Monday, 28 January 2013

Workshopping Dragonfire

One of the best things about being a writer of children’s books is that it gets you into schools. I’m one of those people who really enjoy working with kids and the workshops I did at Clough Hall Technology NAMe on Friday were brilliant. Thanks guys and thanks Chris Nelson for inviting me.

My first group was Nine Three. We had less than an hour so I decided that the best approach was to concentrate on writing dragon poems. Or at least the first draft of a dragon poem, because by the time I had introduced myself and my books and they had introduced themselves there was little more than forty minutes of writing time left.

I read a passage from "Dragonfire" about Jocelyn the shape changing dragon, then we  talked about my picture of a dragon and brainstormed their ideas. Next came the writing. Five words on five lines, the first ones that come to your head about dragons. Not easy if you’ve never done it before, especially if English and poetry aren’t your favourite subjects.

Building from those original five words, the group drafted their poems. We discussed words, eg why big might be less effective than humungous and why we needed something vivid to describe the power of dragons. From this came Natalia's
“Ruthless teeth tear/ Coldblooded murder kills.” And Owen's “Sharp tail/ Sheer teeth/Scaly ripped skin.

Adam gave us the feeling of power and fury “Vicious wings blow/Angry eyes lazer.” As did Bradley’s “Fierce eyes scare.”

Louis also concentrated on the anger of dragons in the lines “Hard head punches/ Angry fire burns.” While Dean’s dragon had an  “Evil temper always fighting…merciless.”

There was little time to discuss structure but Daniel had an instinctive grasp of form ending each line of his poem with a verb, ie,”Enormous teeth grinding/Armoured body protecting.” As did Sean with his brief three lines. “Long scaly/massive black wings/Sharp claws scratch." While Lewis followed Daniels’ pattern, “Fire breathing burns/Powerful roar deafens" in a tightly structured poem.

Ashley gave us “Scaly fluorescent skin.” Which sent my mind whirling on the possible colours of a dragon’s body and Jordon concentrated on the “Bright eyes glowing mysterious,” the more magical elements of the beast.”

At the end of the session everyone had produced a poem in less than an hour. In an ideal world there would have been time to polish and perfect, but schools work to a timetable and I had another group to go to after lunch.

Thanks Nine Three for a great session. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. 

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