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FunDza was once again invited by the organisers of the Knysna Literary Festival this year to join in their celebration of literacy. We spent the week of the festival with Grade 7 learners from various schools in the area engaging them in creative writing workshops.

We used activities like bio poems, word olympics, story starters and ‘Risking it all for a friend’ to activate the imaginations of the participants.

If you were in Grade 7 and were asked to write a story starting with: ‘I can’t believe it! Ms Smith, my maths teacher used to be…’ where would you allow your mind to go? Would your Ms Smith have been a recovering drug addict, a secret double agent spy or might she at one point have been your father’s girlfriend? These were some of the scenarios the learners came up with during this group writing activity. They were given a list with eight opening sentences from which they had to select one sentence with which to start a short story. They were given 20 minutes to brainstorm and write a short story.

Learners from Sunridge Primary School. Another story starter brainstorming: 'In my bag I had a map, lip gloss and R52...

(PHOTO: Learners from Sunridge Primary School)

We used ‘Risking it all for a friend’ as an individual writing activity. The brief is: a life-long friend needs your help. Even though helping this person is risky, you know that you must try. Not everyone, however, will see it that way… We gave the learners a list of questions – such as: Who are you? Who is your friend? Why is he/she in trouble? – to help them think about their subject. We explained that they could be of any age, sexual orientation, culture and background. Some learners decided that the friend in this story would be much older, while others used animal characters. In giving an example of how the story could work, we asked the learners to suggest possible reasons for their friend being in trouble. One of the learners piped up with: ‘He broke his neighbour’s car?’ This led to more questions like the make and colour of the car, and then, what was in the car? What was on the passenger seat? at which point a hand shot in the air ‘A chicken!’ to which we all burst into laughter.

We spent time facilitating creative writing workshops at Knysna Primary, Sunridge Primary, Karatara Primary and Fraaisig Primary. On our final day in Knysna we also facilitated a creative writing workshop at the Young Writer’s Workshop and Awards Ceremony. There were over 100 learners from 10 primary and high schools in the area. It was an incredible honour to be in a space with so many interested, budding and talented writers. When we asked which groups would like to volunteer their group stories, we had to adjust the programme slightly as everyone wanted to contribute so we went over time. We did not expect all the schools to be so proud and willing to share their work.

We hope to see the names of some of these learners on book covers in the future. And we look forward to coming back next year.