“There was a moment, during our second session, when a shift in the atmosphere occurred. The group had finished writing their second poem of the session and were taking it in turns to read them out. Raniya, who had not wanted to read out her first poem, acquiesced to the gentle persuasion of the others, and read out her new one. It was beautiful – and, with the naturalness of response that comes when somebody reads something affecting to you, the group’s enjoyment of it was immediately obvious in the expressions and, when she had finished, the words of approval, then applause, of the others. ‘No, shut up. You’re just saying that, yeah?’ was Raniya’s reply, through a big smile. These are the best moments for me. The instants when, for the students, the whole thing – the group, First Story, the cajolement of teachers to make you sign up for this mysterious Wednesday thing, the point of writing at all – suddenly makes sense. When a student begins, in that ‘you’re just saying that, yeah?’ twinkling, to understand that she is writing both for herself and to provoke something in somebody else, and that this act is simultaneous, intuitive, and human. And as these individual openings-out ripple through the group, a community is created, a miniature one that starts to look forward to sharing pieces of writing, to reading, to talking about writing.” Ross Raisin, writer-in-residence at Cranford Community College
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