COURAGE & CONFIDENCE - ST MADELEINE SOPHIE BARAT
WRITER IN RESIDENCE AT SACRED HEART
Here at Sacred Heart, we are lucky enough to have our very own Writer in Residence, Susan Mulholland. Susan has an English Literature degree from Leeds University and a Master's in Film from Newcastle University. She is a freelance playwright and creative producer: her work has been staged locally and nationally with a variety of theatre companies. Susan also develops narratives for large scale outdoor events such as Enchanted Parks, 11 Arches Park and last year’s Saturnalia festival along Hadrian’s Wall. She is currently managing the creative programme celebrating The Angel of the North’s 25th Birthday.
This year, Susan has been working with our Year 7 classes on a Story Making course that she has devised. Students learn a variety of writing exercises and examine the structure and ingredients of all sorts of stories before starting to create their own.
Susan is also working with a selection of our Year 9 students who are already very able readers and writers and can cope with an extra challenge. These students have been exploring the subjects and themes that they care about and then using this to create character and dialogue.
Some of our Year 9s attend Susan’s lunchtime club and they are working on a murder mystery play together – we can’t wait to see the results.
We caught up with Susan recently and asked how it was going:
“I am passionate about stories, whether we're reading, watching or writing them ourselves and want this programme of work to spark that passion in the students. It’s important to me that they have the tools to put their brilliant ideas onto paper and it’s been so exciting to watch them tap into their creativity and begin to view themselves as writers.
Working at Sacred Heart is wonderful! The Year 7 students are smart, funny, imaginative, and so creative, it's been my pleasure to work with them and I love watching their stories evolve over time.
With the Year 9 students it’s been great to push them a bit further, exploring how to write good dialogue. I’m learning too - these sessions are already making me a better writer!”
Miss MacKay | Teacher of 7A
“The informal nature of the sessions has allowed the girls to have a huge amount of fun with the activities despite COVID restrictions- so I can only imagine what would be possible if we were able to explore more ideas.
As their class teacher, it has been fascinating for me to see their personalities shine through in their ideas, and many students I often don't hear from as much in lessons are willing to act out ideas creatively. This has then helped my planning as I have been able to call upon these students for ideas in their normal English lessons.”
Miss Sweet | Teacher of 7E
“The girls love to discuss what they’re watching/reading at the start of the lesson. My class is very keen on reading, so it is a great creative outlet for them!
The freedom of Susan’s sessions offers relief from more restrictive assessment style activities, but also hugely supports our curriculum and future subjects they could choose to take in their later years.
I think these sessions are really helping to build confidence in the class – the girls love sharing their ideas and all the discussion. They love working collaboratively and are really invested in the ideas that they have come up with working with Susan!”
What was the best thing about working with Susan?
“She encouraged us to read or watch more films so that we could tell her about them.”
“The endless pen writing exercise was the one I enjoyed the most because it really got me to think creatively.”
“The best thing was that I could express my inner thoughts and feelings without feeling judged by others.”
“The best things about working with Susan was everything!”
Has working with Susan made you feel differently about English?
“Yes because it has made me see it from a writer’s point of view.”
“It has made me feel more confident about sharing my ideas with the class.”
“Working with Susan every Tuesday made me really look forward to lessons when she was there. Her lessons have helped me with how to structure stories, introducing me to tips like the story arc and taught me how to engage readers. It has showed me that having a career in English can be hard but it is a lot of fun if you enjoy it!”
“Susan has made me more confident in English.”
“Susan has really inspired me to like English – every time I have walked into the classroom I have smiled and every time I left I thought about how amazing the lesson was and how I couldn’t wait for the next one!”