Monday, August 27, 2007

Young Writers Camp 07

The highest purpose of art is to inspire.
What else can you do?

What else can you do for any one but inspire them?
Bob Dylan

The Young Writers Camp (YWC) was a grand experience that reinvigorated the SU teen magazine PHASES. More than anyone else it was Alvin who, returning from Middlebury (and a brief stint in Hong Kong), wondered why no one thought about nurturing budding writers in Malaysia, and started to push the envelope. That was eons ago. They were halcyon days, I think, and it raised a small community of writers to evoke awe and nostalgia to this day. Stuff of legend, almost, and I’m glad to have had a whiff of it.

The PHYW – that’s what the campers called themselves – made quite a splash. Where did these kids come from? Who knew why those pioneering camps at Fraser’s and Kuala Selangor way back when were so stirring? Was it all a fluke? A confluence of stars? The tenacity of dreams? Breath of the Spirit? It was all these, and one thing more: someone to do the heavy lifting. That would be quite a few souls whose names escape me at the moment.

But you can’t really have too much of a good thing; people grow up. The PHYW did, and it wasn’t the same after that. Perhaps we tried too hard to keep the notion of some indescribable flame alive. I guess everyone else who came after didn’t think it was their thing - not the teens who came later. Yet some of us clung on to a faint hope, not quite believing it was over. So it was that we decided to give it another shot. Not quite a new start, (what with a bunch of familiar faces) and maybe, a new focus, wrapped with a greater sense of urgency. If the chemistry’s right, there would be strong medicine to last a while.

Even so, we weren’t at all sure if another YWC would do the trick so soon after the last false start in Malacca. Then when Phui Yee raised her hand, everything started moving very quickly, and the rest trooped in.

Yet for all our good intentions, the YWC hung in the balance for a while. Somewhere between presumption and conviction was the indictment of 5 registration forms. Only 5? With nearly 2 weeks to go before the camp, this was dreary news. If we erred by opening the gates too wide the last time, were we now too stringent? Did we frighten away hopefuls and wannabes with our list of participating luminaries – Tricia, Sivin, KJ, et al? Or did people smell a fish when we mentioned projects? Fortunately, by the time registrations closed we had 24 or 25. Quite respectable, considering all we wanted was 30 or so, erm, ‘quality’ campers.

Post-camp, one week later.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought the YWC went very well. Ok, maybe it’s too soon to say, but we all sensed an energy. Not unlike those heady days, yet different in that the present bunch seemed less cocky. There was again a confluence of stars, the breath of the Spirit. We raised the bar, challenged the kids to give legs to their words, and then some.

A few people who didn’t know writers could have this much fun swore they were coming back next year. Karcy felt the standard of writing was several notches up compared to the last camp. Colin thought a lot of the campers had a greater sense of calling than was usual. Darren called his mom to say the standard was ‘very high’ and that he was glad he came. Elliot found the camp more ‘christian.’ And Daniel said we may have succeeded where we failed in previous camps: we turned everyone into an activist.

Well. If the camp’s inspired anyone, we’ve done something right. We're all the richer for it, don't you think?

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