When our partner schools closed their doors just before lockdown, the New Writing North producers sprang into action to create some brilliant resources for all young people looking to stay creative during their time at home.
I had only been working at Excelsior Academy in the West End for about 8 weeks before this happened, so it was quite daunting to then be faced with the prospect of teaching them online instead of face to face! But now, as lockdown has started to ease, I can't believe how many great tutorials, videos and workshops have been created by such a talented team of people. Here are the main ones I contributed to:
'Writing From Home'
Writing From Home is New Writing North's main hub of lesson plans which you can use at your (virtual) school or with your own family. This is where the producers, writers and other creative staff - who are normally stationed in schools across the North East - have designed and uploaded their own lessons for you to try out. New lessons are cropping up all the time, so keep going back to discover more!
My workshops so far have been:
I was also asked to create a shorter, 5-minute workshop as a video, and for this I chose the topic of 'persuasive writing' - inviting young people to create a piece of work that changes somebody's mind, whether that's about climate change, bullying, racism in schools, or any other important issue.
Zoom, zoom, zoom
A few weeks ago I hosted a Zoom workshop on historical fiction, which was open to those young people who usually attend our Saturday morning writing groups (hosted in libraries around the North East, from Gateshead to Amble).
Zoom workshops are NERVE WRACKING. It's so much harder to fill awkward silences and there's the added jeopardy of technical hitches, people's audio/video cutting out, and so on. Everybody was very kind to me, though, and we had a wonderful session coming up with story ideas about the Suffragettes, the American Civil Rights movement, and LGBT relationships in the Renaissance Era (I've got first dibs on the film rights for that one).
Laura Bates watch-along from the Hay Festival
Last but not least (for the moment, anyway), The Hay Festival put on a BRILLIANT digital programme for schools and I led a New Writing North watch-along of Laura Bates' talk. She was discussing her debut novel, 'The Burning', which talks about issues like bullying and cyber bullying, revenge pornography, grief and more.
My lockdown has, like most people's, been strange, and at times scary, and at times fun, and boring, and uplifting, all in different measures. My partner and I are both missing our families, and we both work in educational settings that we're desperate to get back to. But I've also loved getting out for a daily lunchtime walk with him, and navigating work whilst the cat is desperate to get in my face, and having an endless supply of tea and snacks.
Now the summer holidays are looming, the good news is that all these lockdown writing resources can be used post-lockdown to keep the holiday boredom at bay!
A big thanks to New Writing North for looking after their freelance writers during such a crazy time. If you want to know more about their work for young writers, you can find it all on their website.