Frequently Asked Questions
Below, you will find a list of frequently asked questions about our Spark Young Writers groups.
If you have a question that isn’t on this list, please email emma[at]writingwestmidlands.org.
To see which groups have places available at the moment, please visit the Spark Young Writers group page.
About Spark Young Writers
Each group is:
- fun! We laugh a lot during the sessions
- friendly and informal
- small – max. 15 children
- led by a professional writer along with an assistant
- varied – your child will do all kinds of writing, from fiction to poetry to playwriting
- working on creative writing rather than spelling or punctuation
- a chance for your child to develop their creative writing
- a way to grow their confidence in their writing
- not assessed – your child will get feedback and suggestions, but no “grades” or “attainment levels” are given
We are working with our venues and our lead and assistant writers to keep everyone safe. You can read our guidelines here: https://www.sparkwriters.org/2021-2022-covid-19-guidelines/ and if you have any questions, please get in touch.
The booking form can be found on each page for the list of events here.
Children and young people can join our groups at any point as long as space is available – if looking to join from April to June, you will be given details of the group for a September start. If the group they would like to join is fully booked, we can add them to a waiting list and get back in touch when a place is available or if another group isn’t too far away; we can send details of that one instead. Groups run from September – June and then take a break over the summer which is when we advertise for new members as this tends to be the time when there is a lot of movement within the groups (children leaving or moving up to an older group), but even if they’ve missed some of the sessions; they can get involved at any point.
Sometimes groups are working towards a specific project such as a publication, in this case new members are welcome to join but we will inform you of any projects that they may be discussing. All children and young people joining the groups will be included as much as possible in all activities.
We advise them just to stick to one group as it is the session leaders who plan each session and we can’t guarantee that they will be covering the same things or that one month one writer may cover one topic which the next month another group may look at. To get as much out of the groups as possible, it is best to stick to just one or start in one (if the one they want to join is full perhaps) and then leave the group and move to another, rather than attending multiple groups.
It is best if they can join a group for those in years 7-11 or 7-12, as they may be at a different level emotionally or creatively than the younger group. To see where your next nearest group is, please click here or email emma[at]writingwestmidlands.org to request more information.
As the groups run for two hours, we advise that you drop off your child at the group and then collect them at the end. For our older groups (years 7-11 or 7-12), group members are welcome to attend the group by themselves but if you’d prefer to collect and drop them off, on the Booking and Consent Form we ask for you to name the person who will be doing this.
At the moment we have 19 Spark Young Writers groups meeting in 16 locations across the West Midlands, and for September 2020 onwards we’re also introducing two online-only groups for those who can’t attend a physical group meeting. We are a registered charity and are an Arts Council England National Portfolio organisation. We are unable to afford to start groups in every location in the West Midlands but try to make sure you are never too far away from a group. If we receive extra funding, we are able to start more groups. Please keep an eye on the Spark Young Writers page for details of our groups and if you can support the Young Writers’ Groups by donating, please click here for details.
Many of our writers have experience of working with children with various disabilities; we will do our best to ensure that your child’s needs are met in the group. Please be aware that we limit groups to 15 members maximum and the groups are led by a professional writer and an assistant who can each provide each group member with support, but if extra support is needed that we can’t provide; please get in touch and we’ll see what we can do or how we work together. For full details of what we can offer young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, please view our SEND Offer
If you feel unable to afford the £90 annual fee, please get in touch by emailing emma[at]writingwestmidlands.org to discuss our bursary offer or alternative payment methods. You can see our Bursary Policy here. At the moment we don’t ask you to fill in any forms to apply for this, instead we can discuss option with you. Bursaries are limited to people living or studying in our region. We don’t make any profit from the Spark Young Writers’ groups, any money taken goes towards the fee for the professional writer leading the group.
We limit group sizes to 15 members so that each child has enough time with the writers and so that groups don’t feel like school. Groups are monitored, if anyone signed up to a group isn’t attending they are contacted to ask if they’d still like their place. We can’t guarantee when a place on a fully booked group will become available but we do our best to try and fit anyone on a waiting list into a group as soon as possible. All those on the waiting list once groups finish for the summer are given notice first about places being available on the group before the groups are advertised for new members.
No, once they join they are in the group for the year (September – June) unless they decide not to continue, in which case we ask parents to get in touch to let us know this, or unless we notice they haven’t attended the group for 3 sessions at which point we contact parents to ask if their child still wants to be part of the group.
At each of the sessions, your child will need to take along a notebook or paper and something to write with either pens or pencils. No money will be needed as payment will be made upfront (unless special arrangements have been made with Emma Boniwell at Writing West Midlands. Please email emma[at]writingwestmidlands.org to discuss alternatives) and they may like to bring along a drink and a snack.
Yes, our Spark Young Writers activities can be counted towards these awards. Please speak to the group leader to find out we can help your child with either Arts Award or Duke of Edinburgh Award. Several of our Lead Writers are Bronze and Silver Arts Award trained and can be Arts Award Advisors or mentors through this process.
The groups are invited to take part in various showcase events of their creative writing at festivals within the West Midlands and at Spark events. We can’t publish individual young writers but many of our groups work towards producing their own publication which they all work on. More information about this can be discussed at the Young Writer sessions with the group leader.
The groups help young people to learn more about the process of creating writing such as creating dialogue, editing writing and creating believable characters. The session leaders also provide constructive feedback on group members’ writing. Whilst we are aren’t able to publish individuals’ writing or provide a longer one-to-one mentoring service, the groups help development of writing, provide inspiration and the young people involved have the chance to find out more about what it’s like to be a professional writer from the group leaders.
If group members produce writing between sessions, the session leaders and assistants will be able to either read it briefly or they may ask the group members to read it out, then they can provide feedback. The writers leading the group can’t read longer pieces or provide a longer one-to-one tutorial as session times are limited.
When your child is already in the Spark Young Writers groups
If your child is in a group and would like to continue but they are older than the age range we have set for the group, there is a chance that this group will be extended to include slightly older children (as all of the group will age). Alternatively, some groups have an older age group that meet after the younger group, this is the case at the moment with Birmingham city centre, your child would simply be able move up to the next group.
If they don’t like the group, please email Emma to let her know. We can then either arrange for your child to join another group instead or if they don’t want to be part of the groups at all, please let us know and we’ll remove them from the list and allocate their place to another child.
If you would like to make a complaint about the writers leading the group that your child is in or about another child/children in the group, please email Emma at emma[at]writingwestmidlands.org immediately.
If you would like to make a complaint about the management of the groups, please email Writing West Midlands’ Chief Executive, Jonathan Davidson, at jonathan[at]writingwestmidlands.org or call him on 0121 246 2770.
Children can be in the groups until they are 16 or 17. They can move up from the younger groups to the older groups if there is one near to them. After this point, we advise that due to the age ranges and ability ranges of group members that your child then look at joining an adult writing group or attends one of our workshops. To see a list of writing groups in the West Midlands, please click here and have a look at our event calendar or download our most recent Programme of Activities from the homepage of our website to see our upcoming workshops www.writingwestmidlands.org. We also run workshops at the Birmingham Literature Festival www.birminghamliteraturefestival.org