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Article on 2011 NVM Gonzalez Writing Workshop

Here at year-end, I decided to post this lovely article by Johaina Crisostomo, fellow writer participant in the 2011 NVM Gonzalez Writing Workshop. I really like the picture of all of the writers, here with our teacher, Peter Bacho. This event rooted my writing in ways that allowed me to grow my stories, and cultivate new connections. Here at year-end, I am appreciative.

By Johaina Crisostomo

As build-up to the Filipino American International Book Festival (FIlBookFest) on October 1- 2 in San Francisco, the Literacy Initiatives International Foundation (LIIF), the lead organizer ofFilBookFest, is collaborating with various libraries, colleges and universities, and organizations in the Bay Area to hold monthly events to encourage writers and booklovers to appreciate Filipino literature. Following is among the events: Eight writers gathered on a July weekend in the comfortable guest suites of Sonoma State University for the fourth NVM Gonzalez Writing Workshop. Michael Gonzalez, youngest son of the prominent author and the mastermind behind this project, said of this latest one: “The energy and intent of the participants to find their own voice through craft and by inspiration was like none other.” The sentiment was echoed by renowned Filipino American writer, Peter Bacho, who has been leading the workshops since the project started in 2005. “This year there were more students who brought with them pretty sophisticated skills, at least as revealed by their projects,”Bacho said. “This one was the best so far.” The eight participants represented writers from various stages in their literary careers—some already published, others on the brink of publishing their first major piece, while others were still in the experimental stages of their writing. Regardless of previous experience, however, one thing all participants had in common was the urgent desire to voice the Filipino-American experience and stake their presence in the world. Gonzalez opened the workshop by emphasizing his father’s belief in the power of writing to combat the invisibility of the Filipino in America. The workshop started with a viewing of a clip from the Leong-Academia documentary, “NVM Gonzalez: A Story Yet To Be Told,” which gave participants a more intimate look into NVM’s writing philosophy. The second day brought on a series of challenging craft exercises that participants could execute at their own pace. Bachopromoted his own writing philosophies by pushing for the importance of knowing one’s protagonist, controlling dialogue and imbuing one’s piece with poetic resonance. Tess Crescini, a real-estate broker, joined the workshop, in part, for the prospect of working with Bacho. After having experienced his mentorship, she said, “As a workshop leader, Peter was not your typical ‘sage on a stage’ but more like a friend who really wants to see you accomplish the task you set out for yourself.” Prosy Delacruz, a four-time participant, calls Bacho “a writer who has made this world better than he has found it by giving birth to more writers—like NVM Gonzalez did.” The workshop fostered a sense of community among story-tellers whose diverse narratives exhibited the complex, multifaceted perspective of the contemporary Filipino. This became especially evident on the last day when each one got the opportunity to share his/her work with the rest of the group. The group was joined by Prof. Leny Strobel, associate professor of American Multicultural Studies at Sonoma State University and director of the Center of Babaylan Studies. Strobel was among NVM’s numerous mentees and said the workshop lived up toNVM’s dream in the way that it “bridged the gap between immigrants and FilAms.” Gonzalez shares the same sense of fulfillment. “The workshop builds on the dream—the vision—of NVM, that we as a people have important stories to tell the world, to show the world that our unique history is and should be the source of our strength and creativity,” he said. “We only have to apply ourselves to the task. This workshop is but a small effort for others to build upon.” The workshop was co- sponsored by the American Multicultural Studies of Sonoma State University, the Literacy Initiatives International Foundation, the Filipino American International Book Festival, and Poets & Writers Inc.

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