Gabriel García Márquez fellows talk about their experience
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Gabriel García Márquez fellows talk about their experience

Some fellows told us how they remember this experience and why it is worth participating.

In its five editions, the Gabriel García Márquez fellowship in cultural journalism has gathered reporters from 30 countries in the Colombian Caribbean on issues such as literature, music or popular culture. Under the guidance of Héctor Feliciano, Jonathan Levi and other masters of journalism and culture, 80 journalists have explored this corner of the world that fueled Gabo's literary and journalistic work.

Some fellows told us how they remember this experience and why it is worth participating.

The call for the 2018 edition is now open. On this occasion, the event that will bring together 15 journalists who publish in English or Spanish will be the Cartagena de Indias International Film Festival. Apply here.

Georgina Godwin (Zimbabwe), Gabo Fellowship 2016

-Freelance tv, print and radio journalist. Book editor in Monocle 24.

What made the fellowship valuable:

The quality of the Masters was excellent, without exception they were all media practitioners at the top of their game, with enormously valuable insights to share. The other carefully chosen participants enhanced the experience, and I learned from them as well as from the Masters. Meeting so many people from all over the world has been really useful, and now in my work, I know I can call on trusted talented contributors from all over the world. Cartagena itself is an inspiration, and I challenge anyone not to be uplifted by spending time in the city. I also like putting “Fellow of the GGM Foundation” on my cv!

The most valuable lesson from the fellowship:

To trust in my voice. I think in my cultural writing I was afraid of putting too much of myself in my pieces, but the Masters taught me that I have something meaningful to say from a personal perspective, and that usually enhances that type of piece rather than detracts from it. It also really increased my writing confidence generally. I also learned to write more quickly - the deadlines imposed made me really concentrate my attention, and realise that I can turn work around fast.

How she applies the lessons from the fellowship in her daily work:

I have been pitching a great deal more - and taking on crazy deadlines that previously I would have refused. Just this week I was commissioned to write a 750 word piece at 8.30am - and took it on, knowing I would only have until 11 to write it and file it. I would have been nervous to commit to that previously, but now had the confidence and the skill to do so.

Jenny Barchfield (United States), Gabo Fellowship 2014

-Freelance journalist in Lisbon. Former AP correspondant in Rio de Janeiro.

What made the fellowship valuable:

The fellowship was a fantastic experience. It brings together fantastic journalists from across the world, allowing them the time, space and guidance to think about our craft in the way that daily journalism doesn’t. The year I did the fellowship, it coincided with the Cartagena Film Festival, which was a treat, and the “professors” included such luminaries as the New York Times’ film critic, A.O. Scott, as well as Mexico’s Fernanda Solórzano. We spent an enriching and enchanting 10 days together, learning both from and about one another.

The most valuable lesson from the fellowship:

I think a super valuable element of the fellowship was seeing just how many different - and compelling - possible way to approach the same task. We all came up with vastly different reviews of the same movies, which was not only interesting but also gave me a kaleidoscope of ideas about different ways of approaching stories.

Gabor Koves (Hungary), Gabo Fellowship 2014

-Editor for the weekly magazine Magyar Narancs

The most valuable lesson from the fellowship:

First of all it was the realization that you can be a film critic from Chile, a cultural journalist from Hungary or a movie expert from Colombia, all of us speak the same language, share the same passions (from Star Wars to Iñárritu the list is infinite) and experience the same dilemmas in our craft. But that's just for starters. Being in the company of great pros, having access to acclaimed filmmakers during the film festival and forming friendships with colleagues from the other sider of the world is a unique and  priceless experience. It just doesn't get any better than this.

How he applies the lessons from the fellowship in his daily work:

It was a privilege to be mentored by  Jonathan Levi and Héctor Feliciano and to learn about the craft from such pros as Fernanda Solórzano and A.O. Scott. To glimpse into their methods, to pick their brain and just listen to them is a valuable lesson that you cannot get anywhere else. These things just stay with you.

Smriti Daniel (Sri Lanka), Gabo fellowship 2017

-Freelance journalist, publishes in The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka), Reuters, Al Jazeera and CityLab, among others.

What made the fellowship valuable:

The people. This is a working fellowship, and you're expected to hit the ground running. As a journalist, there were moments when I felt completely out of my depth, in a country I didn't know at all. But the FNPI team gives you this extraordinary welcome, they connect you to everyone you need to know, they support you with translation and photography and everything else. You see this beautiful country in their company. The mentors and other fellows complete the circle. When you leave, it's the people you remember best.  

The most valuable lesson from the Fellowship:

I think it was to embrace the literary quality of the work. I write about art and culture, but I also write about science and environment and health. The approach can be quite different, but being immersed in Gabo's writing which was so diverse and vigorous, and being surrounded by people who understood so much about the art of journalism, really strengthened my confidence and my willingness to experiment with style.    

How she applies the lessons from the fellowship in her daily work:

During my fellowship, I was struggling with one or two sections of my story. One of them was actually describing people, making them come alive for my readers. Our mentors helped me work through that with specific advice and feedback, and its something I do much more confidently now. 

Watch Smriti's TED Talk 'Choose to be curious' here.

Marie Doezema (United States/France), Gabo Fellowship 2017

- Freelance journalist, publishes in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The Columbia Journalism Review.

What made the fellowship valuable?

The fellowship was an incredible way to visit the country for the first time and to discover the works and life of Gabo in a much deeper way. The chance to interact with other fellows from around the world, as well as the masters and guest writers, was an incredible boost to my own writing and thinking; it re-energized my work and approach to journalism, gave me much to think about and digest.

The most valuable lesson from the Fellowship:

Remembering how important it is to keep learning and interacting! It's often easy to become isolated as a (freelance) journalist or writer and I found it very nourishing and stimulating to be in such a dedicated, diverse, and international community during the fellowship week.

How she applies the lessons from the fellowship in her daily work:

I find myself returning to this theme of fiction & journalism often; thinking of how fictional approaches to writing and storytelling can serve and enhance non-fiction.