Meet-and-Greet Samantha Sotto!

To cap off a great year, Writer’s Block Philippines is pleased to bring you this intimate event with best-selling author, Samantha Sotto (“Before Ever After”). Join us on DECEMBER 10, SATURDAY, 1 to 3 PM at Le Bistro Vert (Valero Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City) and get a chance to ask Samantha your burning questions about writing, creativity, and getting published as an international author. The first 30 to sign up AND show up at the venue will win a Nivea gift pack and a Le Bistro Vert welcome drink. For inquiries, email writersblock.ph@gmail.com or call/text (0927) 850 8280.

Sign up HERE to register.

See you there!

A Letter from One Young Writer to Another

BY ANNA OPOSA

 

Dear young writer,

When I say “young,” it can mean either in age or in career. I’m both. I’m 23 years old, and I just graduated from the University of the Philippines with a degree in English Studies.

I am writing this letter to you because I am a writer. Or at least, that’s what people call me. I started writing stories when I was about six years old. Inspired by Sweet Valley Kids, I created a world with twins named Lea and Lou, and my dad would type my handwritten notes and print them out so I could feel like I was getting published.

Ten years later, I started getting published in magazines. Then newspapers. Then a couple of books and literary journals.

Though I think I’m far from being a Writer (yes, with a capital W), I do write quite a lot. As a freelance writer and social media practitioner, I write for a living.

Here are ten things I’ve learned along the way:

1.    Read. A lot. I don’t just mean crossing off the titles on the 100 Books You Should Read Before You Die list, but read anything and everything: graffiti scrawled on the bathroom door, quotes painted at the back of jeepneys and trucks, and statement t-shirts. It’s fascinating how words and punctuation marks behave in different contexts. You’ll also discover nuances and insights to a culture when you have a heightened awareness for the way thoughts and sentences are constructed.

Also, you become the writer you read. You wanna become a copywriter? Pay more attention to ads, brochures, and billboards. You wanna be a feature writer? Fill your bookshelves with nonfiction anthologies and subscribe to your favorite magazine.

2.    Have a love affair with language, fonts, words, and punctuation marks. As a writer, these are your most powerful tools. Keep a notebook with your favorite words and phrases. Know the difference between serif and sans serif. Find out what an Oxford comma is.

While you’re at it, please look up what the most common grammatical mistakes are. You’ll be surprised at how many you’ve been using. It’s not, “I’m craving for…” but “I have a craving for…” or “I’m craving a (fill in the blank).” You were not born on December, but in. Stop yourself from saying “literally” after every sentence, too. When you say your best friend literally has your back, that means you’re holding her spine.

This love affair with language doesn’t necessarily mean using big words all the time. Sometimes, young writers use hifalutin words to sound impressive, but they end up sounding silly instead. Don’t pull out the thesaurus every chance you get. The purpose of writing is to communicate.

3.    Embrace criticism. Toughen up, for there will be a lot of this coming your way. It’s inescapable. When I took my first writing workshop, my piece, which my 16-year-old self thought was brilliant, was shown in class as an example of how not to write. In first year college, my first fiction piece was returned with angry red marks and a short note: “Ew. You have no sense of plot.” In my last year, my professor looked at a press release I wrote and said, “To say that your newswriting sucks is an understatement.”

Your professors, editors, and mentors give criticism because they want you to improve. Be more worried when they don’t say anything. What matters is what you do with this criticism. Cry if you have to, but make sure you walk back to your computer and start rewriting.

4.    Experiment with different methods and processes to let your creativity flow. There’s no right way to write, only a right way for you. Some can work in public areas like cafés, while others prefer the privacy of their own homes. A change of scenery can do wonders for your work (may be negative or positive). If you can write with music, create different playlists, because music can and will influence your mood (again, may be negative or positive). My current one has Adele, Up Dharma Down, and Beyonce. When you don’t like the way your paragraphs flow, rearrange the sequence. Start with the ending or middle. Delete an entire paragraph.

5.    Getting published is a combination of luck and abnormal persistence. There are times when an editor will stumble upon your work and ask if you are interested to write for his/her publication. But often, you will need to do you share of “selling” yourself. Build your résumé and select a few writing samples to send to different publications. Always tailor your résumé and writing samples to the job you are applying for.

6.    Read some more.

7.    SAVE YOUR WORK. Technology is both a boon and bane. Nothing hurts more than working on an article for hours only to have an unexpected virus or blackout ravage your work. Buy an external hard drive, carry USB flash drives in your bag or with your keys, and make a separate email address just dedicated to your work so you can access it wherever you are.

8.    Protect your name. To borrow one of the greatest lessons I learned from one of this country’s greatest writers, Dr. Butch Dalisay: “Whether you’re getting paid 5,000 or 500,000, you have to treat each project with the same respect and seriousness. It carries your name, after all.”

9.    Be professional. There is a misconception that being a professional writer simply means getting paid to write. Hard work always trumps talent. You may move people with your words, but if you don’t show up on time for events and interviews, or you don’t meet deadlines, there’s a huge chance that you won’t be writing for that publication again.

10. Have an insatiable appetite for learning. Don’t fall into a read-write-rinse-repeat cycle. Go out, talk to people, take a course on wine or coffee, or memorize at least 10 endemic Philippine species. Good writers know a little something about everything. Be a jack of all trades, and aspire to be a master of all, too.

And most of all, write. Writing is a skill that can continue to approve and develop.

Keep writing.

 

Love,

Anna

 

Anna Oposa was a participant at the Walk Write This Way 1.0 in June 2010. That’s where Writer’s Block Philippines first discovered her intense drive to save the Philippine seas (it’s a trait that probably runs in the genes), her insatiable wanderlust, and her instinctive ability to find a good story to write about in almost everything.  Anna’s work has been published in asianTraveler, Illustrado, and OfficiallyPhilippines.com, among others.

*Want to contribute to WritersBlockPhilippines.com? Just email your article ideas to writersblock.ph@gmail.com.

Cambridge University joins British Embassy in search for Chevening scholar

Filipinos will again have the opportunity to receive a study grant to the United Kingdom as the search for the next batch of Chevening scholars begins, announced British Ambassador Stephen Lillie.

The award offers post-graduate studies in UK universities to high calibre individuals who have already made an impact and are motivated to follow a career that will take them to a position of leadership within their own country.

A welcome addition to this year’s search is the new partnership between the British Embassy and the prestigious University of Cambridge, which will increase the number of scholarship slots to be awarded for school year 2012-13.

“Our new partnership with Cambridge University is a really exciting addition to our Chevening portfolio. It will further enhance the reputation of the Chevening brand in the Philippines. We’re delighted to be working with one of the top universities not just in the UK but in the whole world. I am sure there will be some excellent candidates competing to win what will be a very prestigious scholarship,” said Lillie, adding that Cambridge University ranks number one in the QS World University Rankings 2011-12.

Aside from the prestigious nature of the scholarship itself, and the opportunity to study at a top quality UK university, Chevening also offers its scholars the opportunity for unparalleled networking. Chevening scholars can expect to meet with senior policy officials from the UK Government and its network. Furthermore, they are able to draw on the experience of more than 30,000 alumni across the world.<

Applications for the Chevening scholarships for school year 2012-13 are open until 6 January 2012, while applications for the Cambridge Chevening scholarships are open until 2 December 2011.

Information on how to apply can be found at the British Embassy website: http://ukinthephilippines.fco.gov.uk/en/about-us/working-with-philippines/scholarships-and-education/

See you in the Manila International Literary Festival!

Meet some of the big names from the industry—such as Butch Dalisay, Charlson Ong, Alfred Yuson, Danton Remoto, and many others—and hear them speak about writing, the publishing landscape, and more.

Attend the 2nd Manila International Literary Festival at the Ayala Museum on November 16 to 18. For registration, you may download the form in their website and fax it to the Filipinas Heritage Library at 892-1810.

Visit their website for a complete list of the festival program.

http://www.manilaliteraryfestival.com/

Write a Novel in a Month!

November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) month where thousands of professional and amateur writers get together to write 50,000 words or the equivalent of 175 pages in 30 days.

(To make the task a little easier to chew on, think about it in terms of the daily word count of about 1,667 words.)

Log on to www.nanowrimo.org to register, clock in your word count, get words of encouragement from other writers and just about everything you need to get started on getting your story ideas out of your head, onto the computer and possibly one step closer to getting published!