FAQs | Hosting a workshop | Writing Resources | Previous Workshops | About Us
This Workshop is now open for submissions. Please ensure you submit the the relevant gallery folder. Thank you
Workshop by ckp
Hello and welcome to this Workshop on non-fictional writing.
First let me thank both poisonedrose and BeccaJS for inviting me as a host.
I developed cold feet in the beginning when browsed through the earlier workshops. I felt utterly alien to the world of this English! But Becca very kindly put my doubts at rest.
Now a word about myself.
I come from India, live in Britain. I graduated as a metallurgical engineer and then did my masters in Sociology.
Of late my main activity has been socio-political painting though. Social Sciences Magazine of the Open University, UK [‘Society Matters’], and a number of journals in India use images of my work regularly. I conduct workshops for school-children, college and university students, social activists, etc. both in India and in Britain. We discuss issues raised in the paintings.
As to my writing -
Until relocating from Scotland to England last year, I was on the editorial board of a Scottish magazine [‘Stride’],a magazine devoted to Development Education. It goes to all the schools in Scotland being part of the Scottish Executive initiative. It aims at making school children aware of the ground-realities in the Third World. I used to write for this magazine. I have also been writing regular columns for a number of Indian magazines on global issues like The Displaced in the World, Islam and the West, Right to Food, Human Rights being euro-centric, etc.
None of my writing is fictional. And I claim no literary merit in any of it. So, this workshop is going to be on non-fictional writing, more specifically, journalistic writing on contemporary miseries created by humans.
Before going into the details of the workshop, let me clarify that you do not have to be a qualified social scientist - an economist, a political scientist or a social psychologist. Feel free to write. Do not be encumbered by the thought – but I am hardly an expert. This is not scientific writing. It is social writing. As long as you are empathetic towards the disprivileged you are entitled for an opinion. All I ask is substantiate that opinion.
Now may I divide the type of writing I expect from you in two categories – content and style.
The content -
First and foremost, you have to feel passionately about the issue you want to take up. Else, refrain from writing just for the sake of it. By human-made miseries I mean hunger, poverty and violence among others. There are more than a billion people in a world of 6-odd billions who go hungry to bed every night most of their life, more than a billion are non-literates, another billion lack access to safe water, more than 10 million languish in prisons – most of whom may never come to trial and are possibly innocent, etc.
Short-list a few such issues on which you can contribute something new.
Concentrate more on processes than events. So, it will not be like reporting yet another ‘honour-killing’ in an asian community but an analysis of the underlying ideologies, class structure, patriarchal currents behind such an event. Not reporting but investigative analysis is what is expected.
Research a subject well before you write. There is plenty of good stuff available on-line.
Ideally have raw material sufficient for at least 3 to 4 times the set word limit. Your task should be how to compress the content than stretching thin material.
Do not have a particular readership in mind. Make it readable to as wide a cross-section of the society as possible. From avid followers of Sex and the City or x-factor [assuming they read] to fans of Nabokov.
Define what you mean by a particular term, especially if it is in wide use. But do not be pedantic in definition. Idea is to communicate, not to impress with scholarly vocabulary. Do not assume - ‘everybody knows’ this particular term.
Try to give as many sides of the problem as you can.
Arrive at a clear unambiguous conclusion. If it is not possible to arrive at a definite conclusion, say so at the end and explain why. This is where your own assumptions, world-view, prejudices or biases will come out. So be careful here. This is not to say you have to be ‘politically correct’ [please don’t!] but be sure what you are saying is derived from the facts you have presented. State what inferences can be drawn.
When I say ‘journalistic’ writing, I mean use of a language that is accessible to anybody and everybody. ‘Subtext’ , ambiguity are positively discouraged. There is no subtext to poverty, no ambiguity in people killing people in wars, no gray areas in third world women daily walking miles to fetch a pail of water. Say what you got to say in simple words to minimize scope of interpretations. Concepts can be complex, your narration should be simple. [Still, there will be different readings but try not to indulge in obfuscation of issues by intent.]
Keep singular pronouns to a bare minimum, best to avoid them [e.g. no I-me-mine narratives]. Restrict yourselves only to collective phenomena.
Adopt a dialogical style.
Do not theorise. Narrate.
Do not prophesyse or proseletyise. Remember your limits to influence popular beliefs.
Avoid cliches like ‘space’, ‘choice’, ‘quality-time’, ‘multi-tasking’, ‘body-language’, etc. They mean different things to different readers depending on their class/race/gender/location, etc., in effect they do not mean anything to anybody.
I assume you have reliable reference material. Make a note of it but there is no need to include the references in the entry. This can be asked for random checks later on.
As a general guideline, I might mention that there are two sets of axes along which most of the social processes operate – first axis is the roles of the state, market and media. Second axis is demography, class and gender. Race [or caste in India] may be at times the fourth element. Social ideologies mostly derive from these. So check that your work has taken most of these into account.
We live through turbulent times what with rising food prices and bankers’ bonuses, immoral wars, digital divide increasing the elite-deprived rift, to name a random few. There is no dearth of issues you can take up. [For example – is contemporary literature an elitist concern? is anarchism a viable alternative to democracy? do state subsidies in the developed world further impoverish the developing world? does market need the unaffording section of the society at all? how society's views on single mothers have changed with time, and so on.]
So, feel free to write on any issue from 500 to 1500 words.
Look forward to your entries. Thanks.
Workshop opens for submissions on 13th March. Please do not hesitate to discuss the subject and ask questions in this journal.