I had an amazing experience last weekend. For years I had been meaning to run a writing workshop for teenagers, and it finally became a reality. Together with Brigitte Rozario (www.brigitterozario.com) – award-winning Malaysian journalist, writer, editor – I coached budding writers during the “One-Day Writing Workshop for Teenagers” Programme at the Book City, Kuala Lumpur.
To begin with, this session was not a standard classroom lesson. Instead of tables and chairs, we had colourful bean bags to sit on. To break the ice, the students interviewed one another and then introduced their partner. They were free to sit wherever they wished. We watched inspirational videos. We also watched videos of famous writers, including that of Stephen King, whose witty lines made us smile. We played Taboo and Pictionary to see better the power of words.
We spoke about fiction and nonfiction, and how to edit and tighten one’s own writing. One participant said, “I’m happy to be here because I’m with my own kind.”
At first, the kids said they were there because their parents wanted them to. It took quite a bit of time for them to warm up, but soon enough, it was evident that they were enjoying themselves. To be honest, there was hardly any grammar lessons. The purpose of the workshop was to get them excited about writing.
As expected, I got an email from a concerned mother after the workshop. She said that she wasn’t into writing; she wasn’t sure how to help her daughter, who doesn’t like being corrected for wrong grammar.
I replied that “encouragement” is key. School assignments might or might not help to encourage them to write. If you see their work, say something about what you find interesting. Don’t worry so much about grammatical errors for the time being. The more they read, the better they’ll get. If you still want to point out their grammatical mistakes, limit it to one or two at any one time. If not, the focus will shift to ‘perfect grammar’ rather than developing ideas and creativity. Of course, it is no secret that reading lots make a good writer. The more the child reads good literature, the more she will be able to self-correct.
Remember: If everything is tied to top marks and grades, by the time your child finishes school, she might lose interest in writing. There goes the opportunity for her to develop her talent, and the chance for others to benefit from her wisdom – a loss for humanity!
Thought of the Moment
“I know only of the ‘kerbau’ (buffalo) way, that is, to work hard and wait for the rain.” – attributed to Mark Chang, JobStreet