Small beginnings, big goals: The First K-Pop Writers' Workshop

Hi! My name is Nicole, or Nikki on the internet, but you probably know me better for my blog -- Pop Reviews Now. I have spent the past five years writing about popular music, the past four of which have been in the wonderful world of K-Pop. And I plan to spend the rest of my life doing this -- writing about music I love and enjoy listening to. It has been an amazing five years for me so far, I’ve achieved things I’ve always wanted to, even things I didn’t expect, and I think it’s time I give back to an industry that has given me so much.

The idea for this project began after I won a major award for Pop Reviews Now -- that award was my ultimate goal, and it had been fulfilled. I was a struggle for me to achieve that, and to win it at seventeen was something I never expected. And so, I wanted my next goal to cater to young writers -- I wanted to create a network that would help them better their craft and practice writing, but I didn’t have a well-developed system of going about that.

Almost two years later, I have finally found that system I was looking for. I was inspired by the creative writing program of my university, and the way they conduct classes, which is essentially the format of this K-Pop workshop. It’s most often called the “workshop system”, where students of creative writing, and even groups of established writers and organizations within the university, present a piece and receive feedback not just from their professors or seniors, but also from classmates, while also giving feedback to other students and peers. This is a method that not only improves writing, but which also further develops analytical, critical thinking skills which are our bread and butter as K-Pop writers.

I, like many K-Pop writers, come from a musical background, and I am currently majoring in Comparative Literature, a choice highly influenced by blogging. I am a formally-trained, experienced, journalist, and I have already taken all mandatory critical theory subjects for my criticism-dependent major. But I still believe that whatever I learn in the classroom must be balanced with experience, and actual writing. I started blogging at thirteen -- they don’t teach you critical art theory in high school, and so everything I learned from then until 2011, when I entered university, I learned from experience, from continuously writing and reading other people’s work.

The first thing I want to achieve with this workshop is to improve my own writing, as well as those of my peers and those of newer writers. I still have so much I can improve on, and I know majority of writers feel that way. And, like I said, when I was a new blogger no one was there to help me, and whatever comments I got were only marginally constructive. As a teenager that was difficult, and if I didn’t love writing as much as I do, I would’ve given up early on. I want to change that, and I want to encourage more people to take up critical K-Pop writing by providing them with a place to hone their skills.

This workshop will not take you through writing step-by-step, nor will it correct simple grammatical errors -- this workshop, and the comments that should and will be given, are focused on improving frameworks, big ideas, organization, context, syntax and in general, things you cannot learn in basic English grammar class. The core group of this workshop, the bloggers who have pitched in and are helping make this happen, all bring years of experience to the table, experience in everything from writing pieces regularly, to working in and above teams, to giving feedback on writing. I also believe that even if you’re a new writer, you clearly have critical thinking skills which you can offer to your peers, hence the decision to use a workshop system. After all, you’re writing critical pieces yourself -- reviews, editorials, etc. -- on a regular basis!

I began writing about K-Pop during what I would say was its golden age -- a time when critical blogs came in the dozens. I also began writing during a time when there was a very strong sense of community among writers, and that sense of community was what led me to many of my closest friendships within K-Pop. Through the years, majority of the community has moved to other projects and even other interests, and now I want to recreate those days, bringing them one step further into the present. During my time as a blogger, as well as a staff writer for several major news sites, I have seen, read and met countless other bloggers and writers who share the same passion for K-Pop and for writing about it, no matter how different our approaches or opinions may be -- I want to meet more, and I want these amazing people to meet each other and read each other.

Meeting all these people have made me realize that K-Pop writing is probably even more diverse than K-Pop itself -- we writers come from a variety of different countries and backgrounds, but somehow have managed to build a close circle of friends and colleagues. The core group is composed of myself, from the Philippines, McRoth of McRoth’s Residence from the US, Ree of Seoulbeats and Colour Me Splendid, from Australia, and Mel of Melismatic, also from the US. We all have different levels of training in writing, thinking and the practice of music, and our strengths as bloggers differ, but it’s exactly that diversity that makes us click as a group, and allow us to stand on our own as writers. We have worked together as a group in the past, with the launch of The K-Pop Panel, another international project, and occasionally collaborate as smaller groups, but we’re also very good friends at the end of the day!

Which is why, what we hope to achieve with this workshop while improving our writing and critical thinking skills, is also to make new friendships and broaden our current circle of K-Pop bloggers. We want to create friendships and connections that are founded on K-Pop, that are founded on recognizing good ideas and talented writers, but which go beyond that in the future.

Hopefully as these workshops continue, we also solidify and legitimize a community of critical K-Pop writers, bloggers who are not only passionate K-Pop fans, but brilliant writers and thinkers as well. We’re starting small, with a maximum capacity of around a dozen participants, but this is a project most of us would like to continue for a long time, and this is a practice I, personally, wish to leave to future generations of K-Pop writers, long after I’ve moved on. It’s ambitious for such a simple, probably overused idea, but for me, as a blogger who has come to stay, I want to give this a try.

July 2013


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