While we were all learning the ropes, guest appearances from the writers’ pets and a spontaneous display of jaunty hats helped to make our first online Young Writers workshop a resounding success.
As ever, we took full advantage of our circumstances and first off invited the writers to tell us about the world outside their windows. Working in a very similar way to the postcard exercise we have employed in previous workshops, this provided a good method for helping the writers warm up. The pieces they produced were evocative and charming.
Subsequently, we introduced the writers to Jeffrey McDaniel’s poem The Quiet World, which envisaged a landscape where citizens were limited to a certain number of words per day.
Taking the line in the poem ‘I am adjusting well to the new normal’ as their starting point, participants wrote for five minutes. The consensus seemed to be that they were indeed adjusting well to the new normal, as they composed poignant vignettes that borrowed from their experiences or ones that they had imagined.
The exercise that followed proved to be one of the most contentious exercises in the time that we have been running the workshops. Borrowing McDaniel’s idea of a limited choice of words, we gave the students a word bank to use to compose a story or poem.
There was some controversy over this, as it was noted that several words had appeared twice, and other important words had been omitted. Through a constructive discussion, we established that repeated words could be substituted to add other useful words to the choices available.