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Nien-jen Wu to Hold Writing Workshop at NTHU

2023.05.23
National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) in Taiwan has invited Nien-jen Wu (吳念真), a renowned film director, to be writer-in-residence on campus. Wu will offer a tailor-made workshop in which students will submit their own works, such as novels, scripts, prose essays, advertising proposals, or art project proposals, and receive comments and feedback from Wu. Hailed as “the best ojisan (old gentleman) storyteller in Taiwan,” Wu will hold the workshop from May 23rd to May 25th with the goal of cultivating storytelling abilities in students that even AI cannot replace.
 
Wu explained the reason that motivated him to be writer-in-residence at NTHU was his desire to get closer to the younger generation. Through the workshop, he hopes to learn what kinds of social issues young people are concerned about and how they express themselves. Last week, he already received works created by members of the workshop, and several are quite well-written. He could feel the students' enthusiasm for writing and the depth of their topics. “The three-day workshop is actually my harvest journey,” Wu said.
 
Wu suggested that young writers increase their life experience and work on improving their writing structure. He stated that young people nowadays generally have good writing skills. However, what they lack is life experience. As a result, the content they create is a bit empty, so they try to compensate by exaggerating how they truly feel in what they write. It's like cooking a pot of soup with stones. Apart from that, young people today tend to read fewer long novels than before. To them, an FB post with more than 300 words is considered too lengthy. Wu stressed that without understanding how to structure an article, one cannot describe things aptly and beautifully; for this reason, whoever wants to improve their writing should work on improving their narrative structure.
 
NTHU Senior Vice President Nyan-hwa Tai (戴念華) expressed thanks to Wu for taking time out from his very busy schedule to conduct the workshop for NTHU students. Tai said that as someone who studies science and technology, he is especially sensitive to numbers. Before Wu's arrival on campus, he learned from Wikipedia that Wu has garnered 222 awards for his plays, lyrics, and for hosting TV talk shows. His achievements have been nothing short of amazing. Wu is indeed a treasure trove that must be explored, and Tai expressed hope that NTHU will be able to cultivate more talented artists like Wu.
 
The workshop receives an overwhelming response from students
 
Ying-chun Tsai (蔡英俊), director of the Center for Language Education, noted that Wu's career has spanned film, television, theater, advertising, and literature. As tight as his schedule has been, Wu accepted the invitation instantly and proposed that students submit their works in advance so he could engage students in discussions, share his writing skills and tips, and also relate how he conceptualizes and expresses ideas.
 
Upon learning the news that Wu would hold a workshop at NTHU, students responded with great enthusiasm. The workshop was originally designed to accept 15 students; however, the Center for Language Education received 15 novels, 6 scripts, 3 pieces of prose, and 2 pieces of reportage. In response to the students' interest, Wu agreed to increase the number of students to 23 in total, including 2 students from National Taiwan University (NTU) and National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University (NYCU) who will be auditing the class.
 
An extraordinary ability to tell stories is the kind of soft power crucial to tackling future challenges
 
Shih-lung Lo (羅仕龍), associate professor of the Department of Chinese Literature, stated that the ability to tell stories that captivate readers and connect with them on a deep level is the kind of soft power we should help students develop. Even students who study science and engineering need to have excellent presentation skills to convince their target audience about new ideas and projects. “If they have an extraordinary ability to tell stories, they will not have to worry about being replaced by AI,” Lo emphasized.
 
Lo mentioned that Wu is a master storyteller who has won 5 Golden Horse Awards for Best Original Screenplay. In addition, Wu's prose can subtly convey emotions that easily resonate with readers. In his book Flavors That Bring Back Memories (念念時光真味), Wu recollected the bittersweet memory of eating noodles with his father in the coal mining village of Ruifang and the recipe for cabbage stew his father passed down to him. Although his words described the flavors of the food, it was his human touch that left a lasting impression on readers' minds.
 
Growing up in Ruifang, Wu enjoyed listening to the chit-chat of miners and kept these anecdotes in his heart. Tsai believes that Wu's rich life experience—his childhood in a mining village, dropping out of school to work, and serving in the military on a remote barrier island—has given him abundant material to tell stories in an engaging way that connects with ordinary people.
 
Studying how to create lines that captivate an audience
 
“You mean Nien-jen Wu will be here in person to give us tips on writing? No way!” Jui-chen Hong (洪睿辰), a junior in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, stated upon hearing the news. Hong pointed out that Wu's skill in crafting lines for his characters is remarkable, especially when using the Taiwanese language. His ability to vividly portray characters and give them emotional depth brings his stories to life, as if you're sitting right in the middle of the action. Hong said that he has written a script based on the true story of his family, and he hopes that by attending the workshop he will learn from Wu how to create lines that captivate an audience.
 
Hong also mentioned that he has noticed that events related to art and literature at NTHU have become more accessible than ever before. He felt very lucky to have had the opportunity to attend the Hsien-yung Pai (白先勇) Literature Lectures, Chun-ming Huang (黃春明) Week, and the Nien-jen Wu (吳念真) Workshop, and to see these literary masters in person.
 
Cypress Su (蘇柏蓁), a graduate student from the Institute of Sinophone Studies, said that when she was younger, she read the Agatha Christie Mystery Collection. She still vividly recalls that she was deeply impressed by the foreword to the collection written by Wu, titled “Popularity Is Power.” A member of Wu's workshop, Su has submitted both a novel and a script, with the latter focusing on the issue of gender equality. She mentioned that just before the workshop began, she returned home to retrieve her copy of Wu's Human Condition series, on which she will ask Wu for his signature.
 
Wu invited to be writer-in-residence at NTHU in 2023
 
An incredibly talented artist, Wu is a director, writer, screenwriter, actor, TV host, and lyricist. He is also the first winner of the "Three-Gold Grand Slam” (the Golden Bell Award, the Golden Horse Award, and the Golden Melody Award). In 1981, he was nominated for the Golden Horse Award for the first time and won. Since then, he has been a frequent recipient of the Award. In 1993, he won the Golden Melody Award for Best Lyricist for a Song in Dialect. Four years later, he won the Golden Bell Award for hosting and acting in commercial ads for The Beauty of Taiwan series.
 
Tsai noted that previously Nan Yue (岳南) (a writer-historian), Chou-yu Cheng (鄭愁予) (a poet), and Shi-kuo Chang (張系國) (a sci-fi author) have served as NTHU writers-in-residence at the invitation of the Center for Language Education. However, this is the first time that students are able to have face-to-face interactions with a highly-regarded literary figure since the pandemic.
 
Organized by the Center for Language Education, the workshop will cover two themes—"Cultural Memory: Witnessing the Social Development of Taiwan's Society” and “Theater & Modern Life.” In addition to the three-day workshop, Wu will also hold other types of courses and lectures next semester to inspire students using different approaches.
 
Nien-jen Wu (吳念真) (left) will conduct a 3-day writing workshop at NTHU.

Nien-jen Wu (吳念真) (left) will conduct a 3-day writing workshop at NTHU.

NTHU Senior Vice President Nyan-hwa Tai (戴念華) (left) presents the letter of appointment to Nien-jen Wu (吳念真) as writer-in-residence 2023.

NTHU Senior Vice President Nyan-hwa Tai (戴念華) (left) presents the letter of appointment to Nien-jen Wu (吳念真) as writer-in-residence 2023.

NTHU Senior Vice President Nyan-hwa Tai (戴念華) (left) presents the letter of appointment to Nien-jen Wu (吳念真) as writer-in-residence 2023.

NTHU Senior Vice President Nyan-hwa Tai (戴念華) (left) presents the letter of appointment to Nien-jen Wu (吳念真) as writer-in-residence 2023.

Nien-jen Wu (吳念真) (right) and NTHU Senior Vice President Nyan-hwa Tai (戴念華) has a pleasant discussion.

Nien-jen Wu (吳念真) (right) and NTHU Senior Vice President Nyan-hwa Tai (戴念華) has a pleasant discussion.

Cypress Su (蘇柏蓁), a graduate student from the Institute of Sinophone Studies and a member of the workshop, is a fan of Nien-jen Wu (吳念真). She brings Wu's Human Condition series and asks Wu for his signature.

Cypress Su (蘇柏蓁), a graduate student from the Institute of Sinophone Studies and a member of the workshop, is a fan of Nien-jen Wu (吳念真). She brings Wu's Human Condition series and asks Wu for his signature.

NTHU Senior Vice President Nyan-hwa Tai (戴念華) expresses hope that NTHU will cultivate more talented artists like Nien-jen Wu (吳念真).

NTHU Senior Vice President Nyan-hwa Tai (戴念華) expresses hope that NTHU will cultivate more talented artists like Nien-jen Wu (吳念真).

Nien-jen Wu (吳念真) hopes to learn more about the kinds of social issues young people nowadays are concerned about.

Nien-jen Wu (吳念真) hopes to learn more about the kinds of social issues young people nowadays are concerned about.

Ying-chun Tsai (蔡英俊) (left), director of the Center for Language Education, explains the workshop held by Nien-jen Wu (吳念真).

Ying-chun Tsai (蔡英俊) (left), director of the Center for Language Education, explains the workshop held by Nien-jen Wu (吳念真).

The Center for Language Education and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences warmly welcome Nien-jen Wu (吳念真) as NTHU 2023 writer-in-residence.

The Center for Language Education and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences warmly welcome Nien-jen Wu (吳念真) as NTHU 2023 writer-in-residence.

Cypress Su (蘇柏蓁) (left) and Jui-chen Hong (洪睿辰) show Nien-jen Wu's signature on their copies of his works.

Cypress Su (蘇柏蓁) (left) and Jui-chen Hong (洪睿辰) show Nien-jen Wu's signature on their copies of his works.

The workshop held by Nien-jen Wu (吳念真) (left) begins this afternoon.

The workshop held by Nien-jen Wu (吳念真) (left) begins this afternoon.

Ying-chun Tsai (蔡英俊), director of the Center for Language Education, plays a key role in inviting Nien-jen Wu (吳念真) to be NTHU 2023 writer-in-residence.

Ying-chun Tsai (蔡英俊), director of the Center for Language Education, plays a key role in inviting Nien-jen Wu (吳念真) to be NTHU 2023 writer-in-residence.

Shih-lung Lo (羅仕龍), associate professor in the Department of Chinese Literature, expresses hope that students will develop the ability to tell stories that captivate readers and connect with them at a deep level, which is the kind of soft power crucial to tackling future challenges.

Shih-lung Lo (羅仕龍), associate professor in the Department of Chinese Literature, expresses hope that students will develop the ability to tell stories that captivate readers and connect with them at a deep level, which is the kind of soft power crucial to tackling future challenges.

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