“I wonder if it’s like this for mountain climbers, he thought. You climb bigger and bigger mountains and you know that one day one of them is going to be just that bit too steep. But you go on doing it, because it’s so-o good when you breathe the air up there. And you know you’ll die falling.”
The next seven weeks are going to be exceptionally busy for me and the people working with me on the White Water Writers Project. We’re doing a number of things bigger and better than we’ve ever tried before.
Long time readers might remember that we launched White Water Writers over a year ago. One of the quirks of the school calendar is that schools tend to want things to happen at the same time – which means that over the next seven weeks we’ll produce (we think) thirteen novels. Over 100 schoolchildren will hold in their hands a book they have written. Some of the students will be from gifted and talented groups, some of them will be in SEN provision, some others groups will be vulnerable in a variety of ways. It includes anyone we think we can make a difference with.
Between now and mid-July we’ll run almost as many camps as we have in the previous five years combined. In the process we’ll train up 25 student volunteers who will be able to come back and run their own camps next year (if, of course, they want to) – this year we had to turn away school after school because we hadn’t yet developed the capacity.
Of course, because we tend to push in a whole range of directions at once we are pushing the boundaries further than we have before. We’re working with primary schools for the first time. Because of the bank holiday we’re also testing squashing the five day process into four days. Several of the people leading camps this year cut their teeth under me on previous books and I’m really looking forward to see what changes they bring.
Some things are going to go wrong, that’s a given, but we’re working as hard as we can to make sure that we have the support mechanisms in place. One of the things that is surprisingly difficult for me to come to terms with is that there is a ‘we’.
Right now there is a guy rewriting the training manual for us so that it’s written for people who think like humans (rather than by me, who thinks like a robot). While I’m up to my nose in a brainstorming session next Tuesday, one of our team is going to be entertaining one of our wonderful funders. Yesterday another of our team put on a superb training session that included visits from previous volunteers and a talk from experts in dealing with some of the special situations that people might find themselves in.
I’ve got a stack of wonderful volunteers and supportive teachers who are involved because they believe that holding your own book in your hands is a feeling that every child deserves.
I really think this might be the summer that really puts the White Water Writers project on the map.
Of course… my life wouldn’t be simple enough to give me just one thing to think about. Slap bang in the middle of this period is Alan Turing’s 102nd birthday – I’ll be hoping to break last year’s record of £532 raised and you’ll see a few posts about that cropping up in the near future.
In a sense, this is a bit of a warning post – over the next little while these two projects are going to dominate my life and this blog. I may just have to spend August asleep.