A month ago I held the first Teen Writing Group at Lowestoft Library. Five absolutely brilliant girls came along, and I was extremely impressed with their writing. Two of the girls gave me pieces of their work last month, and asked me to have a read over it for them. I did, and I really enjoyed them. I can't say that they were pieces that reflected my usual tastes, but they were very well written and their vocabulary was diverse and interesting. I made a few suggestions on each piece, but overall they were good and didn't need much improvement.
I set a piece of non-compulsory homework, to write 200-500 words about a place they knew and liked, and how it made them feel. Only two girls did this, but I enjoyed them and was glad they gave it a go. I can't really complain too much about the others not doing it, as I only wrote mine this morning. And here it is.
I used to call it ‘my place’. I thought I was the only person who knew about it. I’d spend hours there watching and thinking. Sometimes I still do. I used to feel like I was sitting on top of the world, sitting on top of a collapsed World War II pill box, sitting on top of a high sand dune, looking out across Kessingland beach, towards the sea, over the horizon. The concrete was never cold, even if the air around it was. It became more comfortable the longer I sat there.
It’s quiet. It’s far enough away from the dog walkers and runners and kite flyers and families and couples and soloists to be able to enjoy the quiet. There is a rustle of grass behind me if it’s windy, or a squawk of a seagull, or a crash of a wave against the sluice rocks, but those are sounds I can deal with. Those are the sounds I come up here to listen to. Those are the sounds that tell me the world isn’t just made up of cars and shops and people.
My shoes are normally full of sand that creeps through the fibres of my socks and rests itself between my toes. It tickles and itches, even after emptying a flow of golden grains into a pile next to me. I trace my finger through sand, swirling patterns of yellow on grey.
I stretch my legs out in front of me and slowly drop my body back. If I shut my eyes, everything disappears. It’s just me and the rock. And my thoughts. I think about school and friends and work and other things I don’t particularly want to think about. These thoughts slot themselves back into place like a defragmented hard drive. Nothing else matters here other than a reorganised mind; a sense of calm, relaxation, solace.
Five girls came along to the session today. Four girls that came last month and a new person, which was nice to see. One of the girls who was at the last session was at the dentist today, but hopefully she'll be at the next one, along with the new girl from today.
I gave everyone (including myself) six pieces of paper. On three pieces we wrote things we likes, and on the other three we wrote things we didn't like. My LIKEs were Roald Dahl, Rainbows, Walking My Dog In The Rain. My DISLIKEs were Celery, Thunderstorms, Jeremy Clarkson. When we had all written our likes and dislikes, we folded the pieces of paper up and put them in the middle of the table. I mixed up the folded pieces of paper and everyone chose six at random. The six I chose were: LIKE Roald Dahl, E4 (the television channel), Bright Eyes (the band), Wolves and DISLIKE Silence, Young Children.
We wrote a story, using those things, and out character or characters had to like the 'like' things, and dislike the 'dislike' things. This is how my story turned out.
Sam turned on the television. He flicked through the channels until he settled on E4. He turned the volume up to 20. He didn't like the quiet and he didn't like silence. He didn't really like the programme he was watching either but it was better than the other drivel on the other channels. His mother was addicted to thos dreadful DIY shows where they told you how to decrease the value of your house by painting your living room lime green and fuchsia.
Emma, Sam's three year old sister, sat on the floor in front of the television chewing on the corner of a book. Normally he let Emma get on with whatever she was doing, but today she was really getting on his nerves, always shouting and clapping and squeaking every time she saw an animal on the television. When she got super excited, she'd bang the book on the screen, getting in the way of his viewing pleasure. He hated her. No, actually he hated young children, all young children. He didn't see the point in them. What did they do apart from make noise and a mess?
She put the book down and Sam noticed that it was he favourite Roald Dahl book. Now he really, definitely, 100% hated young children.
He picked up the book and hit Emma around the head with it as he walked past. She giggled. He turned around and hit her again, harder. She cried. He laughed. He wrapped his book in a teatowel and took it upstairs. He collapsed on his bed and hugged his book to his chest. 'I never touch any of her things,' he thought to himself. 'Why does she have to touch my stuff? Why does she have to chew my stuff?'
He pulled his iPod from his bedside table and squished the buds into his ears. He hit the shuffle button and shut his eyes. The familiar sound of a guitar filled his ears, strumming the opening chords to 'First Day Of My Life'. He let his head sink back into his pillow as Bright Eyes soothed Sam's anger. 'This is the last day of your life,' he sang to himself in his head. 'I hope one day a wolf will come and eat you.'
Our next session will be Monday 12th November, 5pm-6pm, at Lowestoft Library. The homework is three-fold. Firstly, I want them to think of a name for the group. Something interesting, something that stands out. They informed me that the teen reading group is called Readers Of The Lost Ark, which I think is amazing. I hope they can come up with something just as good for the writing group. Secondly, and this is the only thing they must must must do, to bring along a piece of writing that they have already written. It doesn't matter what it is; it just can't be any longer than a page. I am going to use this for a future activity, but I won't say any more on that subject just yet. And finally is to write a 300-500 word character profile about someone they personally know.