IMAGE Om Narayan Velasco

5 Reasons a Writers' Workshop Could Change Your Life

Including a videoke showdown with respected Filipino authors.


 

(SPOT.ph) Writing is believed to be a solitary pursuit. Well, it is. You only have you, your words, and the intimidating blinking cursor on your computer screen (or blank piece of paper if you’re a bit old-school). But unless you plan on keeping what you’ve written in your baul, then you have to polish your work, master your language, and think of great ideas before you come out with a novel, a poetry collection, or a script worthy of being read or watched by the public.

 

This is where writers’ workshops and writing courses come in—from the beginner ones where literature professors nitpick your punctuation to the more advanced programs where you present a work-in-progress as if you’re defending a thesis. Applications can be a bit challenging especially for the national workshops where you have to submit a significant number of your body of work: 10 poems, five short stories, half a novel...you get the drill. But it’s all worth it when you get in.

 

We round up some reasons why you should try out for a writers’ workshop if you’re serious about your craft.

 


Fellows of the 56th UP National Writers Workshop arrive in Makiling

 

You get to travel for free.

Writers' workshops are often held in the provinces to allow the fellows and panelists to convene away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The UP National Writers’ Workshop is held in Los Baños, Laguna, right in the bosom of Maria Makiling where it’s easy to slow down, commune with nature, and just think about your manuscript. The Silliman National Writers' Workshop is held for three weeks in Dumaguete City so expect beach trips during the weekends; the IYAS National Writers' Workshop used to be hosted by the University of St. La Salle in Bacolod City (before the budget cut); and the UST National Writers' Workshop is annually held in Baguio City, close to the BenCab Museum and Tam-awan Village.

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Poetry slam at a local café near UP Los Baños

 

You spend a whole week (or more) with like-minded (crazy) individuals.

National writers' workshops screen their applicants and limit their programs to just 12 to 15 writing fellows. Most of the time, this bunch is focused on writing (it is a writers' workshop after all) and loves to talk about books, books, and more books. But when the sessions are over, expect random ramblings about your respective nine-to-six jobs, an unending exchange of the corniest jokes, and even a videoke showdown after copious amounts of beer. 

 


National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera critiques a fellow's manuscript

 

You’re mentored by national artists and award-winning professors.

National workshops are hosted by various creative writing centers in the country: UP Institute of Creative Writing, De La Salle University’s Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center, Ateneo Institute of Literary Arts and Practices, and so on. Sure, you can enroll in writing courses in college or graduate studies, but that would cost you about six months for a semester and thousands of pesos. In writing workshops, you get to have National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera read your poems and suggest a scheme for your collection or listen to Jun Cruz Reyes share with you his own difficulties in writing...all free of charge.

 


Roundtable discussion on the first day

 

Your writing philosophy is elevated (hopefully).

Yes, you start with writing about an ex and fill a page with a lot of hugot. But workshops remind you that writing is not just about that. You have a sense of purpose—especially as a Filipino writer—to think about, whether you like it or not.

 


 

You’re reminded that your idols are humans, too.

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Where else can you see an esteemed writer and professor belt out a Sinatra classic?

 

All images are from the 56th UP National Writers Workshop held from March 12 to 19, 2017 at BP International Makiling, Los Baños, Laguna. For more information, visit Panitikan.com.ph.

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