10 March 2020: Yale-NUS aspiring writers hone their skills at INK: Literary Collective

By Wisha Jamal

Participants of Words In Progress with facilitators Amanda Chong, Lawrence Ypil and Linda Collins (left to right). Image provided by Phoebe Mak.

At Yale-NUS College, nearly 55 Student organisations work tirelessly to facilitate students’ personal growth outside the classroom. One such organisation, INK:Literary Collective, aims to give aspiring writers and poets a space to hone their skills. Members of the Collective meet once every week in the Writers’ Centre to generate and critique writing or participate in student-led workshops. Besides their weekly meetings, the Collective has sponsored several other initiatives for members of the Yale-NUS community.

In January, the Collective co-organised the Words In Progress: Manuscript Intensive Weekend with the Writers’ Centre and the Arts & Humanities major from 18 to 19 January. Several prominent authors and poets were invited to discuss and critique the writings of the ten selected participants, in order to prepare them for future publishing.

Invited authors included Amanda Chong, Daryl Lim Wei Jie, Linda Collins, Cyril Wong, Boey Kim Cheng, Teng Qian Xi, and Yale-NUS’ Creative Writing Faculty, Dr Carissa Foo and Mr Lawrence Ypil. Over the course of two days, the invited guests not only reviewed the participants’ writings, but also shared their own experiences in publishing and the different aspects of writing, such as processes of writing and revision, writing as a form of activism, and how identity can be explored through – as well as how different identities can have an influence on – writing.

Steven Sy (Class of 2022), a workshop participant, was excited by the prospect of spending an entire weekend dedicated to refining his writing. He said, “I began to diagnose the bad writing habits I’d acquired over the years and felt more confident in my writing. It also reassured me that my writing did have merits and that people wanted to read it, so I was inspired to keep writing.”

Recently, the Collective organised its first ever overseas trip to the Perth Festival: Literature and Ideas, from 21 to 26 February. Students attended lectures by, and interacted with, a wide array of people from the international literary scene, focusing on indigenous, queer, female or alternative narratives. For instance, they attended a dialogue by Ruby Hamad, author of White Tears Brown Scars, who talked about exploring race and privilege through writing. While at the festival, students also held their own writing activities to reflect on their work and what they learned during the journey.

Students attend a panel at the Perth Festival: Literature and Ideas. Image by Darren Ang for Yale-NUS College.

Steven, also a part of the delegation in Perth, felt that the trip helped him envision what it would be like to be part of a writing community. He said, “Everyone there had a different style or genre of writing, but we all shared a love for art and the written word.”

President of the Collective, Phoebe Mak Rui Teng (Class of 2022) added, “The Perth trip afforded us the time and space to write honestly. Creating an atmosphere solely for reflection is practically impossible amidst the deadlines and rush of school.”

The Collective also just completed their Senior Speaker Series, an initiative on Tuesdays in which a graduating senior leads a workshop on a topic of their choice – usually focused on their own writing styles and experiences. This year, the workshops covered a variety of topics, from the act of performance in writing to sequential storytelling in graphic novels.

Currently, the Collective is working on a follow-up to the Manuscript Intensive Weekend. On 17 March, they are organising the fourth iteration of First Editions, a platform for students and alumni to read their work to an audience. Students who participated in the Weekend will share the pieces they had refined at the workshop with the community. They are also in the process of compiling their annual anthology, which is based on student contributions of poetry and prose.

“One of our main goals is to build the writing community and create new spaces for writers to attend to the muse, so it’s never radio silence for us!” said Phoebe.