YA Literature Workshop (Phase I), Nagarkot

On 4th and 5th February 2011 OLE Nepal organised a writer’s workshop to create Young Adult (YA) novels for Nepali youths. The two day workshop took place in Nagarkot Farmhouse, Nagarkot and had twenty-one participants. The workshop was facilitated and moderated by OLE Nepal’s E-Pustakalaya advisers Churamani Bandhu, Dhurva Ghimire, Geeta Keshary, Hiranya Kumari Pathak, Rambabu Subedi and Vinaya Kasajoo. Prof. Dr Mahadev Awasti representing the National Academy’s Children’s literature wing was also present as a member of the Editorial team. The rest of the participants were young aspiring authors who had mainly written for children and occasionally tried writing for adults.

View to inspire the writers from Nagarkot Farmhouse

As Young Adult literature is a new genre in the world of Nepali literature, the workshop began with the accepted definition of the genre in foreign countries then we discussed what Youth meant in the Nepali context and encouraged a colloquial understanding of our target audience. After summarising the materials OLE Nepal had collected during the seminar on 22nd December (http://blog.olenepal.org/index.php/archives/date/2011/01), a slide show presentation of newspaper articles highlighting problems and concerns facing YAs in Nepal was shown.

After discussing several famous YA novels a brain storming exercise was conducted where each participant recalled their adolescence and re-counted a moment in their life which was symbolic of being a YA. Many of the experience involved having suicidal thoughts due to low exam grades (grades being hidden due to tuition not being paid in time), going through a rebellious phase where one starts experimenting with drugs or steals a library book, tales of teenage love and heart break and even a memory of sexual exploitation. These memories were so lucid that they could be turned into short stories all on their own. Another point that these stories proved was that though times have changed, lot of the challenges faced by adolescents today remain the same at its core.

Facilitator Vinaya Kasajoo

Later after lunch participants were shown video clips of R. K. Narayan’s Malgudi Days and S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. The Outsiders is generally considered the first YA English novel after the genre had been clearly defined. While the Malgudi Days has a protagonist slightly younger than what is widely accepted as the correct age of the major protagonist in YA genre, it was shown to better understand how characters would look like in a South Asian setting. Further discussions were carried out on how these novels developed the nature of a first person narrator being an adolescent and how this adds authenticity to the genre of YA literature. Finally, the participants broke up into small groups and discussed what themes would be appropriate for their novels. Some of the authors also used the XO laptop to do some reading and visualise how their finished material would look like inside the little laptop.

Ganesh Ghimire of OLE Nepal introducing E-Pustakalaya

Having had a whole night to organise their thoughts, next day brought about a remarkable number of written stories and ideas. Character development, plot lines, style and tones were also discussed. Importantly, constructive ideas were presented to convert the abundant short stories into a larger, coherent novel. Creating a YA novel is vital as there are lots of shorts for young adults to read. However, it is only a novel which can steadily depict the changes and challenges an adolescent faces and teach YAs how to better navigate through these obstacles. This concept of ‘safe landing’ is vital for any work to be considered part of YA genre.

Setting up Projector and XO’s

Apart from having an adolescent as the main protagonist we expect to see the entire spectrum of fiction depicted by the participating authors. In concluding phase I of the workshop the participants were set a target of writing around 100 pages of literary material before the next phase of the workshop. With the shorts discussed the qualitative aspect of the work is in no doubt but a quantitative outcome will only be seen during the next phase.

Phase I of the workshop was highly productive in terms of inspiring the participating writers to want to write for Young Adults, brainstorming themes for their work and making certain that a good support system was created for the participants. Phase II of the workshop will occur in two months time where we hope to read some riveting stories.

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