Sassy romance with a dose of new release alerts and book recommendations.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Attending Ines Bautista Yao's Writing Young Adult Fiction Workshop

It all started with K-pop.

One of my coworkers is a huge K-pop fanatic. Since we live in Iloilo and most concerts are held in Manila, she starts saving money months in advance—for tickets, airplane fare, hotel rooms, even official light sticks. The works. Now, you’re probably wondering what K-pop has to do with writing and, well, me. Don’t worry. I’ll get to my point.

When the aforementioned coworker left for Manila to attend a BTS concert earlier this year, I took a long, hard look at my life. Every time people from #romanceclass posted about a writing workshop or other writing-related event, I always came up with one excuse or another, some reason why I couldn't muster the courage to just go. I was too busy with work. Plane tickets were too expensive. I was too shy to interact with these amazing writers I only followed online.

After seeing my coworker invest so much time and money in something she was passionate about with a capital P, I decided to take the leap, too. Just in time, Mina V. Esguerra posted about a young adult fiction writing workshop, one to be taught by Ines Bautista-Yao who wrote the wonderful When Sparks Fly. I jumped at the chance and signed up right away.

So, last September 3, 2016, I found myself in O2 Space Solutions with about fifteen other people that included Mina V. Esguerra, Jay E. Tria (who I will forever associate with Kim’s leader-of-the-band voice), book bloggers, Wattpad writers, and even teachers from various universities.

Ines Bautista-Yao discussed various things about writing young adult fiction, like what questions to ask to get to know your characters better or how to figure out what you want to say through your novel. She even asked us why we want to write young adult fiction in the first place and what it means to us. Every time we covered one topic, we’d stop to talk about it and toss around some ideas.

Writing is often a solitary activity, so the discussions were my favorite part of the workshop. I loved hearing what other writers think about young adult fiction, but I loved listening to them talk about their works-in-progress and ideas for future books more. I’m not at liberty to talk about their ideas, but let me just say that you people have a lot of great reading to look forward to once they’re done.

A few things that stood out for me during the discussion:

1. I used to choose places for my scenes when writing without considering how they would affect my characters, but hearing Ines Bautista-Yao talk about a setting’s importance made me think twice.

The question she asked that’s still stuck in my mind: Where is the lighting coming from? The lighting in a scene, whether we’re talking about blinding daylight or cold fluorescent lights, can have a huge impact on its mood, on how it conveys what your characters are feeling. So cool.

2. One of the other participants asked if you can mention real places (restaurants, stores, malls, etc.) in your book without getting sued. Jay E. Tria then gave us all a brilliant piece of advice. Paint in broad strokes. If I remember correctly, she said that you can describe an actual place without naming it in your book.

For example, if I want my characters to stop by Starbucks on their way to work, I can describe a coffee house with a poster of a delicious strawberry frappe on the wall. That way, I can change certain details about the location as I see fit. Also, if I describe something incorrectly, readers who’ve been to the place I’m talking about won’t find it jarring.

3. Mina V. Esguerra warned us against using the word “typical.” We all define how things “typically” are based on our life experiences, education, and a multitude of other factors. It's not surprising that our definitions will be different. You might think a “typical” teenage girl is sweet and innocent. For someone else, it means someone who giggles and talks a lot.

There was one point where Mina V. Esguerra asked all the attendees from the Manila area what “typical” traffic is like for them, and they all said about 2 – 3 hours. When she got to me, the only person from Iloilo, I said about 30 – 40 minutes. Nothing could’ve been a clearer example. LOL.

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