Tuesday, 4 February 2014

First Show of Independence

The First Story group at Oxford Spires are a brilliant group of individuals. Sometimes I wonder if I am biased, but I'm becomming increasingly convinced that they are objectively marvellous.

Today, we returned to travel writing, moving away from our recent venture into the depths of poetry to try our hands at some prose. Kate asked us to think about a walk we took regularly, a place with memories and meaning. We thought about setting from a variety of perspectives, from the bird's eye view to the man on the street, thinking about taste and smells and sounds. The journey needed a finishing point and pauses along the way, with space for reflecting and reminscing.

Kate sets pretty clear guidelines as we write, encouraging us to write freely but signposting possible senses and feelings to explore along the way. She talks in a soothing, calm voice, meaning that you can either absorb what she says and use it in your writing, or let her words float over your head as the journey takes you wherever it wants to go. Writing can be funny like that - sometimes it feels like you have no control over it.

The reason I know our First Story are so wonderful is that, today, most of them let Kate's words wash over them today, as they were completely engrossed in the work in front of them. Some kids had their heads down for ages, completely engaged and inspired. Others created perfect short gems of writing, fully formed within minutes. Despite Kate's breif, we had lots of poetry - one girl even started off writing prose before realising that she had accidentally written a poem.

We have a beautifully diverse group at Oxford Spires. In fact, we have two groups. We have a junior group who meet at lunch time, and although I am never able to attend (due to having to man the Library), Kate always brings me samples of their genius to see.

Our after school group consists of upper school and sixth form students. All are with us on a voluntary basis, though at the start of the year, some were a little more reluctant and reserved than others. We have a little gang of very intelligent, literary year 11s, who squeeze in some creative writing between their many academic commitments. These girls seem to have been part of First Story forever, and now write the most amazing prose without any effort. Then we have the sixth formers, who I see fairly regularly as most of them are Library regulars. Amongst these, there are a mix of reserved and thoughtful observers, bright and bubbly young adults, and independent, stubborn free thinkers.

And then there are the teachers, Miss Woolley and myself, who strive every week to write something sensible, and struggle constantly to share with the rest of the group (especially when the kids write something awesome, in which case anything you might have thought was good writing suddenly seems ridiculous!).

Most of the writing that comes out of our group is fairly serious, exploring relationships, memories, future plans and fears. This week, when the students became so engaged that Kate's words of guidance were falling on deaf ears, I knew we were onto something good. And when everyone shared what they had been writing, it was clear that our First Story group are pure magnificece.

Click here to see my work from this session. 

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