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”


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!

On the Validation and Value of Filipino Writers

I had meant to publish this back in September. But then life got in the way, and I forgot to do so. As usual.

Ummmm. Better late than never?

My MFA classmates and I often give each other a heads up on calls for submissions, national writing fellowships, and the books we have read and obsess over (among other things) via our Facebook group chats. The posts pile up real quickly when everyone’s online, and when there are several calls and contests going on at the same time.

A few months ago, we were talking about two calls for submissions: one for next year’s Fantasy: Filipino Fiction for Young Adults anthology, and one for this year’s F. Sionil José Young Writers Awards. Several classmates were considering submitting to one or both calls. Since I don’t write YA or fantasy fiction, and I don’t fall under the “young writer” category anymore, I wasn’t paying attention to that part of the conversation.

However, I got riled up when the talk shifted to writers’ compensation. The YA anthology project is paying its writers a pittance of P500 for their work. In stark contrast, the Young Writers Awards is handing out P50,000 for its first-place winner, P30,000 for the second-placer, and P20,000 for the third-placer.

I couldn’t help but start cursing; to borrow a line from that popular local Cornetto campaign, hanggang saan aabot ang P500 mo? Continue reading “On the Validation and Value of Filipino Writers”

Fund This: Steampunk Southeast Asia Anthology!

Help get The SEA Is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia get to US$8,000! You have 29 days left to donate. If they meet their funding goal, you get excellent steampunk stories by SEA writers plus perks. Alas, I don’t have US$150 (around PhP7,000) to give.

I love that this anthology presents different versions of the region, and has fiction from a few Filipino writers. Get it to press, folks. Go to Indiegogo to find out more about this campaign, or its Facebook page and website.

(H/T: Joey Nacino)


Remember my previous Trese reviews? I made a shorter version, and that made the pages of the esteemed Philippines Graphic back in August.

Trese 1-6
Put them all together, and… well, damn. That’s beautiful.

Read the revised review here, or visit National Book Store branches to get a copy of the Philippines Graphic‘s August 17, 2015 issue.

Spread ’em!

Errrr, yeah, you’re gonna have to look for back issues. 🙂

Speaking of the Graphic… the 2015 Nick Joaquin Literary Awards is just six days away! It’s also the NJLA’s 25th year, so this May Day Eve-themed fete is extra special. Congratulations to all nominees, and looking forward to a fun night celebrating damn good fiction from the Graphic‘s pages.

A few months ago, I finally went ahead and applied for a spot in an MFA program. At the same time, an editor friend asked me to write a column for their magazine. Decided to write about the former for the latter, and the pitch was approved.

The article came out mid-July — and I found out I got in the program just several days after I got my magazine copy. Sweet. Back to school for me, then. Deferred enrollment due to a medical procedure, so I’m returning to the classroom in a few months.

So. That’s settled, then.

While I’ve decided to take the MFA route, I’m still in favor of taking short writing courses and workshops. Storywriting School has new courses on its calendar, with regular Palanca awardee Dr. Joachim Antonio in charge.

As of today, you can sign up for How to Write Plays for Theatre (September 26, 2-5PM) and How to Write Love Stories (October 24-31, 2-5PM), both at Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street, Taguig.

Go to for more details.

One last thing. I’m moving soon (with soon being anywhere from this month to maybe another year) and will need to say goodbye to some books. Thanks a lot, limited storage space.

Help me find a new home for these babies. Selling each book for P100, and series go for P300. All are in good condition, although some are really old, and have that yellow-pages-and-old-book-smell combo. But I know you like that. Am I right or am I right?

E-mail me if you want to buy one or some of them books. All unsold books will be donated to a library/reading center being built right now in Mindoro. Will post more details for that one when I get them, just in case you want to donate your old books, too.