Workshops and the Creative Writer

Workshops for creative writing? Do I need them? I would say that unless you are of the extraordinary genre of the likes of Tolstoy or Tagore or Chekhov, you as a writer are definitely going to need to pass through the workshop phase of writing. Not for learning the ‘techniques’ of writing, although that would form a part of any workshop, but for the sheer kinship one develops with fellow-writers at a workshop. This one thing, this empathy for the others wearing the same hair-shirt, is going to stand us through our strange odysseys as a ‘writer’. So a glimpse of the SF-Workshop at IIT-K in June 2009.

I had never attended a ‘real’ workshop before and this one I was looking at was on Science-Fiction, for god’s sake. Frankly, I am not much into SF, whether you mean Speculative Fiction or Science Fiction. But it was a creative writing workshop all the same and happening at that place which I have never hoped even to visit, the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur. Indians will know that this is one of the temples of technology learning and considered a sacred place by anyone who valued his alphabets. So I have to admit that the SF workshop at IIT-K appealed to me for all the ‘other reasons’.

It was for three weeks, it was at IIT-K, it was a work-shop on creative writing. Of course this meant a whole lot of rearrangement of personal schedules, but I had applied, I had been accepted and I was determined to go. We had already got a Google-group going and had intros and mental pictures of each others, gosh, which were going to crumble down like the best of crisp cookies. I knew two of the participants quite well; we belonged to the same writing group, and had been together to self-organised Writer’s Retreats (what’s that? That’s for another episode of AWWY). One of them had to drop out, so it was me and Radhika Meganathan who took the flight to Delhi and then an eventful train journey to the bloody heat of Kanpur.

I will not attempt to describe the three weeks at Kanpur IIT except that it was very hot, absolutely fabulous and the fifteen of us plus the three instructors ended up parting on a tearful and nostalgic note. We also came away with a much clearer vision of each of us as writers; we had been through three weeks of gruelling critiques sessions. Each of us had to submit a story per week and three stories each daily were put through critiques. Where else can you hope to get fifteen odd people critique a single story of yours in full sincerity?

I am sure you would love to read the instructor’s version of the workshop. Here is Anil Menon’s version at
http://yet.typepad.com/round_dice/2009/07/2009-indian-sf-workshop-at-iitk-part-1-getting-there.html

And Vandana Singh’s version at
http://vandanasingh.wordpress.com/2009/07/04/journey-to-kanpur-days-one-and-two-of-sf-workshop-at-iit/

Both have blogged in two or three parts, for you can’t cover a three week workshop in a single blog. Our third instructor and master organiser of the workshop, Suchitra Mathur has not blogged about it yet, but I hope she will. Perhaps they are busy organising the workshop for this year. In case they do announce it, folks, please don’t miss it!

As for us? Well, the SF group we have organised is still active, we have new members, and we still actively carry on critiquing work submitted every month. We share opportunities, we discuss stuff on writing and in general carry on a rare support mechanism that we strange creatures, writers, need badly.


Suneetha is a writer by passion, profession and hobby. She writes fiction in English, poetry in her native tongue Malayalam and journalistic features in both. She can be contacted at yashovathi@gmail.com

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