By Carmen Anderson
An inspirational initiative by Westside School, Writer of the Week 2016 – 2018 is an anthology of exciting new writing from among Gibraltar’s talented young creatives. Each story, poem or essay was written under the school’s Writer of the Week initiative run by the English Department since 2016. Most of the students featured in this anthology were nominated as writer of the week by their teacher, while some pieces were also winning entries from various local competitions. The initiative was open to all students, encouraging them to develop storytelling skills. Teacher, Zinah Porter, explains; “Writer of the Week has provided students of different ages and abilities the opportunity to have their creativity and skill celebrated.”
Storytelling is innate in humans; it is how we explore our world and our emotions, and how we develop our thinking. It forms a fundamental feature in the way humans communicate. Storytelling is vital to learning empathy and the creative skills that lead to the problem solving and innovation that society constantly needs. In recent years, the English curriculum has become more narrowly academic so that creativity, and in particular storytelling, has been in danger of being squeezed into its margins.
Storytelling is innate in humans.
Writer of the Week provided students with an opportunity to explore their creativity through writing. Students engaged in the project with a great deal of enthusiasm. While those who achieved the writer of the week accolade were rewarded with positive feedback and a sense of achievement, all students that took part felt inspired to explore their thoughts and experiences, and to tell their stories in their individual ways. As teacher, Joanna Montegriffo, explains, “It is particularly special because behind every story, poem and writing piece that has been chosen for this book, there are many other stories of enthusiasm, determination and perseverance.”
The school’s wave of original creative writing was to gather a momentum that led to publication of this book. Students’ interest was engaged by support and prompts from teachers and they inspired each other, strengthening the community bonds within the school: “Students have been rewarded for their efforts and achievements in a way that has helped them to feel part of the Westside community,” says Head of Year 12/13, Claire Trinidad.
The stories in Writer of the Week are varied, covering a wide range of topics including the plight of refugees, personal identity and global concerns, demonstrating young people’s genuine ability to think deeply and understand complex issues. Also finding a place in the anthology are the many facets of love, a constant theme in human storytelling across the ages. In addition to the writing of the book, the cover was designed by Abigael Bellingan, winner of the school’s book cover competition.
It inspires every student to put 100% into each and every piece.
Westside’s students found themselves enthusiastically reading and writing outside of school in their bid to take part, a particularly favourable outcome. As teacher, Natalie Massetti, comments; “One of my favourite things about this initiative is that it has inspired students to write independently at home, outside the restrictions of the curriculum. As a result, a number of students have found writing to be something enjoyable and even an outlet for their emotions.”
We spoke to some of the students involved in the project who felt that they had benefited greatly from taking part. Sheridan Povedano, who contributed ‘Nostalgia’, said “I’m so happy to be part of this initiative because it inspires every student to put 100% into each and every piece of their work. It also inspires them to get into the world of literature.” Meanwhile, Destiny Baglietto, who contributed ‘The Woman I Admire’ inspired by International Woman’s Day, said: “Writer of the Week has allowed teachers to recognize the inspiration and motivation they set out in students, and has also allowed the students to identify their talents and creativity within when writing.”
Writer of the week 2016-2018 is another achievement by Westside School of which both staff and students can be proud, a book of stories to enhance the school’s continuing unfolding story. Head Teacher, Michelle Barabich, tells students in the book’s foreword: “Consider what you have accomplished and continue to believe in yourself and your ability to develop your talent and skills further.”
If the book signifies a success for the school and for the individual young writers, it possibly carries even greater significance for future students. Head of English, Melissa Bossano, says of the Writers of the Week: ‘Each and every one of them is an inspiration to other students and the English department at Westside is very proud of their achievements’.
Writer of the Week 2016-2018 retails at £10 and can be purchased through Westside School.