The eighth LUMS Young Writers Workshop took place from August 5-9, 2019. Organised and conducted by Bilal Tanweer, Associate Professor at the Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences, the annual workshop is the only residential creative writing workshop in Pakistan. Established in 2012, the workshop is an immersive learning experience where attendees spend eight-hour sessions reading and writing daily, over five days.
The workshop also invites renowned writers as guest speakers to share their experiences with the participants. This year’s guest speaker was acclaimed author and journalist, Mohammed Hanif, who conducted a session with the students and offered critique on their work. He discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the participants' work while giving each one of them advice on how to better their writing. He also shared his experience of being an author and a journalist, and how he balances both roles. Participants also engaged in a Q&A session. In the past, guest speakers have included Sanam Meher, Saba Imtiaz and Omar Shahid Hamid.
Each year, talented writers are selected for this workshop through a contest. This year, 550 hopefuls submitted their short stories for consideration, out of which eight promising entrants were shortlisted. The workshop provides participants with a unique opportunity to attend a fully funded workshop, that covers the cost of study materials, accommodation and food.
In preparation for the workshop, participants are sent a selection of books to read in advance. This session's reading list included, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag, Red Birds by Mohammed Hanif, A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf, and short stories by Franz Kafka.
Over the course of the workshop, participants discuss and closely read the texts. They take part in activities such as timed writing assignments and then closely read and critique each other’s work. The sessions centre around providing detailed, individualised feedback in order to hone the skills of the budding writers.
Aaisha Salman, a student at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Karachi and a participant in this year's workshop, expressed her appreciation for the sessions and said, “I felt immense gratitude, because it gave us the space and time to write, and we had the mentorship to consider our writing practices in new ways, and to share our words with each other.”
Another candidate, Mahrukh Mohsin from the University of Karachi, also found the workshop extremely beneficial. She said, “It was beyond superficial ideas of structure and form. We were taught to write without any inhibitions, and we let go of boundaries and safety nets.”
Other participants included Minahil Abideen, Government College University; Asna Nusrat, Fatima Jinnah Women University (FJWU); Fatima Farhad, FJWU; Rida Khan, IBA; Aisha Hamid, IBA and Syeda Rabeea Ahmed, IBA.
Each year, participants form a lasting bond with their fellows, and provide each other with support that continues past the workshop. Many of the workshop’s graduates have also gone on to receive full scholarships at many top creative writing MFA programmes in the United States of America.