The Write Path is an international collaborative writing project that is celebrating its tenth year in 2018. I started the project in the UK International Year of Reading in 2008 after a discussion with my best friend ….in a pub as it happens! We wanted to find a way that our students could write together and hopefully enjoy a video chat. At first we thought we’d write story starters ourselves but a few speculative emails to fab authors Julia Jarman, Mark Robson, G P Taylor, Theresa Breslin and Alan Gibbons resulted in them writing a paragraph each for us. That first event ran over one day with each school having a set amount of time to add a following paragraph to each of the stories and it was achieved via email. Due to time zone differences I was up at one a.m. Skyping with lovely young writers overseas, it was only later I realised I was wearing pjs with ‘(Little Miss) Naughty’ emblazoned across my chest but the extremely polite students didn’t mention this and I hoped they hadn’t noticed! After the success of that first year word spread and we had many more schools want to take part the following year so a different way of achieving the collaborative writing had to be sought and we started a ning, or collaborative website, so that the story starters could be posted as blog posts and continuations could be added as comments. The Write Path is still run in this style now although we do have a shiny new website since last year. All of the second year’s stories and those from subsequent years have been printed in paper books so that the students become published authors and so that the schools have something to keep to show their involvement.
Having a ‘home’ for the project online was very popular and participating schools started to upload photos and videos of their writing day, I have always loved seeing these. Many schools have had Skype conversations with schools preceding or following them and this glimpse into other students lives is always fun and informative. Overseas schools usually end up with a video chat with myself and they are always quite happy when I show them my extensive Harry Potter memorabilia collection and the occasional appearance from Severus, my cat always goes down a storm! We have had entrants from many countries – France, Australia, USA and Kuala Lumpur to name a few – so writing the timetable can be a little problematic, my long suffering husband usually helps and sometimes we even manage to still be talking at the end of the process. As the Write Path has grown we have separate secondary and primary days and in the past we have had a poetry event and a comic event too.
The basics are that each school is given a time slot , one hour for secondary and one and a half for primary, and in their time they are expected to write a continuing paragraph for each of the day’s stories after having read the story with the previous schools continuations. Young participants must be within the ages of 10 – 13 and there isn’t a minimum length for the continuations so you can work with all abilities . Some schools work with 12 students, two to each story, and some schools especially primary schools work with a whole class. Usually participants prepare their paragraphs in Word then copy and paste them into the story as a comment under the blog post. Continuing the stories in such a tight timeframe gives students experience of working to deadlines and also very much adds to the excitement. As the continuations are published as blog comments they are immediately live for anyone to read so this provides good experience of writing for an audience. Continuing storylines started by others requires concentration and an attention to detail that can be quite challenging, although any mistakes can usually be rectified afterwards. Tweet updates about the stories and the schools taking part are posted each day and it’s always lovely when the authors read the finished tales and comment on them.
We have been very lucky to work with many amazing authors, Cathy Cassidy and Alan Gibbons, Chris Bradford, Eleanor Updale ,Tommy Donbavand and Eoin Colfer contribute story starters every year and each year new authors join, opening my inbox is like Christmas in the weeks before the event, it’s always exciting reading the creative paragraphs we receive. Sometimes we have illustrations donated for the front cover of the books too, in fact this year we will hopefully have an illustration from an amazing artist to celebrate our 10th anniversary, but this hasn’t been confirmed yet so I am typing this with firmly crossed fingers, watch this space! Write Path 2018 will be a two week event and we will be awarding two prizes of £100 worth of books to one primary and one secondary school.
Ruan Peat , librarian at Wick Community Library in Scotland has taken part for many years and has this to say about her experiences:
‘I heard about the 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 final result of a finished book always reminds them of the day and makes them proud of their own work and the collaboration with students across the world!’
You can find out more about the Write Path on the website www.writepathint.com and you can sign up here too, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It would be wonderful to work with some Heart readers in this special year – it’s going to be epic!
Write Path Founder