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Recently Michael undertook a residency at Guildford Grammar, WA. Since Michael is a veteran of running writer-in-residence programs for schools, we thought we’d ask him to reflect on just what a residence can achieve. Here’s what he had to say:
From the 9th to the 14th of June this year I was Writer in Residence at Guildford Grammar School fifteen kilometres from Perth. Guildford is one of the oldest and most prestigious schools in WA with a beautiful campus by the Swan River. My flights, accommodation and meals for the week were fully provided for by Guildford. I stayed in one of the Lodge rooms within the grounds of the historic Rose and Crown Hotel – a very pleasant ten minute walk from the school.
During my time at Guildford I presented author talks in the senior school to 4 year 7 classes, 4 year 8 classes and 3 year 9 classes. I also spoke to a combined group of year 5s in the Preparatory School. As well as this, I attended a Boarders’ dinner, a night-time Music Recital and a Book Club meeting.
I very much enjoyed my time at the school. The week was well organised, the setting lovely, the teachers helpful and welcoming and the students enthusiastic and responsive.
I think longer term residencies like this can be a very positive experience for both the author and the school.
Apart from the financial benefits of multiple days bookings, for an author it gives you time to get to know the school, the teachers and students, and to have time to feel a part of the community. There is also the opportunity to see students over a number of sessions. On this occasion I only saw each group once, but in other residencies where I’ve taken writing workshops, the longer stay enables writing activities to be set and developed over a number of lessons. Another positive is the opportunity to engage with students outside the formal sessions, especially at lunchtime or in the library. (Although schools still need to be aware of limits when it comes to overall contact times.)
The longer time at the school obviously provides the opportunity for more students and classes to benefit from an author visit. This works particularly well for the school if the visiting author’s books cover a range of year levels allowing a wider range of classes to take advantage of having an author on campus. In the case of the Guildford visit, my book Don’t Call Me Ishmael has been a set text for Year 8s there for a number of years, so most boys in the senior school were aware of me as an author. For the Year 5 talk I was able to focus on my Eric Vale series which is actually set in a Yr 5 class. I think if I was to visit Guildford again there would be the opportunity to do more with the younger classes.
The longer booking also makes it easier for schools to timetable classes and sessions since they have the flexibility of more than one day to work with. Another benefit is that individual students who might be passionate about writing can often arrange a small group or one on one meeting with the author.
Having a writer in residence allows books, writing and reading to gain valuable exposure within a school.
Couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Have you planned your 2015 residency yet?