I received word today that an application I sent through to Carlow County Council for Arts Service funding this year was successful. I had applied to attend the Listowel Writers Festival in June and taking a place in Danielle Mc Laughlin’s short fiction workshop, which runs for 2 days.
I greatly admire Danielle, her writing and her helpfulness as a writer to other little writers like me. I have a sneaking feeling that she will be as good of a teacher as she is a writer.
I developed and taught a short module on fiction this morning for the Carlow Writers’ Co-operative group that I am a member of. The group are fundraising for a travel bursary so I was eager to help out!
I am a primary school teacher by day and give courses for teachers in the evening. This was the first adult-type learning course I had given in creative writing. I was nervous but I really enjoyed it. I used all of my knowledge of teaching methodologies and planning and some of the challenges I face as a writer of short stories. I wrote while my students wrote, which I believe is of huge importance. I am not a big fan of the writing teacher who sits and watches or walks around while the students write. If the teacher is writing alongside her students then it helps him/her to relate to the challenges along the way. It was also a sneaky way for me to write!
This morning, we focused on setting and how writers like Claire Keegan have dealt with setting. I am going to add a tab on creative writing prompts that I use or have seen being used on rozz.ie so feel free to use and adapt! Would love to hear what you think.
Feeding the wild writer:Colm Keegan at Mountains to Sea Festival.
I attended a short workshop with Colm Keegan last weekend at the DLR LExicon in Dun Laoghaire for the Mountains to Sea Festival. It was a packed workshop, over 18 people but Colm handled and facilitated it well. I have read some of Colm’s short fiction and poetry and really liked his style and writing. He is also a very cool performance poet as well and has great things said about his classes so I was looking forward to it.
We looked at some different examples of what he thinks is wild writing. First, we looked at Chuck Palahniuk who is most famous for writing Fight Club. We read an excerpt from his short story/fiction type novel, Haunted. Certainly, we have full-on themes and ideas in this piece and the class got into a discussion on taboos. We explored the fact that there are many Huge taboos in writing that can shock readers but it is often the small, quiet taboos that no one likes to admit to speaking about that need airing.
After reading a piece from Dave Lordan’s First Book of Frags, we took part in a series of writing exercises. We wrote about something we had thought about in the last 24 hours, week and just now! It was good to write without censoring or stopping myself to edit. Colm added a simple piece of advice-write everyday and don’t edit or critique the writing. It could be complete rubbish or badly written and it may often not go anywhere. This type of free writing brings up creative connections and associations which can lead to a writing flow.
The workshop was full of cool people tha I would have liked more time to get to know and it was brilliant to get recommendations on new reads as well as simple, honest writing advice. Colm is very encouraging and makes it all look very easy!
The workshop flew by! At two hours, I feel I have only started to see what a good teacher Colm is. I am definitely going to look out for his day workshops and retreats. His blog can be found here along with information of the workshops he is running. http://uiscebot.wix.com/colm-keegan#!kingfisher-writers-retreat/c23we
Alison from the Summer Writing Insitute in NUI, Maynooth sent me information about the TWO summer courses for educators in writing this summer. I was accepted onto the week-long course last year and it was the best professional development as a teacher I have attended!
It is going to be taking place in TWO venues this year-Maynooth and Donegal. If you are interested in teaching writing, please send your application to Alison at firstname.lastname@example.org and find out more details at http://muwritingcentre.blogspot.ie
Last weekend, I attended a Claire Keegan Workshop on fiction, specifically the short story. I am a big fan of her short stories so it was strange to meet her and then for her to be my teacher. My mind is blown away by everything that she taught us, everything that she shared, the reading lists, the encouragement and the hard work!
I am not at liberty to revel one word of what went on, it sounds very mysterious but I can tell you that if you love fiction and short stories and want to learn much, much more than you every thought you would, then sign up! Claire runs various workshops all over Ireland and Europe and you can find her website at http://ckfictionclinic.com/
Today, it was a big writing day for our class. We started the day with Ellen, she teaches PLC students and she teaches them how to learn again and to write. We used an object writing prompt, it is such a simple task that you forget how brilliant it is! I couldn’t stop writing, I wanted to write and write and there was time later as we had been asked to bring some writing to our newly formed and shortly lived(it would only survive for a day, perhaps the best idea for a writing group?!) writing group. It was made up of me, Finian who is a lecturer at third level teacher training college and two wonderful librarians, Mairead and Neil. I found the session brilliant positive, not feeling we were plamassing each other but instead we were giving encouraging permission slips to write and write and share and read. I received some excellent feedback in a piece of flash I’d been working on for a while and now feel it is ready to release somewhere!
We listened to Mary, a very glamorous secondary school teacher who manages to run a lot and raise three children and be incredibly passionate about her task of educating young adults in her school. She showed us idea after idea, linking in with poetry slamming, Colm Keegan and Eminem. I was buzzing again. Can I buzz even more, I asked myself on my second last day of SwIFt? I betcha I can. Day five, our last day, bring it.
On day three, we moved from the Phoenix Building to the Library building on North Campus. A beautifully, new, shiny, glass building with an excellent Starbucks on the ground floor. Students are spoilt these days, it’s official.
We started off with our daily journalling followed by Matthew Martin, a senior lecturer in English in St. Mary’s University, Belfast. He took us on a whistle stop tour of a survey he is carrying out. It is a survey of writing pedagogy in Ireland. We spoke about creativity, beating the exam and assessment system and disadvantage among many other things. Loved this session.
Then, I as up to my teaching demo. I decided to speak about writing and children with English as an additional language needs. I focussed on animoto, photo story, book creator, story bird and kid blog to show how I have helped children with little English to create their own story. I was happy when it was over, it seemed to go well but that could be due to the fact that I bribed the fellows with chocolate and popcorn.
Next up was Orlagh, a fellow educate together teacher who stunned us with idea after idea of how to help children with little English communicate, learn and have fun. I was struck by her learning and teaching ethos, showing the learner respect no matter what age or background. Real educate together ethos stuff going on there.
To finish up, we had Chris and Jo, two higher level educators who spoke about getting third level students to speak up, write and want to learn. I realized what an easier job we have at primary level. Most children will want to learn if it is made fun and child centered. We had a chance to do a quick observational task for writing, one I will be stealing and listened to the difference between scientific and personal writing style.
Another wow day. Inspired and stuff.
Day one in the SwIFt writing institute was excellent and I thought that day two could not, should not top it but it seems we have an endless supply of innovative teachers who write and want to help their students writer better.
First up, we had Ann Ryan, a drama teaching fan, she brought us through short films and creative writing using freeze framing and camera angles to show how writers portray mood. We watched a moving and dark film called The White Dress, available on the Irish Film Board website along with many others,
Finian from the COI college spoke about joint narrative and brought us on a journey where we all contributed to a live story based on things we had seen that morning, will definitely use this with my students.
He also spoke about our literacy history, what background, hates, likes, fears and personal history as a writer, reader and talker do we bring to our classroom?
We then had a hilarious role play of a writing group and we put together some suggestions for a new writing group which will run on Day Four. I found this very useful especially for ideas for my own group.
Last up, we had the most passionate and brilliant educators I had seen! Donna and Patricia are second level teachers and I must admit I have been biased about this sector. I detest the format of the leaving cert as a learning, teaching and assessment tool. But, these ladies showed us how they get around those evil exam questions and curriculum. They use music videos and video gaming to teach short story structure and setting. They ended the day perfectly, I drove home buzzing, listening to “Titanium”, one of the music videos that showed us to teach the short story form.
Cannot wait for Day Three!
I was accepted into the Writing Centre Summer School at Maynooth University(or SWIFT) a few months ago. The course is entitled “Teaching Writing” and is designed in conjunction with the Writing Department at University of Berkshire, USA and the Writing Department in NUI Maynooth.
It is aimed at teachers from all levels, early years to third level and this is what makes it quite unique.
I have be to countless courses on writing and often the writer, with respect is not a teacher but a brilliant writer. I am a good teacher but not a brilliant writer, a competent one with plenty to learn so I would hope I am well placed.
The first day started with a chew and chat, fabulous scones and coffee were provided. I sat at a random group and we started chatting. The first exercise was What my childhood tasted like and it was replicating the model of the writing process in a short session. This type of activity could be used with primary school children over as long as period as 8 week So! We started with listing the foods we liked or disliked from our childhood. Simple list with no descriptions yet. Then we paired and shared with our partner. The stages after this involved adding to your list, picking a few foods and drawing the ideas out until the end product of a first draft. I heard some beautiful and touching stories, food does stir the emotions and in Ireland, it is always linked with the Grandmother or the Mother of the house.
The second part of the day was facilitated by Martina, a librarian. She told us about a project she ran with a group of young adults. She created a book and published it. The last session was Ferdia McAnna, a fellow of the Institute from last year. I’ve heard so much about Ferdia and he was brilliant. Passion. Passion. Passion. It dripped from him. We learned the basics of scriptwriting and watched a very sexy scene from the film, Out of Sight.
The day flew by. Looking forward to today.