Saturday, April 08, 2006

reading and writing

critical reading

A few weeks ago, I began a regular lit crit workshop with a small group of writers. Normally, I'm too swamped with work to conduct something like this, but the request from the writers was persuasive - for me to help them better articulate why or why not they liked a story. I began with helping them develop a fundamental critical framework for reading, giving everyone tools ranging from the basics (such as looking a characterization, narrative flow and tone) to the more advanced (looking at margins, semiotics and such). My approach reflected my own informal (and hodgepodge) attitude towards critical reading, not subservient to any particular creed or flavor, but with a definite slant towards speculative fiction (but requisite readings in realism, of course).

Our initial author was Colombian Albalucia Angel whose exquisite "The Guerillero" spawned much discussion due to the power of her craftwork (and no, her writing shares no common ground with Latin America's magic realist icon, Marquez). More interesting though was an entire evening devoted to "What I Didn't See", a stunningly well-executed story by Karen Joy Fowler (2004 Nebula Award winner for Short Story), which provoked numerous readings and endless discussions on its various merits.

I decided to also hold, in parallel, a sort of writing workshop, to help push my circle's creative expression. I am by no means an expert, but what little I know I'm willing to share or hold open for discussion.

In the (brief) time that I've been writing I've realized two things:

You learn to write by reading.

You learn to write by writing.

No other ways about it. My little group does both, so my hope for stronger speculative fiction continues to burn bright.


Speaking of writing, Kit Kwe, one of the wonderfully accomplished fictionists of today, asked me to tell you that Story Philippines - that giant-sized quarterly of original Filipino fiction - is accepting submissions of all stripes. So check your inventory, or better yet write something new, and submit to

In writing, as in life, it is always worthwhile to try. In the publication's first two issues, there have been both established and new authors, so do give it a shot. There are no themes nor deadlines, but only email submissions with complete name and contact details will be considered for publication.


I'll be in Dumaguete around the second week of May, to visit Mom Edith Tiempo (I last saw her when I was fellow way back in 1992), meet up with Ian Casocot and other friends, discuss my novel, and hopefully, get some writing done.

Oh, and to get some vacation time - which, given the rather toxic past few weeks, is desperately needed.


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