I am extremely passionate in my hopes that every individual will have some form of access to advice or guidance in order to actualise their creative capabilities, regardless of background. Therefore, I envisaged that a key area to examine was young people’s appreciation and perceptions of writing in theNorth West. I am eager for young people to realise the potentials of reading and writing outside school, and how it can be a source of great satisfaction. Being a college student myself at Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School, I decided to interview members of the lower school in terms of their views on English literature and writing: (I have considered the points the students made and incorporated them into the article indirectly, as there were such a brilliant array of points being made by a number of different students!)
• What do you think the biggest inspiration for your writing is?
The majority of the pupils whom I questioned implied that it was a combination of their favourite writers and teachers who inspired their writing style. However, there was an evident emphasis that many of the young people would not write outside school out of choice, therefore implying that writing especially has perhaps grown connotations of an institutionalised activity, when this doesn’t have to be the case. ‘It would be more interesting if there was more interactivity.’ One pupil remarked, remarking that films and plays are effective means of inspiration.
• Have you experimented with different kinds of writing? What type of writing would you like to have a go at?
Considering the first question, I therefore offered the prompt of ‘poetry battles’ and the prospect of ‘open mic’ events. Some of the students expressed their views that it sounded like a good idea, but ‘could take away the feeling of the plot’. I did agree that this could be, but was not always, the case. The theme of ‘storylines’ did seem to be popular and a number of students implied their appreciation of storylines due to the oratory qualities they had grown used to when younger. Therefore it could seem that to make reading and writing more beguiling is to address the ‘inner child’ – and it does appear to make sense, sometimes I love curling up with a children’s book, especially those by Roald Dahl!
Creative writing did seem to be popular, but the pupils emphasized that they preferred writing on a topic of their choice, rather than being given a specific theme – after a discussion, some came to the conclusion that imposed boundaries often feel difficult when writing as can seem to impose a limit on the creative self.
• Who is your favourite writer?
This was the answer I was waiting for with the inevitable realisation already sat in my stomach. As soon as the question fell out of my mouth:
‘’J.K. Rowling!!!” a number of the girls answered. I have to admit, I have been quite sceptical in terms of the ‘Harry Potter’ series, so I decided to put my own opinions away and uncover why adolescents especially find the books so enthralling. What I was immediately hit with, was the students appreciation of storyline, ‘’A continuous storyline is important. I don’t like when the narrative goes off on a tangent’’ one student told me. A number of the girls especially, were keen to express their view that the ‘Harry Potter’ books were well-written enough for them enjoy the enthralling plots and that was what mattered.
‘’Do you read any ‘classic’ literature?’’ I asked, expressing to the students my discomfort at the ‘classic’ label in terms of its implied prestigious content which may eliminate unsure readers. The opinions I received were somewhat similar to my own perception of the ‘classics’ label – many students were wary and hesitant to approach the books of authors of ‘classics’ in the fear that they would not be able to understand them.
I also spoke specifically to a year 10 student, Lydia Flavell, who was keen to express her admiration for a specific author and American literature. We both agreed that American literature is often under-appreciated in terms of local library stocks for young people, and we both appreciated the inclusion of a prominent American text by John Steinbeck on the English Syllabus ‘Of Mice and Men’. Lydia told me ‘’My favourite writer is John Greene, and I think what I appreciate about his work is the use of humour.’’ Having never heard of this writer I decided to research John Greene a little, finding out that Green’s first novel, Looking for Alaska (2005), won the 2006 Michael L. Printz Award, and perhaps what really endorses his relativity to young people is his embodiment of ‘Vlog’. Being a proponent of writing, I was initially slightly horrified to learn of Greene’s plan to remove all textual communication from himself for a year and instead converse by video blogs, made available to the public via YouTube. However, the blogs have been a significant success and imply the clear positives of creativity. A number of students told me, after all, that they enjoyed creativity which ‘‘pushed the boundaries’’, and found consideration of new media important.
• Does the writer matter to you when you read a piece of their work? Does this depend on how much you already know about them?
Considering the point of pushing boundaries, a student I spoke to specifically, Ben, implied that he saw it often as the text having the power in itself. ‘’The books The Godfather and A Clockwork Orange are my favourites’’ he told me, implying that he appreciate the depiction of the ‘taboo’ in novels and that as violence and sex are aspects of existence, they are often very important aspects in books.
Hence it seems that a key quality of reading for such rounded people is not only the depth of the storyline, but the possible depths of reality. In turn, I asked about favoured narrative perspectives in text. The majority favoured 1st person, as it was implied that it created a ‘more realistic feel’, whilst those who favoured third-person expressed the importance of an ‘unbiased text, where we can know all the characters separately’.
• What about Shakespeare?
It was the case that Shakespeare did not seem as disliked by the students as I initially envisaged. I highly appreciate Shakespeare’s plays and often struggle to pick my favourite, but I did empathise with the students in terms of ‘’how Shakespeare is received is often dependent on how his plays are taught’’. I have not-so-fond memories of sitting in English lessons almost doubled-over in the horror of having to read the text line-by-line in class, nervously waiting my turn and not