Participants of the virtual novel writing laboratory.
The novel laboratory is a creative experience that facilitates the adventure of writing. In Nicaragua, the laboratory is one of the cultural initiatives of the Swiss Cooperation. Initially, the project was designed to be carried out face-to-face, but due to the pandemic situation, it became virtual to realize diverse activities including novel-writing courses, dialogues about books and an online youth magazine called Les Escribidores.
In the novel-writing courses there are almost 60 people taking classes virtually; most of them are Nicaraguan talents, however, there are participants from Canada, the United States, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Chile, Spain and Norway; we only missed one participant from Switzerland. The virtual platforms have allowed participants to have more time to incorporate the methodology and technical resources, given that they can invest more hours than in a face-to-face course.
Not everything has been easy. One deficiency found in virtual courses is the lack of personal interaction with the teacher and among participants. However, other forms of communication have been developed, such as WhatsApp groups and face-to-face meetings in small groups.
Is it possible to write a novel in the midst of the pandemic?
Yes, it can be done! The participants of the virtual laboratory have 32 proposals for novels with themes related to violence against women, memories of the country's history, crimes linked to politics or family quarrels, as well as personal stories derived from or framed in national contexts. They are a myriad of ideas arising from the experiences and emotions that each participant has encountered within themselves during the process.
According to the participants, “virtuality" has given them more time and space to create, imagine and recreate situations that they have been able to write due to the confinement. This time is crucial to dedicate themselves to the creative process and the application of the techniques learned.
The experience of teaching an online novel laboratory.
However, the main challenge of teaching the novel lab virtually has been the lack of real emotional interaction between the presenter and the participants, as well as between the participants themselves. These virtual courses reiterate something we have always known: emotional contact is more easily achieved by sharing a cup of coffee than by connecting to a computer. But what can we do? This is the life we have for the moment and we are going to live it this way, taking advantage of the opportunities. Until we come back.
Click here for the spanish version of this article!
Thank you for the inputs on the project to Danilo González, responsible for Culture, and Irene Kränzlin at the SDC in Nicaragua, as well as Linda Báez, coordinator of Laboratorio de Novelas.