Creativity Commitment Constructs Kids’ Confidence

Suzie and Aleeta
Suzie and Aleeta from Unload Creative Writing

Unload Creative Writing founders Aleeta Cliff and Suzie Galwey both have backgrounds in writing and editing, but in the writing workshops they run for Newcastle kids, you won’t hear much about spelling and grammar.

“We don’t use erasers, we only use pencils and papers, and we tell them to cross it out and don’t worry about spelling,” Suzie says.

 

The two women describe their program as “Creativity over Correctness”.  Each term, at four different primary schools in Newcastle, no more than 15 kids dabble in creative writing, illustration, reading in front of a group and delving into their imagination.

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One of many poetry examples from a recent Unload workshop.

Suzie and Aleeta met through their school’s community as they both have kids enrolled at the Junction Pubic School. They quickly found themselves discussing the importance of creativity in all aspects of life. They mentioned how they’d often hear kids say they struggled with writing.

“I think they meant my homework is messy, or I can’t spell,” Suzie says.

“It’s so disheartening to hear a seven-year-old child say they aren’t’ good at something,” Aleeta says. “We all know at the age of seven kids should think they are great at everything.”

Suzie and Aleeta share a passion for writing, and both had read about endeavors like the Sydney Story Factoryand Melbourne’s 100 Story Building. Aleeta previously taught English and Linguistics at the Newcastle University and prior to that she worked in publishing. Suzie has worked in communications and the not-for-profit sector for many years and is currently completing her post graduate degree in Social Impact.

Suzie and Aleeta envisioned their idea for Unload, they trialed it at a Scone school and then, when that was successful, the two began the workshops at their kids’ schools. Since then they’ve branched out to Merewether Heights Public School, Hamilton North Public School and Hamilton Public School. Almost all children who enroll in one term return for another, keeping Suzie and Aleeta churning out new material, a challenge they definitely don’t mind.

“We make sure we don’t do the same things that are done in class; it’s very different from a classroom environment,” Suzie says. “Our focus is on generating ideas, and our mission is to nurture creativity.”
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Each term, Unload brings in a guest poet, illustrator or writer to energise and inspire the kids. This term they’ve been doing a lot of workshops with rhyming, as the kids prepare for the annual Red Room Poetry Object, a national poetry competition for kids in year 3-10. The competition runs until September 27th and is open to all young writers and their teachers. Each participant submits a poem about a significant object in his or her life.

Though the kids will be submitting their poetry to the competition, their time spent at the workshop is anything but competitive.


“We have a maximum of 15 students and two adults in each classroom,” Aleeta says. “We try to give kids one-on-one attention.”

Junction Public School Unloaders getting creative with local author and illustrator Luke Wada (aka Lu Quade)

Parents pay $13 for session, a cost they believe is quite reasonable. It’s part of their philosophy to make the business accessible. They pay all guests they bring in, a way to practice what they preach, as this actively encouraging creativity through all stages of a person’s career.

 
Suzie’s background in corporate business and not-for-profit means they have adopted a hybrid business model or what she calls a ‘social business’.

“Although we charge for our workshops, our modest profits are invested back into expanding access to our programmes and also into indigenous literacy projects,” Suzie says.

Though they’ve only been running Unload Workshops for a year, they’ve already had positive results.

“We had a comic workshop, and later we had a mother tell us her son came home and began a Super Dog Comic Series, and a group of kids set up their own comic club at school.” Aleeta says. “We had another child who wasn’t engaged in writing, and after a few weeks of Unload his mother brought in a story he’d written. He’d never written a story before!”

During each session roll is called via their nom deplumes, which the kids are always changing. Aleeta is formally addressed as Professor Tofu (standing for Teacher of Unload) and Suzie is Sheba P. Church. (The P is for Platypus.)
Kids of Unload get creative during a workshop.
All workshops for the rest of the term are in full-on poetry mode as they gear to submit competition, but Suzie and Aleeta are fairly confident in their kids.

“We are constantly amazed at how creative the kids are,” Suzie says. “There’s never a week we aren’t inspired by them.”


If you would like to participate or learn more about Unload Creative Writing, visit www.unloadcreativewriting.orgor find Unload Creative Writing on Facebook.

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