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20 May 2023

Posted by Robyn O'Mahony

Going inside – from a spark to a story

On Saturday 20th May our Junior and Young Writers joined us for a morning of creative writing as the sun shone over Southampton. The groups were full of energy, buoyed by the sight of summer, and were keen to jump into the theme of the day.


Continuing from our session on the worlds behind doors, we invited the Junior and Young Writers to consider what it might be like to go inside something. It was great to witness the power of imagination across the two sessions, as the groups exercised their creativity to come up with stories and sentences that impressed their peers. Before diving into the theme of the day, we had fun taking on an adventure-themed word search. The groups enjoyed working as one to identify words, and there was lots of chatter around the room.


To get our creative minds working, we began by listing different fruits, vegetables, natural habitats, and objects. With these, we then chose one from each category and explored what it might be like to go inside them. This exercise encouraged the groups to really push the boundaries of their imaginations and explore their vocabulary. The results were varied and surprising. The Junior Writers spoke of a world of strawberries, ‘continuous, ticking crickets’, dappled light, and ‘trudging through mountains of soft dirt.’ It was amazing to see what can be born from one object or place; how a single prompt can spark a story.


During the first session, we watched a scene from Disney’s Pinocchio, when he is swallowed by a whale alongside his father. This was a great visual aid for the young people, who enjoyed the scene and were able to better visualise the idea of going inside something. We then went on to enjoy free writing, equipped with new language from earlier exercises.


The session ended with a sharing of stories. We heard of upside-down bedrooms, alien watermelons, living inside a dream, and leafy canopies. Some of the group wrote the start of short stories, using the concept of ‘going inside’ to conjure up original narratives. Others approached their writing in a more abstract way and drew pictures with words accompanying their creations.


Later in the morning we welcomed the Young Writers to MAST. We read Charles Simic’s iconic poem, Stone, and a scene from The Stranding by Kate Sawyer in which two characters escape into the mouth of a whale. Together, we discussed the ‘why’ behind the words; how we see things as insignificant, but a story encourages us to consider our outlook. The group were intrigued about the decision to write a story from the perspective of a stone, and considered what would bring two people to hide inside a beached whale. In this way, they were encouraged to explore the meaning behind the stories they read and write.


The group spent the last half of the session free writing. It was interesting to see how different their responses were to the theme of going inside, in comparison to the Junior Writers. The whole group shared snippets of their pieces, which were poetic, moving, funny, and fantastical. One participant wisely wrote, ‘If anything could know its history off by heart, it would be the tree’. Another focused on the ‘cogs of the mind’, while others jumped into maps, shadows, and the flame of a candle.

The most heartening part of Saturday’s sessions was the obvious way in which the young writers continue to inspire and encourage one another. There is genuine, powerful community here.

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