The Ateneo de Manila (Phlippines) 2010 International Writing Program (IWP) Residency

Sometimes being a writer doesn’t just involve labouring in front of a computer or laptop, a residency or two might do you whole worlds of good as well!

The Ateneo de Manila (Phlippines) 2010 International Writing Program (IWP) Residency is now open for nominations. The objective of this program is to bring together a wide range of international and U.S. writers to examine current trends in literature including fiction, drama, poetry, and screenwriting and to explore the creative process involved in writing. Participants will spend 10 weeks in residence at the University of Iowa presenting their work to local audiences, participating in university level workshops and working with translators. The program also includes field trips to attend literary events in order to meet and possibly collaborate with local writers and artists from other fields. Expenses of selected applicants will be covered by the embassy of the United States.Poets, fiction writers, dramatists, and screenwriters are eligible to apply. Literary translators and writers whose publications and careers focus on creative non-fiction (feature journalism, cultural commentary, biography, and memoirs) are also eligible for this program. Candidates should have at least one published volume of work or works that have appeared in significant publications over a period of at least two years. All nominees must be fluent in English, comfortable with cross-cultural dynamics, and interested in close interaction with other artists from a multiplicity of diverse cultures.

Deadline of application is on April 30, 2010.

For more information on this and other scholarships and grant opportunities abroad, kindly contact the Office of International Programs at 426-6001 local 4037/ 4038.

(More information HERE.)

moon

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Script Frenzy for April

Didn’t get enough of the NanoWrimo frenzy last year? Now’s the chance to pen that plot swirling in your mind with this event!

Script Frenzy is an international writing event in which participants take on the challenge of writing 100 pages of scripted material in the month of April. As part of a donation-funded nonprofit, Script Frenzy charges no fee to participate; there are also no valuable prizes awarded or “best” scripts singled out. Every writer who completes the goal of 100 pages is victorious and awe-inspiring and will receive a handsome Script Frenzy Winner’s Certificate and web icon proclaiming this fact.

Even those who fall short of the word goal will be applauded for making a heroic attempt. Really, you have nothing to lose—except that nagging feeling that there’s a script inside you that may never get out.

Who: You and everyone you know. No experience required.

What: 100 pages of original scripted material in 30 days. (Screenplays, stage plays, TV shows, short films, and graphic novels are all welcome.)

When: April 1 – 30. Every year. Mark your calendars.

Where: Online and in person (if you want!). Hang out in the forums, join your fellow participants at write-ins, and make friends by adding writing buddies online.

Why: Because you have a story to tell. Because you want a creative challenge. Because you’ll be disappointed if you missed out on the adventure. Because you need to make time for you.

How: Sign up. Tell everyone that you are in the Frenzy. Clear your calendar. (US participants: Get your taxes done now!) Start some wrist exercises. Have fun!

The 5 Basic Rules of Script Frenzy

1) To be crowned an official Script Frenzy winner, you must write a script (or multiple scripts) of at least 100 total pages and verify this tally on ScriptFrenzy.org.

2) You may write individually or with a partner. Writing teams will have a 100-page total goal for their co-written script or scripts.

3) Script writing may begin no earlier than 12:00:01 AM on April 1 and must cease no later than 11:59:59 PM on April 30, local time.

4) You may write screenplays, stage plays, TV shows, short films, comic book and graphic novel scripts, adaptations of novels, or any other type of script your heart desires.

5) You must, at some point, have ridiculous amounts of fun.

Still unclear? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Raising the bar

This post was first published on Mint Kang’s blog.

A while ago, when I was porting my fiction work from the now-defunct Yahoo! Geocities to WordPress, I found myself looking very hard at a particular line in the formatting of each piece. It said: “Mint Kang reserves the right to be identified as the author of this work.”

That claim is actually a very good one which anyone publishing on the Internet, especially on a free-access basis, should make clear before releasing their work. But the more I looked at it in the context of my work, the more I found myself thinking: why the devil do I want to be associated with some of this crap? Do I really want to be identified, now and forever, as the author of some angst-loaded teenage poetry?

Well, at some time in the past I certainly did. I can remember, in fact, being convinced that various freshly-written stories and poems were the latest and greatest masterpieces of my (short) career, and showing them off to everyone I could get hold of. But on looking more closely at some of those pieces and my own reaction to them at various times, I realized something. Each story or poem was inevitably overshadowed by later pieces, whether in content, style or maturity level. And the more recently a work was written, the more willing I was to assert my ownership of it.

What I had been doing, I realized, was subconsciously raising the bar. The older I got, the more I saw of the way the world really works and the more widely I read, the more stringent I became in my criticism of my own work. Which, in the writing process, translated to increasing severity of quality control. So a piece like “Silver Eyes” (2004) necessarily turned out better in certain ways than one like “First Contact” (1999), although both are set in roughly the same time period, in the same imaginary world. And “The Wedding Runner“, which I wrote in 2009, is a very high cut above both of them. (“The Wedding Runner” is not from the same setting as the other two.)

As an example of what makes each one better than the last: “First Contact” has no particular qualities other than its spoof-like nature. ”Silver Eyes”, however, contains a considerable amount of characterization and realistic treatment of the setting and premise, not to mention some mature content. And “The Wedding Runner” has not only realistic treatment and characterization, but also a number of strong hidden messages dealing with the modern attitude towards culture and tradition.

It’s arguable that the increasing quality of each piece can be pegged to changes in my own thinking as I grew older, but a change in thinking does nothing if it’s not paralleled by action. I clearly remember having no particular goal in mind when I wrote “First Contact”, other than amusing myself and some classmates. On the other hand, I wrote “Silver Eyes” with a very strong image of the main character and a desire to illustrate the things that fascinated me about his personality. And I wrote “The Wedding Runner” with not just the wish to bring out a unique concept, but the distinct desire to take a potshot at some aspects of the modern mindset.

Essentially, I began to write not just for the sake of churning out a story, but because I had something in mind theme-wise or plot-wise. And I began to pay more attention to details of characterization and setting – “show, not tell”, “less is more”. In recent years I’ve become a great critic of my own work, which is why only a small proportion of what was hosted on my Geocities website has made it to WordPress so far, and those few pieces with plenty of misgivings. All this as the result of constantly, subconsciously (until I recently acknowledged it) raising the bar that marks what’s acceptable to me and what isn’t. Raising the bar is, overall, a good thing. It gives perspective – if you can bear the retrospective embarrassment of realizing how terrible your early work really was and how amazingly egotistical you were about its (and your) qualities. It helps you figure out for yourself what went wrong and what went right. And best of all, it helps you actually improve the quality of your work, which is the really important thing.

But at the same time, it can leave you stuck at the gap between what you want to do and what you can actually do. It’s like the inner editor kicking in halfway through your work and holding its completion up in favour of prematurely polishing what’s already been done. If you can jump 1.2 metres and you set the bar at 2.4 metres, you’re not going to get anywhere, except maybe by doing the limbo rock.

The saving grace, however, is that you don’t need to deliberately do it. When you read through an old piece of work and think “Hey, it could be improved in such and such a way,” you’ve already realized that the bar is set lower than you can actually jump. When you rewrite that piece or set out to write the next piece with those improvements in mind, you’ve raised the bar. And when you complete the rewrite or new piece with the improvements actually incorporated, you’ve successfully gone over the new bar – possibly without even realizing it until you look back and compare the old and new versions. Congratulations.

Some things are needed to get to that point. They include a constantly broadening perspective – gathering more points of view, more styles, more skills from reading more different books by more different writers (no one, NO ONE is ever going to write a great novel by reading nothing but Mercedes Lackey), thinking about things more often in more different ways. Basically, going out and getting a life of some sort. Whoever says writers don’t need a life is talking through the seat of their pants. Because without external points of comparison, you’re never going to know whether your 1.5 metre bar is high, low or below average.

Mint Kang

ALL IN! YOUNG WRITERS SEMINAR (Singapore)

Young Singaporean writers who are still schooling do take note~!

WRITING AND THE NEW MEDIA (Admission is FREE)
Come join the All In! Young Writers Seminar 2010. For writers in the new media.

TARGET AUDIENCE
Students from junior college, polytechnic and university.

WHAT YOU’LL GET
This seminar will provide an insight into:

* How the Internet and web technologies have evolved and are evolving
* How has the traditional publishing value chain been affected by IT and the new media
* Writing in the larger context of Digital Media
* How to keep up to date with new developments
* Future trends like e-books, e-readers, interactive and multimedia content
* Responsible blogging

DATE
20 Feb 2010, Saturday

TIME
9.30am to 6.00pm

VENUE
The Arts House
1 Old Parliament Lane

ADMISSION IS FREE!
We just need you to register before coming.

COURSE ADMINISTRATION

Ways to register
1. Register online by visiting NBDCS – The Book Council
OR
2. Complete the registration form and fax it to (65) 6742 9466
(Please download details and registration form HERE)

Enquiries
Email: jade@bookcouncil.sg
Tel: (65) 6848 8290

All In! Young Writers Seminar 2010: Writing and the New Media is co-organised by the National Book Development Council of Singapore, The Arts House and NUS Literary Society.

moon

Take A Risk – Stay True To Your Voice

The following post is by Jennifer Stanley, author of Stirring up Strife.


You’re ready to write a novel. You’ve outlined all twenty-three chapters and plan to write about vampires in a fresh, exciting, and bound-to-be profitable way. Soon, Twilight fans will have a new obsession and you’ll be raking in the profits from the bestselling novels, movie rights, and merchandising.

Or not. In fact, the rejections of the proposal it took you six months to create have cited something “missing” in your voice. How could that be? You penned a supernatural love affair for the ages! It should be sent straight to the most powerful editors, not to the slush pile!

Don’t despair.

I’ve been there too. I’ve written more than one less-than-stellar proposal, believe me. Back when chick lit was all the rage and any book resembling a Sex in the City episode flew off the shelf, I decided to pen a chick lit-style mystery. My agent (the fabulous Jessica Faust of Book Ends) regretfully informed me that my voice wasn’t working. She was right. My attempts to form a plot focusing on cocktails, high fashion, and one-night stands fell flat. Road kill flat.

The book wasn’t me. Chick lit was selling, but I couldn’t write it. These days, vampires are hot, but I can’t write them either.

Then what do we do, fellow writers, when we can’t put our spin on what’s already selling? We color our voice with personal experience.

If an experience can move you, then it can move your readers as well. Case in point: I’d returned to church after a twenty-year hiatus and, inwardly kicking and screaming, joined a monthly Bible Study group. Taking this risk changed me. The people in the group changed me. I assumed they’d be a bunch of stuffy, judgmental, humorless, blue-haired Republicans and, except for the Republican part, I was completely wrong. They were flawed, funny, courageously honest, generous, beautiful, and wise. I’d never laughed so freely or cried so openly as I did in their presence.

I wanted to write about these precious people. I wanted them to solve crimes, to puzzle over obscure clues, to ensure that good triumphed over evil. In the end, I wrote a mystery series about church folk and two major publishing houses offered to buy it. And there wasn’t a single vampire in my proposal. I was in heaven (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

Your richest, most believable voice will be born out of dozens of such personal experiences. So don’t get hung up on Carrie Bradshaw or Bella Swan or whatever the next trend may be. After all, you don’t want to ride a trend; you want to start one. Forget what you think people are looking for and write your story. Your voice will outshine even the glitteriest vampire.

Jennifer’s new release, Stirring Up Strife, is published by St. Martin’s Press.

Available at your local bookstore or Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Borders. To contact the author please visit www.jbstanley.com

How to write a bestseller workshop

Here’s a workshop that writers in Singapore can look forward to attending:

“The word has more than nine lives”

Do come to our November First Friday Writers’ Corner:

Date: Friday, 6 November 2009

Time: 6:00 for 7:15 (see below)

Location: YMCA Lounge (4th floor, Orchard Road YMCA)

Topic: How to write a Bestseller

You are welcome to join us for our regular First Friday Writers’ Corner, where you can get together with other writers to discuss the art of writing. Our topic this month will be on how to write a bestseller.

Most worry about getting a publisher and being acceptable to the market before embarking on writing a book. That is fine with run-of-the-mill books and literary efforts. But the ultimate best seller must get out of that box, to be sure. Some “best sellers” remain unpublished and unheralded till well after the death of their authors. So what are the conditions and driving factors that go to make a best-seller?

The Society’s president, Maurice Neo will conduct this workshop.

The formal programme starts at 7:15 (note new time). The time between 6:00 and 7:15 is for you: if you have written anything you would like to have reviewed, come by early. We’ll be glad to provide a sounding board. All genres welcome — including bestsellers!

The YMCA Lounge is located on the fourth floor of the YMCA building, 1 Orchard Road. We may be inside the Y Cafe (turn left after exiting the elevator) or outside on the patio (go straight after exiting the elevator). We meet informally, so you can give us a ring if you don’t see us:

Maurice: 9475 5379

Thomas: 9720 3353

Thomas O’Dell

Secretary, Society of Singapore Writers

http://sgwriters.org.sg/

“The word has more than nine lives”

moon

A great query letter

Hiya guys, read up on a great example of a query letter as posted by Writer’s Digest. If you intend to get representation for your work or approach a publisher to take a look at your book, it’s always handy to have a query letter in hand. =)

It’s like making a sales pitch a product to your potential customer. If your customer is not convinced that this product can make his/her life better, then your sales pitch is not working. How to write one? You can check out one of the following sites:

There are many sites that teach you how to write a query letter, but at the end of the day, it’s up to you to make the sales pitch work. If you’re not sure your sales pitch works, try it on one of your friends. Get him/her to pretend they are the agent or publisher you’re trying to sell to. If they’re not even convinced, maybe it’s time you need to revise your query letter. =)

moon

Go web!

There is an undeniable thrill to seeing your own work in print; your name on the spine of a book on the shelf of a bookstore or library. Which is why suckers like me spend a few k’s to get our literary vomit immortalized. Well, if immortality includes silverfish, spiderwebs and a bunch of dead trees.

A few years ago I went through the self-publishing route and quickly found out that in Singapore at least, it’s insanely hard to sell leisure fiction—that is, fiction which was written for the sake of the story and not because someone was trying to push an agenda or tell their chicken soup story. Singaporeans JUST DON’T READ! I could tell some stories about that…later.

So I have most of a thousand books mouldering away in cupboards or under my desk, still wrapped in the scrap magazine sheets the printer used.

So I’ve annoyed a number of fans who were waiting for my next glorious release, because the debacle of that self-publishing effort took all the steam out of my writing.

So I’m trying to revive my literary career (career like a car with blown brakes on a steep Genting Highlands curve) and, out of all of that, I’ve decided that print is out, also because of the dead trees. Web is in, never mind that booting up a computer and accessing the Internet for five minutes can be estimated to produce up to 3kg of carbon dioxide. Go Web, here’s why:

1. Save Your Pocket

Printing with emulsion films costs in the area of $3k-$15k depending on how many copies and how many pages a copy. Happily, emulsion printing is on the way out and digital printing, aka print-on-demand, is in, and it’s cheaper—but it still costs.

On the other hand, other than the electricity and Internet bill which you’d rack up anyway, it costs practically nothing to turn your work of art into a nice little jpeg, pdf or html and then upload it to your website or blogsite of choice. Or if you’re lazy and don’t mind people stealing and editing your work, upload the raw text document. The software is available—open source—and you have a computer, or you wouldn’t be reading this. And you have technical skills, or if you want to get this done, you’d better acquire some. Save your pocket!

2. Save Your Readers’ Pockets

Face it, people aren’t likely to go buy your book unless they’re a fan of yours. Books are just so damn expensive these days unless you frequent the annual NLB sale. As to why, I can point to distribution as the main culprit, but more anon. At any rate, people are used to getting things free on the Internet, and they like that a lot better than paying for the hard copy. If you can’t beat them, join them! Nine Inch Nails preceded you. Or are you going to nitpick over not being paid? If you are, you’re in the wrong part of the industry. Go join the chicken soup sellers. Just through that door and turn right, mind the precipice, oops did you go splat? So sorry. Better luck next time.

3. Spread It Round

With a big shovel. No, seriously, it’s a lot easier to reach your readers over the Internet. You can plaster links to your stuff all over social networking sites, your friends’ blogs and websites, Google or Yahoo! groups, etc etc etc. Compare that to the actual hard work of going round drumming up publicity in person, giving talks and putting up posters and holding events and stuff that actually needs real world application. Your time’s limited, or you’d be a full-time writer already…go figure.

And of course, there’s the fact that hard copy distributors take a gigantic markup of up to 60-80% of the book’s retail price. Believe it. I have a contract rotting somewhere. Don’t slam them for greed. They handle the storage, the logistics and occasionally the marketing. But it’s a hell of a big premium to pay for seeing your book in (some) bookstores, and while you may get your money, readers get a big turnoff. Especially after GST.

4. Erase And Rewind

It’s called “new edition” or it’s called “this is a terrible book! I want to recall it!” What it actually means is that you spotted some typos or retrospective review showed you that your ramblings are so horrendous you’re now embarrassed to have them out there. With hard copy—good luck. With soft copy—do as the open-source developers do, and put a corrected, edited version of your file up with a neat label saying it was altered on such and such a date. All for nothing more than a bit of your time, and your happy readers can take it or leave it as they choose, also for free.

5. Coming And Going

If, like me, you’re crazy enough to write off $3,000 and leave the now-unwanted books to rot, then you already know what this part of the argument is about. If you aren’t, then you’d better keep reading. Everything I wrote above boils down to one thing: minimal investment of time/money/effort, which is perfect for people who can’t keep at the writing thing 24/7. A big stack of unsold books is an accusation, a ball and chain, a weight warping the fabric of space-time and a testimonial to the hole burned through your pocket and probably your leg as well. (Let’s not talk about breast pockets.) You’re forced to do something about it, if only to alleviate the guilt of having spent so much tangible money on something that’s only generating intangible returns.

You can put in time, effort and money, and get something out of it. (What percentage of people manage that?) Or you can put in time, effort and money, and get nothing much anyway. Or, you can put in less time, less effort and almost no money, and get approximately the same results. All you lose is the thrill of seeing your name on the spine on the shelf, which, to be frank about it, wears off after the hundredth or so futile marketing attempt.

Don’t let me discourage you. But I, I go Web.

When I have something to go with, that is.

Mint

Moon’s note:For those who are interested in buying Mint’s book, 6 Years of Parrot, you can order from her site. =3

Writing courses

Good day people! Here are a few courses that our aspiring writers could take up to hone their writing skills. I’m sorry if there seem to be more posts on writing than the art of manga but as it is, I’m more of a writer than a mangaka. Hehehe. If you have news on the manga (competitions, courses etc) that you would like to share with our readers, simply email me at aspiringmw[at]gmail.com. =3

Budding Writers Creative Writing Camp (15 & 22 Aug)

Through a series of instructional and practical exercises, students will learn how to develop their thinking skills, convey their thoughts in writing, create/draw original characters for their stories, and enhance these characters aesthetically. Workshop on 15 Aug is for Primary 3 & 4, and on 22 Aug for Primary 5 & 6. Download programme detail here.

Finding New Villians for Tween Novels, 29 Aug 09 (4.30pm – 6.00 pm, Visitor’s Briefing Room, Level 1, National Library Building)

Bored with Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys’ mysteries? Award-winning Singapore writer Felix Cheong has the answer for a new generation of tween readers. In his two detective novels set in Singapore, The Call from Crying House and the sequel, The Woman in the Last Carriage, he gets down and dirty with new villains – terrorists. Find out more about the novels as Felix shares his experience of writing the stories and reads extracts from the novels. Due to limited places, please register via http://golibrary.nlb.gov.sg and surf on to ‘Experience Singapore Literature’.

Character Education Through Storytelling, 9 Sept 09 by Ruth Kirkpatrick (UK). (6.30 to 8.30pm, Merparti Hall, Geylang East Public Library)

Read more about Ruth here.

Meaningful, experiential character lessons can be taught effectively and non-didactically through storytelling! Learn to use storytelling to infuse character education throughout the curriculum, resulting in character education instruction that is meaningful and non-confrontational, and which is accessible to all learning styles and applicable to multiple intelligences.
Special Offer: $30/person + 36 loans from Geylang East Public Library ONLY ( July – September 09).

U.P: $160
Registration: email sisf@bookcouncil.sg and bring along your loan receipts on 9 Sept 09.

Legal Issues in e-Publishing, 2 Oct 09

What is e-publishing? What are electronic rights? This half-day workshop will introduce you to the intellectual property and contractual legal issues that commonly arise in the field of e-publishing. Download programme detail here.

moon