Thursday, December 4, 2008

Writers Galore!!!


Returning to home sweet home in Seremban with aching calves and bottom after spending the last 4 days in Gopeng, Perak, I collapsed in my sweet bed, thankful to be home.

Young Writer’s Camp 2008 in Harvest Haven, a centre for Christian retreats and conferences, was an interesting and new experience to say the least. There were about 40-plus (close to 50) young people, ages ranging from 12 to 22 condensed into that little 2-storey bungalow, anticipating a lot of writing and fun.
The theme for this year’s camp was journalism and media writing. Simply put, we were about to look at a behind-the-scenes perspective of a journalist and what it takes to be one. On top of that we were gonna learn what it was like to produce a newspaper.
All of us were divided into 4 groups, and each were required, as part of the assignment, to produce a newspaper of their own, EACH DAY.
Yes, no kidding.
Feeling lost and unsure of what was happening, we managed to come up with names for our groups – NewsForest (pun playing on the words News For Us): It’s a jungle out there, Papyrus: the original paper, The Eleventh Hour: First hand last-minute news, and The Toilet Paper: cheap yet indispensable; news today, used tomorrow; we get dirty but we get the job done (I’m totally serious).
This being my first YWC, I was speaking for myself when I mentioned feeling lost and unsure. There were no others I knew, besides my brothers, church member (Darren Yippee!!) and school mate (Arnie). Plus, being one of the oldest participants didn’t really help.
But the initial feelings of I-don’t-know-what-to-do, I-don’t-know-anyone-else-here, and I-have-no-idea-how-to-write-a-news-article-or-feature-story-or-interview-a-person were replaced with feelings of Hey-this-is-cool, I-think-I-can-actually-do-this, and I-think-I’m-improving-and-getting-better! as we began to get the hang of things and familiarised ourselves with the task at hand.
The first day was tough, we had problems deciding the tone and direction of our paper, what kind of articles would make a good story, writing in the proper news article fashion and whatnot. But when I saw our first paper, I was impressed. Thanks to our professional layout designer, Kevin Thomas, who stayed up till 5am working on our newspapers while all of us were asleep, our newspapers looked fab!
What was deemed impossible at first, we had actually accomplished!
We moved from one busy day to the next, working on different assignments, like a forum, interviewing a hunter (those who did actually saw a live butchering of a wild boar – from what I heard it was really gory and bloody!), oil palm estate security guard (Benedict: a religious family man who is dedicated to his work), fish breeder (some of the campers accidentally stepped on some little fish and squashed them into oblivion) and a woman who cooks exotic food (including monitor lizards, snakes and frogs).
As the days progressed, confidence levels went up and our writing improved. Articles were interesting and the pieces just got more and more creative.
NewsForest even created a fictional person called Freddie Chong who apparently, is one of the campers who checked in but no one is aware of his existence!
The Post-It wall was another memorable part of the camp. Phui Yee (1 of the facilitators) had provided Post-Its for us to express our thoughts and comments on the camp and how we felt about it, anonymously or otherwise. But it turned into a place where people posted random (really random) thoughts and things that just...didn’t make sense.
Example (seen on Post-It wall):
Random Fact of The Day: If you eat butterflies, you’ll poop rainbows (and normal poop).
Random Fact of The Day #2: Pigs secretly know ballet.
See what I mean?
Anyway, other than that, I really liked the trip we took to Gua Kandu. We were blessed with a very good tour guide, Mr Hymeir, who took the time to explain to us how caves were formed, how important they are in terms of contribution to the biodiversity in our country and importance of conserving them for future research and generations.
He took us “spelunking” (which means caving as I now know), climbing up steep slopes and sliding down them in the dimness of the caves. Without our flashlights we would be plunged into pitch-black darkness, as he demonstrated to us at one point, asking us to “listen to the caves”.
Emerging at the bottom of the cave, all dirty and muddy and bruised, I would say it was worth it (although I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’d do it again). It was beautiful watching all the special formations that took thousands of years to form, unique in every section of the cave.
I liked the Writer’s Slam the most. This was supposedly the highlight of every camp, and also the scariest. Each person would go up and read out a piece of work they’d written, best during the camp itself. Then the time would be open for comments from listeners on what they’d liked, and what wasn’t so good about it. Scary, I agree.
But I went up anyway, and I read a piece that I had written only the night before called “Like a Rose”. I was so nervous that my teeth had started chattering. Maybe it was just air-cond cold, but still. I told myself I would face my fear, and just get it over with. I was not very confident with what I had written, I’m not sure why.
But surprise, surprise! I received much good feedback from others and I literally breathed a sigh of relief. People actually liked it! I was so thankful, and felt so encouraged. Their feedback revealed a lot about myself as a writer that I had never realised before. And I hope to consciously continue doing what I’ve done right in my future work. And I am thankful there were no Simon Cowells, but more Paula Abduls. Feedback was genuine and sincere in wanting to help the writer improve.
I’m glad I went for YWC 2008. It was a really interesting learning experience, and one we would never have a chance to experience elsewhere. Honestly, I have never met a more creative and talented bunch of writers, so much so that I feel pretty intimidated. But it was fun, and I hope we can continue to keep in touch, even if just so we can give each other comments and feedback. YWC has exposed me to a whole different level and style of writing, one that is continually punctuated with adrenaline and pressure to keep going. It has also shown me that no one writer is the same, each unique and possessing their own style and flavour.
The world of writing is vast and its possibilities endless. And this is a world that I am proud to be part of. In the words of Jared Locke (participant), “No matter what we do, and what the profession, writers we will stay.”

1 comment:

Arnan Koh said...

Hey, it is Arny not Arnie... Okay.. I think the camp was wonderful. What do you think of the the poll on my blog. Hope you take time to give comment on the blogs.