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Monday, September 17, 2018

Preparing For My Writer In Residence!

Next term I will be spending Wednesday mornings as writer in residence at a primary school in Melbourne's south east. It's my first ever go at this. It was arranged by Ardoch, which does the volunteer program in which I've been participating this term. They work with disadvantaged schools to give them freebies they otherwise couldn't afford. A while back, Nick, the guy who is in charge of the western suburbs volunteer program, asked me if I'd consider doing this for the Frankston area, because they were the only ones who hadn't had a chance to do this. I said yes. I haven't done it before and if I can learn how to do it now, I may be able to get some paid gigs next year.

Today I went to the school to have a chat with Jemma, the teacher who is arranging it all. She gave me a printout she had received from Ardoch. I've read it, but it wasn't really what the program is about now. It's aimed at having the kids write little books and drawing covers. The program now involves actually publishing a book professionally, complete with ISBN. What was described in the printout just doesn't allow you to do that. Angela, who does the same job as Nick, but in the south east, dropped in, so I was able to ask her for details. She said that yes, they do have the budget to publish it properly and that in the past they had taken the kids on an excursion to the State Library to present their book. I suggested that perhaps they might consider taking it to the local library. Jemma said that would work well, because the school has free public transport locally and the library is a stop further up the line. And then, Angela suggested, they might be able to get a tour of the library. I'm sure she can arrange that for us when the time comes.

After observing another WIR do a session I got some ideas. She does the actual writing, but the kids work out the storyline with her and get the chance to edit it. She uses things and animals that are around the school as part of the story, plus the theme of the term. She was lucky - their theme was space - whereas the theme for the kids in term 4 at this school is advertising! But there are ways.

The original plan was a special school, which would require quite a lot more thinking to get it going. However, the special school found they couldn't fit this in, so instead they moved on to this school, where not only are there ordinary kids, but the teacher concerned is choosing kids who like writing and may not be keen to let me do it all.  Maybe they can edit.

This is something to think about and perhaps discuss with the other teacher who is keen to join me. She is a proper primary teacher, who might have some better ideas to share.

After our meeting, I walked around the school grounds with Angela, who knows her way around, and took photos of the various parts of the yard. They have a kitchen garden, but it's currently out of action, so I can't work that into the story. They do have a comfort dog, Merlin, who is brought in by his human about three days a week - when I suggested he might be able to be a character in the story, both of them thought it was a good idea. For the Advertising theme, I suggested the possibility of a story in which the characters are preparing an ad for their end of year Christmas concert.

It will have to be kept simple. If the book is going to be properly printed, I can get some illustrators among the kids - perhaps those who are less keen to write(Jemma was pleased with that possibility, as it means she can give a few more kids a chance to take part).

If I'm going to have illustrations, I need a scanner, and mine died on me some years ago, so I stopped at Officeworks, where I'd seen a scanner like the one I used to have, only updated. Most scanners these days are stuck in with printers and faxes - the last thing I need! I was disappointed to find that not only had both scanners of the model I want been sold, but the company is not making them any more! However, the nice man at the counter checked it up for me and found that another of their stores had one left. It was a bit of a distance, three tram rides away, but I went and I picked up that last one and got it home.

And there, I had fun and games getting it installed! For starters, the installation disc was for Windows only, though the box specifically said that you could use it on the Mac - in fact, the minimum requirement was the OS I have. That's why I didn't buy this weeks ago, I had to check if my OS was okay.

However, I went to the web site and found a driver download. I still had struggles with getting it going, but after looking up the problem, I finally got it going, thank heaven! I told my mother that as well as using it for the school thing, I can scan the old family photos so they don't disappear. I have, so far, been taking photos of photos, but I'd rather have a scan. A pity this one doesn't do Word, like the other one, but we can't have everything!

So, that was my writerly day. Off to the shower now, and get ready for tomorrow's morning at the primary school in Sunshine!


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue - good luck with the project ... it certainly sounds interesting and will benefit lots of the kids - not the easiest of subjects ... but I'm sure you'll work things out - a line of billboards that come to life or something fun - the Christmas Concert sounds a good idea - cheers and enjoy - Hilary

AJ Blythe said...

When my eldest Barbarian was in grade 6 he had to write a picture book as part of english. They used a website that has artwork that can be used and each child had to sign up for one of the series of artworks. They wrote the story based on the artwork. The site then let them set the book up and publish it online. We could purchase a hard copy (of course we did). I was really disappointed they had stopped the program when my other Barbarian got to grade 6 because it really engaged the students in english.

Sue Bursztynski said...

It sounds great! We’ll see what the kids say.

Sue Bursztynski said...

AJ - that does sound like an amazing project! These will be a Grade 4 kids and they will have the thrill of seeing their names in a real book which can be catalogued for the local library!