I was no stranger to writing workshops. My classmates and professors in our creative writing courses regularly held writing workshops that had my works in nonfiction, poetry, and fiction thoroughly reviewed. But only this year did I finally have the chance and guts to submit my works to weeklong workshops. For this year, Davao Writers Workshop 2017 was my second go at a workshop. The first had been in Ateneo de Davao University’s Summer Writers Workshop (ADDUSWW), which was held in the fourth week of May.
As any aspiring writer, I was thrilled that I was one of the chosen fifteen for this year’s batch of fellows. Since the announcement, I had counted down the days until November 30. Whenever I wasn’t too preoccupied with my thesis or anything else, I would be musing on the approaching event. What would be the guest panelist like? Who were the other fourteen fellows? Would they like my work or were they going to hack it to bits?
But fate had a different idea and threw in some last-minute hurdles for me to go through. First was a final exam on November 30 at in the morning. The second was another final exam on December 1 in the afternoon. I tried negotiating with my professors for a reschedule at both professors, but to no avail. The third and most exhausting hurdle was the travel to and fro the workshop venue, Ponce Suites (in Bajada) and my school (in Mintal) which was more or less 20 kilometers apart. I missed most of the opening ceremony on the first day, and the afternoon session the second day. Not hearing this year’s guest panelist’s keynote speech was my biggest regret. But I did not let that dampen my spirits for long.
Akin to my experience with writing workshops was my familiarity with most of the workshop panelists. John Bengan, Jhoanna Cruz, Jay Jomar Quintos, and Nino de Veyra were professors in college. While Macario Tiu and Dom Cimafranca had been panelists in ADDUSWW. And even though I missed the guest panelist’s introduction and speech (which was about the use of landscape), after hearing his incisive comments on the first few pieces, I became a fan of John Labella (later dubbed John The Beautiful by Macario Tiu). With a quick Google search and a few recap from some of the fellows, I was made aware of the presence of yet another stellar writer.
The craft lectures started up and enlivened the rest of the workshop days. Instead of my anxiety clouding my mind for the eventual criticism of my work, the inflow of knowledge made me feel like a carefree schoolgirl eager to learn more from these award-winning and seasoned writers. There was Jhoanna Cruz’s lecture on crafting ekphrastic pieces, Macario Tiu’s lecture on choreography in fiction, John Bengan’s lecture on scene and summary, and Nino de Veyra’s lecture on poetry writing. Though I’ve been in countless classes in creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry writing, a chance to freshen up my mind and relearn old lessons is something I cannot disregard.
Despite my dread, when it was my turn to be critiqued, I relished at the comments given to me by my fellows and that day’s panelists. Being a pessimist, I had expected comments such as “Ilabay ni sa Bankerohan river.” But instead, I received comments that made me consider archetypes, and choices I have yet to make in my writing. I readily took in the criticism and viewed them as chances to learn and improve my craft.
Among the fifteen fellows, I knew three of them beforehand from college: Crestie, Erlyn, and Innah. Besides sharing the same college course, we shared a room on the third floor, which had tall glass windows showing the rest of Doña Vicenta Village and Davao City. Because of my absence at the opening ceremony, I had also missed the introduction of the fellows. On the first two days, there was the usual shyness and exchange of brief glances and nods and small smiles. But slowly I got to know them, especially during Fellows Night, which was held on December 2, a Saturday Night. There was Jeff, a familiar face from college; Ian Derf, who was seated next to me three days out of five; David, who flew from Cebu where he was studying for a board exam; Jay, the youngest in the batch. Then there were the “Demure Girls”: Hannah, Diosel, and Charmaine. And the “MA Gods” who always made everyone laugh: Angelo, Jan Vernix, Ralph, and Palanca-awardee Mubarak Tahir.
Another highlight in this year’s workshop was the chance to write ekphrastic pieces after paintings by Davao artists. After Jhoanna Cruz’s lecture on writing ekphrastic pieces, an assignment was given. Of the seventeen paintings, each of the fellows was to choose one painting to write an ekphrastic piece about. The pieces would then be workshopped on the last day of the workshop. After revision, a few chosen pieces would then be published alongside the chosen painting, on the upcoming edition of Davao Harvest.
Ultimately, the 9th Davao Writers Workshop re-awakened my desire to write and write some more. It made me remember why I had chosen my course, BA English (Major in Creative Writing), in the first place. As everyone separated ways, each going back to their own realities, I leave with a sense of earnest to get on with my writing, while holding the promise that I will revise. I will revise.
Mivida Gabrielle Garcia is a BA English (Creative Writing) student from UP Mindanao. Currently, she is working on her thesis. She enjoys writing both realist and nonrealist fiction. Though she finds it hard to finish writing her stories. She has two dogs named Castor and Pollux, but still she desperately wants to have a cat.