This is an extract from an article called Words Of The Wise, which I wrote for the Central Coast Seniors Newspaper – Over 50s Lifestyle – back when I was Kathryn Andersen.
Several years ago, I had the privilege of facilitating Writing For Fun workshops for school students during the holidays, on behalf of Gosford Fellowship Of Australian Writers. What follows is my account of how the day unfolded…
Anticipation was high. Thirty-one children between the ages of seven and eleven piled into the Spike Milligan Room at Woy Woy Library.
Four senior women were there to greet them. They had already arranged furniture and organised treats for their young guests. They had also spent weeks organising the event.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but it is worth it,” one of them said.
It was difficult to tell who was the most excited, and in some cases, anxious.
Names were marked off, parents took their leave, and young bodies settled at tables with unfamiliar companions.
One of the women welcomed the newcomers and introduced me as the tutor for Writing For Fun, a free workshop organised by the Gosford branch of the Fellowship Of Australian Writers (FAW).
“We want to encourage young people who enjoy writing,” Bridget Sharp said.
Bridget and fellow-FAW members, Sheila Drakeley, Helen Luidens and Joan-Marion Ben, handed out writing paper and colourful pencils to the children, distributed cordial and biscuits, and were on hand to assist me and the children on their writing journey.
The women mingled amongst the aspiring writers, giving them guidance and support. Some of them even worked side by side with the children, to complete the writing exercises themselves.
Children who thought they had no ideas found they had several and were soon putting them on paper. Others, who had thought they could get ideas but not put them to use, were soon developing poems and stories.
The morning passed in a flurry of word associations, Ezra Pound Couplets, Dylan Thomas Portraits, character profiles and the antics of clowns.
Then, as quickly as they came, the children were gone; bearing packets of chips, their pencils, the fruits of their labour, and colourful certificates.
This was round one for the FAW women. Fresh mugs and more biscuits laid out and the room again readied, they grabbed a quick bite before the arrival of eighteen more writing enthusiasts aged between eleven and fourteen years.
This time, writing pens were issued with the paper, ideas became more ideas and then titles to be drawn from a box and written about. First lines were explored, much work shared, and questions about getting published were answered and discussed.
The FAW representatives distributed information about suitable competitions. “Enter your work in competitions and try to get your writing published,” the children were told.
Both groups of students were asked to share previous writing successes. There were many, among them a proud Astrid Worboys told of winning a prize in the ‘Spike Fest’, run by the Bouddi Society last October, with the limerick she had written at the previous FAW children’s workshop. Her prize was a parcel of poetry books and the opportunity to recite the winning limerick at the cavalcade of prize-winners towards the end of the festival. Nine-year-old Astrid’s limerick was included in a book of winning entries published by Gosford Council, and she also read it on Central Coast Community Radio.
“I’d say that was another successful day,” Bridget Sharp commented as five Over 50s (tutor included!) watched the last of the happy participants scurry from the room.
Fair comment indeed, as it was Bridget who taught the limerick session at the children’s workshops the previous year!