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Word tennis

photo of a creative writing class

Creative writing class in action

Word tennis is a writing warm-up exercise I use sometimes in creative writing classes to break the ice and get everyone in a writing mood. The results are usually a lot of fun and each person puts their own spin onto the game. I always say that the sillier the piece of writing is the better, though often the results are really good!The way to play is to read out about 10 words at 30 second intervals. The words should be incorporated into a piece of writing. It doesn’t matter if a few words are missed out, though best to try to include them all!

Here are some pieces from three of the students on a creative letter writing class I led this week, as part of the ‘Letters Home’ project and exhibition, to show how different the pieces can be that come from this simple and fun exercise.

The words:

Leaves / Brown / Fire / Roast chestnuts / Frost / Woolly jumper (or cardi) / Cold / Dark / Puddle / Home


The autumn leaves covered the ground like a brown carpet majestically woven and gleaming in the evening sun as if on fire. All you needed to complete the dream was roast chestnuts which will make you forget the frost outside. Sitting comfortably in front of the TV in a woolly jumper, not minding the dark and cold outside takes you into another world.

I watched as the little girl jumped up and down in a puddle as her mother shouted, ‘hurry home’.


Leaves are falling, red, yellow, brown… falling from tress which are brown. Our trees are falling too. The fallen trees become wood for my fire. I would roast chestnuts on it but it is enclosed in a box, a wood burning stove. Great when the frost is on the ground early morning. I am wearing my hand-knitted charity shop woolly cardigan as I write. My body is warm but my thoughts are sometimes dark and cold. A puddle reflects the same dark and cold in the world. And we long for home… the warmth, the light, the welcome.


‘The train leaves at 11.20 0n the dot, darling, so we have to hurry!’

‘Yes, I’m just getting my brown bag from the wardrobe – I’ll be with you in a tick!’

‘Look there’s someone outside lighting a fire in the old drum…’

‘Yes’ she said, ‘I know, he’s selling roast chestnuts.’

‘That’ll be good to warm us! It’s laying down a thick frost outside.’

‘We’ll have to wear woolly jumpers in the Lake District.’

‘Yes and it’ll be dark and cold when we arrive.’

‘Come on love, I’m out the door – and mind the puddle as you step out.’

‘OK honey, hope it’s just like home from home.’

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