A Writer’s Purpose

  • 2022
  • Primary
Emilie Razon, Learning Extension Coordinator

For most of the THS population, 3:30pm signals the end of a busy school day, but for those who are part of the Literacy Extension and Acceleration Project (LEAP), it’s the beginning of a magical hour - 60 minutes of uninterrupted time to work on writing projects where they bring fascinating, otherworldly characters to life, or place the spotlight on events, people, or issues they are passionate about. 

As one of the school’s LEAP mentors, it has truly been a privilege to work with such a promising pool of writing talent. It’s impossible not to be excited and enthusiastic, when, in under half an hour, one of our young writers of magical realism can whip up an animated and humorous discourse between two colorful suitcases – characters he had just created in his head. 

Within minutes of being given a writing prompt as simple as ‘Start your short story with “Well, that was dramatic,”’ a sci-fi fan had already built a world two novemdecillion years into the future, where, and I quote, “humans live in a post-apocalyptic realm discovered by space travelers through a wormhole, just before the heat death of the universe” coupled with the dramatic apocalyptic event she had decided her story was going to open with. This was all while I was googling how many 0s novemdecillion has.

The reporter-types in the brood are just as imaginative and inquisitive. A friendly discussion on one’s favorite subject can turn into a lengthy debate about the future of education in Hong Kong, and the world. A comment about our rooftop garden can launch an all-out inquiry into plant-based eating. We have a mixed bag of personalities;  there are the advocacy writers, intent on being a voice for students and the conduits for change—conducting surveys and making sure that everyone in school feels like they are being heard. There are the activists, who bring awareness to world issues they feel strongly about, such as gender inequality in Afghanistan, the accumulation of space junk, or why bees are important to the environment; not forgetting their call to action, of course. 

Then there are the enthusiastic interviewers, who love to meet people, ask questions, and write lively descriptions of those who make up the THS community. Last, but not least, there are the dedicated researchers, intent on presenting insightful information that require a good amount of testing and verification, for example, what life would feel like in black and white; or how listening to music can improve one’s productivity. 

Young minds have a remarkable ability to think in a limitless and divergent way – and they do it so imaginatively, without fear of being judged, which is, all too often, what limits us as adults.  In the LEAP program, we continually see evidence of this in the stories that have been published termly in The LEAP Blog, our repository of fiction and poetry, and The Black Dolphin Chronicle, the school’s online newspaper. And we want to keep this creativity going. 

We have seen how the writing process—which starts from ideating all the way to proofreading and publishing—has been so effective in getting students to engage productively and constructively with what’s going on in their lives. With LEAP, we encourage our students to be informed by what they love (by reading a lot!), and share what they love. 

Figuring out what makes a good story and how to tell it helps our young writers—whether they are part of LEAP or not—think critically and delve deeper into topics they are fascinated with or curious about. Knowing who their audience is and trying to gear their writing in a way that will bring the most engagement allows them to develop their problem-solving skills, be more aware of the world around them, and be more empathetic to others. Editing and analyzing their work builds on their ability to refine their craft and express themselves effectively. 

Whether it’s to persuade, amuse or inform, words put together on a page are a reflection of the writer’s thoughts, a part of their history documented. While I am confident that some of our students will be future winners of Pulitzers and Bookers, even in cases where they don’t seem like they’ll end up being the next Margaret Atwood, JK Rowling, or Malcolm Gladwell, still, encourage them to write: short stories, poetry, journal entries, blogs, food reviews, anything that comes to mind.  What they’ll gain gradually in skills, they’ll also gain in purpose. And is it not a sense of purpose that makes our lives more meaningful?

LEAP book signing event held early this year, where our young authors were able to share excerpts from their short stories and sign copies of the book for family and friends.

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