I can’t draw. That much is obvious. That wasn’t the point. The point was putting coloured pencil or crayon to paper and letting your colours come through. Our model was an internet image of a Canadian tulip. No two of our images looked alike and none looked like the decidedly beautiful Canadian tulip – which both of the participants in my first children’s creative writing workshop were certain looked like a hibiscus. Note: it looks nothing like a hibiscus but we associate things with what we know in order to make sense of them and it had red highlights and delicate looking petals, which was enough to make them one and the same in the eyes of an eight year old and an almost nine year old.
This wasn’t an art class – obviously; this was my first children’s creative writing workshop for 6 to 11 year olds, a younger group than I normally work with so I was still experimenting to see what works. I wanted to jump right in getting them using their hands and their imagination and (for a kid who declares off the top, I hate writing) drawing and colouring, which is also storytelling, is a good way to ease them in to it. Or so I hoped.
Later, the flower drawing would come in handy as we began building characters which would fit in to a story in a world in which flowers feature prominently (no spoilers as this is drawn from a story and a world I am currently working with in my own writing). We didn’t get as far as I’d like because we had only an hour and because despite my years with the Cushion Club, my years as an aunt, my years visiting schools, I hadn’t sufficiently accounted for how easily distracted children are: the million questions, the inability to wait and see, the ways they bounce off of each other. I was supposed to have four but in retrospect it’s a bit of a blessing that I started with just two so that if (when?) I do it again, I’ll be better prepared.
In between drawing and beginning to ‘draw’ their own characters, we did some reading (visual reading – for which Ashley Bryan’s Beautiful Blackbird picture book was a good match), and lastly we began to work with characterization (why did you choose that for your character etc.).
Children resist writing because it seems hard and because most of their interaction with it is regimented (are you marking this?) What I tried to do in this workshop – what I hope to do if I (when?) I continue is to show that it is just another form of expression, that it is storytelling, and that within them, the power to express and tell stories is already there. In different ways, my goal is to try to continue to pull it out.
As for this first session, they left with their signed interpretations of the Canadian tulip, the beginnings of an expression of their first character in picture (a combination of magazine clippings and drawings) and words (descriptions, vocalizations of choices made). Hopefully, they had some fun and hopefully they’ve begun to see that every new adventure doesn’t have to begin with can’t (at what age do we start talking ourselves out of things before trying them?). Focus was a challenge so we didn’t get as far as I had hoped – we both will continue to learn as (if) we go forward.
If you’d be interested in signing your child up for future Children’s Creative Workshops here in Antigua, email me at jhohadli at gmail dot com I’m (granted a little wilted but) game to continue if there’s interest.