The Viewspaper Writing Workshop

The Viewspaper Writing Workshop, August 22-23, 2008. We came up with the idea of a writing workshop as early as June, but the story of its planning was one long series of discussions, brain storming and flurry of emails and phone calls to and fro and interesting events right up to the political rallies for the upcoming DUSU elections that crowded the roads in North Campus on the afternoon of August 22nd. But inside the Seminar Hall in Ramjas College, the atmosphere was full of questions, infectious energy, brimming over with ideas and opinions and expressions. The variety of minds that came together for this was amazing, but more importantly the response we got over the two days was nothing short of overwhelming.

The day started off with a presentation that introduced the workshop to the participants. ‘Inspire. Ignite. Create’ were the words that summed up the motivation behind the event, and the fun element just crept in and spread itself all over.

The Panel discussion with Mr Colin Fernandes and Mr. Nirpal Dhaliwal, both writers with published works, was quite an intense affair. The two panelists were quizzed on everything from the experience of writing their debut novels, to the social responsibility they felt while writing them and drawing the line at offending certain readers, to the mechanics of being published and dealing with criticism. There was an admirably bold and upfront quality to the responses from the panelists – ‘No reading or writing bullshit,’ to paraphrase Mr. Dhaliwal – which the audience visibly enjoyed. Both emphasized the importance of being responsible and honest to one’s own writing, and aspects of the discussion kept coming up throughout the next day as well.

The Flash fiction competition held at the close of day 1 – ‘Something that Viewspaper is famous for!’ as a participant remarked – saw a very enthusiastic response, not just from the participants, but the panelists as well! Mr. Dhaliwal’s voice was among those clamouring for the rules and clarifications, and the prompts ‘Desire’ and ‘Madness’. After 30 minutes of furious scribbling, the quietest that the workshop had been so far, entries poured in, with both Mr. Dhaliwal and Mr. Fernandes reading out their entries to the audience. The competition had a horde of winners, for the judge could simply not bear to award singular first and second positions from among the wonderfully creative entries.

The second day started off on a quiet note, with the screening of the movie ‘Masculin, feminin’ by Jean Luc Godard, one of the masters of the French new wave. A discussion, led by Abhishek and Apoorva of the Ramjas Literary Society, threw up interesting aspects of creative expression, how the seemingly disconnected parts of the movie indicated a larger creative vision, and the inspiration the filmmaker took from the short stories of Guy de Maupassant.

The next one hour was dedicated to the writing exercises, and the participants very dedicatedly made the most of them! The first was an ‘Embarrassing moment’ exercise – the title said it all, and the participants had to come up with colours, textures and sensations of being in the most uncomfortable situation. The responses were, in a word, hilarious. – a moment of blackout on stage, cases of mistaken identity, crushes walking past and so on.

The next ‘spider map’ game saw participants pick up three chits, which had random words from ‘sepia toned’ to ‘konichiwa’ as well as a cheeky ‘chickenbutt’! Here was where the creative talent of the participants really shone – to connect all three words in a short story or poem was quite an accomplishment, and some pieces were just outstandingly funny. Case in point – A reinterpretation of ‘Jack and Jill’, with Jack tumbling down the hill, screaming ‘kocheeeneeewa!!’

A short story competition with assorted prompts finished the day. As the participants, familiar faces for the past two days filed past us, stopping to chat and comment on the workshop, ask about The Viewspaper and the fiction section; we basked in the glow of a job finally done, a vision finally fulfilled, heightened by the occasional “Thanks a lot for organizing this!”

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