A New Kind of Writing Workshop

Breaking Signs, Phil Panorama

A new format was introduced in the fifth IYAS Creative writing workshop held in the University of St. La Salle in Bacolod City April 25-30, 2005. Sponsored by the University of Saint La Salle and the Bienvenido N. Santos Crative Writing Center, with assistance from the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts, the workshop gave emphasis to actual production of literary pieces by the participants under the tutelage of specific panelists.

For five days, the fellows -- Anna Cristina Abola, Dennis Aguinaldo, Zoe Jon Alejandra, Mikael Co, Arvin Ello, Reggie Figer, Jeneen Garcia, Ava Vivian Gonzales, Vlademier Gonzales, Adele Pacificar, John Paul Samonte, Ma. Graziella Sigaya, Telsforo Singkit, Jr., Jason Tabinas and Winton Lou Ynion -- were guided in various stages of the literary arts by well-known senior writers - Resil Mojares, Cirilo F. Bautista, Elsa Coscolluela, Leoncio Deriada, Marjorie Evasco and Vicente G. Groyon.

Instead of a group of panelists giving textual criticism of the fellows' works, the new format involved the convening of a teaching staff with each member specializing in a particular genre and language and depending on the participants' profiles, for instance, poetry in Hiligaynon. The fellows were divided among the teaching staff based on the genre and language of their application, not more than four of them in each group. Each group worked independently of the others. The teacher devised a five-day syllabus that covered such things as short craft lectures, writing exercises, discussion and critiquing of writing exercises, consultation on works-in-progress, and the production of a new work within the workshop period. On the first and last days of the workshop, however, a plenary session was conducted where a panel discussion on current issues and trends of writing enabled the participants to place their individual artistic perspectives in the context of communal and national interests. Also, on the last day, a culminating program featured the presentation of the participants' output. Here, they explained the genesis of the work, the difficulties encountered in its production, and the solution they devised with their teachers.

The group of Poetry in Tagalog had this syllabus :

Unang araw - 8:30-9:30 n.u.
Pagkilala sa mga kasapi - 9:30-12:00
Panayam at talakayan sa Katotohanan at mga elemento ng tula 12:00-2:00
Pananghalian at Pahinga : 2:00-4:00 n.h.
Panayam sa Wikang Matalinghaga 4:00-5:30n
Pagsasanay 5:30-7:00
Pagtupad sa takdang gawain

Ikalimang Araw
8:30-10:30 n.u. - Pagtalakay sa takdang gawain
10:30-12:00 - Laboratoryo, Mga huling pagwawasto sa ginagawang takdang tula
12:00-2:00 n.h. Pananghalian at Pahinga
2:00-5:00 n.h. Palihan sa natapos na takdang gawain
7:00 culminating activity

A glance at this lesson plan will show that on the level of creative production, the teacher and the fellows have a close working relationship from the conception of the assigned task (in this case, the writing of a new poem of not less than 20 lines) to its completion; that, on the level of craft learning, sufficient ground is covered for the learning and exchanging of ideas about the various aspects of poetry, and that, on the level of critiquing, the fellow's submitted poems and poems-in-progress come under rigid and prolonged scrutiny.

Other creative writing workshops in the country are really criticism workshops only, and that is their crucial weakness. Fellows do not get a feel of the hands-on experience that a workshop implied. For a week or more, they get nothing but varied comments on their poems and stories, but they are not given the guidance and follow-up that would lead to the improvement of their art. The true concept of workshop, as Professor Groyon said, "is of a space in which things are produced, usually through craft, skill and labour," resulting in the generation and intensification of knowledge of the art. The IYAS Workshop, in this regard, is opening a lot of possibilities with the new format has utilized. We commend the people behind this significant change -- particularly Vice President Elsa Coscolluela, Dean Gloria Fuentes, and Prof Regina Groyon, all of USLS, and Prof Vince Groyon, of DLSU.


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