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What is it like to volunteer with White Water Writers?

This week we have a blog post written by the lovely Rakaya who volunteered on a camp this summer! Read on to learn more about the amazing experience that is White Water Writers!

 

My introduction to White Water Writers came during my first year at uni – Joe came in to talk about what it was and how we could get involved as volunteers. Naturally, as a keen English and Creative Writing student, I was totally enamoured by the idea. It presented a way to fast-track the colossal task of writing a novel – so I wanted in on that. Then the fact that it was paired with a learning experience for young people was very cool. I did have my qualms about how the quality of the book would turn out after only five days of work, but quickly realised that the project is about much more than that. I first got to volunteer just after my graduation and found the camp was a powerful experience for the students and a beneficial period of reflection for myself.

“Writing a novel is in no way an easy task, especially not in a week”

I joined the group of year 8’s at Guru Nanak Academy on the Wednesday of their writing camp. Over the first two days they’d cooked up a disturbing storyline which included a dodgy step dad, a road trip, and a side of demon possession. Typical kid stuff. With the story-line and characters down, the challenge was then to write it. And it really was a challenge. They struggled with a problem I know all too well – streaming out the words without going back to edit.  It was a good challenge for them to face at their age: learning to write-like-your-life-depends-on-it would be a handy skill to get them through the rest of school. They picked this up over the course of the camp, as well as developing their attention to detail, teamwork, ability to take criticism, determination, time-management and more.

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Working hard on the novel!

It’s a camp I wish I’d done in year 8. Not only because I’m a little jealous of them having a novel out on Amazon, but because it seems like such a fun way to pick up skills and produce something you’ll be proud of for years and years later. I loved seeing the writers really invested in their characters – and talking to each other as if they are all part of the book. I’d hear them asking things like: “Why do you commit suicide again?” and answering “Oh, it comes after X character dies and I was feeling really depressed.” I mean, the content is dark, but it was pretty cool to hear the ownership they felt over their characters and how invested they were in their characters’ psychological depth. They took creative writing back to the fun of playground role play.

After the non-stop writing, the editing officially began. Another challenge, which forced the young people to balance detachment and care from the work they’d produced. Too nonchalant and they wouldn’t care about making the book better, too precious about it and they’d never cut the rubbish bits. They policed each other to work out a middle ground.

I admired the young authors and the process. Even though it is tough – writing a novel is in no way an easy task, especially not in a week – but, with a little nudging from us, they found a way to discipline themselves and each other. At the last moments of the countdown, no one wanted to stop editing – even the ones who struggled to get words down at the start. I was inspired by the class’ determination and hoped to bring some of that morale to future projects of my own. Can’t wait to learn more on the next camp!

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contact@whitewaterwriters.com

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Royal Holloway, University of London
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