Friday, October 22, 2010

MANILA TIMES writeup re Angelica's Daugters, by Libay Cantor

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Is there such a thing as a collaborative writing procedure?

In the Philippine literary circles, yes, there is, and we call it dugtungan, meaning one writer writes one part of the story, passes it on to another writer who will continue the next part of the story, and will pass it again to another writer, and so on. Each writer can be free in his/her collaboration, and that’s what makes the work fresh and exciting.

I first heard of this dugtungan style during my stints as a creative writing workshop fellow. To while away time, my poet co-fellows would entertain us by starting a renga, the old Japanese tradition of shared writing, much like the Filipino dugtungan. They will write one line, pass the paper to another fellow, until we had the paper full of combined thoughts.

But more than just an exercise, the dugtungan is a kind of literary collaboration among writers. Perhaps it’s not usual to hear of authors co-writing stuff with other authors since we are more used to the fact that literary writers write alone, and produce their own individual works. Plus individual authors get recognition because of their individual works, of course.

Other writing disciplines such as film and television scriptwriting employ collaborative writing more than literary writing since the finished products of those industries are different compared to literary outputs. But yes, it is still possible to produce quality work from such literary collaborations, as the renga has attested, as well as the dugtungan. Filipino writers in the early 1900s used this technique to produce novels, and now, contemporary writers have, once again, employed the technique to create a new novel.

I’m talking about the latest book by Anvil Publishing entitled Angelica’s Daughters, authored by five distinguished women—Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Erma Cuizon, Susan Evangelista, Veronica Montes and Nadine Sarreal. The book was launched at the Manila International Book Fair last month.

The novel has an interesting premise; it is basically a historical romance telling the story of two women from different eras (past and present), in the process characterizing their families’ tales and their own romantic tales. I just got a copy and I’m eager to read it, given the kind of interesting work these women writers could come up with.

The idea for the dugtungan actually stemmed from an online creative writing workshop which Brainard started in the early 2000s. The informal and encouraging atmosphere of that workshop was meant to inspire participants to write something new (based on a weekly writing prompt) and have fellow writers comment on these early drafts. Some of these drafts were eventually developed until they were published in different anthologies. The earlier participants of that workshop actually produced a dugtungan short story entitled New Tricks which was anthologized in Milfrores Publishing’s 2007 anthology Sawi: Funny Essays, Stories and Poems on All Kinds of Heartbreaks. That story was the product of the dugtungan efforts of Brainard, Montes, Sarreal and Evangelista, plus Noelle de Jesus and yours truly.

Congratulations to these authors and here’s hoping that more of these literary collaborations would be produced in the future.


No comments: