vrijdag 6 maart 2009

For the love of poets and poetry

Here's the latest book I've ordered from Amazon.

Luisa Igloria is an award-winning poet, born and raised in the Philippines, she is an associate professor in the MFA creative writing program at the Old Dominion University. I interviewed Luisa Igloria a couple of years ago when her prize-winning collection, Trill and Mordent came out. Trill and Mordent has been picked as the book of the month for April poetry readers. There's a lovely audio review of it over at Luisa's blog. And yes, everything the reviewer says about the book is true.

In support of Filipino poets and their poetry, I am giving away a free copy of either Trill and Mordent or Juan Luna's Revolver. Leave your comment either here or at my livejournal to take part in this lottery. Results at the end of the month.

woensdag 4 maart 2009

I've decided to come back to using this blog as a notebook for my thoughts (just as I used the other blog to map out my thoughts pre-Hope away from Home).

I'm thinking of a lot of things, and as this blog is less visited than lj, I think this is an ideal place to wrestle with issues that are important to me as a person and as a writer.


There's something funny about this evolution thing as a writer. I've been reading Kelley Eskridge's work and I was just so moved by her story Dangerous Space which is nominated for the Nebula. If you visit Kelley's website, there is a link to a number of insightful essays on gender, fiction, and her love story. I've gone ahead and ordered myself a copy of Kelley's short story collection. I want to read her novel too, but will probably have to wait a bit before ordering that, as Amazon informs me they do not deliver this product to my country.

I've also been reading John Kessel's "The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and other stories". The book is free-t0-download from Small Beer Press, but I chose to buy myself a hard copy as I love my hard copy. Also, I think it's good to support small presses. I really do. John Kessel's "Stories for Men" is an amazing read, and it's no wonder to me that this story won the James Tiptree Jr. Award. John Kessel's "Pride and Prometheus" is also nominated for the Nebula's.

Ruth Nestvold is also up for the Nebula's. Her story, Mars: A Traveller's Guide is in the list of final nominations. Mars is a very clever story. It's engaging and entertaining and I enjoyed reading it a lot.

Here's a link to the final ballot for the Nebula Award.


Now that above shout-out is done, I want to write about how reading the works of this various authors have influenced me. In particular, I found myself very much affected by Eskridge's "Dangerous Space", Kessel's "Stories for Men", and Nestvold's "Looking Through Lace". Looking at these three stories, what binds them together is not only the way in which they question and look at gender, but also the emotional depth and the way in which they open up their characters and in this way open up themselves and allow their vulnerability to show.

There's plenty of food for thought there as I reconnect with a lot of things that I allowed myself to shelve away. I think that John Kessel is very right when he says that we should write what we like and think about publication later.
There's this clip of a Ryan Cayabyab song that's lingered in my mind all these years:


I was in highschool when I started working in slum areas. At first, I joined experienced outreach workers who gathered children together in a central place within the slum area to teach them songs, and tell them stories. Later, I had my own area where I taught children. This place was called "Paraiso".

In Paraiso, there was a little girl called Marilag. Marilag was a thalidomide baby. She was born with stumps for legs and her arms and fingers were deformed. She was the most beautiful little girl in Paraiso.

Marilag's mother was a hard-working woman. She washed and ironed clothes for a living. She was also very strict and it took time before I gained her trust. I guess, she was afraid for her daughter. With good reason. Even today, I still remember Marilag. She had the most beautiful smile. She always sat in the door of their house and when I arrived in the street, she would shout: Here comes Ate Chie. (Ate meaning older sister). I would carry her in my arms to our gathering place. Each year, she grew heavier.

The last time I saw Marilag, she was in her teens. I had gotten married and I wanted to see her before I left The Philippines. They were still living in one of the small streets crowded with houses made out of plywood and corrugated iron. She showed me clippings of an actor whom she admired. She was happy because she'd gotten prosthetic legs from the orthopedic hospital, and she was learning to walk on them. She dreamed of someday getting married and having children of her own.

When I went back home a couple of years ago, I heard that they'd moved back to the province. They didn't leave a forwarding address.

I am still looking for Marilag.


When you have been to a place like Paraiso, there are things you will never forget. Each man, each woman, each child has a story. That's a story that we can't romanticize or bagatellize. It just is that way.


donderdag 5 februari 2009

Teaching a Pink Elephant How to Ski

My short story, Teaching a Pink Elephant How to Ski, has been published over at Fantasy Magazine. If you have time, please feel free to drop by and read. Fantasy Magazine publishes a lot of great stuff and getting published in there is like another dream come true. I'm particularly happy about this publication as this piece is my tribute to the Villa Diodati workshop in Nice.

There are some nice comments in the comment thread which makes me really happy, because that's what the Pink Elephant was all about. Making people smile and be happy. Charles Tan says some nice things about Teaching a Pink Elephant How to Ski. And reads it right when he says this isn't meant to be a revolutionary piece (no, not at all), but rather a light and enjoyable read.

Yup. That elephant just got a-hold of the absurd part of my brain and wouldn't let go till I had written her pink self onto paper. She was born just to make people smile :)

vrijdag 16 januari 2009


Interzone 220 just dropped through the mail slot. I can't wait to read this issue. The TOC reads like a treat, and that cover is just stunning. has a story in this issue. I'm looking forward to reading that. A friend gave me my first year's subscription to Interzone and since then, I've been sort of hooked on the thing. There have been up and down moments, but each time I start to wonder whether it's worth keeping the subscription, they publish something awesome that makes me change my mind and decide to keep it after all.

Reading shelf:

I've just finished reading Elizabeth Bear's "All the Windwracked Stars". I've only read the Jenny Casey novels, but this one was just begging to be read. I'm so glad I bought it. This novel just blew my breath away. I like how Bear doesn't shy away from the hurt her characters have to endure. I like that her endings aren't neat and happily ever after.

In this first month of the new year, I also read Nalo Hopkinson's "Brown Girl in the Ring". I plan to go and order more of Hopkinson's books. I love how her heritage shines through in this novel, and this is what I want to do in my own work too. I'm conscious of how I bring my cultural heritage with me, and I'll be very honest and say that for all the bad press my third-world home country gets, I am proud to be a Filipino.

Ahmed A. Khan's short story collection, "Sparks". I'm reading through this one bit at a time and will write down my thoughts on it soon. One reason I love the short form is how easy it is for the mom like me to get my shot of lit before heading on to the next mom job.

Brett Savory's short story collection, "No Further Messages". I like the energy in Savory's writing. So much so, I've ordered myself a copy of his first novel. I also like that he's offered to sign it too. Very cool. In case you haven't guessed yet, I am a sucker for signed stuff.

Eileen Tabios's latest poetry book, "The Blind Chatelaine's Keys". Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Eileen's work, and how much I treasure her for helping me find my way back to poetry. I am still conscious of my own shortcomings when it comes to writing poetry, but I also recognize how poetry is an essential part of my writing self. Eileen's approach to poetry as an engagement and as a way of life appeals to me a lot. I love how she sees poetry in everything. There is an intensity to her work that reaches out of the page and grabs the reader. It's hard for me to explain and while we may try to dissect what it is about a certain poem that works for us, the truth is...poetry that works just feels right somehow. Saying why may sometimes be necessary, but if you ask me, all that dissection is extraneous.

"Rice" is a book I'm reading which details the history of rice, includes legends/myths associated with rice, various practices during the harvest and planting seasons. I do know a lot about rice, but it's nice to read through this and discover how other provinces in the Philippines relate to rice.

"Mangyan Treasures" a compilation of the Ambahan of the Mangyan Tribe compiled and translated by Antoon Postma. This is one book I will always cherish. I met Antoon Postma in the Philippines and he seemed a lot more Filipino than Dutch. There's an intensity in his passion for the Filipino heritage that I wish all Filipinos would catch.

I've got a load of books in read, to read, and in order status. Can't remember them all right now. I realize how much I need to be educated in terms of the sf&f publications. So, I'm reading as much of the free online fiction as I can, and chasing down recommended readings. I really enjoyed writing this post. I am a true bookworm and the part I miss most about being at home is the talk that went on at the dinner table. This usually revolved around the books we'd read or were reading. Hopefully I'll be able to duplicate those booktalk moments with my kids as they grow older.