With the nights drawing in and Christmas lights twinkling, it’s hard to remember back to summer 2020, but it did happen! This year we had to do things a little differently in the Young Writers’ team, as we soon realised we wouldn’t be able to hold our usual creative summer schools due to the restrictions of COVID-19.
After a lot of thinking, we rose to the challenge with Write Outside: an online summer school taking place across the full six week holidays. We knew that after months of home-schooling, most of us were sick of staring at our screens. So we decided to encourage our young writers to take their notebooks outdoors, and be inspired by the world around them.
We enlisted the help of three North East writers who work across different forms: Bob Beagrie (poetry); Ruth Johnson (theatre); and Lucie Brownlee (prose). Each week, Bob, Ruth, and Lucie uploaded new activities for our young writers to download from our dedicated website page. These activities were linked to our six themes of exploration: Being Inside, Breaking Out, Taking Steps, Crossing Paths, Routes and Roots, Journey’s End.
We were also joined by six fantastic guest writers who each made a video workshop exploring one of the weekly themes: James Varney, Jessica Andrews, Louise Powell, Okechukwu Nzelu, Phoebe Power, and Melody Sproates. We drew maps of our cities using words, created our own superheroes, wrote love letters to plants, and much more.
To go alongside the digital resources, we experimented with new platforms to work with our young writers’ community. We held weekly video workshops on Zoom with our lead writers, and we used Discord to connect our young writers between sessions, and share prompts and creative responses. We’ve continued to use these for our normal Young Writers’ group sessions this term.
“It was summer school – but not as we know it!” said Lucie Brownlee. “Young writers from across the North joined me on Zoom for three lively fiction-writing sessions, and as ever, they surprised, delighted, and impressed with their unique approaches to storytelling. It was such a privilege to work with this new generation of scribblers, and I can’t wait to see what they do next!”
It was wonderful to see so many young people sign up to our online programme this summer, including new writers who are not able to attend our regular groups due to their geographical location. We are so proud of how adaptable and creative our young people are, and we are thrilled to share their collective Write Outside poem with you. Watch it here.
Here’s what some of our participants thought:
“I joined Write Outside because I love creative writing. Whether it is poetry, stories or just descriptions, all forms of creative writing excite me – it’s the only part of English exams I look forward to! Write Outside was an amazing opportunity for me to further develop my creative writing skills and I did so immensely! It was all thanks to the amazing Write Outside team who helped to engage me in new perspectives of creative writing. My writing no longer just feels like a description, it feels like a piece that I can personally understand. When someone else reads it, they don’t just understand the text, they understand me. Creative writing is something which allows me to break free from the restrictions of school and work and enter my reality. It’s not just about becoming another person, it’s about seeing how different our world could have been with the most minute changes. I can set free from the shackles of society.”
– Taiyyib, 15, Manchester
“I have taken part in several ‘Write Outside’ sessions over the summer and I’ve had lots of fun! My favourite week has been ‘What’s in a Name?’ During this session, we took inspiration from the character’s names and how their name may influence their personality. Generating names inspired me to create a long list of new and unique characters, they were a great starting point for my writing. The names also led me to create illustrations of what my characters would look like, considering everything from how they wear their hair to whether they have freckles or birthmarks. It was lovely to incorporate my love of drawing and to generate such a clear vision of my characters (their appearance and their personality quirks) when starting to write new stories.”
– Gracie, 12, South Shields
Write Outside was generously funded by the Kavli Trust and Amazon Literary Partnership.