Applying for a National Writing Workshop: A Non-Definitive Guide

I think I’ve mentioned only once on this blog that I was a creative nonfiction writing fellow for this year’s UST National Writers’ Workshop. But I know I’ve talked about it to death the past couple months and posted endlessly on social media, so bear with me because this is the last time I’ll talk about it. 😉

I really didn’t think I’d get in. Countless writers from around the country submit their manuscripts every year to UST, as well as for the UP, DLSU, Ateneo, Silliman and Iligan national workshops; and competition’s always tight. Plus there’s the mentorship/patronage stuff I talked about before, which I think exists in every institution, not just in creative writing.

Those who know me well also know I was terrified. It was my first-ever national workshop, and before that I relied only on small and comfortable class workshops. I didn’t know anyone at UST except for one professor, and we met only once. I’ve heard horror stories of fellows getting thoroughly chewed out at workshops like these, of panelists on their best diva behavior, of the high attrition rate of writers post-workshop.

But it all worked out in the end. I had an amazing time and learned so much. It’s always good to hear other viewpoints, find holes in your work that you didn’t know existed, and widen your writing-centric support system.

I think a co-fellow got it right when he said we still have a high from the workshop. So we were surprised when the UST Center for Creative Writing and Literary Studies (UST CCWLS) announced it was already accepting applications for next year’s workshop. Break-up stage na, mga bes.

(Several other calls for submission have popped up afterward, like the one for the 57th UP National Writers’ Workshop. Awards season is also underway, with this year’s Palancas in the bag, and the Philippines Graphic‘s Nick Joaquin Literary Awards scheduled on September 13.)

Here’s the official poster for the 2018 UST workshop, if you’re interested.

(Go to the UST CCWLS Facebook page for more info, and to see the photos and videos from this year’s workshop.)

I had to answer a lot of questions when I got back, mostly about applying for writing fellowships and how the workshop went. You can say this is my attempt to answer everything. Since I’ve only been to the UST workshop, that serves as my main reference. I guess some items could apply to other national workshops as well, or even journal/anthology submissions.

Also, I have creative nonfiction writers and manuscripts in mind for this blog, but I think some advice could work for writers in other genres, too.

Lastly, I don’t guarantee your acceptance into any workshop. Walang sisihan, ha.

Continue reading “Applying for a National Writing Workshop: A Non-Definitive Guide”

More Future Worlds!

Well. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but… we’re still living in an alternate reality, and it’s just getting worse. I was hoping things would be back to “normal” by this time, but no dice.

Fiction is becoming more comforting and reliable than real life. And while I’m as angry and astounded as everyone else about global proceedings, I find myself delving more into fiction (specifically, those about future worlds) for solace.

I’ve also been reading more local novels and anthologies. I spent the past year taking fiction techniques and workshop classes for grad school (and writing my own short stories), so I wanted to see how other Filipino writers do science fiction and speculative fiction. Or, put in another way, I wanted to see how different our class lessons are from what’s actually being published and demanded by readers.

Continue reading “More Future Worlds!”

Bookworming in Baguio… Again.

There are some places that you can’t help but return to, and not just once. For me, Baguio City is one of those constant destinations.

Baguio reminds me of long road trips with family and siblings’ friends in the ’90s, way back when an eight-hour travel time from Manila was normal, and the long way through Dau was the “shortest” route. Baguio is where we all go to escape the unbearable heat in the city. Baguio’s where you stop if you’re headed further north, e.g. Sagada, Ilocos, or San Juan.

More recently, Baguio is the first place that comes to mind whenever I want to get away from everyone else, but still be just one bus ride away in case there’s an emergency at home. I now also think of Baguio whenever I want to score some great books.

I was back in Baguio yet again last month. This time around, I was a writing fellow for creative nonfiction (CNF) at this year’s UST National Writers’ Workshop. (So yeah, I got in.) While the workshop kept all of us busy for a week – and those damn storms Gorio and Huaning kept us mostly indoors – we had two days to roam around the city and do whatever we wanted.

Of course, my itinerary included book shopping. Continue reading “Bookworming in Baguio… Again.”

Free!

A free comic on this day of freedom. Download Skyworld: Dominion here.

For a backgrounder on Skyworld, read my 2014 review of the series, as well as Trese and Tabi Po. 🙂

On Mentorship and Patronage in the Philippine Literary Scene

I don’t know if the other Philippine MFA creative writing programs do this, but the one I’m enrolled in has a few daunting requirements for its students. High GPA requirement aside, before I can take the comprehensive exams and do my thesis, I have to be published in an inter/national refereed literary journal, and become a fellow in a national writing workshop (and maybe win a writing award, while I’m at it).

Oh, and it would be really nice if I accomplish all these within my first two years in the program.

Harry Potter GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

No wonder I’ve started to have (mild) cold sweats every time writing workshops, publishers/editors, and contest admins issue calls for submissions. Even then, I let all those recent deadlines pass by because I thought my work was still raw.

But I finally caved last month. Partly because of the aforementioned school requirements and partly out of genuine curiosity and desire, I sent in my creative nonfiction material for the UST National Writers’ Workshop, and a short story for Likhaan‘s 11th edition, which is doing popular science writing and speculative fiction this year. My fingers are crossed; but I’m also realistic about my chances. I know full well that I might not get into both. If that’s the case, I can always try again next year, or with other workshops and publications.

For the UST workshop (and I guess this also goes for other national workshops as well), all applicants were asked to supply the screening panel with a recommendation letter from their literary mentors. I asked (rather, bugged) my own mentor for the same thing for my grad school application, so it was natural for me to do the same thing here. She’s also gone through the whole stressful workshop-application process, so she knew it was only a matter of time before I asked again.

But then a classmate and friend asked me who did my recommendation letter, and said he didn’t know who to ask for his. It reminded me that not all good writers have mentors that already belong to the PH literati or are recognized by them, or will choose to take the same path as they did. Anyone can be a great writer and not play the sino-kilala-mo game, or have a long list of workshops attended or awards won, or a creative writing degree, to boot. We submit our work for validation, but we all need to remember that that’s not the only way to get it.

It also reminded me of the patronage that’s long been in place in our literary scene (and, everywhere else, to be honest) — the kind that Adam David railed against on his blog back in the late ’00s, and Katrina Stuart Santiago on Rogue in the early ’10s.

(Here’s another great essay on PH lit patronage and politics: Monica Macansantos’ 2015 work “Becoming a Writer: The Silences we Write Against”, published in TAYO Literary Magazine.) Continue reading “On Mentorship and Patronage in the Philippine Literary Scene”

See and Slide

 

Happy 7th birthday, blog! 😀 Accept my greetings, even if it is 23 days too late. Hahaha!

Alternate Realities

One of the things I keep reading/hearing ever since the recent shifts in international power (read up!) is that we’re now living in an alternate reality, or multiple alternate realities. Oh, how I wish that were true. If it were, at the end of the day we’d all just laugh, and go back to a world filled with respect for and adherence to laws and due process and equal human rights for everyone and all the things people living in democracies want or take for granted.

But we’re not living in an alternate reality. This is today’s reality, with actual “arguments” of media bayaran bayas dilawan and alternate facts. As angry as these makes me and most of those I know, frankly it also makes me want to escape even more into reading, where the worlds (and their villains and their ilk) are complex and threatening, but confined to the pages. Two recent reads gave me enough of the escape I wanted — but also kept it real and made me think long after I got through the last page. Continue reading “Alternate Realities”

The Year-Starter!

It’s that time again! We’ll spend the first few days or weeks of January 2017 making all sorts of resolutions, short-term goals and long-term targets; and feeling real optimistic and so into that “New Year, New Me” shit.

And that’s coming right after the long party season known as Christmas, which actually starts in September in the Philippines. I’m not kidding. So all in all, it’s been three or so months of gluttony and greed. Not complaining, though. 😉

The next steps in this year-long routine: a look back at the year that was, and goal-setting for the current year. 2016 was fucking horrible for many reasons, among them the deaths of multiple cultural icons, ongoing and escalating wars and conflicts, the rise of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Duterte, Putin, Xi, and Trump), endless racism/sexism/misogyny/chauvinism online and offline… yeah, I think I’ll stop there. Good times were had as well, although the pessimist in me leans more toward the other side if asked to look at the bigger picture.

2016 wasn’t any better for my reading backlog. Many of the books on my shelf remain untouched and unopened until now. And for multiple reasons that are perfectly logical only to legitimate book hoarders like myself, I keep buying books I don’t have time to read.

Unlike in previous years, there’s some form of acceptance on my part. I’ve already lent out a bunch of books to my friends and MFA classmates because I know I won’t read them anytime soon. I can now enter book stores and leave with nothing, making my wallet breathe easy but my self-control reach its limits. And the 70+ books I donated back in 2015 haven’t been summarily replaced — which means I don’t miss those books as much as I thought I would.

This blog hasn’t seen much activity, either. The last decent review I’ve done dates back to a year ago! And if I did finish something from cover to cover, most likely it’s because it’s required for grad school.

What I did manage to read in 2016 are comic books and graphic novels… a whole lot of them.

That’s better than nothing, right? Since I’m too lazy to go in-depth with it, here’s a quick take on the few books I did go through last year. Here’s to hoping I do better in 2017! 😀 Continue reading “The Year-Starter!”