As a writer, you have special skills – and a passion for language, too! Oh, how teachers would love you in their classrooms, inspiring their pupils to write, and guiding them with your expertise!
So how about sharing your specialist knowledge and infectious enthusiasm with the youngsters in your local schools, and building up your earnings as you go?
As a writer myself, I have taken the school workshops route to topping up my income, and cannot recommend it highly enough. I have freedom to plan my own sessions, an excuse to bask in my favorite subject; and the reward of watching children discover the boundless powers and possibilities of language, and the money keeps me afloat!
You’re not a teacher? Nor me. Schools have teachers. It’s writers they need! A couple of hours in front of a class and you’ll be fine but, if the prospect is triggering a cold sweat, don’t panic. You can stand at the side, or better still, get the kids up and moving – acting out, clapping rhythms, reading out their jottings. Ah, now it’s starting to sound fun, isn’t it?
As for your fee, you may need to offer a freebie for a practice run. After which, charge in accordance with local or national rates. Check out the websites of other workshoppers for theirs. If you’re happy to travel, widen your net and earn more, adjusting your fee to cover extended travel costs.
Will school visits interfere with your writing? No. You can accept, decline or postpone a booking. Besides, schools are busy places, and sometimes cash-strapped too, so opportunities may be intermittent, providing brief and welcome breaks from the laptop. A day with eager children and grateful staff will fire you up for that next chapter.
I also take the opportunity of promoting my work, often selling books to staff and pupils. I write for children, but if your market is adults, no problem. Hand your books around in the staffroom, but without pushing, having already mentioned them as a postscript to your booking confirmation, with prices and relevant links.
Here are six tips for a successful day, drawn from 1,500+ workshops.
- Background checks: You may need state criminal history record checks to certify that you are eligible to work with children, for which there is likely to be a fee.
- Arrangements: Confirm event details with the school in writing, including age groups, timetable and fee. If you’re unhappy with any of these, including workload, don’t be afraid to say so. Remember, you’re their VIP!
- Practicalities: Check the location of the school, how to reach it, where to park, and what number to call to warn of any delay.
- Energy levels: Forget the diet! Pack a high-energy treat or three with your sandwiches, and some coffee/tea bags in case there’s no communal supply – it can happen. Address the class from the ribcage and employ a bell or drum – not your voice – to call for quiet. Sit at every opportunity!
- School logistics: There may be codes for doors, photocopiers and who knows what? Inscribe their magic numbers on your memory, or palm.
- In the classroom: You’ll need a plan to include lively, interactive introduction, short writing stage (if appropriate), reading out and celebrating, plus oodles of encouragement along the way. You could also include innovations, in terms of art, music, action rhymes, drama, artifacts, readings, games – you name it!
- Money! Remember to hand in your invoice at the end!
Kate Williams is a children’s poet with about 150 poems in a range of UK and international anthologies and other publications for children. She also writes articles for teaching magazines, and provides poetry workshops for children aged 3-13 across the UK. Her website is: http://poemsforfun.wordpress.com.