I have always advocated reading books. But what’s even more powerful than reading is writing. No one is ever too young nor too old to start learning. And this is what the Where the Write Things, a writing center for writers of all ages, is all about.
It has become a tradition for Write Things to culminate its yearly classes with a booklaunch of an anthology of the writings of its promising students. On Dec. 9, volume 4 of “In Our Own Words” was launched at Fully Booked BGC with no less than PETA president, artist and 2017 RM awardee C.B. Garrucho reading representative pieces from the 54 featured writers.
It is an impressive anthology with cover art and design by award-winning illustrator Liza Flores.
Write Things is committed to working with writers eager to write who have no venue for such an opportunity. One of the regular mentors of the Saturday sessions, Roel S.R. Cruz introduced the launch ceremony paying tribute to the writers and the writing process:
“Whenever I’m asked why I along with my sister Aina who is our program development manager and my mother Neni who co-founded Write Things, and many of the finest Filipino authors/poets as guest teachers, continue to do this, this annual gathering comes closest to the answer. While it may be arguable if one can really teach art and creativity, what I do know is you can mentor and guide young writers to be more courageous in turning their ideas into words, in finding and channelling their voices, and in honing their passions in wielding this often unsung craft of the written word.
“Let me tell you a story, to show not tell as we often advise our writers, which may sound familiar to most, if not all, of our writers. Of Roxy, a first timer ever so slowly walking into this very room accompanied by her dad three weeks ago with such fear in her eyes, then tentatively finding a seat. About 10 minutes into how I roughly open every class, telling them how creative writing is supposed to be “weird” (and that it’s okay to be weird or unusual here in our workshops) among others things, I see a smile breaking out. And that fear in the eyes reveals itself over the next 90 minutes to be what it truly is: an intense, immeasurable fire of creativity waiting for the right venue, the right audience, the right set of ears to embrace everything it has to say. And as she leaves, grinning wildly, she asks when the next class will be. And after this initial emancipation (?) from terror, the learning of technique and discipline, which is actually as gruelling, is gladly embraced by each one.
“Over the last five years of mentoring young writers in workshops, one-on-one sessions and other venues, I’ve seen countless Roxies blossom into the stellar writers they were meant to be. They’ve continued to write such beautiful pieces, inspiring even my own craft. Teaching me in turn to continue to be brave and to write despite the self-doubt and criticism. Several have become writers for the Inquirer, Scout magazine, have published here and there, and attended creative writing programs such as the one in Columbia University or local colleges. But more importantly, there have also been more than a few who have conquered adversity in their lives after finding their voice and allowing it to roar on the page.
Looking around at these writers, most of whom had to be coaxed/strongly urged into writing and sharing their works for the very first time (pieces and thoughts and the most gloriously weird stories no one has ever seen/heard before, most of which I’ve had the honor of being the very first reader), I am filled with pride as I continue to be reminded why we do this. Because these young writers have stopped writing for themselves and have chosen to bravely share their radiant words with the world. Despite the fear of sharing with a larger public audience. To their parents, thank you for being here to support them and sharing this special day with them. I hope you enjoy the pieces selected as much as I have. Even the author bios written by the authors themselves wrote are as engaging and reveal so much about their inner selves.
“To close, let me share a Kurt Vonnegut quote which sums up my approach to writing and teaching it, and perhaps even the challenges of life in general, ‘We must be continually jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.’ Congratulations to our young writers. We are very proud of each one of you.
“On to the next cliff, the next blank page, the next story/poem that needs to be written and which the world needs to read in order to be entertained, to be enlightened, and hopefully to heal.”
Credit goes to the roster of our 2017 writing mentors, impressive bylines readers are familiar with: Susan Lara, Nikki Alfar, May Tobias Papa, Russell Molina, Totet de Jesus, JomikeTejido, Gabby Lee, Roel Cruz, Pam Pastor and Sarge Lacuesta.
One of the pieces read, Alex Licauco’s poem, “Likes Over Lives” is excerpted below.
When I ask my peers, “Do you know about EJK?”
One responds, “Is that a new app...Ooh I wanna download it?”
…You have to care because what happens to others happens to you in a different way.
You might not know,
Open your eyes,
See the world beyond your screen,
Open your mind to new perspectives.
Maybe one day lives will matter over likes.
This article originally appeared in the Philippine Star on December 14, 2017.