donderdag 31 januari 2008

writer's economics

Some Stats:

I'm doing better than I thought.

Since January 2008:

New stories written: 4
stories polished: 6
stories out: 8
rejections: 2 very nice ones. (One market liked the piece but the piece didn't fit the market. The second reject was also a positive one, liked the piece but was overbooked on that subject (alas) and an invite to send in something else on another subject.)

I've got my pdf copy of Flash Me Magazine where my story, Gift, appears.

Here's what Jeannie Eddy has to say about Gift: “This tension-filled, goosebump-inducing tale gives new meaning to our fear of things that go bump in the night.”

Flash Me is one of the best markets for flash fiction (there aren't very many of those around), and I'm really pleased to have made it in there.

maandag 28 januari 2008

I did it

For sometime now, I've been working towards having enough extra cash on-hand to buy a luxury thing called an LCD tv/monitor. After serious contemplation of consumer reviews, I had my heart set on a Samsung LCDtv. In the reviews I've read the Samsung LCDtvs have received consistent high marks from previous buyers.

I've now got a Samsung SyncMaster932mw, and it looks very cool and everything just looks brighter and easier on the eye. Plus it is a spacesaver too.

It's also got reasonable specs for the price I paid for it. There are online stores that offer this product, but I wanted to go to a real live store and see the product for myself. Mediamarkt (one of the biggest electronic stores in NL) had a Monday special where all LCDtvs were being sold at 19% less. I have to laugh thinking of how sales work, but considering that the mark-off brought me in the same price range as buying the product online, I can't complain. I think I got the flatscreen at a fair price.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow evening when Jan gets around to programming the television part. It will be interesting to see how that views.

zondag 27 januari 2008

Funny how the writer always intrudes into blogs meant to be separate from writing

No internet for the past couple of days. Somewhere in a town nearby something happened to one of the cables and we were offline for a day or so.

I signed up for a course meant for Sunday School teachers, and boy that is some heavy stuff. The lectures were in Dutch, and both days were pretty intensive. I ended up taking notes in English because he was talking so fast, there was no way my brain could process listening and writing it down in Dutch too (spelling and conjugations), so I opted for english, and hope I'll be able to do a good translate when test period comes around.

I remember being in doubt as to whether I'd done the right thing when I said yes to Mrs. Feliciano when she asked if she could include the essays from my poetic memoir. This came after hearing that one reader thought my memoirs were somewhat negative. I found myself struggling with that question. I looked at the ms again and I know that it's not all positive, but the end of this ms is filled with hope, with the wish for better things, with the embracing of self and of God.

It's odd that I should get this insight while sitting in a roomful of eager Sunday School teachers. I remembered writing the draft for the ms. I remembered sitting down after seven years of not writing and asking God to give me the words. I also remember telling him that if he really wanted me to write, he'd have to prove it to me. So, how come the first feedback I got was negative?

The lecturer then said something that made it very clear to me that I had written exactly what needed to be written. He said: It's our job to do what God wants us to do. What the other person does with it is their business. I realized then that I had done what God wanted me to do. I had written down the ms in the way it was meant to be written. If it helps someone that's a blessing, if someone takes offence, that's their choice. I came away from the first two lecture days thinking of how God summons each of us to do a certain thing. Maybe my job isn't as spectacular as the person who's helping orphaned kids in the jungles of Uganda, but I am doing what the Lord of the Kingdom commissioned me to do.

I tend to be quite forgetful, and so I wanted to post some points that I set as personal goals when I launched out on this writing voyage:

Challenge 1: Write better than your best
Challenge 2: Do not be satisfied with mediocre
Challenge 3: Push outside of the box
Challenge 4: Do not limit yourself and do not limit God
Challenge 5: Promote writers whose work you believe in (love other writers...get to know their work...and don't let religion stand in the way of promoting the other--good stuff is good stuff).
Challenge 6: Do not fall into bigotry, do not be afraid of criticque, take every piece of advice to heart and learn from every rejection.
Challenge 7: Trust God to take your work where its meant to go

On the 4th challenge, I have to think of something the lecturer said about the Bible. He was giving us an illustration of various stories from the New Testament...for instance: Jesus walking on water, Jesus raising the dead to life etc. etc. He then said another something that made the puzzle in my head go click. He said: "The bible is full of strange stories. If you read the Bible, you'll be quite surprised to see how everything reads like stuff out of fantasy, but it is truth. Our God is a God of wild imagination and supernatural stuff."

I sat there thinking to myself, yes...God is supernatural and I bet that if he were a writer in this day, he would be writing speculative fiction too :)

As a christian writer, I believe in the redemptive power of the word. The word has the power to give life and to kill. The word stings us, the word opens our eyes to truth. The word was after all what God used to bring creation to life. Writing is part of my life and my struggle. I remember conducting an inspiring interview with Lynn Austin. The interview is in archive over at The Sword Review and the answers she gave me back then continue to be an encouragement as I seek to write what God wants me to write.

Here's a quote from the Lynn Austin Interview:

I think a book can be Christian and not mention God. Again, it’s a question of worldview. One of the reasons I began to write is because I was so tired of reading books that were beautifully written but the underlying philosophy was “Life is hard and then you die. It’s meaningless.” I agree that life is hard—but God is good. To me, it’s this underlying message of hope and salvation and meaning that makes a book “Christian”—whether it mentions God or not.

I will never be able to please every Christian reader. I would be wrong to try to. I need to remain true to what I feel God wants me to write, and let readers be free to read what their consciences dictate.

zaterdag 19 januari 2008

samuel's birthday is coming up

Samuel will be celebrating his first birthday next week, and that means stretching our budget to allow for the extra expense. We've been racking our heads for gifts, but we're faced with the same dilemma that parents who have kids of the same sex probably face.

Samuel has inherited so many clothes, so many toys, and so many shoes that it's quite a challenge to come up with something he hasn't got. At one year, kids don't really know what birthday means, that comes way later when they realize birthday is coupled with presents. So, for Samuel's birthday, we've settled on getting him a great big cake that we can share with all our guests.

Back in the Philippines, a birthday isn't a real birthday unless the table is groaning with food and there's a huge birthday cake on the table. And if it's a kiddy's birthday and folks are determined to spend, there's this theory about the presence of a monstrous bee or one of his cohorts being a sure guarantee of a successful kiddy feast.

Over here, folks are quite "nuchter" (in other words, no bees or cohorts at Samuel's first birthday). Most birthdays are celebrated with coffee, tea, cake and cookies. Anything else is optional. I suppose it's my background though...I won't feel I've celebrated his birthday until I've done a little extra. So I am making mini-lumpias, and egg things to serve along with chips and slices of cucumber and carrots and some cherry tomatoes (yup...we are going the healthy route).

A break down of typical birthdays over here:

1. serve cake with coffee or tea
2. serve cookies or bonbons with second cup of coffee or tea
3. serve juices, softdrinks with finger foods
4. chips with refills

In between, there's a lot of talking and chattering going on. The hostess/host of the birthday runs continually between living room and kitchen as refills are needed.

When I was fresh from the PH, I noticed that not asking for the second cup of coffee or tea results in the host or hostess skipping me over for cookies or bonbons. As I grow more acquainted with the culture I think I understand why guests take that 2nd cup.

My theory is this...if you really want to be polite, you have to stay about an hour or so. If you don't know anyone at the party, the best way to camouflage this is to take tiny sips from your cup of tea while listening in politely to the two ladies on your left who seem to have known each other since forever--and nodding as if you understand everything they're talking about. By the time you've consumed your second cup of tea, your polite hour and a half has gone by. You can safely refuse the offered glass of softdrink, stand up with some prefabricated excuse and leave without offending your host/hostess the tiniest bit.

I'm going out on a limb here . This is actually the secret to how I've managed to get through birthdays and parties where I didn't know a single soul except the person who invited me. I've developed a new technique though...aside from the sipping my tea, I bring the baby/toddler with me(lol).

vrijdag 18 januari 2008

The Nibud Agenda

I love the Nibud Agenda. It's a little thing with spaces for daily appointments, columns for monies received and monies paid out, and it's also got a planner that's meant to help families figure out how much they are spending on clothes, gifts, transportation and all that. It's like a mini-accounting book, only it's less complicated.

What I've been doing is using this agenda not only to note down my weekly and daily appointments, but I also have been noting down how much I spend every week on groceries, visits to the shops, gifts, etc. etc.

I also have tried to keep a record of monies received from my piano students and other stuff.

I've only been using this agenda since the start of this month, and the idea is to list down all expenses for an entire month before doing a sum-up and deciding what has to go and what gets to stay.

I've been really thrifty this week. Mainly because I've been unable to bike with my thumb still swollen up and painful. The pain has receded as has the swelling, but I haven't been out of the house since Tuesday afternoon when I managed to slam the backdoor on it.

Sometime next week, I'll have to sit down and do my balancing act. With my piano students back to their regular schedules, it'll possible for me to calculate how long it will take me to save up for things I really want/need.

donderdag 17 januari 2008


Here's an image I'm working on for a possible story. Also some poems generated from this image. The way I work on a new story sometimes follows this route. I write down an image, poem the mc's emotions, mull over it, and when the time's right, the story will come.

Leaving the Country
Rochita Loenen-Ruiz

Behind the desk, a smooth-faced man smiles and nods his head. He bares his teeth in a grin and accepts paper money hidden between crinkly pages of bond paper. Everyone knows his secret, but it doesn’t make him any less businesslike.

He takes the papers, slides them into a drawer in one smooth movement. An adept-- it’s easy to believe he is innocent and has no knowledge of the bills smoothened out by a flat iron so they appear fresh from the bank.

It’s a simple matter to attach a seal to the end of a wooden stamp. It doesn’t take much effort to lift the stamp, press it into the inkpad and make an indention on the sheet of paper lying in front of him.

He nods his head, stands up at the same time you do. He reaches out grasps your hand in his.

Congratulations, he says. I wish you all success.

And you feel you deserve the words after all the months of chasing after bureaucrats.

You take the paper. You feel its weight. So light, and yet so heavy.

Don’t lose it, the man admonishes.

And you know you won’t because this paper has cost you sweat and tears. Days of scrimping and saving in order to gather together what amounts to a small treasure.

Only a matter of time now, you tell yourself.

You leave the room, and in your mind you are already leaving the country. You are leaving behind this stench of sweat and blood, this memory of rotting consciences and murdered ideals.

Leaving the Country

Leave behind this
dust, this

this earth stained
with blood,


Leave this
cradle of dreams

broken, torn from
hands wrinkled,

helpless against
an invincible foe.


of winds
in mango season

breaking on
Mindanao’s southern quay

by eager hands

sang full-bodied
on the crossing.

Don’t look back
in case

holds you
shakes your resolve

Leave this
Leave this memory

Sky bitter
With indentions of

Torn from
Hands grown weary

of fighting for a place to call your own

And Still

I may have left behind
Mountain and hill, sea and sky
But I carry with me the scent of mangoes
Ripening under a summer sun

the memory of palm leaves rustling
in an afternoon breeze
while the sun transforms the sea
awash with debris into glory

I carry these with me
snapshots of a life I had

No matter where I go
I still call myself Filipino.

dinsdag 15 januari 2008

Have written my Munting Nayon Column. Munting Nayon now has a website. It's There's this great piece on there about the Noli Me Tangere written by Basilio Valdehuesa. Good stuff.

zaterdag 12 januari 2008

There's a review on Hope Away from Home at The Book Buzz. I wanted to say thanks to Molly for her kind words.

I find it interesting whenever I hear of how readers read/respond to a given work.


This afternoon, I was able to connect with Evelyn Miranda-Feliciano, and I'm very pleased she's finally getting an internet connection. There's also been some feedback coming in with regards to Hope Away from Home, and also with regards to the "My Skin, Us" piece (published both in HAH and Route).


When I wrote the pieces included in Hope Away from Home, I had no idea they would land within the pages of a book. To me, these pieces were part of a letter I was writing to myself. I needed to make sense of the pieces of my life, and to understand everything I'd experienced. Not everyone has had the same experience I have had, but I think that for everyone who's experienced uprootment, there is a point of recognition.

The story I wrote is the truth of my experience. There are readers who may say there is a lot of negative in my story. And I think, yes, it is true. The experience of uprootment, of losing yourself, of going through discrimination, of knowing humiliation, these are not positive things. And yet, the positive thing I see in all of these is how I needed to go through all these experiences in order to see and to discover this God who burns away everything that is extraneous and unnecessary so that I depend on him alone.

It is through this experience that I am able to embrace the truth of my failures, my loss, my homesickness, myself. It is through this experience that I am able to look at the people in this society and understand that underneath it all, we are all the same. We all ache, we all grieve, we all experience loss, and we all know what it means to be a stranger.

(I am no longer afraid to engage God in conversation because I know that it is in engaging him, it is in discussing my life with him that he becomes truly real. I do argue with God, who doesn't? Is there a rule against carrying on discussions and disagreeing with what's going on in your present life? If there was some rule against it, then God would have created robots instead of beings with free will. )

Struggle continues to be part of my life as a migrant. In a society where we are constantly made conscious of our "allochtoon" identity, it is impossible not to struggle against being othered.

While I am proud of being different, I am also afraid of that difference. We live in a world wherein those who are different are often rejected or outcast. So, I have taught my son to speak up for himself--to say clearly and firmly when he does not like certain things. I have taught him to stand up and speak out against bullying and being bullied. I have also reminded my son that there is nothing wrong with being just the person who he is.

And while I am thankful that he is well-liked by his peers, I am well aware that he has been teased by his classmates for having a mother who is different, who speaks different, and who says words different.

The way I see it, what others think of me and what others think of us isn't important. What matters to me is being able to bring up my children with a sense of self and a recognition of their true worth in the eyes of God. We were all created equal.

Woman is not man's subordinate. Brown skin is not less than white. And because I come from a third world country and speak another language doesn't mean I am of lesser worth.

(to be continued...)

donderdag 10 januari 2008

secret lives

I had a conversation with my across-the-street neighbor who told me that at certain levels of society people are expected to act the same, speak the same, be the same. Deviation from the norm often equals being treated as an outsider. At certain levels of society, the person who is "you" is valued for uniqueness. It all depends on what level you want to be in.

I have a secret life. To the outside world, I am a regular mom. I try my best to cope with mommy stuff, I try to talk and act just as every other regular housewife/mommy acts. In secret, I am a writer of various things. What's more secret is that I write speculative fiction.

Not very many people know about my secret life. My across-the-street neighbor knows, but that's because she also has a secret life and I can't tell you about that because it's her secret.

Anyway, we were talking to each other and speculating on how many of these ordinary moms like me led secret lives. It would be interesting to find out, wouldn't it?

Except, my Dutch friend says, except you'll never know because it's secret.

maandag 7 januari 2008


I've been thinking about a lot of things. My aunt, being ill and in the hospital, and me not being able to go home before 2009. I've decided to try my best to send out as many stories as I can this year.



On the homefront, classes have started up. Today was really windy weather. It took such effort to keep from being blown off the bike today. Phew! What a wind that was.

The start of classes also represents the return of my piano and voice students. Yay! I had three students today and I am soooo glad they're back. I loved the vacation, but Lord knows I am thankful for the cash :)


I've also managed to find a decent buyer for Jan's flying overalls through Marktplaats. I shall check and see if he's sent his payment, then I can put the package in the post.

There's something sad/nostalgic about saying goodbye to these bits and pieces of Jan's life before he married me.

Life does change and we are creating our own adventures together. Secretly, I hope he does get to keep some of the stuff. I mean, he used to love gliding.

Going to take some pics of stuff that could be sellable. I've got this once used babybag,something for the baby chair, some baby clothes that have only been worn once and a shantala bath tub. It won't bring in big cash, but at least, it will create room in our already overcrowded attic.

The writing life

I've had two recent acceptances. One story which is coming out at the end of this month and the other at a date not yet known. I did sign contracts and all that already.

I've been writing lots. Since last week, I've completed two new short stories, I've completed the rough draft on another one, and I have submitted a grand total of three stories.

This year should see an increase in my rejection-acceptance ration as my submission ratio increases. I have determined to submit at least 10 stories this year. Biting the bit and doing it too. Kill that pain.

I shall also try to write at least 10 new completed stories this year and I shall do my best to complete rewrites on at least five of the stories stored away and waiting for the final version.

I shall also have to do something with 59 Beads as I haven't touched it yet. It needs a good look-over. I just might do a complete rewrite and retitle the thing into the bargain.


woensdag 2 januari 2008

Survival tips for the sale season

1. Make a list. List down the things you need, and list down the things you want. Those are two different things.

2. Create a budget. Say to yourself, I will not spend beyond a certain amount at this time.

3. Create time limits.

4. Allow yourself to walk out of a shop without buying anything.

5. When it comes to making a purchase, ask yourself this question: Is this item something I will enjoy using or is this item something I'm buying because it represents a desired status.

6. Don't let yourself get starstruck (by branded items). Make sure that the size is right, that it feels good, and that you love it.

7. Don't panic. Comparison shop because what may seem low-priced in one store could be even priced lower in another store.

8. Relativity is good. Will my life be totally shattered if I don't buy this thing? (Some folks say: I will totally die if I don't have such and such. How true is this statement? Would you really die if you didn't have it?)

9. Ask yourself the question, do I really need this? (my dad does that all the time. More often than not, the answer is : I don't really need this.)

10. If there's something left over after considering the needs part of your list, perhaps you can allow yourself some of the I want part. (I confess my wants are all about books. If I've bought myself a good book, I won't want anything else.)

11. The best way to make sure you stick to your budget during a sale is to bring your budget in cash. When the cash runs out, the budget's gone. You are still allowed to windowshop.

12. Buying is fun, but if buying is the be-all and end-all of a shopping trip...then maybe it's time to check your emotional state.

Oh...and perhaps the best budget keeper I´ve had is taking my son along with me. When I get to browsing tops and skirts and dresses, he says: But mom, don't you have enough of those things already?

Sale Season is ON

Sale season is on and shops everywhere are busy, busy, busy. Most of the shoppers are moms like me. Budget-conscious housewives who know that this time of year is the ideal time to go shopping for next year's winter clothes, and this time of year is perfect to buy your son the "brand name" shoe he's been begging you for since the start of the school year.

This sale season, I bought myself a lovely thick winter coat and next year's supply of winter pants. I also got the coolest jeans for Joel Jan and a very, very hip vest (which he totally loves) at a buy three and pay for two sale. I think we've done quite well. Samuel's been the really lucky one though. We've had a fresh staple of clothing delivered to our doorstep for free. All these lovely things are inherited from the children of friends who've outgrown them and they look barely used.

This afternoon's fun was a visit to the town of Gouda where they've set up this skating rink. Joel went skating with Karin (his niece) and with a friend we run into. It was a lovely afternoon. Quite chilly, but wonderful.

I think of how much pleasure can be had from watching our kids enjoy themselves. The highlight of the afternoon was seeing Joel's look of pride when he realized he could really skate. I'm glad there's no pricetag on that particular item.