A lot of the best things in life start with something simple – in this case, it was my phone ringing.
It was an offer to come and work with young readers and writers in one of my local schools – an opportunity I immediately jumped on. When I was younger, I was very keen on exploring teaching – so much so, that when the time came to organise some work experience when I was fifteen, I called my local school to get some hands-on experience.
Life has a way of sometimes not giving you what you want, and while a career didn’t work out, I still harboured that hope one day I’d get a chance – hence my excitement at the aforementioned offer.
Since these early meetings and conversations, I was thrilled to be offered a role as Writer in Residence, at Beamont Collegiate Academy in Warrington – a role I cherish. Reading and writing meant everything to me as a kid, so to be able to share that with the young readers of today – and writers of tomorrow – means even more.
Last Friday I was given a day with some of the brightest, most promising students I’ve come across. Bursting with ideas and enthusiasm, excited to learn, buzzing with the simple fun of creation – it was a complete blast. We got to share ideas, brainstorm stories, whip up characters on the spot. It was a constant reminder of everything I love about not just writing, but stories in general.
It also gave me the chance to meet two of the most promising young writers I’ve ever come across. They’ll remain nameless here, but if they aren’t published within the next ten years, I’ll be amazed. At the ages of fourteen and fifteen, these young women wrote with such an ease, a confidence, an Elvis-like swagger. ‘Blown away’ is an expression that doesn’t do how I felt justice. Their work is light years ahead of what I was writing at their age – heck, even at my current age.
We chatted over coffee for a couple of hours, and I learned all about their processes and inspirations. One of them actually, on designing characters, draws them first. No words, just, direct from imagination, creates them visually with a pencil. I couldn’t get over it. Conversely, the other creates characters with an easy methodical approach, ending up with a multi-layered creation because she’s gone through every layer personally. I’m sure I learned more during our meeting than they did!
But when the dust settles on my excitement over all their work, and I take stock and perspective, I can see exactly why this has happened. The environment at Beamont (or BCA Warrington, as it is otherwise known), is one of collaboration, free-thinking, encouragement and care. These students have been given the confidence, freedom and backing to express themselves by a staff-room that is full of pride and belief in their charges – and I add that about not just the amazing English department, which is beyond a joy to work with, but the entire teaching faculty and staff behind the scenes. The atmosphere there is nothing short of joyous and buzzing.
Through working with BCA Warrington, I’ve been able to visit a number of schools in the region, and some in tougher areas than others. The same thing is apparent – excellent teachers, creating excellent students. I’ve got a full slate during March of school visits all over the region (never mind World Book Day, I’ve got World Book Month!), and I’m excited – but above all else I feel so lucky.
Keep reading, and keep writing. That’s the key to it all, I’m sure of it – and as long as I have this opportunity, I’ll keep on spreading that message.