An International Student of Literature in England.
I just got home from an amazing day: the first day of the UEA Fly Festival! It’s finally started! I didn’t know about it until I started a press traineeship at UEA but since then, it’s been on my mind all the time.
The Fly Festival – Festival of Literature for Young People – is an amazing week full of opportunities to have fun, hear Young Adult Fiction authors speak, meet them, and also a chance for self-discovery – through writing, poetry and literature. As an English Literature student (graduating in a week!) this is something I feel very strongly about and I think it is so important for schools and young people to get involved in such events!
Louise and I are working during the whole week as the “press team,” which is very exciting to both of us! What this means is we get to go to as many talks, workshops and events as we want, we get to write about it, take over FLY’s social media, meet authors and interview them, do some filming during the week, see how a literature festival works and, most importantly, to have a lot of fun!
This morning, I woke up feeling very excited about FLY starting! Today was a bit unusual because I was working as a Student Ambassador at Fly in the City, at the Garage, so I let Louise focus on the “press” aspect of thing. At 8:30am, I got on my bike and headed towards the city centre for what was my last ever shift as an Ambassador (sad). Later on, Louise joined me there and did a fantastic job talking to and interviewing both poets present at The Garage: Matt Windle and Molly Naylor!
The day, entitled “Poetry with a Punch,” started with a performance by Matt that was funny, uplifting, and equally moving. Matt, who was so friendly, read some of his poems (I found the one about bullying very touching) and also talked about what he does and the importance of giving young people the chance to go to events like this one and to challenge them in order to realise what they’re capable of. As he said, “I want you to have a voice” – which is what poetry and literature are about!
Afterwards, we went to a workshop with the lovely Molly Naylor! Again, it was awesome! The workshop consisted in a series of writing exercises that we sometimes shared with others, but not all the time. It was very nice to see young people gaining more confidence during the workshop and as the day went by, especially regarding sharing their writing. And I have to admit it was a difficult exercise! One of the tasks I particularly liked consisted in us writing as much as we could and as fast as possible in one minute or so. We did this three times, with the sentences beginning with “I used to…”, “Now I have found…” and “I wish I could be…”
I loved this workshop because I’ve been wanting to write prose poems and short stories for years but never really tried or took the time. These exercises really forced me to sit down with a pen and write anything that came through my mind – and I found that really liberating (especially because Molly encouraged us to be as whacky and weird as possible).
In the following exercise, we had to write sentences starting with “The city is…” and then with “The heart is…” We all came up with interesting things… But then we were asked to re-read those sentences by swapping “city” and “heart”! The result was sometimes hilarious, sometimes even more beautiful, and showed us how we could create more interesting metaphors.
My favourite exercise was the last one because I came up with a whole murder mystery story, without even realising where my writing was taking me. It looked like everybody had a lot of fun doing that!
“The park is full of young mothers and housewives who spend their days there, outside. The park is where they live. The park is also where this blond woman who wears bright red lipstick sits on her own day after day. The park is where she cries for hours. The park is the place that brings back the most painful memories. The park is where the buggy disappeared one day and caused a rush of blood to her head – out of breath, dizzy, total panic. The park is where Lizzy, three months old, was last seen.” (It had to start with repetitions)
After this workshop and after lunch, we went to another workshop, this time with Matt Windle! I found it much more challenging and I think it’s because his style is totally different to what I enjoy reading and would enjoy writing. A lot of the focus was on rhymes and beat and I’m so bad with these things! We still had a lot of fun though and worked sometimes individually and sometimes as a group. Despite my total lack of inspiration (as you will see below), my group came up with pretty fun things and I had such a great time! We called ourselves “The Five Sonneteers” and went onstage to perform our short pieces. I read the following…interesting (not to say awful) things onstage: “If love was a pizza, you’d be my margherita: boring as hell” and “If love was a student ambassador, you’d be my blue t-shirt: worn all week long, sweaty, covered in dust.” Yum! Most people did come up with very good and cute things!
Over in the Norwich Theatre, pupils dived into the world of drama with UEA’s playwright Steve Waters, actor and director Michael Bernadin and Kirsty Smith. Students explored plays from page to stage in workshops, analysing the journey from writing a scene to performing one.
Eye contact, backstory and the power of the unspoken were all hot topics today as students learnt how to evolve into the character they were playing. Explaining the process of characterisation, a girl said: “Be the character: you need to believe in yourself so that you persuade other people that you are who you are playing”. I think this quotation alone says how much pupils took from today’s workshops.
Everyone fully involved themselves into the activities; the room was tangible with enthusiasm and creativity. I think the amount of smiles I saw today is testament to a very successful first day!
Written by Anne-Sophie Kleczewski and Louise Lazell.