The Reading Spree

Flipping pages and finding common denominators

Category: Workshops

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.

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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.

Sarcastic Hermione Granger 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.)

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A Day Of Fantastic Lit: POPtastik Pinoy!

I’m the kind of person who often gets dragged by friends and family to various events at the last minute (a.k.a. kaladkarin!), or gets notified just a few days before. I rarely get to mark personal dates in advance, or know about things before they happen. This also means I miss out on a lot of events — and I’ve already missed out on several book/lit events this year because I wasn’t really paying attention to what’s going on. 😛

A few days ago, I got an e-mail that (thankfully) broke that long passive/reactionary streak. November 15, 2013 has been blocked off on my calendar, and readers/writers should do so, too.

What’s going to happen on that particular Friday? Check it out:

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Trying To Get My Groove Back.

OK, got it. Turning back now. Photo from stock.xchng.

I’m a working writer. My life is shaped by deadlines, guidelines, headlines, bylines, and lines. But when it comes to my personal writing projects, I’m stuck in a dreadful years-long creative rut.

A few weeks back, I “finished” writing my first short story in seven years. I still think some parts need to be redone, but for now I’ll leave it as is. It felt real nice to do what I’ve loved doing before I started working, and it sure made me happy. But it also frustrated me; writing was never this hard for me back then. In my most recent effort, I was self-editing before closing paragraphs, doubting in the middle of outlining, overhauling while writing, and comparing and recalling similar stories as I typed. The ideas sound great in my head, but look shitty on paper and on screen.

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Workshops for Working and Wannabe Writers!

I was so excited for this weekend. The calendar boxes for Friday, Saturday and Sunday were filled with appointments, personal tasks and the all-important drinking nights with fellow alcoholics. There was also an overnight trip to Tagaytay with several awesome high school friends (including two balikbayans). Basically, it looked like two and a half days of fun.

Then my body said “nu-uh”. And there’s absolutely no room for negotiation. So instead of being out and about (despite the cruel summer heat!), I’m indoors − sneezing and coughing and putting warm compresses over my left eyelid, which has been swollen since yesterday and is making me look like Pacquiao used me as a punching bag.

This latest body problem (which comes after this, which hasn’t really gone away) means no appointments, no errands, no drinkage, no out-of-town trip, no socializing. Grrrrreat. Can’t do much except accept it, get much-needed rest, and plan to make up for this sudden house arrest in the coming weeks.

My idea of rest: reading books, lounging around in bed, or catching up on my RSS and social media feeds. (‘Coz really, what else can you do?) It’s a good thing I’m doing the online rounds, too. Reviewed and replied to old e-mails and text messages (I’m the type who just skims personal messages and seldom replies), and saw updates regarding several writing workshops. May attend one or some of them − I think it’ll be a good way to make up for this ongoing inactivity. Plus I think my writing’s getting a bit rusty; a new perspective is needed. I thought maybe you’d be interested in these workshops, too.

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