think about that quick activity which really spotlights words and phrases. Many of us start a workshop with a list of words -words we like; words that have a special meaning for us and words that sound good; proper nouns -place names, brand names, friends’ names; small words like if and so; … Continue reading Body of Words
Doll and Teddy
23rdJune 2021, iwas National Writing Day in the UK. First Story, the organisation behind it, organised lots of resources, available at the National Writing Day website: https://firststory.org.uk/writeday/ This year’s theme, after a year of lockdown and isolation, is ‘Connection’. There are so many ways of thinking and writing about connections. Here is one with the very … Continue reading Doll and Teddy
Here is the cupboard book we used to store our special things. You can open its doors and stash away special places, people and things. The good thing about this paper cupboard is that it will take anything from the smallest to the largest thing. It will even accommodate imagined and remembered things. I put … Continue reading Cupboard Book
We have recently been able to start writing club meetings again. We meet outside on the field during lunchtime and there is always a good-sized group. It is lovely to write outside in the sunshine, though it is good to remember to bring clipboards! We lay out rugs and groundsheets and bring a small box … Continue reading Write Outside
No, not an on-line meeting with a long agenda, but a great, wordless picture book by Istvan Banyai. The idea is simple and intriguing. I mention it because it builds on some of the ideas that may have arisen from the last post based on ‘Inside the Egg’. The book presents us with a series … Continue reading Zoom
Inside the Egg
Inside the Eggis a poem by Carol Ann Duffy. It is one of those poems like a Russian doll, one thing is inside another and inside that another and another. It can go on for ever if you are not careful – or just of you enjoy it. Ted Hughes’ poem Amuletworks in a similar way … Continue reading Inside the Egg
‘Write lots.’ Ian Rankin advises. ‘Read lots.’ Kate DiCamillo admits that when she started out to be a writer she hadn’t thought about reading. Almost every writer, when asked for advice, mentions reading. When we read, whether poetry or fiction, motoring magazines or non-fiction of any kind, we expand our repertoire, expand our horizons, absorb … Continue reading Read Lots.
When we brought this lighting box to writing club, one child, after quite some time, asked us: “What are writing rocks?” Good question. It made us laugh. And maybe you could write a story that includes writing rocks. However, when we had explained what we meant, we thought about good things about writing; writing affirmations. And … Continue reading Writing Rocks
Instructions for a Friend
It is really, really hard to write good instructions. Often drawings are required as well as words. Sometimes drawings alone do the job. One is, must be, more acutely aware of one’s audience than almost any other kind of writing. Very often the subject of the instruction is so familiar to us that we forget … Continue reading Instructions for a Friend
Look through the eyes of another
It’s the weekend and so maybe there is time for some fiction. Or maybe you are planning ahead. Think about telling a story through the eyes of someone who is not you. Start with a place you know well. It may be the view through your window, the local shop, a spot where you sit in … Continue reading Look through the eyes of another
‘When someone reads you what they have written,’ wrote a seven year old, ‘they are giving you a present.’ Sharing one’s writing can be nerve-wracking but to have an audience, is, also, a gift to the writer. And so reading aloud is an exchange of gifts. The listener and reader receives the gift of words. The … Continue reading Thank you
Jamb-friend: A jamb is a supporting timber, of course, which makes a jamb-friend an early 19th-century word for a friend with whom you could quite happily sit by a fireside talking and relaxing well into the early hours. In the UK we are nearing the time when we will be able to meet with others face … Continue reading Jamb-friends
Today is Mass Observation diary day in the UK. We are invited to write a diary for the day, looking back also over the last year, if we wish, and forward to the future. The collection of diary entries will reflect everyday life at this time as part of a national archive which began in the … Continue reading Diary Day
To Write Is a Feeling
How do you feel about writing? When we are working with teachers, it is likely that they will begin by expressing their feelings about it -doubt, fear, lack of confidence; the sense that it is difficult; the sense that it is daunting, that they can’t write, that it is too exposing, that it is too … Continue reading To Write Is a Feeling
Verb into metaphor
Metaphors are a powerful part of the ways in which we think. Metaphors provide us with a way of characterising the new and of reconstructing the familiar. Here is a way of thinking about metaphor and landscape. Start by thinking of a dog: make a list of things that a dog does, essentially a list … Continue reading Verb into metaphor
Becoming Our Own Experts
I have been thinking about how much teachers know, and in particular, how much teachers who write know. Teachers know more about who and what they teach than most commentators and critics could possibly imagine. And yet commentators and critics feel free to deride teachers and to complain about their many shortfalls. Some governments have … Continue reading Becoming Our Own Experts
The Furniture Game
You probably know the furniture game and it is fun to play. I have played it as a guessing game and as a way of thinking about an individual. Think of someone you know well and then think about them in terms of any number of things. Answer the question: ‘if they were a [insert … Continue reading The Furniture Game
Beneath the surface.
One way of using the T-Cut book (28thApril 2021) might be to display your writing about where you live. You could write a surface description on the outer pages. These may already reveal how you feel about your place. Even so, you could write something more personal in the space within the folded doors, a … Continue reading Beneath the surface.
Here’s how to make a pleasing book with an inner section that you can use for illustration, or contrast, commentary or hidden thoughts. You will need a rectangular sheet of paper -A4 or US letter is fine. If you want to add hard covers, you will also need some thin card. Place the paper in … Continue reading T-Cut Book
‘People exploitwhat they have merely concluded to be of value, but the defendwhat they love and to defend what we love we need a particularizing language, for we love what we particularly know.’ Wendell Berry Robert Macfarlane quotes Berry in his book Landmarks, drawing attention to the moral dimension of looking closely and naming carefully. We could begin … Continue reading My Place