Breaking Ground (the Santermo Young Writer’s Workshop)

Today was the last day of the Santermo Young Writer’s Workshop “Breaking Ground.” It was a two day workshop with talks — one by myself, talking about the writer’s life, and the other by Rene Hinojales, who wrote about writing and performance — and we workshopped poetry (yesterday) and today we worked on the fiction pieces.

I was a panelist for both days alongside Santermo’s acting chair, Bacolod poet Jonathan Davila. Tim Nubla joined us for the poetry workshop and Sir Fundi, a Bacolod playwright, joined us for the fiction workshop.

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Jonathan Davila giving the opening remarks at the start of Breaking Ground

We only had five fellows, three for poetry and two for fiction, but we allowed a lot of students from different schools, teachers, and even some outsiders come in and sit in for the sessions. The fellows were mostly high school students who were exploring writing and we wanted to start them early. We wanted them to go through the workshop experience while they were still young and help them get their footing on solid ground from the very beginning. We wanted them to build their writing community at a young age to help them get further along the craft.

We gave a lot of preparation for what they were about to go through emotionally because we were going to treat them like writers. We were kind and gentle but we were also strict and demanding. We gave them a standard to strive for and to aspire to and we gave them practical techniques, tools, and examples to help them get to what they intended for their work.

We tried to impart everything we knew, collectively as a panel, to help them see what the craft of writing involves and how readers can interpret their words and the responsibility of the writer to be deliberate in every word choice they make for their pieces.

It’s always a scary prospect to be a panelist for a writer’s workshop when the fellows are so young because you do not want to kill their spirit. But you don’t want to tell them their work is poetry when it isn’t. You tell them what it is in their pieces that is poetic and you help get there on their own. You give them the tools they need to get there.

And I would like to think we did that.

There was a lot of talent at the workshop. So much potential and so much promise. I hope that we were able to do our jobs and inspired them to continue writing. I hope we were able to do that.

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