Guest Blog: 10th anniversary celebration for Write Path!
By Ruth Atkinson
The Write Path international collaborative writing project has been running since 2008. During that time it has helped librarians and teachers worldwide to enthuse their students about creative writing. As this year is the project’s 10th birthday, founder Bev Humphrey wants to celebrate in style!
Each year published children’s authors are asked to contribute an opening paragraph to a story. These story starters are then published on Write Path’s website as blog posts at a rate of six per day. Every day schools sign up to be given one hour (one and a half for primary children) to compose a next paragraph to each of the day’s six stories, each time reading and developing the paragraphs written by previous schools. At the end of the project the finished stories are all published in paper books, with each school receiving a copy as part of their subscription. They are able to purchase more if required.
Fantastic authors write for the project: Cathy Cassidy, Alan Gibbons, Chris Bradford, Eleanor Updale, Tommy Donbavand and Eoin Colfer, to name but a few, contribute story starters every year. Bev is available online throughout the project to support and troubleshoot and can be reached via a chat box on the website, by phone and by email. The students eligible to participate are between 10-13 years old so naturally the stories are age-appropriate. In past years schools in the United Kingdom, France, Kuala Lumpur, USA and Australia have taken part and children always rise to the writing challenge admirably. Due to different time zones the event often goes on for 24 hours, making for a very tired but happy organiser at the finish!
Developing creative writing skills
Developing stories in such a tight timeframe gives students experience of working to deadlines and very much adds to the excitement. It is naturally very important to keep to the timeframes quite strictly to avoid taking time from other participating schools.
The continuations are published as blog comments and so are immediately live for anyone to read, which provides good experience of writing for an audience. Continuing storylines started by others requires a level of concentration and attention to detail that can be quite challenging for the students, although any mistakes can usually be rectified afterwards.
Updates about the stories and the schools taking part are tweeted each day; it’s always lovely when the authors read the finished tales and comment on them. Some schools have video calls at the beginning and end of their allotted time. Schools in other parts of the world will sometimes arrange an organisational call with Bev. Students enjoy seeing her Harry Potter collection with an occasional appearance from Severus, her cat!
What participants think
Carola Webber, Good Samaritan Catholic College, NSW, Australia has this to say about the project:
“My first involvement in Write Path was in 2011, after taking up the challenge from my predecessor as teacher-librarian in a Western Sydney Secondary School. The experience then, and in the years since, has been intense and exhilarating. My year 7 students took to the project with far more enthusiasm than skill and have always gained a great deal from their involvement.
Write Path provided an opportunity for, in my case, a team of 12 young people to interact with students from around the globe. We were all enriched by the experience, not only from the perspective of challenging students in writing, but also in terms of engaging with others across time zones and oceans to create something special together.
Technology makes the project possible and can enhance the whole experience: I recall a few years back having a most entertaining late-night discussion with some young English students who, as well as asking insightful questions about our stories from that day, hoped that I might introduce them to the members of the band 5 Seconds of Summer (who, since they live in Sydney, must be known to me!). If time permits, making and sharing promotional videos and taking photos makes for memorable moments for all concerned.”
Ruan Peat, librarian at Wick Community Library in Scotland has also taken part for many years:
“I heard about Write Path at a CILIP conference and signed my school up. I wasn’t sure how my pupils would react to being asked to write something at short notice without seeing the finished result for a while but I thought it would be an interesting event.
I tried to get a higher ability class to do this with but timings (and reality!) meant I had a single class available for the time and so I involved them. This class was a very mixed ability class with some having helpers for writing and reading assistance. Gamely I gave it a go and whilst we had timing issues (it took longer to type in than I thought it would) we enjoyed the whole exercise. I arranged the groups according to a mix of abilities and some of the lower ability kids came up with the most stunning ideas. Some of the more able who normally lead found themselves acting as scribes for the group and found this to be a task they enjoyed too. This was so successful I have looked for the more challenging classes to work with each year and have always had a wonderful time. It lets me get to know the children better and encourages them to ‘play’ with words and ideas. The resulting finished book always reminds them of the day and makes them proud of their own work and their collaboration with students across the world!”
You can learn more about the project and sign up on the website www.writepathint.com