Dancing Pencils is a literacy initiative started by Felicity Keats Morrison. Felicity came onto The Faizal Sayed Show and chatted to Faizal about the need for such initiatives in South Africa, which features at the bottom of the list with regard to literacy.
Felicity has a B. Com, and UED and is a published author. She has always had a love of the creative process and has for the past 40 years been intermittently producing freelance material or writing stories and books. She was the editor of South Africa’s Bee Journal for many years and is the author of 10 children’s books, 12 writing guides and Dancing Pencils, probably the first book in the world to teach one how to access the right brain; her second book on right brain writing was called I DO NOT Think therefore I am, published in 2008. Her most recent book on right brain writing is “In my Right Mind”(published 2012). She is also the owner of the niche publishing house, umSinsi Press.
In 1992 she began facilitating creative writing in small groups of interested people. This extended to scholars, to schools, and education departments nationally. Felicity reached out to less-privileged schools, facilitating as many as 200 students at a time.
Finding it impossible to reach all the children, no matter how rural, she realised she needed to teach others to do what she does. She now teaches mentors to pass on her unique right-brain method of teaching creative writing. One benefit is the establishment of Dancing Pencils Writing clubs. She has been a partner with the KZN Office of the Premier in setting up Dancing Pencils Writing Clubs in all 11 districts to increase literacy levels.
Background of Dancing Pencils and umSinsi Press
Purpose: Established by Felicity Keats Morrison because of the enormous need for literacy with South Africa at the bottom. The aim is to encourage creative writing world wide through skills transfer to children and adults and the establishment of writing clubs.
The Dancing Pencils Writing Clubs: Clubs are being established comprised of people who are passionate about writing. These clubs are coached by a mentor, who has been personally trained by Felicity in her unique right brain method of creative writing. Mentors run clubs in their schools. Stories are written, shared and the best ones selected for publishing by umSinsi Press which is a niche publishing house owned by Felicity. These writing clubs allow the children to develop their craft, to share their life experiences, and express their feelings in a nurturing environment.
Benefits: The club system allows for peer evaluation of work and the selection of publication material to remain in the hands of schools or communities. We capture (often for posterity) real-life stories of people from all walks of life. Some, written by children, are read by other children. Children writing the books are given the opportunity to be “heard” and recognised while the children reading the stories have the opportunity to read about other peoples’ life experiences.
Right Brained Writing
The brain’s activity: Our brains have two halves and these two parts function in different ways. The left brain side is rational, perfectionistic and logical. The right side of the brain is imaginative, intuitive, creative and lateral. Creative writing entails accessing the right side of the brain.
How: To encourage the right brain, attention is given to freeing the imagination. The inner critic, with its need to “get things right”, is cast aside. Permission is given to making mistakes. No judging and criticising of content, handwriting, spelling and punctuation are allowed. This frees the individual from the blockages of “ought to’s” and surprising material is expressed. Children are encouraged to illustrate their stories.
Benefits: Children learn how to use their whole brains, and realise the importance of not judging themselves. Many children are the more right brained types that have difficulty doing regular left brained, rote learning school activity. This method affirms and nurtures the potential of the natural artist – it enhances the development of song writers, play writers, poets, artists and authors. It builds self-esteem and confidence.
History: Umsinsi Press was founded by Felicity Keats in 1995. At the time she was teaching private right brain creative writing courses and established Umsinsi in order to give her students a platform from which to be “heard”.
Function: Umsinsi Press is the vehicle for printing the works of students and the selected products of the dancing pencils’ literacy project. Stories are sent to Umsinsi, typed and on CD and in handwritten form, where they are type set, including illustrations . A short resume about the author and their photo appears on the back cover. All books are given an official “launch.” Officials, teachers, friends and parents all come to recognise and affirm the authors.
Finance: Mentor training is charged for but there are no club fees. Print runs of books are sponsored by clubs, Corporate sponsors and Umsinsi Press itself. The entire operation of the non profit company is dependent on this sponsorship.
Royalties: Once a year, depending on the number of books sold, it is possible for authors to receive “royalties”. (Monies paid to them). This is tremendously exciting and motivating to get the youngsters writing!
ANNUAL BOOK LAUNCHES
In 2011, this was held in the Playhouse, Durban and sponsored by the KZN Office of the Premier. In previous years launches have been held in the Durban City Hall and the Bat Centre.
At the book launches, a handover of packs of books is done to selected schools from rural areas. Dancing pencils vision is to change lives and raise literacy levels.
Dancing pencils was a KZN Priority Project of the KZN Office of the Premier in 2011/2012. Felicity and Dancing Pencils is partner with the some educational districts in helping to raise reading and writing levels aiming to establish Dancing Pencils Writing Clubs in all 11 districts of KZN. Dancing Pencils is also partner with the BAT Centre in Durban.
1. Living Legends Award – Ethekwini Municipality 2011
2. Appeared on TV.
eTV – Great Expectations
Word Magic – SABC TV2
Power Within – SABC TV 3
Shift TV – SABC TV 1
Mother of All Professions – SABC TV2
- Won “Real Women Doing Real Things” – Oprah
4. Regular contribution of interviews on ukhozi fm radio
5. Felcity Keats Morrison appears on The Faizal Sayed Show.
Contact Dancing Pencils
Web address: www.dancingpencils.co.za
book orders: www.umsinsi.com