Valerie Bloom - 4 July 2006

When I visit schools or perform at literary festivals, I am often asked if I have a set writing routine. I would love to be able to say yes, but unfortunately, I can't. I always envy writers who are disciplined enough to set and follow a routine. How many of you are writers, I wonder? I would love to know how you organise your writing time. At the start of the residency I promised to share a typical working week, so here goes.

It's my turn to do the school run so at 8.00 a.m I get my daughter and neighbour's son into the car and head off. The other two girls who usually go with us are doing their GCSEs so they won't be coming today. The traffic is reasonable this morning so we make good time.That's good, I might be able to get back in time to do some work before I have to collect them from school.

Since I'm out I might as well do the shopping. That is a fatal decision. It is 12.30 before I head back home. I go into my study, but the piles of papers waiting to be filed are too depressing. I take the folder of things to do into the dining room and check the answerphone for messages. I have two from a couple of schools, one enquiring about availabilty and another wanting to sort out a timetable for a visit. I return the calls but the teachers are in classes, so I leave messages for them to contact me and phone National Rail enquiries to find out about trains for some visits which are looming.

Now I turn to my notebook. I'm feeling a bit guilty because there are twelve commissioned poems which have to be written in the next week, as well as an article for the TES. But I have to finish this novel.

The phone rings. Someone wants to know if I can visit a school during Black History Month. Unfortunately October is already fully booked. I glance at the clock. Help! I am going to be late to pick up the kids unless I leave now. I grab the notebook and pen and head for the door. If the children are late out, I might be able to write a little while I'm waiting.

But they are not late and my daughter who is always hungry wants to know what's for supper. Yet again, the writing will have to wait until everyone has gone to bed.

Finally, at 11.00 pm I take up my notebook and start to - yawn. I remember I need to write an invoice for tomorrow and another for next week. I email the last and try to answer some of the 202 emails waiting for attention. At 1.00 am I admit defeat and crawl into bed. I've written one paragraph, but I have a longish train journey tomorrow, so I can get some writing done then.


Day 2

I will be in Southampton for the next three days. Today it's a Junior school and I've left early because I made the same journey last week and it was a nightmare. The trains were delayed and I arrived at the school two hours late.
However, this time the journey was uneventful and I managed to get some writing done.
The year fives I was seeing had been reading my novel 'Surprising Joy' and had many questions about it.
I did a performance of my poetry for the year group, followed by a poetry- writing workshop with each of the two classes. The performance starts with a Jamaican Patois lesson and then there is interactive poetry. The children were enthusiastic, joining in the calling, singing and chanting with gusto.
After lunch we had the writing workshops. I had planned to help one class to write pantoums, but after the questions, there's was not too much time left so we wrote kennings instead. The other class looked at my poem 'associations' and after we'd written one together, they wrote their own.
It was good to work with children who were so keen on poetry and who shared their work so generously. I left the school with a warm glow inside which could not even be dampened by the 45 minutes wait for the taxi which was taking me to my hotel.

Day 3
Today I visited the university of Southampton to talk to a group who were just finishing their primary teacher training. I'd been warned that they had had a hard weekend finsihing projects and as many of them live outside of Southampton they might not make it in for the session.
With five minutes to go before the start, it looked like it was indeed going to be a small audience - there were only six people. However, four minutes later, they all trooped in and we had to hurriedly put out extra chairs.
At first they were slightly self-conscious about joining in with the poems, but they soon overcame this and we had a great session together. Afterwards I answered questions. I was asked one I don't think I've been asked before; How do I teach poetry when I go into schools to run writing workshops? Ideally I would have liked to address that in a longer session but I was only able to give a brief description of some of the work I do in schools.

Day 4 -
The Southampton Children's Book Fair organised by the Southampton Library Service. This is the third time I've been here and each time it gets better. today I did three performances. In the morning I had year 5 and 6 children, including some from a Special School who have come each time I've been here. Then there was a group of 60 year threes and 24 year twos. After lunch, I had another KS2 group of 118 including another group from the Special school.
It is always great to meet new children and teachers, but there is a special feeling when you meet up with old friends and the groups from the special school are like old friends. It was lovely to see them again. It's also good to meet other writers you've admired but never met.
Today Jackie Morris and Phillip Ardagh were also performing and I was able to put faces to the authors of those books my children and I so enjoyed. Paul Geraghty was also visiting, but as he's another one who's visited before, we've already met.

At the end of the day I borad the train back home with a satisfied feeling. I've had a great time with the other writers, and from the feedback, so have the children.

i have seen valarie in action and she is an amazing performer and gifted poet. her work springs to life from within her and in turn awakens her audience. an inspiration

Add comment

Log in or register to post comments

A tour of the Archive with Stephanie Anderson

On my first visit to the Poetry Archive I dipped in to see what was there, and discovered there was far more to hear...

Featured Guided Tours