It’s all true – except for the Facts by Minfong Ho

Having studied The Clay Marble in Year One, it was a great pleasure to meet with the author, Minfong Ho, in person and be provided with writing advice. Ms Ho enthralled the workshop participants with her stories about her own writing experience. Impassioned by her skill and love for writing, the students learned how to prize a private space for writing what matters most and from that honesty, nurture the impetus for another creative form to take root.

We are grateful to NAC for organising the annual Words Go Round and making possible the opportunities for students to be impacted at such workshops in profound ways.

9 March 2013 Minfong Ho 9

Megan Lim En shares her thoughts about her experience at the workshop:

The workshop gave me the opportunity to meet the author face-to-face. Through her guidance and teaching, I was better able to understand the various literary techniques writers actually use. Personally, I thought that authors sometimes use literary techniques without the actual intention of creating such effects, but Ms Ho shared with us about her deliberate use of these literary features to create effects for the readers’ enjoyment and understanding of the story, which was interesting because while reading, I never truly identify these features, however upon close analysis I realise how important these tiny details contribute to the story as a whole. Furthermore, she went through various techniques and pointers that were relevant to the literary components we study now, such as her elaboration on setting and point of view, I felt that this workshop gave me an understanding on how these theoretical aspects of literature we learn about in school are actually applied in the real world of writing.

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The notes or guidelines she gave us were very helpful as well, especially with the extra information she added in about how to write a story and the literary techniques that can be used to make a story better. Having an actual writer tell us about how literature is not only a school subject, but is still such an integral part of writing is great because sometimes we forget about this side of literature which is not just about memorising quotes and literary features but the understanding and appreciation of literature. I felt like it really showed me how much more literature could be, more than an academic subject, more than tests. Also, we were given the chance to read the works of our classmates, share opinions and listen to the advice Ms Ho had on how to improve the stories. This was an extremely enriching experience as I got to see an actual writer’s viewpoint on my work, which was also very cool. But to see such a professional viewpoint on our work gave me a new insight and understanding of how widespread and extensive the range of literature is.

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Ms Ho shared some personal stories about her writing career and finally hearing first-hand about the real-life experiences that authors undergo that inspire their books gave me a refreshing outlook on prose. The fact that these authors write prose based on such realistic experiences created a greater sense of connection with the writers as this reminds us that they are human as well and they all experience the same things that we do. This gives me a better appreciation for poetry too as I remember that these writers all have personal connections with their work.

She shared about how Sing to the Dawn was inspired by her homesickness and I felt that in knowing the background of her book, I was able to better understand and comprehend her work. Furthermore, finding out about the effort authors put into each literary work, be it literary features or structure, the intention is clear and meaningful. It really increases your appreciation for poetry and prose as you know that each phrase or word has a deliberate meaning that the author has worked painstakingly to create.

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The most important advice I learnt at Ms Ho’s workshop was the point she made about allowing and accepting critique or interpretation by other people. The various examples she highlighted showed me how we had to listen to the opinions of others and if the occasion calls for it, heed their advice and make amends to your work. I feel like sometimes I may have been stubborn and adamant about keeping my work as a sole effort of myself and avoid listening or accepting the critique of others. I think I should be more open to the opinions of others because many a times, other people can see what I alone cannot. They can point out flaws that I may have not seen or be willing to admit, which can only push me to make my work better. Ms Ho also added that in spite of all the critique of outsiders, we should also take it with a pinch of salt, evaluate constructive criticisms and have enough discernment to make the right decisions. In the end, we still have to trust ourselves, after all it is our story.

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