Creative Writers in a Digital Age : Swedish Teenagers’ Insights into their Extramural English Writing and the School Subject of English
Sammanfattning: The digital age has re-shaped the landscape of creative writing. One example of the changes that have taken place is the way in which millions of young people, globally, now write and share stories as online fanfiction. This is an out-of-school leisure pastime that can also help improve language skills (Aragon & Davis, 2019; Black, 2008). English taught as a second language (i.e. L2) in schools can be less authentic, less motivational and engaging than English used in free-time situations (extramural English, Sundqvist, 2009); thus, there is a need to “bridge the gap” between the English taught in the formal setting of school and the English encountered in informal settings (Swedish Schools Inspectorate, 2011). This licentiate thesis focuses on extramural English creative writing and aims to raise understanding about the ways it can motivate and engage. Also, the issue of L2 English is addressed in relation to pupils’ perspectives of their informal learning as well as their insights into creative writing and challenge in the school subject of English. The participants in the study were thirteen teenage pupils of Swedish secondary and upper-secondary schools who write creatively in English in their free time. Their writing included stories, comics, poems and songs, and some of this work was published online. Data was collected using semi-structured interviews, and it was analysed using qualitative content analysis. The findings confirm that writing can be closely related to reading, as participants were motivated by stories they wished to imitate and adapt. Also, the results show how teenage creative writers were able to use networked communication to access a large global readership. There was a strong motivation to write for pleasure – for oneself – and this writing, and enjoyment, could subsequently be shared with others. The free-time writing activity was fun, playful and imaginative, and also aided understanding of the participants’ own experiences and emotions. The state of flow (Csíkszentmihályi, 1990) was an aspect of the pupils’ engagement with creative writing as well. The activity was rewarding as it brought praise, enabled role-play, involved social contacts, and opened the way to new affiliations and friendships. Moreover, the pupils considered that their language learning was enriched through their free-time creative writing. Finally, the participants offered valuable insights into aspects of English as a school subject: there was some creative writing in English lessons, but there was a need for both more creative writing and more challenge.
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