How do you motivate a young child to voice his or her feelings, hopes, dreams and opinions in written form? How do you help a child grow from tentative expression to creative heights as a fiction writer, a poet, a script writer or even a journalist? How do you get a child to understand that the world is a jewel, just as it is with its troubles, as well as its beauty, to be explored and relished?
I always ask myself these questions just before I start working with a child on creative writing skills. Creative Writing skills are skills for life, useful in any career, useful for any life. Just like Mathematics has the potential to develop a critical thinker, Creative writing has the potency to develop a creative communicator.
But before anyone can become a great creative thinker and writer they must find their own voice and identity.
SOPHIE’S LOG helped me personally explore the place I wanted to go, and the place I wanted the kids I was working with discover.
Sophie’s Log is a compilation of pieces of poetry and prose written by a young English girl, Sophie Large, and compiled into a book after her tragic death in a car accident when she was 19. The pieces compiled stretch across a timeline, from when she was about nine years old until just a few days before she died.
At nine years of age, Sophie was already an avid reader, and wrote several book reviews, as well pieces about music, or things that she liked. She wrote a beautiful poem for her grandmother shortly after her grandfather died, part of which says:
Time, here, is like nothing on earth,
And I am soon with my loved ones…
When she was about 13 years old, she wrote the tale of the Goothrans, which to me felt like a serious rival for the Harry Potter Series, if she had been able to develop it.
The more Sophie writes, the better she becomes, which is a lesson for any young aspiring writer. Write, write, write, soon you shall find your niche. She draws inspiration from observations, from things she experiences, from things she hears. Her trip to Israel bears a two page essay with very deep thoughts for a fourteen year old.
Sophie’s growth, as a person and as a very expressive writer, is evident in letters, to her grandmother, her parents and friends which are also included in Sophie’s Log. As she grows older her life moves from the simple flowers, ponies and legends, to include flowers, ponies, legends, relationships, school, career hopes.
Her interest in Drama and Theatre grew in her teens. Her happiness at this time of her life is reflected in the way she writes:
Kindertransport. First performance. How do I feel? Like any amateur director after the first performance of their first play, with the knowledge that it is only a third over. A bit flat. There is a sob in my throat that won’t go away. It went really well…
At 17 years of age, Sophie ran drama workshops for younger girls at school.
She writes: I am going to be allowed to take the Junior Drama Club after half-term. There are various aspects of theatre I want to get across to these girls. Ensemble theatre is as important as single roles. You cannot have a good production if every actor is fighting for the attention if the audience instead of supporting each other…
At nineteen years of age, despite getting really good A levels Sophie did not get into Oxford though she had spent quite a few months preparing for it. She was quite emotional about it and wrote:
When people ask if I got into Oxford, my family will have to say, ‘no, but she is going to Bristol’ – and the people will say ‘ah’ and think to themselves uhuh Oxford wannabe, less than Oxford.
She got over it however, and was soon back in life, writing upbeat emails to her friends, and working on a plan to set up a Theatre Company. Within the book is an excellent example offer letter to an actor who was set to be part of her production project.
In the very last poem in Sophie’s Log, Sophie writes:
I, me, myself, am real, alive, here,
I enjoy the feel of life under my hand,
The shouting and screaming
The mad abandoned laughter of one,
Who has let go of parts of her mind
That hold the real her prisoner
Sophie’s log demonstrates that the journey to excellent creative writing is not a short one. She starts out with spelling mistakes, improving to accurate spelling with simple, childish expressions, and growing into to truly descriptive writing whether when writing the rather formal business letter, or an emotional letter to her parents or her grandmother, to poems that capture strong emotions in very few words.
Sophie’s writing also captures the joys as well as heartaches of growing up. The reader is able to look into a world where a failure only inspires more creative thinking. When she fails to get into Oxford, Sophie looks for another way to reach her dreams.
Sophie left quite a legacy through her writing. She inspires me 11 years after her death. I hope she inspires the kids who read her work. I can just imagine what she might have become with more time, an expressive writer, a creative thinker, someone who is not afraid to dream, therefore not afraid to go out and get what she wants in her life.
That she died at 19 and still left such a legacy makes me believe that I can do so much more with my life if I just try. And I hope that her writing can help the kids who read it explore their own voices, their own worlds, and dreams, and writing.
Excerpts from Sophie’s Log by Sophie Large.
© Juliet Maruru 2009 www.jmaruru.wordpress.com