Jenni Fagan pulls words from students' heads

As part of Book Week Scotland, award-winning author Jenni Fagan spent the morning in a stormy school library giving a writing masterclass to some of the pupils at Ardnamurchan High School - a fantastic school (with wonderful and enthusiastic teachers!) located near the Ardtornish Retreat where Jenni is currently staying.

Typically reticent at first, the students quickly warmed to discussions of the stories that populate the insides of their heads - from nightmare aliens to their childhood beds. She told them 'if you can write it you can see it'. They then went on to discuss a list of all of their favourite words, which included (in no particular order):

Chaos
Socks
Sgoineil ('great' in Gaelic)
Callipygian ('nice bum')
Clarty
Odyssey
Waffle
Scumbol
Dapple
Evolution
Minging
Nautical
Radge
Gallus
Paradigm
Sapphire
Suffragette
Curlywurly

And soon the conversation turned to experimentation with words and the power of language to shape the world around them. Jenni, who has worked on residencies with women in prisons, told them of her experiences using language differently, using a quote from a woman who told her 'I feel like I live in a circle' and writing it in a circle. Simple lessons that lend power to their words.

Jenni said, 'It was great to hold writing workshops with teenagers at Ardnarmurchan High School as part of Book Week Scotland. These young writers brought a lot to the workshop; they had a great energy and lots of original ideas.'

Their last exercise was to write a list of reasons to be cheerful in relation to their five senses - sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings that made them happy. Because as Jenni said, the best writers are the ones that pay close attention and stories can be found anywhere; in the sound of rain, the smell of a fresh tomato plant or by looking up at the snow.