Learning creative writing – step by step!

Nandini Nayar

Writing is probably one of the most essential skills and ironically, the most ignored one too! There is no conspiracy theory to explain this; all one can say is that with time the focus has shifted away from well-written, logically organized writing. This is the age of short messaging and while this may not have affected school children directly, indirectly this has wrecked havoc on the writing skills of children. Give children anything other than utterly prosaic letters to write and you will realize just how ill-equipped they are in the skills of writing. Cheryl Rao’s eight books, titled Fun with Creative Writing, make an attempt to tackle this weakness in the present day curriculum.

The books are graded and a newcomer to creative writing will need to begin with the first book and work his/her way up to the last one. Each book comes with a little introduction to the series and a section that highlights the topics covered within.

Book 1 has very simple activities, designed to encourage the beginner to put pen to paper and embark on the journey of writing. There are picture stories and activities that encourage children to express their likes and dislikes, even as they master the vocabulary necessary to do this. The slim volume is filled with illustrations and each activity comes with several options, ensuring that the beginner will not be stumped at any point. Book 2 builds on this foundation and leads children gently into the art of writing. If book 1 teaches children to write a card inviting friends to a birthday party, book 2 teaches them how to write a thank you card. Book 3 and 4 continue the gradual build up of the pace, introducing children to the art of writing stories, lists, poems and dialogues, among other things.

Book 5 marks a shift and the difference is obvious right from the first page – the section offering ‘A Peek Inside’ – is detailed. It offers a well-written introduction to the various genres covered in the volume. “The middle,” Rao observes, her experience of conducting countless creative writing workshops over the years lending wisdom to her words, “is where you want to give up!” And determined not to let this happen, Rao packs Book 5 with a variety of thought-provoking and challenging activities. The activities in this book include, in addition to story and dialogue writing, other interesting ones like tongue-twisters, Haiku writing, interviews and writing slogans. Book 6 introduces children to the idea of diary entries and book reviews.

Children can try their hand at writing letters, and learn to identify similes and metaphors in Book 7. Book 8, the last in the set, introduces children to writing a script, play, advertisements, job applications, advice column and even curses!

The eight books in this set are a veritable storehouse of activities, designed to keep any child happily occupied for hours. Books 1 to 4 are filled with fun writing activities and children will love the prompts Rao offers them. The activities in all the books are an interesting mix of the fun and the prosaic, almost as if Rao is determined to let children see how much fun writing of any kind can be even as she introduces them to the various elements of writing.

While Book 5 builds on this, the last three books are for the serious writer, someone who has found his/her feet in the world of words and is ready to take on challenges. And at the end of reading the eight books I am of the opinion that any child who works his/her way through these books will develop a love for writing. What is more, he/she will also have imbibed a sense of how to go about the process of writing. And, as a great bonus, have had fun doing this!

The grading of the activities has been meticulously done and this only highlights Rao’s positive genius for creating situations that are sure to appeal to a child’s sense of the ridiculous and love for fantasy. The mix of the zany and down to earth prompts and situations ensure that there is something for every child who uses these books. These books can be used in addition to course books at school where Rao’s meticulously written introductions will help demystify the world of words. Alternatively these books can be used at home too and can provide hours of fun during the long summer vacations. A few pages where children can jot their ideas would have been a welcome addition to the books. But beyond that, these modestly priced books lack nothing and give much.

Please visit www.cambridgeindia.org to order these books.

The reviewer is a freelance writer based in Hyderabad. She can be reached at nandsnayar@yahoo.co.in.