Back To School 3: Writers And Schools

Going To School Can Be Good For Writers

There are many schemes around the world where authors visit schools to read and talk about their books or work for a limited amount of time with children/ young people on a writing project. This not only benefits the children/young people but is good for the author too as the author is getting feedback and ideas from their potential audience and hopefully sells a few books to parents or young people too.

Schools themselves are a constant theme in books and schools and their pupils can differ greatly from private schools to being in a deprived area, from cities to very rural areas, from one age group to another, and the staff that run them… in other words schools can be places of great inspiration for a writer.

Many great writers were almost self-taught and you don’t have to be highly educated to be a good writer, but a basic grounding in spelling and grammar can do no harm. Lots of writers seek out courses and workshops to improve their skills in the genres they are interested in because they want to learn from successful and knowledgeable writers who are willing to share their experience with other writers. Writers also enjoy the camaraderie of being with other writers because writing can often be solitary and it is wonderful to be with other people who enjoy your passion for writing.

Benefits of Writers In School

Carmen Oliver lists 5 benefits of school visits

  • Students Feel Empowered: ‘Meeting authors who were once kids in a classroom with big dreams like them is just one of the benefits of school visits for students.’
  • Students Read More: ‘“When an author visits my school, his/her books stay checked out for the rest of the year!” says librarian Jennifer Lewis.’
  • Teachers Model Good Habits: ‘“Author visits encourage teachers to read more children’s literature and talk about it with students,” Lewis says.’
  • Free Curriculum Materials: ‘Both fiction and nonfiction books can help teachers with their curriculums. The guides can be used by themselves, but when combined with a presentation from the actual author, the learning experience is heightened through the author’s passion and intimate knowledge of the subject. It’s an experience children never forget.’
  • Students are Inspired and Impacted: ‘Indeed… “authors bring their writing to life,” says librarian Cindy Von Oehsen. “They all have different personalities but it doesn’t matter, what matters is a students’ physical interaction and experience of the person and the work…That’s where the magic happens.”’

Theme Of School in Literature

Illustration of a game of rugby football from a 1911 edition of Tom Brown’s School Days; first published in 1857, Tom Brown helped to typify the school story

‘The school story is a fiction genre centring on older pre-adolescent and adolescent school life, at its most popular in the first half of the twentieth century. While examples do exist in other countries, it is most commonly set in English boarding schools and mostly written in girls’ and boys’ subgenres, reflecting the single-sex education typical until the 1950s. It focuses largely on friendship, honour/honor and loyalty between pupils. Plots involving sports events, bullies, secrets, rivalry and bravery are often used to shape the school story.

The popularity of the traditional school story declined after the Second World War, but school stories have remained popular in other forms, with a focus on state run coeducational schools, and themes involving more modern concerns such as racial issues, family life, sexuality and drugs… More recently it has seen a revival with the success of the Harry Potter series, which uses many plot motifs commonly found in the traditional school story.’

Writers Teaching/Mentoring Other Writers

  • Writing Can Be Learned: ‘Even if writing comes naturally to you, there is always a room for improvement. A writing class or literary workshop will supplement your talent with a necessary educated understanding of literary theory and writing technique, opening your mind to loads of helpful tips and tricks that can be later put into practice.’
  •  Learning Literary Theory: ‘While taking part in a writing workshop embrace the theoretical education on the craft of writing. Learn helpful techniques and common pitfalls for the specific genres you’re interested in. Having clear theoretical foundations will always come in handy.’
  • Meeting People With Common Interests: Writing in the company of others with similar interests is always rewarding, and makes a change from the usual experience of writing as a solitary activity. Meeting people and doing some networking is always a useful skill to develop. Who knows, they might become your future readers, collaborators, or friends who can offer help in the publishing industry. In any case, making new connections can open up all sorts of doors for your future career.
  • Reading Develops Your Creativity: ‘In most workshops you don’t just write but you also expected to consume and analyze lots of assigned reading material. You will discover new authors and their idiosyncratic styles that you may decide to emulate while searching for your own unique voice. Often the entire class will share their own writing with the rest of the class, and you will be able to give and receive feedback on each author’s writing. Reading other authors’ works is essential in order to become a good writer.’
  • Establishing Routine: ‘Most exercises are designed to expand your horizon, encourage your writing and loosen up the infamous writers block! Also, as you make more time to write, it will be easier in future to maintain a regular writing schedule. So, writing workshops can help you to develop discipline and a routine which any good and prolific writer needs.’
  • It Helps to Overcome the Deadlines: ‘By delivering assignments on time you will be forced to sit down and fill out those empty white pages. Meeting strict deadlines is crucial if you sign a contract with traditional publishing house. So, if you’re about to publish your very first book, writing workshops can help you learn that you have what you need to meet any future deadline.’
  • Learning from Experienced Ones: ‘Workshop teachers will offer you helpful advice and constructive criticism that will help to correct common mistakes and develop your personal style.’
  •  Testing Your Limits: ‘Sharing your funny or frustrating experiences with fellow authors is a great exercise to see how others have reached their writing potential. Also, it teaches you to accept criticism which is inevitable for well-known writers. Once you learn how to respond healthily to criticism, you can overcome a psychological obstacle that many writers encounter.’
  • Having a Pleasure of Writing: ‘Take advantage of all the opportunities that are given to you while attending the classes, no matter how silly they might seem. Participate in games, role plays, informal debates and lectures, they are all designed to inspire you and push your creativity.’
  • Promoting Your Work: ‘Who knows who you might encounter at the workshop or which teachers interest you might catch that would like to become your mentor. Additionally, most courses have expositions or open house events that showcase the participant’s work to the public and those in the publishing industry at the end of the course. You never know who you might meet at these types of events.’

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