Jeni led us all to write, and after trawling our language reservoirs, we experienced the buzz of echoes, runs, riffs and delights of a round of wonderful words - cornflakes, circumspect, ameliorate, lovestruck, mollyblob, blancmange, goose, inuit, hashtag nihilism ... bing!
Then, inspired by Natalie Goldberg's 'Old Friend from Far Away', we first free-wrote about school memories before exploring and elaborating the 'before' or 'after' of events. And when we read out and listened to each other's fresh writing, it was fulfilling, amazing - and emotional. Of course, everyone in the room was a friend and an experienced writer, but that merely sharpened what was brought out by this compression and expression of authentic writing. There are always surprises and revelations - and so much discovery, so much learning. It's a demonstration of individual authorship and the growth of collective authority. And the book marks that.
A peculiar dynamic of writing, one of its most special affordances, is how it generates new thought while conferring agency on the writer. Or, in Jeni's words from the book, (which, obviously, you must buy):
" ... writing is not linear, entirely conscious and easily done to order. Writing is recursive and sometimes wandering. It is as often concerned with dreaming and composting, as it is with careful planning and rendering. Teachers writing together experience this variety in their own writing and in hearing about the writing processes of others. And this is of value, because, for the most part, their classes contain thirty or so young writers in all their variety." (p.26)
After writing, we went downstairs and Jeni and I thanked all those who had stuck with us on this 6-year journey. Comradeship has made it more inspiring than exhausting - and teachers' collaborative creativity and professionalism have been at the heart of the project. We raised our glasses to all the teachers who are represented in the book - and to hundreds of others in NWP groups around the country who have helped us get this far.
The writing journey will go on: there is still much that needs to be explored, researched, enjoyed and fought for - and NWP teachers' writing groups are free and open to all students and teachers. (You can find 41 reasons for joining an NWP writing group here.)
Please also think about joining us at the LATE conference on Jimmy Britton and his legacy on Saturday 12 March - at the UEA writing conference on Friday 15 April - at the NATE conference in Stratford on Sat 25 - Sun 26 June - at the Goldsmiths Writers and Teachers conference on Saturday 2 July.