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Being a bard builds bonds for Seoul Writers

Feb 27,2008
From left, Megan Ludescher, Charles Le Shure, Chris Sanders, Kathryn Whinney, Angela McLaughlin and Jason Pickett celebrate National Novel Writing Month, which inspired the formation of Seoul Writers. Provided by the group
Completing a 50,000-word manuscript in 30 days may seem a daunting task, but that was the goal for a group of expat writers here last November.
Led by Chris Sanders, the Korea chapter’s liaison to the 2007 National Novel Writing Month program in the United States, a group of about 160 people staged “write-ins” at coffee shops in Seoul, where members penned their own novels together.
At the end of last year’s NaNoWri Mo, as participants call it, the writers found they’d built a community of like-minded people, Sanders, 31, said.
For the writers, NaNoWriMo served as a springboard not only for a manuscript, but also for another collective called Seoul Writers.
The brainchild of Kathryn Whinney, one of the participants in NaNo-WriMo, Seoul Writers was launched in December. “After [NaNoWriMo] we decided we wanted to continue to meet to support each other,” Whinney, 27, said of her fellow writers.
A current Seoul resident from Britain, Whinney completed a master’s in creative writing at Bath Spa University in 2006. With her degree, Whinney, according to fellow Seoul Writers, was the most familiar with writing workshops.
“Kathryn’s experience has helped tremendously,” Sanders said.
Before their bimonthly meetings, members planning to attend read and critique the text up for discussion. Fiction novels and short stories are the norm for workshop pieces, said Hamish Dee, another Seoul Writer. “Nonfiction and poetry are heavily discussed but never seen,” Dee said. However, Sanders said, work outside the norm is welcome.
At the meetings, which usually take place at one of various coffee shops in Seoul, members, who are mostly English teachers in their 20s to early 40s, share their suggestions.
“We go around the group talking about each piece of work,” Whinney said. “The writer must stay quiet, and can only comment and ask or answer questions once everyone has finished. This is the best way to get honest, constructive criticism without the writer getting defensive.”
So how does it feel being in the hot seat?
“We’re nice,” said Bryan Stubbles, 28, who has submitted his screenplay at past meetings. “My script’s not the most popular in the world, I’ve found out, but that’s all right.”
Whinney describes the role of Seoul Writers as “critical, but sensitive.”
“None of us want to destroy people’s confidence,” she said.
Still in its fledgling stage, the group has used online social networking to get off the ground.
“The writer’s workshop really took off on Facebook,” Sanders said. “We have a group and we can set up events [online]. It’s a good organizational tool.”
Of course, much of each meeting’s success still hinges on Whinney’s attendance.

Chris Sanders, a member of Seoul Writers, put his pen to a page in his journal. By Kim Hyeon-dong
“It kind of falls apart without her,” Sanders said at the Seoul Writers’ Feb. 17 meeting, which only two members attended. Meetings usually draw about six to eight of the approximately 20 members.
For more information on Seoul Writers, e-mail seoulwriters@gmail.com.


By Hannah Bae Contributing Writer [hannahbae@gmail.com]


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