Thursday, January 11, 2007

talking about stories

One of the things that made me very happy was the recent founding of LitCritters Dumaguete. Helmed by multiple Palanca Awarding winning fictionist Ian Rosales Casocot, this group of six authors (Michelle Eve de Guzman, Robert Jed Malayang, Rodrigo Bolivar, Lyde Villanueva, Marianne Tapales, and Anthony Gerard Odtohan) held their first LitCritter session with stories by William Faulkner, Jorge Luis Borges, and Socorro Villanueva.

Like LitCritters Manila, their goals are to expand their reading horizons, learn craftwork from well-written stories, and to write new stories of their own with the aim of getting these published here and abroad. Along the way, the weekly sessions teach literary criticism as well as writerly techniques, without forfeiting the pleasure of simply reading a story (sadly, this tends to happen in many workshops - after a while, stories cease to be stories but more fodder for the critic to analyze and deconstruct; it is vital that on some level we keep stories as stories - without this balanced approach, it is too easy to turn something pleasurable like reading into something tiresome).

Ian and I believe in encouragement. Not by creating a "praise factory", but by creating a venue for frank critique. This means being honest when we talk about the group's original stories, even if it hurts - but always with the understanding that we are by no means experts and ultimately offer only an opinion. It also helps Ian and myself in one big way: the existence of a group of peers who can critique our own work, from whom we can also learn from.

I'm making plans to hold a couple of open sessions or workshops in Manila this year, to answer requests from readers and writers who are not part of the regular sessions. My only concern is how to encompass in the course of a day or a weekend what took me weeks and months to articulate and share. But, as always, we'll see.

I'm delighted that Ian and his circle have decided to do this. I look forward to reading the new stories they'll be writing. Another reason to love Dumaguete and what comes from that magical place.

The latest LitCritter story, developed and critiqued during our sessions, appeared in last week's issue of Philippines Free Press: "Happening" by Andrew Drilon. Andrew's story is one of his strongest, and I am very proud of him.

It appears back-to-back with Ian Rosales Casocot's "Still Memories, in Ten Shots"- which was the last literary piece for the year 2006 for the Philippines Free Press (appearing in the final December issue).

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