I conducted a one-day lecture on Creative Nonfiction at SPi last Saturday. Participants came from Cavite and Tagaytay, consisting of elementary school teachers/journalism advisers, a HS English teacher (who gave up her Master's class for the workshop), and some wacky and quick-witted SPi employees (Mahros, Doc Janet, Dylan, Jaypee) who seem to empathize with every author and book I gave as an example.
I was a bit anxious when Bebang first told me about this lecture. I've been to SPi before during one of the Writers' Guild events (poetry reading, books discussion, book launching, etc.) and I felt estranged by the surroundings and the people (like everyone does when he/she goes to a new place). I've done lecture on this topic before but to high school students. I have long and engaging respects for teachers, and I've got awkward relationship with my English teachers before, so the "anxiety" was to be expected.
So anyway, I was there 15 minutes before the scheduled lecture (9am-4pm), thanks to Jaypee, one of the Writers' Guild officers, who fetched me from my place in Quezon City to Paranaque. I was sittting with the participants, trying to observe without being known. Some of the latecomers were entering, looking around the place, they don't seem to notice me. I sat among a group who has the same age bracket as my mother. Jaypee asked me about the handouts for photocopying. One of the participants, an elementary teacher, took the hint and asked me if I am the lecturer for the day. I gave her a wry smile and instead of affirming her suspicion, I snooped.
When the time to introduce myself came, I stood in front of the 30+ attendees and confirmed their bemusement.
"Hello people! I can only think of two things to say about your expectations, either you're disappointed, because you expected someone older or you guys are simply overwhelmed that I am here." (Note: I was wearing a tweed and in my Chucks).
During the workshop, I asked them to write a one-page personnal essay on any topic they could think of and promised to choose my top 5 before the session ends. I got a bunchful of laugh while reading their essays. One of them came up with an ingenious title, "Voraytscious!" --> a play up word for rayts being a voracious reader. The essay is obviously about the workshop and their unexpected lecturer...
Likewise, reading the essays confirmed my previous anxiety, they never expected someone like me to handle the class. One of them was candid enough to write that she expected for a lecturer "an old guy, wearing a coat and tie, very professor-like". I was laughing at the corner, looking like a fool.
The lecture ended well. I love the honesty of these people. I guess the circumstance sided my way. They'll be conducting a seminar-workshop on personal essay soon, with Jessica Zafra handling the class. I asked to be invited as one of the participants. ;-)