All In! Young Writers Festival was a flurry of activities on the last day of its event, with many rushing from one session to the next and others catching quick words with literary idols and mentors. While spending my time engaged in different activities, from online games to spoken poetry during lunchtime, I also had the opportunity to attend two of the sessions in the programme line-up which struck me the most.
One such activity is a panel session titled "Developing Social Awareness Through Writing", conducted by Dr Gene Navera, a lecturer for writing and communication and a teacher for rhetoric and composition courses, and moderated by Mr Ow Yeong Wai Kit, an English and Literature teacher. The focus of the session was about rhetorical citizenship, where writing is a social act and citizenship is something everyone does. Keeping in mind what interests the reader and how words expressed influence the reader, rhetorical citizenship requires ethical communication and the commitment to increasing awareness for making better and informed decisions. There are three core values involved: accuracy, clarity of information, and empathy. Text samples were distributed to the participants who then formed groups of three to discuss and share features of the texts, paying attention to what makes it an act of citizenship and how the writer responds to the issue. Even the Q&A session proved to be highly informative and educational, with the participants benefiting from pieces of advice Dr Navera and Mr Wai Kit shared, such as the virtue of humility, and the good practice of reading texts beyond social media.
Another such activity is a workshop titled "Write and Save the Planet", conducted by Mr Muzakkir Samat, a civil engineer, and facilitated by Mr Wai Kit. After a round of participants' self-introduction, the workshop started off with a question on the definition and purpose of ecopoetry, scoping the line of discussion. The participants were encouraged to consider the current environmental challenges and their enthusiasm for nature, as ecopoetry involves environmentalist and non-anthropocentric attitudes. They were shown sample ecopoems from the only Singapore anthology of nature written in English, titled From Walden To Woodlands, edited by Mr Muzakkir. Following that, the participants were encouraged to engage their surroundings as well, given how it was a workshop focussing on our environment. They were led on a mini nature walk within the building premises to find little spots of greenery in the vicinity for inspiration to start writing and sharing their own ecopoems, using a one-page handout as a guide. The workshop concluded with key takeaways, prompting us to consider our relationship with nature and environment and the vital contribution we can make to ongoing dialogues about sustainable living. Perhaps most importantly, the workshop has deepened participants’ understanding of ecopoetry, giving them the tools needed to better engage the environment even in literature. .
As the day drew to a close, one comes to the realisation that despite the varying nature of the sessions attended, a common theme could be found; widening the accessibility to literature. This can perhaps be further elaborated by the words of Mr Wai Kit himself, "... poetry shouldn’t be the exclusive province of literati ensconced in ivory towers. Our workshop was premised on the fact that young people can and should nurture their passion for writing, even if they’ve hardly had any experience in it so far.” It sums up the nature of All In! Young Writers Festival perfectly. To create a platform that engages youths across all boards, experienced or not, into the world of literature and to encourage them by showing them the impact it can make in various social sectors.