Making a Living from Writing: Workshops

 Making money from writing isn’t just a case of getting published. You need to get creative and put your skills to a variety of uses. Running writing workshops for children is one way to supplement your income. 

Rosemary Bird-Hawkins tells us about her workshops and offers some very practical tips for anyone thinking of doing their own.

Over to Rosemary...

I’ve been running creative writing courses for over ten years. I have tutored weekend workshops for able and talented children, run sessions in schools, art galleries, youth centres, libraries, museums, festivals, and for Brownies and Rainbows. I’ve worked with groups of only four children to groups of one hundred and sixty. I am not a teacher -  I am a guide, a tutor, a mentor. I work primarily with children aged seven to eleven, but have also run sessions for older children and adults based on the same principles.

What are writing workshops for children?

Writing workshops give children the opportunity to experiment with, and explore, writing under the guidance and support of an experienced wordsmith.

Content and structure of a workshop depends on the ability and number of children involved. In a classroom you’ll face a wide range of abilities and your main aim will be to enthuse and inspire. For groups of able children already engaged with writing it’s about guiding them through the process – encouraging them to refine, edit, experiment and discuss their work.

  • Inspire
  • introduce a ‘focus/theme’ (slideshow, sounds, storytelling, group poems, reading aloud).
  • Stimulate
  • writing exercises, discussion, feedback, guided tasks/outings.
  • Motivate
  • putting the writing into practice, seeing words/language visually and turning into something solid and tactile.
  • Resolution
  • plotting, refining, reworking, and sharing.


Outdoor education centres often host weekend courses for children identified as ‘very able and talented’.

Residential courses are my most stable and consistent form of workshop income. I use craft, art, dressing up and field trips because I believe these activities encourage free-thinking and allow brains to engage on one thing while ticking along thinking about something else.

One of my most popular courses is For the Love of Books; children create their own books by making paper, stitching pages, marbling end papers, and then filling them with ideas and stories. The book they make is integral to their ideas inside it. The design of the cover, their choices of colour, illustrations, all reflect back on the writing. Nothing is done without a reason – it’s starting with nothing and making something using words as a beginning.


Teachers are often keen to invite local authors and writers into schools to run writing sessions with classes, host assemblies, or set up a project.

The best way to capture the attention of a class is to be confident from the beginning and start unexpectedly. Dressing up is always a winner – especially if you bring in items for the children to dress up too.

  • Storytelling of a dramatic moment from your story to engage attention.
  • Hold attention by getting active– group poems, stories, and performance.
  • Focus on the main task by discussing extracts, setting writing exercises.
  • Guide them into beginnings – give struggling children a story prompt (e.g. postcard, character questionnaire etc).
  • Talk with as many pupils as you can – read their work, ask them about what they’ve written, where it’s going.
  • Encourage everyone to share their writing by reading aloud to each other.


Sessions can be half hourly/hourly sessions, drop in ‘rolling’ sessions, or half day/full day sessions. The emphasis is less on sustained writing and more on having fun and playing with writing.

For rolling sessions you want a simple but engaging idea that can either be done in ten minutes, or, if you have a very keen child, can develop into something more, for example:
  • Making bookmarks and decorating with onomatopoeic words/alliterated sentences.
  • Making basic books (folded A4 card stapled to folded paper) – children draw on it, paint it, sticker it and start writing in it.
  • Flags and wings of words made out of card/fabric and using collage to decorate with words/poems etc.

What’s the pay like?

Many venues such as art galleries and festivals will have a fee in mind – make sure you know how little you’re willing to work for! In my experience residential courses pay £400 - £600 per weekend, schools £120 - £150 for half a day and up to £300 for a full day (dependent on number of children involved). As a general rule of thumb, charging around £40 an hour is about usual – but be prepared to negotiate and check out what other local creatives are charging for their time.

What are the benefits?

  • Meeting your audience and talking to them about stories and writing.
  • Involving yourself in the writing exercises to not only inspire children with your writing, but also receive direct feedback from them.
  • A good workshop will leave you buzzing with ideas.

Anything to be particularly aware of?

  • Preparation always takes longer than you think. Try out potential activities beforehand. You don’t want to set 30 children off on an activity and then discover it’s not going to work.
  • Always over-plan and be flexible. Have back-up ideas in case something isn’t working.
  • Residential and art gallery workshops rely on numbers to run – if you don’t get bookings, you’ll get cancelled.
  • You’ll need Public Liability Insurance to cover you for workshops in art galleries, libraries, festivals etc.
  • As great fun as it is, don’t underestimate how much energy it will require! Running writing workshops is a rewarding way to earn money as a writer. Each new project will feed you with ideas; you’ll find yourself earning not just a financial income, but a creative one too.

Rosemary Bird-Hawkins has an MA in Writing for Children from Winchester University and has been running creative workshops for children for ten years. She has worked for various publishers as well as freelancing as an editor. She currently lives in Dorset with her husband, cat, two rabbits and a house full of books and instruments. Rosie writes fantasy and dystopian fiction for children and hopes one day to be published. Until then she continues to seek out more stories, while encouraging others to explore their writing abilities. For further resources and information about running writing workshops, you can visit her blog.


  1. What a brilliant resource for those of us who are venturing into school visits! Thank you!

    1. Just a note to say that the quoted price is below the Society of Authors recommended rate of £350, full day / £250, half day. I would suggest starting any price negotiation at the SOA recommended rate.

  2. Hi Candy - thanks for raising the point. The prices I've mentioned are only from my experience and your pay will often depend on region, the type of organisation that you're running sessions for (and if they have specific funding for such events) and often the number of children involved (e.g. whole school/class/small group). Some places will even ask/expect you to work for free.

    Definitely start at the recommended rate and if negotiation is needed know how low you can realistically go to cover all your expenses, resources and time.

  3. Wow - what a brilliant resource and an inspiring post. Thank you so much, Rosie.

  4. Thanks for an informative feature Rosemary, and some great practical advice, too! Love the idea of the children creating their own books from scratch.

  5. Rosemary, thank you very much for such an excellent and practical post. One of the things I enjoyed most was your enthusiasm for getting the children to have lots of fun storytelling, writing and reading.

  6. Hi Rosemary,
    Very interesting. I was wondering if you have any advice on how to get bookings? Particually residential weekends, i was'nt aware that these activities existed!

    1. Hi Katherine,

      Thank you for your comment. The key is really to research your area and find out/think up opportunities. Contact schools and ask to speak to the literacy coordinator (or ask for an email contact). Approach art galleries/museums/festivals with a CV, portfolio and lots of ideas. I always have a few example ideas of how a course/workshop could run (a draft outline and blurb) and then something would evolve out of that. I also found that approaching with a theme in mind makes you memorable and can catch somebody's imagination more easily than an abstract approach of 'I'm a writer let me do something.' Find out about local festivals/events in your area and think about how you could tie in with them (e.g. run a session for a library, have a story writing competition). As for residential centres, again this is about researching. Ask your local schools if they know of anywhere, or use google, and then approach with a CV/portfolio and some ideas for a course. I'll be blogging a little more about this over the next couple of weeks, so check out my blog if you'd like to know more. Hope this helps for now. Thanks! Rosie

  7. Thank you for all the great advice, Rosie :)

  8. Great article, I've been thinking of expanding into writing workshops / school sessions once my eldest starts school. I figured I can practise on his school first, for free!

  9. You can rephrase my paragraph I am sure it will make everyone happy. It means you have come in a right site.


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