Our first workshop

On 5th March, as I left home to go to Atta Galatta for our first Nutcracker workshop, I was slightly nervous but there was more anticipation than anxiety. I loved meeting new people, talking to them, helping them along in their journey as writers, and here we were, Sajita and I, embarking on our first workshop, because we loved doing this.

 

Our participants started showing up and it was time to connect the faces to the emails we’d shared. People sat around tables and got comfortable, while we distributed the folders that we’d designed and made.

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I don’t know why there were only four men and sixteen women at our workshop. It was definitely something to ponder about later. By the end of that day, our participants were comfortable with each other and us and they’d already got some interesting stuff written for their flash fiction exercise using the prompts we gave them.

 

Sajita and I went back to our homes, tired but elated. Oh and did I mention, it was also my birthday on 5th and it was one of the nicest birthdays I’ve had. The next day too went well, and we were pretty excited with the stories that were emerging from the participants.

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To say that our first workshop exceeded our expectations, be it in the number of participants, or their active participation, would be an understatement. We only hope we’re lucky enough for the workshops that we have lined up in the future.

About that – I’ve set up a calendar on the Nutcracker website – http://www.nut-cracker.in/calendar/ – where you can see that we’re pretty serious about our workshops!  So sign up for one or pass the word around in case you know someone would be interested.

Our next workshop is at Fragrant Kitchen, Kalyan Nagar, and it is a one-day workshop, focusing entirely on writing fiction. Registration for this has opened up and there are limited seats. So spread the good word around, please?

 

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Creative Writing Workshops with Nutcracker

Life works in strange ways. A couple of years ago, I met Sajita Nair when I discovered that she was working in the same organization where I had joined. We used to have a few small chats together, every now and then, but she left soon after, although we’d stayed in touch.

It’s now time for me to leave and I’d been seriously wondering what to do next when Sajita messaged to wish me for the new year. We got chatting and both of us realized that we wanted to do the same thing. Organize and conduct Creative Writing Workshops! And thus, that’s how I joined Nutcracker, which was something that she had already set up.

So Nutcracker (www.nut-cracker.in) started taking proper shape. We met on weekends and decided to hold our first creative writing workshop in Atta Galatta.

Registrations are open right now! So don’t wait! Sign up to attend the first workshop on 5th and 6th March and it’s your chance to work with us! We have just a few seats left!

Also, Nutcracker is planning it’s next workshop as well, and a workshop for children too! What can I say? I’m having fun!

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Mentoring young minds

In the last week of October, I headed to PSBB LLA school in Bannerghatta Road where I was a mentor at a creative writing workshop held by Katha. Along with other mentors such as Vikram Sridhar, Mamta Sagar and Kausalya Saptharishi, we worked with a huge group of children each, for three days. Children from South Indian cities such as Hyderabad, Coimbatore, Kochi and Chennai had turned up for the workshop with their parents or teachers.

It was a fabulous experience all around. With around 45 students of varying ages in my group, we discussed what we liked about stories, how we made up stories, do beginnings always have to be in the beginning etc? We also wrote plenty of short fiction and I was amazed at some of the ideas that emerged.

I was apprehensive because it was the first time I would be handling so many children and actually doing a workshop. I wouldn’t say it was a piece of cake because it wasn’t, and my respect and admiration for teachers has gone up tremendously. But it was also a learning experience for me, one that will be really special, especially because of the spontaneously creative kids I worked with.

The workshop comprised of students from Std 4 to std 11 and it was no easy task ensuring that kids from all age groups got what I was saying.

On Day 1, we spent time getting to know each other and we played a few games trying to get a feel of how the class would write individually and as groups.

On Day 2, the kids wrote a little more as part of a writing exercise and I read out one of my old short stories to them, asking them to come up with an alternative ending. A lot of interesting outcomes came up. Post lunch I divided them into groups and asked them to put up a 5 minute skit. It was fun to see them all huddle together and come up with ideas and execute them in the short time I gave them.

On Day 3, they had to write and submit their short stories. All too soon, it seemed as though the workshop was over. I’d been looking forward to it from quite sometime, worried as to how I’d do it and it was already done and dusted.

I had a bunch of bright kids with me and they came up with some absurd and yet creatively satisfying storylines. Also, I was heartened to learn from them that they were there because they loved stories, not because of some false notions of becoming rich and famous quickly.

Thank you Katha for giving me this chance! I loved it!

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Groups discussing their skits
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Selfie time!
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Show, don’t tell!

Any writer worth their salt will tell you how important it is to show, not tell, especially when you are writing a work of fiction. You’ve probably heard it at many creative writing workshops and yet, when you’re writing, you don’t know how to make sure you’re showing and not telling. Hmm?

I won’t say I have this in the bag completely because I’m still learning the process of writing. But there are a few things I do know after all this writing I’ve done. So, here I go, sharing my gyan once again.

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1. Crackling dialogue can do what sentences and sentences of portraying your characters feelings can’t. If you’re character is going through something, it’s a good idea to use dialogue to showcase it. Sometimes banter, sometimes a serious conversation and sometimes even repartee can reveal your characters innermost flaws or feelings, as the case may be.

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2. Sometimes how your character reacts to a situation shows your readers all that you want to convey. So instead of writing a scene where you want to tell your readers that something is happening, create a situation that speaks for itself. How your character reacts to it will tell the reader a whole lot without actually telling them. Here’s an example from my own work. Ahem.

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Hope that explains what I mean!

3.

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Dialogue has its place when it comes to showing something to your readers but what’s that old cliche about actions speaking louder than words? That holds true. If you make your characters react to something, or act on something, you can reveal a facet of their personality or their innermost feelings without actually spelling it out. And for that, we come to tip no. 4.

4.

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Reader experience as you well know is subjective. What I might deduce from a scene may not be what you deduce and that’s the beauty of a well written piece because it’s open to interpretation. This is exactly why showing is more important than telling. But how does one do it? By following tip no. 3. Your characters are like puppets (most of the time) and they will do or say what you want. It’s up to you to ensure that you do the right thing.

5.

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Sometimes atmosphere shows things best. The right atmosphere or setting can convey so much to your readers. All you need to do is to ensure you don’t go overboard with descriptions. That is a real danger, worthy of another give writing tips post. But do remember that sometimes atmosphere can be the best thing about a scene or chapter. You can often make your characters emotions stand out in contrast with the atmosphere of the moment.

I hope these writing tips are helpful! Do tweet to me at andaleebwajid and start a conversation if you want to discuss writing further.

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