Philip John

What was your intent in signing up for the BWW? Would you say your intent was met?
My two broad objectives were 1) to get critical feedback to my writing in order to help me improve and 2) meeting and engaging with a community of writers. Yes, both objectives were more than met.

What were your key take-aways from the workshop? Which of the sessions/discussions/topics covered did you find most beneficial to you?
I found the critiquing exercises most useful and revelatory. Receiving constructive criticism for my work helped me understand my strengths and weaknesses. Having to critique the work of others enabled me to become a more empathetic and open minded reader, while still remaining objective about quality. And that in turn, made me more aware while doing my own writing.

Are there any other topics/methods you would like incorporated in the workshop?
I understand the current BWW format is deliberately looser, less structured and hence, more conducive to learning through experience rather than through theory. However, everyone isn’t familiar with the theory and sometimes it helps to just be aware of the basics. So one suggestion is to introduce theory in a structured manner through the workshop covering specific aspects like plot, dialogue, character, etc. I understand all of these elements were eventually covered through the course of the workshop. But I’m just wondering if it makes sense to introduce them a little more overtly with some theory and examples as supports. For example, we can learn a lot about:
Plot from Oscar Wilde
Dialogue from Hemingway
And so on...

How would you rate your Facilitators? Please give specific feedback to both.
Strengths: Both facilitators are very good, almost brilliant in fact and exhibit a degree of maturity and discernment that goes beyond their years. They are approachable, experienced, generous and astute. Like all good facilitators they respect the writer’s work, always accepting it on its own terms, always seeking out the good stuff and helping pave the way for it to get better. This is a great way to encourage writers.

They are also very emphatic about writing with passion, honesty and clarity.

Both have a good sense of how to balance work with fun. I looked forward to Saturdays because I could work with them, discuss ideas with them and have a lot of fun while at it.

They also complement each other very well. Bhumika is passionate and flamboyant with a solid grounding in the classics and a deep appreciation for language. Rheea is poised and incisive, with a penchant for contemporary writers and a strong ear for nuance in storytelling. Together, they’re a great team. However, despite the obvious irresistibility of their union, they must not marry each other.

Can improve: Both Rheea and Bhumika have their own ways of calling a spade a spade. But sometimes, I think they tend to hold back from denouncing a piece. This is obviously stemming from keeping writers’ feelings in mind. But there are times when a submission can be self indulgent, half baked or just plain bad. At these times, perhaps its best to tell the writer that the work is simply not up to standard – maybe in private, if not before the group. Of course, I say this assuming that it’s not already happening.

Would you recommend the workshop to others? How would you rate the BWW, on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is the highest?
Of course, I would recommend it to others. And I would rate it 9.

Any other feedback/suggestions for improvement/criticism…
BWW has been one of the most important things that’s happened to me this year. In addition to providing impetus and direction to my writing, it has helped me become part of a fantastic community. Not a day goes by when I don't look for contributions and comments on the community pages. While on one hand, I do lament the diminishing one-on-one time that we were enjoying when the group was tighter, on the other hand I am very glad the group is growing. With concerted planning / branding / business model thinking, etc. Rheea and Bhumika could aspire to feature on CNBC's Young Turks program in a few years.

The reason BWW is important is also because fewer and fewer people seem interested these days in the kind of mind and life that requires reading and writing. While technology offers us more and more avenues to communicate, on some level it is also spawning a sea of ‘content’ that is increasingly irrelevant, derived, stunted and sometimes downright trivial (with exceptions of course).

But BWW takes you back to the basics. It pushes you to pause, think, question and be original. So in its own way, BWW is encouraging its participants to create their own content as opposed to sitting back and passively consuming content. That is what makes it relevant, and takes it beyond the realm of just another workshop. In fact, in a time when language is no longer sacrosanct and gets bent in increasingly whimsical ways to suit commercial ends, initiatives like BWW are a beacon of sorts, a form of social re-engineering – small in scale but no less influential – that nudges one to change worn-out ways of using language, hence pushing one to revitalize the way one thinks. For what is language but an index of the quality of our thoughts?

In addition to that, BWW is also a place where literary analyses invariably branch out into discussions on a range of topics – religion, history, culture, sexuality, etc – and all of that goes into expanding a budding writer’s field of perception.

Of course, it’s ultimately up to the participants to leverage feedback, use resources, consult each other frequently and keep growing as writers and as a group.