Last week the Writing the City class got to feel like kids again when we visited Fighting Words on the north side of Dublin. Fighting Words is a creative writing center established by Irish author Roddy Doyle that helps children improve their writing skills and explore their love of writing. Our class took a trip to the center to find out more about the education programs they offer, but instead of just hearing about them, we got to participate!
Students normally visit the center on school field trips and the mornings are reserved for primary school children. They learn about the elements of a good story as they vote on characters, setting, and plot and write their own book together. It felt like we were in third grade again as we shouted out silly names for the main character and gave a triumphant “yes!” when the choice we had voted for won. Brooke typed our suggestions as we said them and Rachel illustrated our story—a thrilling tale about Rick, a squirrel who dreamed of becoming the world’s greatest BASE jumper.
Middle school children who come into Fighting Words go more in-depth into the art of stories. Volunteers from the class act out a scene and a typist takes down their dialogue. Matt and I acted out a particularly rousing scene in which he was in trouble for breaking a window and he tried to convince me, his witness, to say it was really a purple dragon that had done it. After defining the dialogue of the story, students then finish the ending independently. The center also holds summer camps and extracurricular classes on subjects like song writing, crime fiction, and playwriting and publishes an annual collection of short stories written by some of its students.
As a writing major, I was inspired by the work that is being done at Fighting Words to help young children develop skills and a passion for writing. The center is run almost entirely by volunteers, and after our class’s visit, some students are even donating their time. What better way to volunteer than to spend your day writing an imaginative story and getting to be a kid again?