This year we launched an exciting new project to develop our young writers: the FunDza Fellowship – a 10-month writing programme for 15 of our aspiring writers, conducted virtually.

We selected young people, who had previously submitted Fanz writing or entered FunDza writing competitions and challenges. All had been previously published on and showed promise. All were very excited at the opportunity.

The 10-month programme consists of three immersion blocks. In each block, writers attend online workshops and complete a particular online course over a period of six weeks. In between these immersion blocks they read widely and keep a writing journal.

Our first block, just finished, was on poetry. The fifteen young writers were divided up into three mentor groups, each led by a FunDza staff member.

We became expert in zoom workshops and learned the joy of breakout rooms, where in our small groups people felt much more comfortable sharing their work and their ideas before whizzing back through the ether into the big group to wrap up, or get more general instruction.

This poetry section of the course drew on the fantastic work of Kate Clanchy, a UK-based teacher and writer. Her book How to grow your own poem (published by Pan Macmillan 2020) was the inspiration for many activities. We discovered how powerful it was when young writers wrote poems in response to other poems, using them as a scaffolding to explore their own unique insights and images.

As we were not able to use the original poems in Kate Clanchy’s book (we would have had to do lots of copyright applications), we used the poems and activities in internal workshops with our staff members, and then used the poems they created as the inspiration for our fellowship participants.

This worked even better than imagined – we were so proud of their powerful work! Kate Clanchy generously allowed us to use her guidelines as well to accompany the poems, and you can see the poems and activities here.

A final highlight of the poetry section was a guest workshop entitled ‘Memory into Amnesia’ run by the fabulous poet Koleka Putuma, who gave participants writing prompts to then finally produce a poem based on what is remembered, and what is not…

Then, after editing all their poems, participants resubmitted them, and we had a final showcase with each participant sharing their poem either by reading it aloud in the final zoom, or by sharing a video of themselves reading it, or sharing the text via WhatsApp. We were extremely proud of how their writing grew and developed, and many beautiful and powerful poems were produced. Read the fellows’ poetry here.

The next two blocks will be fiction and creative non-fiction. It has been so interesting to experience the voices of these young writers emerge, and we can’t wait to see the stories they are going to develop next!