5 Writing Tips By Randy Bustamante

Randy BustamanteA few months ago, while waiting for my new job to begin, I was invited by my mom to take part in an intimate creative writing workshop with her and some dear friends.

I hadn’t participated in a writing class in years, so you can imagine my apprehension when I discovered that our teacher was Randy Bustamante, a top writing professor from Boston College (where he taught for 12 years) who had recently moved back to Manila with enough accolades under his belt to deem him a heavy weight with a pen. If you don’t take my word for it, you can read more about his credentials below.

But from our first session together, I knew that Randy’s workshop was going to be different from those I’d attended in the past. In many writing classes, you’re asked to present your work to teachers and fellow students who dissect your sentence structure and spot grammatical anomalies with hawk-like-eyes till your essay lays flat and almost robotic in flow. Randy prefers not to spend his time teaching you how to use “its or it’s”, nor does he tell you point blank whether your piece is good or bad. Like a good therapist, and many times it does feel that way, he helps you find how you can improve your work through self-discovery and encourages you to dig deeper into your own emotions and memories to let the words dance for you. He offers you a writing experience that is far from intimidating and one that has you feeling recharged and healed after putting your thoughts on paper.

From those few afternoons with Randy, I found a new appreciation for my senses, learned to fall in love with poetry again, and watched my mother bloom into an amazing writer, something I knew was in her all along.

I asked Randy to share a few writing tips for my readers and he was kind enough to offer these beautiful words of advice:

1 In the age of oversharing, the poet Billy Collins’s counsel is eminently instructive: in autobiographical writing, the language must rise to the level of metaphor because metaphor includes everyone.

2 Simplicity is elegant. It also invites a contemplative stance that can help unclutter the mind and sharpen the mind’s eye.

3 Good writing is good writing no matter the platform: grammatically correct, idiomatically graceful, lexically prolific, structurally sensible, semantically resonant, contextually conscious. In other words, it is language alive to its potential to create new ways of looking, of experiencing, of being in the world.

4 When in doubt, stick to nouns and verbs rather than adjectives and adverbs. Put words to work; they shouldn’t be idle bystanders or wallflowers.

5 Collins wrote something about poetry that any writer might do well to consider: In poetry, language is returned to its once magical state. The words are surprised to be there. Some seem relieved, others embarrassed. The poet has brought them out of the orphanage for a day at the beach.

If you can’t get enough of Randy, you’ll be happy to know that he’s offering a creative writing workshop in partnership with the Ayala Museum starting on February 13.

For 5,500 pesos you have a chance to take part in a 5-week writing experience from 6-8PM on Thursdays and sometimes Mondays where you will be provided with all supplies, handouts, snacks and given a certificate in the end. You’re even given a one-day-free-admission to the museum and its library.

Randy needs 25 participants to make this workshop happen. I promise it’ll be worth it. If interested, please note the contact details on the poster.

Ayala Museum CW poster 1

Here’s a little more on Randy as described by a friend:

Recently returned from Boston where he was based for twelve years, Randy Bustamante has unique experience as a writer, teacher, and retreat and workshop facilitator. He taught writing courses at Boston College (BC) while on a doctoral fellowship in Theology and Education. Under his mentorship, one of his students won the Dever Writing Award for Freshman Writing at BC. He also taught an introductory course on college writing to the first graduates of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls.

Throughout the 1990s in the Philippines, Randy taught creative writing and other courses in the humanities (English, Filipino, Philosophy, Theology) to both undergraduates and scholastics at the Ateneo de Manila University, where he obtained undergraduate and graduate degrees in Philosophy, English (Creative Writing), and Pastoral Ministry (Spirituality), and at the University of the Philippines (Diliman), where he had received tenure as English and Creative Writing faculty.  He has also taught ESL to visiting international students at both universities as well as creative writing workshops in small-group settings . This year marks his 18th year of teaching as he returns to Loyola Heights.

Randy’s accomplishments as a multilingual writer include an artist’s residency at Casa San Miguel in Zambales and poetry fellowships to the UP National Writers Workshop in Baguio and the Silliman Writers Workshop in Dumaguete. He has written a bilingual illustrated storybook and a biography of a human-rights lawyer, translated contemporary French fiction into Filipino through English, edited a coffeetable sourcebook on Filipino liturgical vestments, and published poetry in Filipino and in English in various literary journals and anthologies from university and independent presses.