THE UNIVERSITY has once again witnessed the blossoming of another literary endeavor as chosen fellows were given the chance to be mentored by the country’s top writers.

The UST Center for Creative Writing and Literary Studies (CCWLS) held its first Thomasian Students Summer Writers’ Workshop last April 2 to 4 at the Bulwagang Rogge of the UST Graduate School. A separate workshop for undergraduate students, it runs parallel to UST’s National Summer Writers’ Workshop that started in 2000.

The workshop was born when it was noticed that none was offered for the undergraduate level when the University produced annual workshops for graduate students.

CCWLS director and workshop coordinator Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo made several strategies for undergraduate writers as a way to hone their creative writing skills.

”Writing is like any other art. One can go slowly by learning in their own ways or faster by having someone to teach them,” she said.

Hidalgo added that the workshops they conducted can help aspiring writers to be professionals in the field.

The fellows for the workshop were: Jasper Emmanuel Arcalas, Ingrid Sharmaine Bobes, Aimee Cando, Harvey James Castillo, Patrick John Danque, Aaron Philip de la Cruz, George Deoso, Francis Factolerin, John Robert Magsombol, Clara Angela Murallos, Arsenio Padilla III and Edlyn Joyce Samonte. They all submitted manuscripts subjected to screening prior to the event.

They were instructed by CCWLS fellows who were also some of the country’s finest writers: Augusto Antonio Aguila, Rebecca Añonuevo, Michael Coroza, Joselito Delos Reyes, Ralph Semino Galán and Chuckberry Pascual.

Are workshops important?

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However, the question still remains as to how workshops still benefit a writer despite the growing number of writing workshops in the country.

Plenty of other workshops are currently running in the country, most notably the Silliman National Writers Workshop and the University of the Philippines National Writers Workshop.

“[Workshops are important because] you get to have feedback from different points of view and schools of thought when it comes to creative writing and literature,” said Carlomar Daoana, a Palanca-winning poet.

According to him, the foremost aim of creative writing workshops is to promote critical thinking and writing skills among the fellows, a sentiment echoed by Joselito Delos Reyes, a professor from the Faculty of Engineering who is also a multi-awarded essayist.

“Its significance is that mas maraming kritikal na babasa nung akda mo,” he said.

However, the perks of these trainings go beyond than just providing writing strategies.

“It’s important because you realize [that] outside school, there is a community of writers people your age,” said Daoana.

Hidalgo, who is considered one of the country’s literary titans, believed that there is a difference between people who took up workshops and those who didn’t.

“I think writing is a skill. Some people have a natural facility with language. It is my observation that writers who have been trained or passed through creative writing workshops are much more skilled in terms of craft,” she said.

Eros Atalia, a well-known fictionist in Filipino and also a Palanca winner, believed that attending workshops alone do not comprise a writer’s success.

“Maraming pumupunta ng workshop, nasaan na sila ngayon?” said Atalia, who referred to those who have lost heart in writing after attending writing workshops. “Hindi [para] hubuhgin, [pero para] tulungan mo lang na ‘ma-rekindle’ yung namatay niya nang ispirito ng pagsusulat [at] ma-expose mo siya sa tunay na buhay ng isang manunulat.”

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Daoana agreed with him, believing that good writing can still be achieved even without workshops but only under certain conditions.

“You can still be if you have certain qualities about you like [being] an engaged and voracious reader, [having] good professors, [and the ability to receive the] same feedback from university writing groups,” he said.

“It’s just one thin slice ng karera mo bilang isang manunulat,” added Delos Reyes. “With the proliferation of social network, people can [choose] not attend workshops. Kaya lang, wag mong asahang magiging kritikal sila sa iyo.” Josef Brian M. Ramil with reports from Marie Danielle L. Macalino

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