My first half term leading Durham Cuckoo Young Writers

Lisa writes about her experience so far of leading Durham’s Cuckoo Young Writers group. Held weekly in term time, our groups offer young writers aged 12-19 a chance to share their work, learn new skills, and give and receive feedback in a creative and supportive atmosphere.

Writing has been my passion for as long as I can remember. As a child, I filled notebook after notebook with poems and stories (many of them unfinished). English was my favourite subject through school and I was lucky enough to have supportive and encouraging teachers who fuelled my passion further. University wasn’t right for me at eighteen but when I did go four years later to study English with Creative Writing, it proved to be the best choice I’ve ever made.

What I do regret is that I didn’t do more – that, after university, I let my writing fall by the wayside. Yes, I was forging a career in teaching; but, looking back, I didn’t pursue opportunities quite as actively as I could have. However, now that I’m a member of a writing group, been on a mentorship programme and (almost) completed my first novel, my love for writing is back and stronger than ever.

And that is why I’m so excited to be working with Cuckoo Young Writers. Teaching is great but I needed something more, something that isn’t geared towards assessments and levels; something that just delivers the pure enjoyment of writing. When I saw the job advertised I knew it was for me. I want to guide younger generations of writers and help them improve; to highlight the opportunities out there and to nurture their passion for writing within and beyond the group.

So half a term in and my gut instinct was completely right. I am working with a great group of young people who know their own minds, their own voices and their own goals. They are enthusiastic and engage well with the materials and activities, always finding new things that they are eager to try. They have their own opinions and articulate them well, even if they lose me sometimes or don’t always agree with each other!

The topic of manifestos was one that I admit I have very little expertise of, but through the guidance of the lead writer I now see their many nuances and their appeal. The topic is a lot more flexible and varied than I first thought it would be – allowing for experimentation with voice, structure and language use. It allows the young people to write as themselves or to write as a character and express views of their own or on behalf of others. The creative manifestos have all been interesting yet different, and the critiquing process improved them further.

I’m looking forward to working towards our shared goals, producing new, high quality pieces of work, building self confidence, honing and developing skills, and just enjoying writing and all the positives it can bring.

Cuckoo Young Writers, Durham meets at the Gala Theatre (Millennium Place, DH1 1WA) on Saturdays between 11am and 1pm.

The group will break for Easter, before resuming toward the end of April. Visit the Cuckoo Young Writers website for information on how to join.