Friday, October 24, 2014

Filipino Friday #2: Hello, Writer!

Yes! It's Friday and I'm finally writing a Filipino Friday post on the right day. Haha!

So, here's this week's prompt: As a reader, have you ever thought about writing a book? What kind of books/stories do you want to write? Or are you now a published author, and what compelled you to go fulfil this dream? How was your journey from reader to writer? How did you go about getting your book out there?

Here's my answer: Shameless promotion time. Haha!

Yes! Writing has always been a part of my life, just as much as reading. I started really early (grade school). I'm the type who keeps a journal. I started my first journal in Grade 2, as part of my school work. After that, I kept at it. I remember filling notebooks and notebooks with stories, poems, character banks, and even advertisements (yes, advertisements. I may have had an alternative career in copywriting)! Read about my favorite stories and my first attempt at writing a fantasy novel here (last year's Filipino Friday prompt).

Words make up my days. I say this elsewhere but I'll say it here again: your life is made up of what you remember. That's why I attempt to write whenever I can: it's life captured (and shared, when published).

I started writing poetry quite early too. I feel, up to now, that poetry is a concentrated kind of literature where I best express myself. But it's also one of the least profitable types of literature as well. Frankly, I don't care. I still write it.

My poetry has been published before. I'm really happy that I have a couple of poems published in two editions of U.P.'s Likhaan series. I also have one poem in A Habit of Shores, edited by one of my idols, Gemino "Jimmy" Abad. The poem title is rather long: "A Filipino Writer of English Poems to a Filipino Writer of Spanish Poems." It was written for a Rizal Centennial poetry contest in Ateneo de Manila (which I won...a long time ago). I have another one in One Hundred Love Poems, edited by Sir Jimmy and another of my literary idols, Alfred "Krip" Yuson. This latter poem is probably what you'd call my most mainstream and memorable poem. It's called "Seven Years Later, Driving Home." In other words: marami sigurong sawi sa Pilipinas. Haha!

I won't forget, though, the first time I got two poems published in a magazine. It was before I submitted my poem to the Rizal contest. I submitted it through my friend, Tats Locsin. Seeing my words printed on paper in a national publication was very thrilling. But my hope was: let it touch lives. The title of one of the poems was: "Lost Afternoon," about how even love is subject to time, a favorite theme of mine. I was going through a phase then.

I submitted another two poems to Panorama and they got published too. But that was it. Nothing published for a very long time.

A couple of years ago, I attended a seminar on producing results with velocity and I thought to myself: why don't I publish my books? I had a rejected manuscript for a chick lit story (too dragging, too serious...hahaha!) and I had a lot of poems that were unpublished, just languishing on this blog. So I published them on (a self-publishing platform in the U.S.) and I even got a couple of printed proofs in the mail which made me almost faint with excitement. My friend, Maisa dela Torre, illustrated my book of poetry.

My book of poetry is Gift: Poems. And my love story is Artemis Lets Go. I even did a little book launch in Fully Booked, BGC. The books were self-published so I couldn't use Fully Booked's distribution system and cashier. They needed a publisher or a company to sign the contract. I just printed a few copies and sold them to friends and family who showed up at the launch. My aunt, all the way in Virginia, also ordered several copies of my poetry book to give away as Christmas gifts. Yay!

Last year, I also collaborated with two other writers, Buding Aquino-Dee and Jenny Ong, to come up with a children's book that highlights how breastfeeding is part of family bonding. It's called Snuggle Wuggle Wee. It was such a joy to write! Sales of the book will fund more breastfeeding activities by the the non-profit organization, L.A.T.C.H. (Lactation, Attachment, Training, Counseling, and Help). A Filipino version, translated by a poet who happens to be my favorite Philosophy teacher, Bong Oris, is on the way.

I still won't make money out of writing. Not yet. But I don't mind. It's not why I write. And I'm learning! It also won't stop me from continuing to write. I found a way to DIY and I still got my books to some people. That's what counts. "Wildly popular" isn't really my end goal. As I've read in Stephen King's book On Writing: write for yourself. And here I am, still writing. I've submitted a couple of short stories to two anthologies for publication next year. I'm looking forward to the launches of those.

Also, NaNoWriMo is coming up. Maybe it's time to shake off the dust from a languishing manuscript and put it out there, in the world. There are a lot more choices available to writers nowadays, especially with the advent of digital distribution systems.

My conclusion: a reader may not always become a writer. But a writer...a writer will always start out as a reader. And a writer will always need to continue reading because of an incurable love for words and stories.

Disclosure: I work with a digital distribution system for the Pinoy market, buqo. But you'll see from my story, above, why I'm so passionate about books and getting authors to their audiences.

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