Spark Young Writers FAQs
Please find below a list of frequently asked questions about our Spark Young Writers’ groups, creative writing groups for children and young people in Years 3 – 11. If you have a question that isn’t on this list, please email emma[at]writingwestmidlands.org.
To see which groups have places available at the moment, please visit the Spark Young Writers group page.
About Spark Young Writers
What happens in at Spark Young Writers’ groups?
Spark Young Writers are creative writing groups for children and young people. The sessions are led by professional writers and contain up to 15 members. The groups meet for two hours. The writers provide writing exercises for group members to creative work by themselves (individual writing time), in smaller groups or pairs or they work as a whole group. Groups run from September – June each year and they meet one Saturday a month. The focus of the groups is creative writing, not on spelling or punctuation but these skills can be increased by taking part in the group.Group members are also invited to share their writing at various showcase events and many work towards producing their own publication.
Who runs Spark Young Writers?
The Spark Young Writers’ groups are a project of Writing West Midlands. They are managed by Learning and Participation Manager – Emma Boniwell, and overseen by Chief Executive – Jonathan Davidson. Each group is led by a professional writer, to see who leads the groups please visit the Spark Young Writers group page.
I’d like to book a place for my child, but can’t find a booking form.
We have currently suspended booking while we make some changes to the groups and assess how many places are available for September 2017 onwards. We anticipate that booking will re-open in May 2017. We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.
My child is in Year 2, can they come along?
Unfortunately no. We need to have an age cut off as we have limited provision. We work with Junior and secondary aged children from Year 3 – Year 11. If your child is too young, please look out for other opportunities for your child through library services across the West Midlands. There is also Stories From The Web, an excellent resource for children.
My child struggles with reading and writing, will the Young Writers’ group be suitable for them?
Yes, the focus on the groups is about being creative rather than on spelling or punctuation and the writing produced is never marked nor are the children in the group tested in any way. The group leaders all have experience of working with children and young people of all different abilities and do their best to ensure that all children are included in the group. Group sizes are also kept to a maximum of 15 so that the lead writer and assistant can provide support and feedback on group members’ writing.
Can they join at any time or just from September?
Children and young people can join our groups at any point as long as space is available – if looking to join from April to June, you will be given details of the group for a September start. If the group they would like to join is fully booked, we can add them to a waiting list and get back in touch when a place is available or if another group isn’t too far away; we can send details of that one instead. Groups run from September – June and then take a break over the summer which is when we advertise for new members as this tends to be the time when there is a lot of movement within the groups (children leaving or moving up to an older group), but even if they’ve missed some of the sessions; they can get involved at any point.
Sometimes groups are working towards a specific project such as a publication, in this case new members are welcome to join but we will inform you of any projects that they may be discussing. All children and young people joining the groups will be included as much as possible in all activities.
Can my child go to more than one group?
We advise them just to stick to one group as it is the session leaders who plan each session and we can’t guarantee that they will be covering the same things or that one month one writer may cover one topic which the next month another group may look at. To get as much out of the groups as possible, it is best to stick to just one or start in one (if the one they want to join is full perhaps) and then leave the group and move to another, rather than attending multiple groups.
My child is very shy, can they bring a friend or can I sit in on the session?
Their friend would be very welcome to go along to the group (as long as there are spaces available) and you would also be welcome to sit in on the session for the first part. It’s best to discuss this with the writers leading the session, sometimes they say that parents can sit in for a while (until their child gets used to the group), but that they have to take part in the Young Writers’ activity!
The group I am interested in for my child is for those in years 3-6, my child is in year 7 – can they join this group?
It is best if they can join a group for those in years 7-11 or 7-12, as they may be at a different level creatively than the younger group. To see where your next nearest group is, please click here or email emma[at]writingwestmidlands.org to request more information.
Do I have to drop off my child at the group or can they attend by themselves?
As the groups run for two hours, we advise that you drop off your child at the group and then collect them at the end. For our older groups (years 7-11 or 7-12), group members are welcome to attend the group by themselves but if you’d prefer to collect and drop them off, on the Booking and Consent Form we ask for you to name the person who will be doing this.
Why isn’t there a Spark Young Writers group near to where I live?
At the moment we have 19 Young Writers’ groups meeting in 16 locations across the West Midlands. We are a registered charity and are an Arts Council England National Portfolio organisation. We are unable to afford to start groups in every location in the West Midlands but try to make sure you are never too far away from a group. If we receive extra funding, we are able to start more groups. Please keep an eye on the Spark Young Writers page for details of our groups and if you can support the Young Writers’ Groups by donating, please click here for details.
My child has a disability; will the group be suitable for them?
Many of our writers have experience of working with children with various disabilities; we will do our best to ensure that your child’s needs are met in the group. Please be aware that we limit groups to 15 members maximum and the groups are led by a professional writer and an assistant who can each provide each group member with support, but if extra support is needed that we can’t provide; please get in touch and we’ll see what we can do or how we work together.
I can’t afford the session price but I’d really like my child to attend; can you help?
If you feel unable to afford the £60 annual fee, please get in touch by emailing emma[at]writingwestmidlands.org to discuss our bursary offer or alternative payment methods. At the moment we don’t ask you to fill in any forms to apply for this, instead we can discuss with you options. Bursaries are limited as we are a charity and don’t receive any profit from the Spark Young Writers’ groups, any money taken goes towards the fee for the professional writer leading the group.
The group I am interested in is fully booked, how long will I have to wait for a place and why can’t you extend the size of the group or make a new one?
We limit group sizes to 15 members so that each child has enough time with the writers and so that groups don’t feel like school. Groups are monitored, if anyone signed up to a group isn’t attending they are contacted to ask if they’d still like their place. We can’t guarantee when a place on a fully booked group will become available but we do our best to try and fit anyone on a waiting list into a group as soon as possible. All those on the waiting list once groups finish for the summer are given notice first about places being available on the group before the groups are advertised for new members.
Does my child have to attend every session?
No, once they join they are in the group for the year (September – June) unless they decide not to continue, in which case we ask parents to get in touch to let us know this, or unless we notice they haven’t attended the group for 3 sessions at which point we contact parents to ask if their child still wants to be part of the group. All group members parents or guardians will be asked to let us know whether their child will be attending each month by ticking an online form or emailing us.
What does my child need to bring to the sessions?
At each of the sessions, your child will need to take along a notebook or paper and something to write with either pens or pencils. No money will be needed as payment will be made upfront (unless special arrangements have been made with Emma Boniwell at Writing West Midlands. Please email emma[at]writingwestmidlands.org to discuss alternatives) and they may like to bring along a drink and a snack.
My child is taking part in Arts Award or the Duke of Edinburgh Award, can the groups help with this?
Yes, our Spark Young Writers activities can be counted towards these awards. Please speak to the group leader to find out we can help your child with either Arts Award or Duke of Edinburgh Award. Several of our Lead Writers are Bronze and Silver Arts Award trained and can be Arts Award Advisors or mentors through this process.
Do the groups take part in any events or have their writing published?
The groups are invited to take part in various showcase events of their creative writing at festivals within the West Midlands and at Spark events. We can’t publish individual young writers but many of our groups work towards producing their own publication which they all work on. More information about this can be discussed at the Young Writer sessions with the group leader.
My child would like to be an author, would the group help them?
The groups help young people to learn more about the process of creating writing such as creating dialogue, editing writing and creating believable characters. The session leaders also provide constructive feedback on group members’ writing. Whilst we are aren’t able to publish individuals’ writing or provide a longer one-to-one mentoring service, the groups help development of writing, provide inspiration and the young people involved have the chance to find out more about what it’s like to be a professional writer from the group leaders.
Can the writers leading the sessions provide advice on writing made outside of the group?
If group members produce writing between sessions, the session leaders and assistants will be able to either read it briefly or they may ask the group members to read it out, then they can provide feedback. The writers leading the group can’t read longer pieces or provide a longer one-to-one tutorial as session times are limited.
When your child is already in the Spark Young Writers groups
My child is already in a group but is in the 8-11 group and will soon be 12 or they are in the 12 – 16 group and will soon be 17 – what happens next?
If your child is in a group and would like to continue but they are older than the age range we have set for the group, there is a chance that this group will be extended to include slightly older children (as all of the group will age). Alternatively, some groups have an older age group that meet after the younger group, this is the case at the moment with Birmingham city centre, your child would simply be able move up to the next group.
What do I do if my child joins but doesn’t like it?
If they don’t like the group, please email Emma to let her know. We can then either arrange for your child to join another group instead or if they don’t want to be part of the groups at all, please let us know and we’ll remove them from the list and allocate their place to another child.
I would like to make a complaint about the Spark Young Writers groups, who do I need to contact?
If you would like to make a complaint about the writers leading the group that your child is in or about another child/children in the group; please email Emma at emma[at]writingwestmidlands.org immediately.
If you would like to make a complaint about the management of the groups, please email Writing West Midlands’ Chief Executive, Jonathan Davidson, at jonathan[at]writingwestmidlands.org or call him on 0121 246 2770.
How long can you be in a Spark Young Writers’ group for?
Children can be in the groups until they are 16 or 17. They can move up from the younger groups to the older groups if there is one near to them. After this point, we advise that due to the age ranges and ability ranges of group members that your child then look at joining an adult writing group or attends one of our workshops. To see a list of writing groups in the West Midlands, please click here and have a look at our event calendar or download our most recent Programme of Activities from the homepage of our website to see our upcoming workshops www.writingwestmidlands.org. We also run workshops at the Birmingham Literature Festival www.birminghamliteraturefestival.org
You can see more about what the Spark Young Writers groups are like here: