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SCHOOL WRITER IN RESIDENCE TESTIMONIAL

 

ABINGDON SCHOOL, June 2015

 

Rachel Yarrow, Head of English


'We wanted to get a writer in residence to help provide a focus for raising the profile of reading, writing and English within our school which, as a boys' school, is often more associated with success in the sciences and maths. We wanted to give boys who are keen creative writers the chance to work with something inspiring and get a sense of where English might take them beyond their experience of the subject within the classroom and for their exams.

When I saw Jason Hewitt at Short Stories Aloud in Oxford back in March 2014, I immediately liked him and the way he talked about his writing and his journey into the profession. We had taken along a group of Year 10 boys, too, and they loved the short story he had written and thought it was very funny, which goes a long way with boys! My first impressions were proved very accurate, and Jason turned out to be a fantastic person to work with all ages of boys and staff at the school. He has the cache and glamour of being a published author, but none of the pretension, and from the very first time he came in, he had a lovely, positive, approachable manner with the workshop participants. His workshops were meticulously planned, and he gave excellent, rigorous but encouraging individual feedback on all the stories the writers produced.

We decided early on that we wanted Jason's residency to result in a tangible outcome in the form of a published book, and decided on a theme around which the boys and staff participating could base their short stories. We decided that the school would provide the perfect theme and then set about getting interested boys and staff to apply to take part, by submitting a brief application form along with the first paragraph for a short story inspired by one of 6 opening lines we gave them as a stimulus. Once the applications were in, we whittled them down to a final 36 and divided them up into four groups by age group. Each group experienced three workshops over a period of just over half a term, with a space in between for them to go away and work on their stories. 

At the end, we published all the stories in a book called 'The Abingdon Anthology'. The impact of this project has been huge. All the boys and staff who participated were extremely positive about how much they had enjoyed the challenge and were very proud with what they had achieved. It was particularly nice that of the 11 staff involved in the project, only one was an English teacher; the rest came from other departments, which also helped to promote the idea that reading and writing are whole school interests, rather than just the preserve of the English Department. We had a high profile launch event for the Anthology, which we invited all the parents too as well as senior members of staff, and the parents were extremely pleased to have a chance to celebrate their sons' achievements, especially as some of the contributors of stories weren't those who necessarily excel at the 'traditional' areas of the school, such as sport, or getting top exam results. 

The feedback from everyone involved has been highly positive and I would whole-heartedly recommend Jason to any other school wanting to work with a writer-in-residence or on a similar project; he was an excellent person to work with and the project came out exactly as I hoped it would, if not better!'


For all enquiries please send me a message via the contact page.

SCHOOL VISIT TESTIMONIAL 


FELTHAM COMMUNITY COLLEGE, November 2013


Ruth Dupuy, English Department


'Jason came into our school to talk to our A Level English Literature students about the process of writing a novel.  I felt it was important for our Sixth Formers to tap into a writer’s mind in order to better understand the methods an author employs to create a story.  As a historical novelist, Jason was brilliant at this.  


The session was divided into three parts: a talk, a close reading session and Q&A time.  Jason’s talk was extremely well prepared and very informative; it highlighted exactly what I wanted - outlining how he finds ideas on what to write, how he creates character, why setting is so important, language choices and extended themes or metaphors, his historical research and how, to coin his term “extreme research”, can shape or change a story, the importance of structure and how he plots this on a graph to see moments of tension and how that impacts on the arc of the narrative, as well as selecting a narrator and choices of punctuation to convey meaning.  


From the feedback I have had, our students at Feltham Community College found Jason’s talk really useful.  It has enhanced their appreciation of their set texts in study and preparation for their forthcoming examinations, as well as being really good fun.  As a teacher I felt his chief success was in connecting his talk to our set texts; Jason had a thorough knowledge of our examination texts and wove this into his talk; in addition he also did a five minute presentation on why he thought each of our four texts were such great stories.  This bespoke talk for our students made it really relevant as well as engaging.  Jason had a natural ease in front of an audience and was an absolute hit!'

 


For all enquiries please send me a message via the Contact page.