Monday, December 03, 2012

What's the best thing about being a writer?

What's the best thing about being a writer? Apart from seeing your new book come out, that is?

We spend so much time closeted away in secluded isolation, locked into our own worlds like inmates of a virtual institution, that sometimes even seeing other real people seems slightly miraculous.

Going into schools, and meeting our readers, is even more like a dream come true, to find that the worlds we created have blossomed in other people's minds.

But every so often comes along an opportunity even better than this.

I am now in the Seychelles, with my wife, in the International School on Praslin.

students at the International School on Praslin, Seychelles
Students at the International School on Praslin, Seychelles
After a short period of acclimatisation, we will be running a two-week holiday workshop for children aged between 9 and 14.

I'll be teaching story-making and scriptwriting, and Helen will be conducting the music workshops.

The children, with our help, will devise the characters, theme, idea, story, for a half hour performance. They will write and rehearse the songs and, by the end of the fortnight will put on the show, which will possibly be filmed.

Our role is just to be facilitators; they are the creative geniuses who will come up with all the ideas, debate them, sift them, synthesise and develop them, eventually producing their own minor masterpiece.

Giant tortoise on Praslin
The school pays for the airfare, and we will be put up in hotels that are owned by one or two of the school governors. And maybe we'll find time to explore the beaches and meet some of the giant tortoises the island is famous for!

It's the second time I have worked in an International School. The last time was four years ago in São Paulo, Brazil.

That time, there were two, much bigger schools and they worked me really hard. But, while there, I was able to meet my Brazilian publisher and some fans. That was terrific.

I got the idea for applying to International Schools from Alan Gibbons, who quite often does such gigs.

They regularly employ writers, either as part of the term time curriculum or during holidays sessions, to conduct workshops with the children.

For them, having real writers come all the way from the United Kingdom to their spot of the world is in itself exotic. You will be treated like Queens and Kings!

If you fancy such a trip yourself, to a remote part of the world, or even somewhere closer to home, the best place to start is to search online for international schools in an area which you would like to visit, and write to them.

There is no real clearinghouse or centralised network for them, although many teachers who work in such places spend their lives moving from one exotic city to another.

The rather interesting shaped fruit of the coco de mer plants!
So, if you can't think of any other way you're ever going to get to a destination where there are white sundrenched beaches fringed with palms and dotted with turtles, coral reefs in bright blue sea that is 27°C, and is listed as a World Heritage Site because of its massive coco de mer plants (right) and black parrots, you can do worse than to start searching for international schools now.

Especially as we're approaching the middle of another cold, dark winter!