The bird flying home
I once did some creative writing workshops during school holidays at a big old house that was set up as an arts centre for kids. I remember this workshop because of one particular girl in the group. Her father had died and so her mother had placed this girl and her siblings into care because she could no longer look after them – but the kids were all split up in different foster homes. The girl told me all this unbidden within a few minutes of meeting. In the holidays the siblings would be booked into programs like the one I was a part of that day so that they could get some time together. So, I had the younger sister in my group and an older sister was in another group doing something different for kids in her age range. But at lunch time they were fast together. There were only the two sisters from the family with us on that day.
Anyway, the girl in my group was a delight – intelligent, gentle and courteous but I came to realise quite quickly that she couldn’t write at all. At the age of ten she could barely form letters. Instead she formed beautiful personal symbols on the page, which only sometimes managed to resemble the letters being formed by the kids around her, let alone words or sentences. Occasionally, she would lift her head from the page and an expression of despair would pass fleetingly across her face. I suggested to the group at that stage, in despair myself, that many people can tell stories through illustrating so the kids could choose to write a story or draw one. The girl looked at me quite intently at this news, relief replaced the despair. Immediately, she started to draw a beautiful happy picture filled with people holding hands, flowers at their feet and the sun shining brightly in the sky. This gorgeous drawing was a relief to me as well.
After lunch, (which the sisters spent together) we had a simple poetry exercise. I said to the group that sometimes people think faster than they can write so if anyone would like me to write down their thoughts for them then I could do that. So, I had a line of kids who thought this was a great idea. I wrote a bit for each of them then sent them off because I knew they could finish it themselves. Then, I settled down with the girl to write her poem. She sat right, right next to me, as close as could possibly be and I just wrote down her words as she spoke. It was straight dictation without the slightest hesitation. I was amazed. When the poem was finished the girl seemed very satisfied and I had that sense that she had managed to get down on paper exactly what it was she wanted to say, which is all I can hope for my own writing. I wish so much I had kept a copy of the entire poem but there were two lines I’ll never forget …
I am a book trying to be read