Warwick Freeflow Festival
Yesterday was a really exciting day at Warwick for anyone interested in the written word as it was the day of the Free Flow Festival. This was a day filled with events for university students, members of the public, and students from local schools celebrating creative writing in all its forms, in collaboration with the Sunday Times/Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award. The events ranged from Speed Pitching to literary agents, talks on translation, journalism, and publishing, and a spoken word show from Tongue Fu to finish the evening.
There was also a variety of events specifically for students from local schools, such as journalism and creative writing workshops, to give them a taste of what studying English has to offer and introducing them to Warwick as a university. This is the side of the day I was most involved in (other than getting caught up in the excited chaos of the speed pitching simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time) as I was running a creative writing workshop for a group of Year 10 students.
I was quite nervous about this as I am by no means a teacher, but I had another third year student planning and running the workshop with me so I wasn’t alone, and as we were just trying to give an idea of what it is like to study creative writing at Warwick our main aim was to have a bit of fun as well as teaching them a few new things. We started by introducing ourselves and talking about our backgrounds and how we have found studying at Warwick. It was really interesting to compare as Ant is from an inner city background, whereas I am from a small town in the countryside, so the two of us have very different experiences of our journeys in applying and coming to Warwick. We then asked the students to do a warm-up prompt which involved them choosing a word from a small selection (the options were dream, home, ceremony, or solitude) and spending five minutes writing whatever came into their heads just so that we could get them putting some words down on paper. We followed this by discussing as a group our earliest memories and what it is that makes these memories evocative – do we remember colours, sounds, objects, or emotions? It was really interesting – and amusing – to discover that many of the students’ earliest memories were quite similar, in that they tended to be focused on a strong emotion, such as fear (ie falling down the stairs, or struggling to swim) or joy (the birth of a new sibling, learning to walk etc).
Once we had discussed our earliest memories, we linked this to the technique of stream of consciousness and the way this can be used to show a character’s interior thought process. After reading a couple of extreme examples, including an extract from Joyce’s Ulysses, to prove how versatile this technique is, the students then had 15 minutes to try and write their own stream of consciousness based on their earliest memory. Both Ant and I also wrote alongside the students to show them that this is the kind of thing you get used to doing when you’re studying creative writing at university.
We thought it might be a bit too daunting for the students to share their work at this stage, so we then practised editing using mine and Ant’s work as examples. We set the task by each choosing one good thing and one place to improve about the other’s piece, and then the students had time to discuss in pairs what they liked and didn’t like about the two pieces, and which they preferred considering the differences between the two. This worked out really well as Ant and I write in totally different styles so it provided an interesting comparison, and after a little encouragement, every student was able to give us some feedback, and several of them were surprisingly confident in doing so, which was great to see!
I work with children a lot, but not usually secondary school age, so it was cool to do something totally different for an hour of my day, and they seemed to really enjoy it, so it was a worthwhile experience and really good to see the students engage in creative writing!