Creative Writing Workshop Exposes Closet Writers!
The afternoon of March 10, 2012 was quite nostalgic for me. It reminded me of 2007, when Dr Fakrul Alam conducted a workshop on creative non-fiction with Brine Pickles- a group of Bangladeshi creative writers who write in English, at Omni Music in Dhanmondi. This time it was Dr Razia Sultana Khan, Head of the Department of English, Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB) who conducted the workshop. Dr Khan has a PhD in creative writing from the University of Nebraska Lincoln. She is the first Bangladeshi scholar to have a PhD in creative writing.
Students exploring the writer within them.
The eighteen participants of the workshop included six members of Brine Pickles and twelve students from different institutions. These students had sent their write-ups earlier to qualify for workshops conducted by Brine Pickles at Chittagong University and Dhaka University under a project funded by The American Center. Since it had not been possible to accommodate so many talented youths in the previous workshops, Brine Pickles organised this supplementary workshop for them at Omni Music.
Dr Khan mentioned various activities for generating ideas for writing or overcoming 'writer's block,' such as maintaining a journal, listing ideas or forming clusters or mind-maps, and free writing. She advised the aspiring writers to always carry a note-book and use it whenever something unusual strikes the mind.
One of the activities comprised free writing based on interesting pictures from various magazines provided by Dr Khan. The participants were instructed to write for five minutes without lifting their pen from the paper. They were then asked to select and share a few sentences that had emerged out of the free writing exercise.
The next activity was titled 'showing vs. telling.' Emerging writers often have a tendency to use many adjectives and adverbs, but according to Dr Khan, “Good writing always shows something vividly, it doesn't tell.” She again provided a list of prompts such as 'the food was bad,' 'I ran so fast,' 'It was hot,' etc and the participants were asked to 'show' the situation using minute details instead of telling the situation directly with adjectives and adverbs.
Some of the participants mentioned that they prefer sharing their writing with others on blogs to maintaining a personal journal. The workshop coordinator emphasised that whether on blog or journal, a writer must write every day. She recommended writing a few lines after waking up each morning. “Writers write. The more time you spend writing, the better. Writing is a skill, you have to work on it. Some people are born writers, but most of us are not. So practice. Don't give up on writing,” said Dr Khan.
“Razia Khan is a great teacher of creative writing. It's going to spur me on to write more and better,” said Ahmad Ibrahim, an A-Level student of Maple Leaf International School. “I learned a lot. I've never thought of writing in this way before. I've got a lot of things to work on my writing,” says Shehreen Ataur Khan, student of University of Dhaka.
Brine Pickles is looking forward to meeting Dr Razia Khan again in April 2012, where she will be conducting a session at a three-day workshop organised by the group, which will also feature Dr Kaiser Haq, Dr Niaz Zaman and Dr Chistopher Merill- Director of the International Creative Writers' Programme at Iowa University.
(The writer is a Lecturer, Dept. of English and Humanities, BRAC University)