One of my groups at the Storymakers Club is the Young Writers. They are aged eleven or above and get together once a fortnight for some writing practice and to work on their current project. It’s a great little social group too.
This week I used music as a writing prompt.
The song I chose is about a young homeless girl, begging on the streets and a man who walks by, seeming not to have noticed her.
This song is a message, a warning to us all not to ignore poverty, a reminder how, in comparison, we live in Paradise. For the purpose of this exercise, however, we talked about how every person has their own story and things aren’t always as straightforward as they may seem. I asked the group to think about what could have been going through the minds of the homeless girl, or the man, at that particular moment.
Was he just an ignorant individual who didn’t care? Or could there have been another reason he didn’t stop to help? What led the girl to be in the situation she’d found herself? How did she feel being treated as though she didn’t exist?
I asked them to put themselves in the shoes of either the girl or the man and write something from the heart, something that captured their feelings in that moment. This is one example of what they came up with. It’s by May, who’s in Year 8:
I walk down the street. The sky is dark but a thousand streetlights block out the stars that should shine brightly down on earth.
I keep walking. Back to Lily, back home. She’s taken a turn for the worse. And she wasn’t too good already. Miriam had texted me, a short message, but it had yanked at my heart strings – no, stopped my heart, and abandoning my late night work, here I was, walking as fast as was acceptable for a respectable business man to go.
Will I be in time?
Then, I pass the chip shop. It’s long closed, of course, but as I hurry closer I see a dark shape huddled against the corrugated iron door.
I hear a cry through the night. “‘Scuse me Mr, please, please, it’s so cold… Help me Mr, please, please.”
And in that moment I am close, so close to helping, to understanding, so so close to saying “Yes, come with me,” because no child should be out at this time, in this weather, out at all. Besides, this child is almost as small, vulnerable and sweet as Lily.
My little girl…
And isn’t it acceptable to want to see your own child, who may be dying THIS VERY SECOND, than helping a child who has nothing at all to do with you.
I hurry past, the lump in my throat growing with every step.
It is acceptable, it is fair,
It’s a beautiful, but tragic, piece of writing, examining the possibilities of circumstances in people’s lives that lead them to behave in certain ways. It reminds us that we can’t always assume we know the reasons behind people’s actions and we shouldn’t be so quick to judge.
Have you guessed what the song is?
In case you were wondering, it’s Another Day in Paradise, by Phil Collins. It’s a beautiful song and I hadn’t heard it in ages, but when it came on the radio the other day, it gave me goosebumps and I knew I had to use it somehow.
On a lighter note, the project the Young Writers are currently working on is picture book stories. We will be taking over a Storytime session at our local library during the Easter Holidays, where the girls will be reading out their own stories to the little ones. They’re all very excited about this, as am I. It’s a great opportunity for any writer to be able to share their work with the intended audience and I know they’re going to get an awful lot out of this experience.
To find out more about what’s on offer at the Storymakers Club, visit my webpage.