Extension Writing Group Year 7 Arrowtown School
Here we are under our favourite tree, with the mountains of the Wakatipu
Basin in the background. The tree is a Pin Oak and we have used it as
motivation for our writing a number of times. We are from left to right,
Dom, Hamish, Lukas, Paddy, Sarah, Georgie, Greta and Lily. (Absent is Ben.)
We are all twelve years old and we love to write, we especially love to
write poetry. On National Poetry Day we tied our poems to the branches of
the oak tree. It was a ‘Poetree.’
Wendy Clarke bio
My name is Wendy Clarke and I live in the little gold town of Arrowtown. I do lots of other things other than write. I am a school teacher at Arrowtown School. Fortunately I get to teach writing to a gifted and talented class of year 7 and 8 students. These are the students who have a passion for writing, how lucky am I? I am also a historical educator at the Lakes District Museum (in Arrowtown.) I particularly enjoy this because the history of Arrowtown is so interesting and I get to show kids around our town and tell them stories about the gold rush. I also give historical tours to American tour groups. They often want to hear more about my life in Arrowtown rather than the history.
I guess you want to know how I became a writer. When I was a child I loved to read and read and read!! I lived in the country but my mother took me to the library every Saturday so I always had lots of books to read. I am still a very keen reader, but I can’t read all day and all night the way I used to. (I had a torch to help me read under the bed covers.)
I began to notice things about the books I read, that is, which books I thought had been well written. I wrote my first poem when I was 11. My teacher thought it was very good and awarded me a prize, so I began to read poetry too. Poems back then all rhymed, I didn’t find out that poems didn’t need to rhyme until I was at high school.
There is now a big gap when I didn’t write at all. I went to Teachers College, became a teacher, went overseas for three years, came back and became a teacher again, had two children, but kept teaching. I was very busy. But a little voice in my head kept saying ‘something is missing.’ Of course it was writing. I decided to study writing at Massey University, I did this for six years until I had completed my degree. Suddenly I was doing lots of writing.
Since then I have had poems published, won a short story competition and have written a whole lot of books that help teachers to teach writing well. I would really like to publish more poems and I would love to publish a children’s book.
I thought that I might finish with a little check list that might help you become a writer.
How to become a writer.
- Read all sorts of books. Don’t stick to just one type.
- Find friends who like to write.
- Carry a notebook to write down good ideas or put it by your bed, you have good ideas at night.
- Tell people you want to be a writer, they might help you.
- Listen carefully to the way people speak, it helps you when you are trying to write dialogue.
- Be interested in words, I love looking up words in the dictionary or reading famous quotations.
- Read and follow writing blogs, there are lots of people like you out there.
- And remember, write, write, write and keep it, never throw ideas away or cross them out.
- And don’t forget to show your writing to people or to enter competitions.
What inspires you?
I often have ideas rattling around in my head for ages. The idea may have been inspired by a conversation, an observation or even a news item. I live in Arrowtown, which is an old gold mining town, so historical incidents often give me ideas. I enjoy imagining characters and getting to know them in my head, even having imaginary conversations with them.
What genre do you prefer?
I love to write poetry, followed by short stories. I think that I am an observant person, and poetry is often about details and framing those details within interesting words, so it is perfect for someone like me.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I live in a very beautiful place, so sometimes I take inspiration from my surroundings. I am a big reader so good writing excites me and makes me want to write well too.
How do you fit writing into your life?
This is difficult. I can see why some writers lead very solitary lives. It is so difficult to find some quiet time. I need to be able to write without interruptions. I have a job and a family so my life is far from quiet. I find that going walking by myself is a very good time to think. I live near a lake so this is a good place to go and think.
Where do you write your ideas down?
I usually carry around a little notebook in my bag, I might slip little things inside this book or write down ideas in it. Strangely I like writing in red pen, I have no idea why.
Would you like to write a book?
I would love to write a book, but I don’t think I am ready to do that yet. It is a big time commitment, time that I don’t really have. One day I hope to.
How old were you when you were first published?
I was in my early forties, I started writing quite late in life, I wish that I had started sooner, but university study, travel and children kept me pretty busy.
How did you feel when you were first published?
Oh boy it was great. I won a short story competition, I won $500 which was a large amount of money to me. My story was published in a newspaper. Recently someone told me that they had cut the story out and still had it even though it was over ten years ago. I spent the money on an amazing pair of black boots!!
What is your favourite piece of writing?
I am very proud of some of my adult poems, a tremendous amount of work went into them. I wrote most of them when I was doing university study. I am very delighted to have a poem in the A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children, especially as the treasury has some wonderful New Zealand poets contributing to it.
Who published your work?
I have had work published in the School Journals but most of my writing is for an educational publishing company called Essential Resources. I have written a series called We Love Poetry and another series called Make Poetry Come Alive. These books are to help teachers teach poetry in an interesting way. Essential Resources sell my books all over the world, which feels very cool.
Which writers do you admire?
Gosh there are so many to choose from, but my favourite, favourite author is Margaret Mahy. I met her once and she signed a book for me. It is still one of my favourite possessions.
What a wonderful interview Wendy and the Extension Writing Group. Some great tips for writing too. Thank you!
Wendy’s Essential Resources page