By Conor O¡¯Reilly
Over the past few years, English language media has been increasing its visibility in Korea with English newspapers and magazines available in all major cities. Of course, the majority is concentrated in Seoul. As each has had its own scope, new readerships have opened up and allowed for more diverse publications.
One of the people involved in many of these is Chris Sanders. As well as writing for a number of magazines and websites, Sanders and fellow members of the Seoul Writers Workshop have independently published three successful collections of creative writing called Every Second Sunday.
Sanders has gained valuable experience as editor of Seoulstyle.com, an online guide to lifestyle and entertainment in Seoul. Elaborating on the increased visibility of English media, Sanders said, ¡°A few years ago, there was essentially one magazine for the expats. That idyllic time is long past, with the entrance of every bar in Itaewon piled high with ¡®em.¡¯ However, ¡°If you don't live in Itaewon,¡± Sanders explained, ¡°you're probably not going to see any of the expat magazines, so the Internet is essential if you want to stay in the loop.¡±
For Seoul Writers Workshop, where Chris Sanders has been involved the longest, the Internet and in particular social networking, has played a major role in keeping their group alive. The Seoul Writers Workshop maintains an active internet presence and can be found on Facebook, Ning, Twitter, not forgetting their website, seoulwriters.com.
Seoul Writers Workshop was originally started by Sanders together with Kathryn Whinney and Ang McLaughlin, to foster the writers¡¯ community and to help members to achieve their personal writing goals. While its beginnings were small, the group now boasts of having over two hundred members, and judging by the content of their anthologies, a majority of these are active.
When I asked about the benefits of the group, Sanders could only speak from his own experience but assured me that their group has pushed him to improve a great deal, ¡°the bi-weekly workshops provide a gentle deadline, encouraging many of us to work steadily on our projects¡±.
The success of the workshop has hinged on the dedication of its members, and its reliability. According to Sanders, ¡°one smart thing we did early on was set a schedule and once we got some momentum going, we stuck to it through holidays, vacations, snowstorms and monsoons.¡±
Most important for any writer, new or experienced, is finding somewhere to publish and Seoul Writers Workshop supplies that; ¡°Our annual publication gives local writers a chance to get their names and works in print as well¡±, said Sanders on their self-published anthology. This approach in Korea, while daunting, has proved a viable outlet as costs are relatively low. The biggest problem is finding the distribution network so readers can know it¡¯s out there and buy a copy.
Every second Sunday, the Seoul Writers Workshop 2010 anthology is available from What The Book in Itaewon, and will soon be available on Amazon. The price is 10,000 won. See seoulwriters.com for more details.