Learning from Myths and Legends with the Young Writers

by Casey Bottono

By request, our January Young Writers workshop offered an exploration of myths and legends. To begin with, we asked participants about their knowledge of these topics, and a lively discussion followed. Of course there was reference to classic Greek and Roman myths, but some participants cited contemporary myths such as the Lincoln Imp, who was believed to be a resident troublemaker at Lincoln Cathedral.

For the first writing exercise, I told the students about the tradition of Chinese potters making tea pets from the scraps built up whilst making teapots. The clay creatures are then ‘fed’ with the leftover liquid in which the tea leaves were steeped, or the tea itself. I invited the writers to imagine what their tea pet might be and write about their first meeting with it.

Following this playful exercise, we had quite the menagerie, with a hummingbird and a dragon amongst other creatures. We then introduced the writers to the Hero’s Journey, which provided the template for story structure that audiences recognise.

To set up the next exercise, we outlined five ancient Greek myths – Pandora’s Box, Orpheus and Eurydice, Daedalus and Icarus, Persephone and Hades, and Pygmalion. After hearing the outlines, the writers had to invent their own version of these well-known stories.

Our focus then shifted to Cornish myths and legends as we introduced the writers to the stories of The Mermaid of Zennor, Tristan and Isolde, and King Arthur. Following an exercise based on setting, we asked the writers to retell their chosen myth from the perspective of a side character.

Honouring the way in which the earliest stories were shared through spoken word, we then asked the writers to rewrite some of what they had been working on to use as much alliteration as possible, with one sentence repeated at least three times.

Finally, they were asked to create their own myths and share an extract, blurb or outline with us.

Our next Young Writers Group workshop will take place on Zoom on Saturday 11th March between 10:00am and 12:00pm. Booking information can be found here