NVM / Narita Gonzalez Writers' Workshop

It is fitting that the first NVM Gonzalez Writers Workshop should happen in UCLA. It was here two years before NVM was diagnosed with a kidney ailment that he enjoyed the company of students and colleagues and their endless musings on the nature and future of Filipino writing. It was also in Los Angeles, in a Chinese restaurant across the Union Station, that Russell Leong, Prosy and Ike dela Cruz and myself gestated over endless cups of tea the shape and color of what the workshop should be. It took two years to realize the plan - a conduct a series of workshops in the campuses where NVM taught. Finally, in 2005 we began what we hope will inspire a new generation of writers, our humble tribute to NVM's spirit.
The Workshop at UCLA, 2005
It was an intense schedule punctuated by writing exercises, readings, and more exercises. Guest writer Peter Bacho made sure each participant had the opportunity to read and receive feedback on their revisions. At first it was a slow start as the students figured out the intentions of the teacher. Once it was clear how Peter was to direct their works-in-progress, the pace picked up. On the second day, we assembled at the Filipino American Library. For some, it was an almost sleepless night and their work showed obvious improvements --more dialogue, better characterization and intensity. The last hours of the afternoon was capped by a violin solo by Nonoy Alsaybar, a long-time friend of NVM. The day ended at the gourmet Filipino restaurant Asian Noodles. Thus ended two days of delicious creativity.
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Excerpt from " A Workshop for the Soul" by Paolo dela Fuente (Filipinas Magazine, 8.05)
"It had previously occurred to me, that my Filipino experience was so tarnished by my efforts to conform to western trends, western ideals that I had actually very little that was Filipino to talk about. Would I have to crack open a pile of history books, would I have to do close studies on such renowned writers as Carlos Bulosan, Nick Joaquin, NVM Gonzalez, even Rizal? Perhaps. Being in a land where the Filipino side of my identity would inevitably stand out, what would my stories look like? As I spent those two days with my fellow writers, with Prof. Bacho, I found that we all had different stories to tell, that no one had a handle really, on what it meant to be a Filipino or Filipino- American writer, and no one claimed to have a handle on it. That "essence" that I was looking for, that perhaps we were all looking for was a truly slippery thing. And in it's wonderfully elusive, mysterious way, it fed all our writing. It fed my writing. Ah ha ! "
Excerpt from Erin Pangilinan's reportage in Philippine News (7.6.05), "Finding their Voice".
Victoria Gregeda-Smith's experience from the 2005 workshop:the NVM Gonzalez workshop was the “...first group where I felt the Asian American experience was truly valued and supported. Sometimes I feel like an alien from outer space coming into these other writers’ circles wanting to write about certain things and experiences. They seem to be come from an entirely different world, when I talk about my Filipino American short stories and my novel.” It was the first place where she found affirmation and validation as an Asian American/Pacific Islander/Filipina American writer. “We don’t have an Amy Tan,” Smith said. Smith says that she wants to “attempt to accomplish what Amy Tan has successfully done for the Chinese-American culture: to help educate the American reading public on the rich heritage of Filipino-American culture.”