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On creative writing

Creative writing classes are held at UP, UST, Ateneo and De La Salle. It is true that most of the enrollees are undergraduates, with a few graduate students. Older people can take these courses on audit, or sit in with the permission of the teacher.

LIRA, through National Artist and UP College of Arts and Letters Dean Rio Alma, also holds free workshops. But this is devoted mostly to poetry in Filipino. Roland Tolentino of the UP Department of Mass Communication used to hold creative writing sessions for fiction in Filipino, while the late Rene Villanueva did the same, focusing on writing for children. I am not sure if Roland still does it. Kuting, a group of writers of children’s books, is continuing what Rene has left with his early, untimely death.

Dr. Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo of UP used to hold such sessions, especially for the field of creative nonfiction. But now she is the VP for Public Relations of UP, and has no more time to do so. I taught Creative Writing: Nonfiction in Ateneo last semester, but none this semester. As I have written earlier, I will take a leave from teaching beginning April of 2009.

I do not know of any course on creative writing focused on “older” people working in NGOs and other professions and groups. Dr. Butch Dalisay of UP does teach a course called Writing for the Professions, but it includes other kinds of writing like speech writing, publicity work, etc. I am not sure if this is what some of our readers want to do or study.

What I can do is to list down the books I require my students to read, in the hope that it might help in one way or another. This is focused on nonfiction, or what we used to call the personal or informal essay. You may quibble with the politics (or lack of it) of these books, but I think they might help with sharpening the language of our texts:

1. The Elements of Style — Strunk and White. Short, snappy, fundamental text that summarized everything you want to know to write with pith, pitch, and passion.

2. A Reader Over Your Shoulder — Robert Graves. He analyzes the prose styles and actual writing samples of many writers and tells you why they work — and why they don’t.

3. The Paris Review Interviews: Writers at Work — George Plimpton, et al. Editor. A series of interviews of writers asking them about their craft, inspiration, writing process, et. al.

4. Author’s Choice, Adventures in a Forgotten Country, The Plain and the Simple. All by Kerima Polotan. Sharp, satirical, funny and sad essays about politics, culture, country and family.

5. Whatever, Myself Elsewhere, Legends & Adventures. All by Carmen Guerrero Nakpil. The master — or mistress — of the essay writes about history, politics, and how she found herself trapped between its walls.

This is all for now. Sorry I cannot be of much help. I am writing my dissertation for the Ph.D. in English, which I should defend before March of 2009.


vonjobi said…
butch dalisay has a book called "the knowing is in the writing: notes on the practice of fiction" (up press, 2006) that's intended for those interested in creative writing.

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