Seeing as I’m doing ten Heroes and Villains workshops this week as part of my May Gibbs Fellowship, I thought it only appropriate that this week’s writing tip be geared towards inspiring young writers.

I have two of these back home – both very talented – both often reluctant to write. What seems to inspire them is not always me, I must confess.  It can be a great story, a great storyteller, a good book or simply the words of someone who obviously loves to write (who isn’t their mother:-).

The things that seem to hook kids in are action, humour and scary stories. So if you are planning on conducting workshops for young writers, bear this in mind.

The other things I have found useful include:

  • Have a theme for your workshop and an idea of what you want the kids to get out of it.
  • Prepare a detailed session plan – this not only helps you stay on track but also helps you ‘almost seamlessly’ alter the length of your presentation if your session is unavoidably cut short. My session plan includes what activities I’m going to include in the session with a time allotted for each one. This helps me keep track of things and make sure I’m not going overtime.
  • Create a plan that is flexible and can be adapted for different age groups.
  • An icebreaker is always good. For my Heroes and Villains workshops, I had a reversible cape made that kids can wear and wrote scenarios involving a hero and a villain for them to perform. Some kids love to perform and others love to watch them – it’s a win/win situation.
  • I then related the icebreaker back to the content of the workshop and discussed how you can tell if a character is a hero or a villain.
  • Tell them a bit about you and what you write – kids are fascinated with how you became an author (and whether it pays lots of money). Don’t go on for too long. If you see their eyes glaze over, you’re in trouble.
  • Don’t expect kids to write too much in a workshop – have activities that involve more imagination and planning. Often the experience of just being in a place like the State Library of Queensland can be so overwhelming and exciting that they find it hard to knuckle down and write a lot of words.
  • I have found that getting the kids to work in pairs is a good idea. This allows them to bounce ideas off each other. There is a lot of chatter, but most of it relates to their stories, and getting kids to brainstorm ideas with each other helps the ones who aren’t as comfortable with this sort of thing.
  • Super Hero Mask from the Heroes and Villains workshop

    Have interesting props.

  • Try and incorporate fun stuff and things that will allow kids to move about the room and not be stuck in their seats for the whole time.
  • Don’t rely on technology – have a back up plan if for some reason the computer doesn’t work and you can’t show that impressive Power Point presentation you spent so many hours on.
  • Have a number of back up plans if for some reason the group is not responding to your activities – it could be that your activities are too young/too old for the age group.
  • Provide links to relevant sites and opportunities for young writers.

I have also found that it pays to be as relaxed and flexible as possible – and EXPECT the UNEXPECTED.

But most important of all, enjoy the experience. I have found that young writers inspire me just as much as I hope I inspire them.

Happy writing



  1. Great tips, Di!
    I was once roped in to do my first and only author session at my daughter’s school for the whole of year three. It was terrifying and for the first few minutes I honestly thought I was going to black out!I found that having the props(a dinosaur, doll and cardboard tube) helped to take the focus off me and getting the kids to move around and do stuff helped in the same way, they kind of entertained each other really.
    What about watching and learning from more experienced authors? I reckon that’d help heaps.
    Once again, ta. Your advice in this area is well worth keeping

  2. Dee, hope your workshop goes well- it takes awhile to hone in exactly to get children writing- hope to post my workshops with May Gibbs soon on my website and blogspot. Still trying to unpack- enjoy the wonderful time. x Lorraine

  3. Hi Lorraine,

    Nice to see you here. Can’t wait to hear all about your May Gibbs in Adelaide…will be watching your blog and website.

    I’m having a wonderful time. Today’s groups were Year 10s in the morning and Year 5s in the afternoon – so different, but so much fun.


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