Saturday, March 31, 2007

filipino fantastic

An interview with me appears over at Read or Die.

The wonderful people behind the recent RodCon 2007 continue to impress me with their focus and action as they push their advocacies forward.

One thing to look forward to is Filipino Fantastic, the first interdisciplinary conference on the fantastic in Filipino literature, art and media.

Slated for August 2007, the conference will focus on general explorations of the fantastic in different visual and literary mediums and the cultural influences behind them. The thematic areas of the conference are:

Invisible Cities - Fantastic worlds (Catalogs of, theories about and methodologies behind the creation of fantastic worlds).

Imaginary Beasts - Mythological figures and supernatural beings.

Universal Histories - History imitating history; history imitating life. (Theoretical readings and analyses of individual works and key texts).

New Abominations - Fabulists and unreal individuals (Creators of the fantastic).

Deliberate Anachronisms - Fandom (The reception of the fantastic by mainstream audiences, fans, and cultural industries.) .

They've announced an open call for papers.

All this is just incredible and I count myself fortunate to live in a time period in my country when such events can actually occur.

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Friday, March 30, 2007


April is a special month for the LitCritters as we shift into workshop mode. Each of the LitCritters has written a brand new novelette - prose fiction with a word count between 7500 - 17500. This length is not within everyone's comfort zone. Most of us are used to the short story format (my personal sweet spot is between 3000-5000), but I think it is good exercise for writers to develop texts in different lengths. We shouldn't be afraid of length - how else can one hope to write a novel?

We have 8 stories to workshop, or 2 stories a week for 4 weeks. The goal, of course, is to improve the texts and move them towards publishable quality. During this time period, I won't be sending out the usual fiction pieces to the readers of this blog who request them. As these are original unpublished stories, it's better to wait for the final published form. Come May though, it's back to normal. I'll start sending out the stories the LitCritters are reading, critiquing and learning from (from those written superbly to examples of problematic writing).

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(Photo by Benj Ordonez. L to R: Andrew, Kate, Sage, Alex, Dean, Nikki, Kyu, Vin)

I look forward to April's sessions, and to reading original fiction from Alex Osias, Kate Aton-Osias, Andrew Drilon, Vin Simbulan, Nikki Alfar, Ian Casocot and Kenneth Yu. My latest story will also be discussed, and I hope I pass the grade (you should know by now that I'm the last person to be impressed by anything I've written - I may be a harsh critic, but I'm hardest on myself).

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(photo from fredjordan. L to R: -top- Ian, Lyde, Dirg, Robert; -bottom- Ianne, Michelle, Anthony, Fred Jordan)

I'm also planning to make time to read the new stories written by the LitCritters Dumaguete. Headed by Ian, they also wrote new fiction this month - Fred Jordan Carnice, Lyde Villanueva, Rodrigo Bolivar II, Robert Jed Malayang, Michelle Eve de Guzman, and Anthony Odtohan (Ianne Tapales is off in Japan). If geography were not an issue, I'd love to have Ian and these young writers with us every week as well. As reality and finances permit though, I think the best bet for all of us to meet each other is at the end of the year, when the Manila Litcritters are hoping to visit Dumaguete again, just like last year.

Sometime soon, I'll also be sounding the open call for submissions for Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol. 3, which should be out by the end of the year.

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philippine blog awards

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Well, I've done my share, read the blogs and accomplished my judge score sheet (and had a great time discovering wonderful blogs). I don't know who the winner is (I didn't compare notes with any of the judges) but of course I am rooting for certain blogs that I found very engaging.

The Philippine Blog Awards Night is tomorrow evening, March 31, 2007 from 6PM - 8PM at Podium 4 of the RCBC Theater, RCBC Building, Ayala cor. Buendia Ave., Makati City.

A prior commitment may prevent me from attending, but I'll try hard to do so. I'd like to meet the authors and creatives of the blogs I voted for.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

all things brown and beautiful

PinoyCentric, a Chicago-based but Pinas-grounded Web publication that celebrates everything Filipino, has reprinted "Old House" - which, of course, makes me happy (this post's title is their tagline, which reminds me of the old James Herriot books I used to read).

I'm scheduled to sit with Karla Maquiling, their Philippine Bureau Chief, in the next couple weeks for an Innerview (quite a bit intimidating - look at who they've featured previously: Shiela Coronel and Newsbreak's Luis Liwanag).

I'll go full advocacy mode, natch. Go, Pinoy Spec Fic!

While on the topic of Filipino food (see how my mind worked the connection: "all things brown and beautiful" = "Filipino food like adobo, yum"), I survived my first actual day behind the counter at Binalot. It was funny because I felt so stressed, especially during the lunch rush. And usually I'm the irate customer on the other side, but today I was silently pleading with the fates that nothing goes wrong. Gah. So much to learn! Tiring but fun.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

personal writing updates

So far, so good.

A couple of my stories are slated for publication here and abroad in the near future (details when the time is closer): "In The Dim Plane" and "Into the Morning".

Also, I think "An Excerpt from 'Princes of the Sultanate' (Ghazali: 1902); Annotated by Omar Jamad Maududi, MLS, HOL, JMS." has been accepted by the publication I sent it to but I'm not 100% sure, so we'll call it a strongish maybe.

I'm keeping my toes and fingers crossed that the US publication will accept the other story I sent over, but it's too early to tell.

And I may have something coming up in the Philippines Free Press, my sad sad attempt at science fiction.

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Speaking of which, the Philippines Free Press Literary Awards will be held on April 10, 2007 at the Mandarin Hotel. Last year, the LitCritters came over to celebrate with the winners and this year we'll be there again. Because something interesting might happen. We'll see.


My story "Six from Downtown" is a finalist for the Free Press Awards. When I got the message yesterday, I wasn't 100% certain so I waited until I got a second confirmation this morning. I'm still a bit stunned and quite delighted. I wrote the story while I was at Dumaguete last year, mostly in my hotel room while I was stranded by an unseasonal storm. I used elements of horror and domestic realism with a smidgen of fantasy. I don't know who the judges are this year but I'm thankful to be shortlisted in the first place. As for actually winning, well, bahala na si Batman.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

in the young readers' section

One of the places to find me browsing at a big bookstore is the section for young adult readers (as well as the children's section). There are a lot of great reads that are marketed as juvenilia, a great number of which are better written than books you'd find in the general fiction shelves. It was Nikki, who reads a lot more than I do, who familiarized me with authors like Garth Nix and Tamora Pierce, plus a boatload of others whose underage protagonists undergo incredible adventures or experience quiet epiphanies - just like their adult counterparts. I find it amusing that so many people turn up their noses at what they consider "kiddie" books. I don't feel bad that their ignorance condemns them - I'm happy to be part of the smaller number who know where treasure can be found.

Of course, in the past years, that number has grown (thankfully, with more younger readers than adults - because, after all, in the context of reader attrition, it is these young readers who will grow up and buy books themselves). The Harry Potter series and its copycats drive sales (though obviously everyone tends to overorder as evidenced by the continuous downward spiral of cover prices for unpurchased inventory). Regardless of how we feel about the quality of the Potter books, they did great good in terms of encouraging young people to read (I loved the earlier books in the series myself; I remember picking up the first hardcover in the US for Nikki way before the marketing furor began). Already, book publishers are looking hard and casting their nets for the next phenomenon. HarperCollins hopes it'll be the work of 32 year-old Irish farmer and college dropout Derek Landy, who has already signed a three-book deal (the first book alone is reported to be valued at US $1.9M).

The sad thing about these kinds of books and their accompanying marketing circuses is that they tend to drown out the smaller, less marketed books (which is just a truism when it comes to marketing - he who makes noise attracts attention). I just hope that these readers, after they're done with their megapopular flavor of the month or year, will hunger for more and browse the stacks and encounter all the other wonderful fiction.

I wish also that the Philippine publishers would be more supportive of longer works, like novels or series of novels that cater to a younger audience (like the work of Carla Pacis). How cool would a multi-part fantasy series by Joel Toledo be? I could be wrong but from what I see their focus is on short standalones for much younger readers, beautifully illustrated by talented artists (among my favorites: "The Greediest of Rajahs and the Whitest of the Clouds" by Hai Ibardolaza). It would be wonderful to find a large section of Filipino juvenilia over at Powerbooks, Fully Booked, Booktopia and the other bookstores. And of course some of these would be speculative fiction - tales of the fantastic and science fiction and well-written horror.

I'll probably get into trouble again for digressing and saying this, but the local horror anthologies are poorly written in general. The authors should know that there is a difference between stating a series of events - not matter how 'true' or 'ghostly' - and telling a story. I do appreciate the publisher and editor's initiative but the end product is mostly unreadable (of course, they could argue that sales are the best indicator of success which ultimately renders all I've said as irrelevant to them).


Monday, March 26, 2007

back to school

I must confess that I am a little intimidated by the sheer amount of work in the next few weeks (interrupted, thankfully, by the long Holy Week holidays). The largest pie share of my time will go to Binalot school, which all franchisees need to attend. Learning is always something I think of as fun, but honestly after looking at the calendar I'm stunned - 30 calendar days in total, including a mix of classroom sessions and hands-on time at a working store.

The big issue is how to attend all these sessions while juggling my regular workload for my agency clients, plus attending to the matter of opening the new branch of the pet store in May. Clearly, we cannot abandon our main business. I think I have to clone myself or find a way to fantastically multi-task. I thought I could zip in and out of the classroom as required by my other businesses, but the fact that the Binalot HQ is in Bicutan makes "going out for a second" to handle a client in the Ortigas area a joke. I'm just glad that I have a business partner who can alternate days with me.

Another aspect that made me stop when I was reading through the franchise schedule was the occasional exam. I can only hope it is an essay-type thing so I can blah-blah my way into a semblance of coherent intelligence because if it is a matter of remembering facts and actually doing some math, I will just have to gnash my teeth and weep silenty into my test paper.

Despite all this though, I'm still excited. I'm approaching all these scheduling dilemmas as a challenge in time management. Besides, its only absurd for a month. After that, we'll have people handling the store. I just feel that it is important that I have some understanding of how things work.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

business stuff

I'm quite excited about our franchise in Binalot (the link is a video capture of a news feature on the chain, with its founder Rommel Juan). I love Filipino food and am a big fan of the place, so it makes sense. In the coming weeks, I'll have to go to 'school' to learn the ins and outs of running the franchise, which includes actual time at a store, prepping food and manning the counter.

On the Petty Pets front, I'm looking to secure a source for Netherland Dwarf Rabbits - because, well, they're simply adorable and the kids love them. Product mix is also heavy on my mind as we prepare to open a new branch soon. With the larger space, we can have other animals and sundry that we don't carry at our store at SM Megamall. I'm thinking more fish and birds (there are a kajillion types of African lovebirds, eyerings, finches and cockatiels, for instance). But still no dogs or cats, sorry (besides, a pet store is not where you should go if you want a dog - find a reputable breeder instead).

As the reluctant businessman (really, I never imagined I had it in me, thinking myself more of the writer/creative type), I enjoy learning by talking to other businessmen. I'm consistently intrigued by the business of running a business. I'm not one to read business books (I think they're more 'rah-rah inspirational' than truly helpful in a concrete way), preferring a more hands on/entrepreneurial approach. Recently though, because of the fact that I'm one of the judges for several categories of the 2007 Philippine Blog Awards, I read through a slew of blogs - which happily included excellent business blogs. Perhaps because of their need to be concise and their deliberately focused content, these blogs are among the best written I've read. Professional, educational, and very readable.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"my name is sage alfar"

That is how my five year old daughter began her speech at her graduation ceremony last Saturday, on a huge stage, addressing the attentive audience which included her stunned (and nearly in tears) father.

We were told that she was going to read her speech (which, really, was quite complex) but she went up there and delivered it straight from memory. Only part of me was listening; I was more entranced by the fact that Sage was up there and struck again and again by the fact that she was growing up.

I think I am fast approaching that bittersweet time when parents begin to fool themselves with the notion that they can know their children's destiny. I can imagine her as a public speaker, as a creative, as a photographer, as an artist, as a writer, as a business owner, as this and that and more. The serious flaw in this mode of thought is that it neglects my daughter's own ambitions. It is too easy to dream on her behalf - I have all of the parents who ever lived on my side, telling me that it's all right to do so because she doesn't know any better, and that it is my responsibility to push her towards something, some career or craft, that will bring her financial stability and happiness in the future. But I realized for myself that a parent's dreams are not necessarily what a child wants, that forcing one's dreams on someone else is a losing proposition. The best scenario is to live vicariously through her own choices, be there to advise, and hope for the best.

This does not mean I'll be completely hands off, certainly not. As her father there are many things within my control. But when it comes to the big ones when she comes of age, I will not force her choices to align with mine.

I know its too early and perhaps too optimistic to say these things, but I believe that we create our own happiness and that we are masters of our individual lives.

Last week though, as I watched her speak onstage with confidence and grace, I permitted myself to be enveloped by her myriad possibilities, wiping away the tears of pride and delight from my eyes.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

writing in english

Anna Tambour, one of the leading speculative fiction authors in Australia, has interesting thoughts on writers who write in English as a second language (Medlar Comfits: Do English-as-a-second-language writers (and speakers) have more fun?).

I agree with her assessment. Here in the Philippines, new words arise, new meanings blossom and new ways to use words appear, all serving to enhance the experience of English. While we adhere to certain formal rules of usage and grammar, postcolonial people like the Filipinos have taken ownership of English, the language of the conquerors. We use it everyday, after all, and we use it to express our deepest thoughts and emotions. It is no longer someone other's language, it is ours.

She was kind enough to include me (which, of course, makes me feel like the poorly dressed man at a ball haha).

"Dean Francis Alfar, in the Philippines, writes with a lyricism that has no affectation. His stories are full of pathos without bathos, deeply emotional without a bit of melodrama. He isn't afraid to mix languages and to play with meaning. He is only one of many writers who make me aware of the meaning of words. He chooses. He expresses with a particularity that doesn't pretend that any one language can express all, yet he finds verbal and written language rich enough that he doesn't need emoticons. "

One of my short stories, Terminos, appeared previously on her site.

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Monday, March 19, 2007


This week:

Midsummer by Manuel Arguilla
Body, Remember by Catherine E. Tobler
Miss Carstairs and the Merman by Delia Sherman
None So Blind by Joe Haldeman

Last week:

Silver or Gold by Emma Bull
Godmother Death by Jane Yolen
O One by Chris Roberson
My Life with the Wave by Octavio Paz

I particularly enjoyed Nobel Prize-winner Octavio Paz's story. "My Life with the Wave" is tautly rendered in lyrical language and explores the horizons of change and expectations in a relationship. The ending is both inevitable and surprising.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

old house

My family recently sold the old house in Greenhills and have commenced moving into a condo in Makati. With most of the children grown up and living on their own here or abroad, it was decided, among other things, that the house was too big for my mother and my stepfather.

I spent many years of my youth within the walls of that house; my own room was the converted library with multiple shelves and three doors: one into the main house, one into a small study with a secret spiral staircase, and one into the outside world (which facilitated my sneaking in girls at odd hours without waking anyone up or my breaking the curfew for an evening with friends elsewhere). I swiftly took over the shelves, consigning my stepfather’s lawyerly books to the farthest end of the room and stacking my own comic boxes and fantasy novels within my eyes’ reach. My bed was huge and had a cavernous space beneath it: one time, a friend of mine spent hours hidden underneath, waiting patiently to frighten me: it worked and my scream – in the middle of the night – was vintage horror movie.

The old house had a swimming pool with a rock slide that curved once before pitching the bleeding slider into the pool. The blood was there because the stone slide was roughly finished, as one slid down, numerous tiny protrusions lacerated flesh – it all happened quickly though and one never had time to notice the pain immediately since a giant splash into the pool followed. It was only afterwards, while bobbing up and down the chlorine-infused water, that the small suggestions of discomfort blossomed into pain, though it was the kind of pain we all had to smile through because – well, because kids did that. It wasn’t before long that we discontinued the use of the Slide of Sorrow, then when we all outgrew the fact that we had a pool we could use anytime, we stopped swimming altogether. The pool was converted first into a fishpond, a dark and brooding artificial body of water with meager numbers of tilapia and snails. When mosquitoes and other unwholesome creatures took residence, the pool was drained, the fish and snails devoured or thrown away, and the cavity was filled with earth and planted with a variety of trees and herbs. The converted pool-garden was too small to walk through but I think the truncated line of stunted banana trees had its charm.

We had a huge lanai – a covered open area that straddled two sides of the house’s perimeter where my mother positioned numerous sofas, couches, garden chairs, settees and a variety of tables in. Depending on one’s mood, one chose where to sit: amorous and it was the soft set at the corner, where my girlfriend-who-became-my-wife used to stroke my hair as I lay on her lap, mentally commanding my body not to react to her touch; moody, and it was one of the black cast iron chairs, perfect for a contemplative cigarette. When we held parties (and we used to hold a lot of parties), we opened the glass doors from the formal living room into the lanai and created great spaces for people to explore or cluster together at. Sometimes, we’d have lunch at the lanai, semi buffet-style (because, at one point in time, we had 8 helpers and they would rush to refill a water glass or quietly swat a fly), with the sunlight magnifying the orange of the prawns, the green of the salad and the chromatic wonder of the upside-down cathedral cake my aunt would send over.

Inside the house was a heavy darkness, not metaphorical but literal. The interior of the house featured a very high ceiling. Even from the balcony of the 2nd floor, the ceiling was unreachable by man. The few lighting fixtures that illuminated the central area were terribly insufficient and my stepfather was never one to just suddenly determine to rewire the house simply because it wasn’t bright enough. My mother tried to combat the gloom with artfully placed lamps with giant lampshades, but the feeling of twilight never went away. None of us liked staying for long there. It was huge and encompassed the formal living room and an area I can only describe as ad hoc (at times the Christmas Tree was placed there, at times, the piano or a ten-seater table).

Other places in the house were a mystery to me. The expansive space of the master’s bedroom (just as big as my entire condo unit, I think) was never a place I willingly visited. My sisters’ rooms were a great unknown. My brother’s room was more inviting but entailed a trip up two flights of stairs. The two kitchens – dirty and…clean? – were the domains of my grandmother, mother and the cooks and welcomed no children. The large garages were, similarly, under my stepfather’s dominion and he’d spend hours dismantling his cars and putting them back together.

I realize now that I only truly lived in a small part of the big old house, finding reasons to stay within the sectors of my own universe of books and friends. It is so unlike living in a smaller space like I do now, where every little area is premium.

I’ve never had the sense of having an ancestral home. Those I equate with ancient and history-studded Spanish-era sprawls in provincial capitals.

The truth is I only wanted to leave the old house and venture out on my own. For the longest of times, I was paralyzed by fear of not having income, not having food, not having my usual creature comforts. It took an event of melodramatic intensity to get to me leave, and I abandoned what I knew in exchange for what I dreamed of.

And now the house has been sold. Perhaps the new owners will tear it down and build their own place in their own way.

For me, who among my entire family is the least affected by the sale and change of residence, it is just how things are. And it is important to remember that we must not equate a house with a home or a house with a family. A house you can always sell and leave behind. Family, on the other hand, you take with you wherever you go.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007


This week:

Silver or Gold by Emma Bull
Godmother Death by Jane Yolen
O One by Chris Roberson
My Life with the Wave by Octavio Paz

Last week:

The God of Gaps by Adrian Firth
The East by M. John Harrison
The Death of King Gongmin by Minsoo Kang
Harvey's Dream by Stephen King

Of the readings last week, the big standout was the King. "Harvey's Dream" works on so many levels, as both a genre and a literary piece. King's taunt and true observations of the human condition, played in the wife's mindscape, serve to heighten the impending sense that something is terribly wrong. The horror is devious and subtle, with the narrative always just a short step ahead of the readers. King doesn't deserve whatever flack he gets - this is simply excellent storytelling and there is much to learn in terms of technique.

The other text I enjoyed was Kang's "The Death of King Gongmin". An interestingly written piece of metafiction, the story delves into an ancient murder. Sophisticated handling of authorial/narrative layering plus the use of speculative fiction techniques creates a read that is part historical essay, part creative nonficton, part journal, part philosophy text and - with its glimpses of court life and intrigue - romance, soap opera, adventure and political thriller.

“You are write in a foreign language for foreign readers to whom all these stories are things that happened so far away, so long ago. Why are you telling the tale of an obscure king of an obscure age of an obscure country? What could you possibly hope to achieve?” the ghost of the dead king asked me in the impenetrable darkness.

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Monday, March 12, 2007


Gah. Woke up before 7AM to get to my 8AM shoot which lasted until just past 7PM, then took an hourlong cab ride back home.

I wish -like Sara, our photographer - that I had a spa appointment immediately afterwards. But the nice thing about coming home tired is seeing my wife and daughter, all smiles (despite Nikki being under the weather).

Sage read to me her graduation speech (she still has a year to go, but the school asked her to read on behalf of the other kids) and I was truly impressed. I know I started reading quite early in my life but perhaps not as early as she has.

I have a ton of work waiting for me tomorrow, which is what I get for not stepping foot in my office all day today. It is easy to be dispirited so instead I'll take it all as a challenge to simply get through the day one task at a time. After all, after catching a screening of 300 last night, I have enough testoterone to last me for the next few days - bushed or not.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

cover studies

Since Anvil Publishing has given me the opportunity to provide the cover for my upcoming collection, I asked Kestrel to design it. Here are the first couple of studies.

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This design is clean and wholesome, isn't it?

Anvil is a big fan of white (though the concern is how white turns to yellowish-ivory as time passes). I'll post more as they come.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

heroes and lost

Nikki and I caught up with two of favorite shows (with multiple unviewed episodes of Jericho slated for tonight): Lost and Heroes.

I used to be one of the biggest Lost fans but now have definitely fallen on the wayside. As I watched the 5 latest episodes, I feel my interest deteriorate and disengage. I think that too many subplots and unanswered mysteries piled one on top of the other without any degrees of answers or resolutions has ruined this show. Additionally, characterization has suffered and the entire Season 3 6-espisode mini-thingie with Jack, Kate, Sawyer and the Others was terrible. It took us away from the rest of the cast at the beach and deflated the sense of urgency and wonder (what happened to the bear? the black smoke? the eerieness? talk of this being purgatory?). I will still watch the series, but won't be surprised if somehow it gets cancelled. Already, the show has severely dipped in ratings, losing viewers to Heroes and Jericho. Sadly, Lost is being positioned as how not to do serialized TV (read this). I hope that the producers and writers do something to bring back what worked with Lost. But from a fantastic Season 1 to a mediocre and meandering Season 2 to a dead-in-the-water Season 3, the decline speaks of a bleaker future.

Heroes, on the other hand, consistently delivers, providing one of the best episodes we've seen (Ep 17: Company Man). While I am still irritated by the voiceover and the very existence of Peter Petrelli, most of the series elements work. Characterization is terrific and I like how little mysteries are answered. I thought this series started weakly (and still do - the pilot can be improved) but I'm along for the ride.

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black shoot

Sara Black is one of the best young photographers in the country and one I wanted to work with (the other one is Jake Versoza whose eye for mood is incredible). She's fun, professional and easy to work with. Last weekend, we had a shoot for Red Box (yup, my favorite videoke place is a client of my design agency) and it was very interesting considering I had less than two hours of sleep before the shoot (that's what I get for burning the night and early morning singing with friends - at Red Box, of course). I tapped into my inner reserves and coordinated the stylists, make up, hair, photographer and client with a lot of help from my Kestrel staffers Nina and Paolo. The results of the shoot will be seen in the upcoming Red Box website (if you want to see the latest site Kestrel did, check out The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf).

What I like about Sara is her easy way with the models (and her uber cool name, which makes for great branding). I've worked with many photographers because of my business, but she wins the prize for helping the talents get comfortable, which made my job as art director less stressful.

Being a fashion shoot, it was also a bit different from my usual work. Just the other week, for example, I shot a bank interior as well as several portraits for a company's board of directors. For SM, I shot talents across every main area of the mall (department store, supermarket, toy kingdom, skating rink, etc.). Sometimes, I go on location (once with Vin in tow, and he ended up riding one of the horses we were supposed to shoot). I also do product shoots (and products are the hardest to motivate). I rarely get to do fashion-type shoots, so this one was quite cool, with all the styling choices and poses and such.

As a beginner-level photographer, I always take the opportunity to learn and ask questions (who else to ask, after all) and Sara was kind enough to answer my inane queries (mostly about how to take shots of my whilring dervish of a daughter when she is running all over the house). I still have a lot to learn, especially about lighting, but someday I think I'll get there. Sadly though, photography isn't something I can commit dedicated time to (and the associated expenses for equipment are a major consideration).

Before we called it a day (and believe me, I was more than ready to collapse into bed by then), Sara and I had a little fun:

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Dean approaches mike coyly

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Dean finds his key

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Dean channels Chris Daughtry

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Monday, March 05, 2007


This week:

The God of Gaps by Adrian Firth
The East by M. John Harrison
The Death of King Gongmin by Minsoo Kang
Harvey's Dream by Stephen King

Last week:

What Uncle Howard Did by David Kopaska-Merkel
Solis Invicti by Matthew Rossi
Giving A Clock by Frances Hwang
The Continuing Adventures of Rocket Boy by Daryl Gregory

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iBlog3: The 3rd Philippine Blogging Summit

And just like that, another year has passed and its time for the latest iBlog summit. I believe this is an important event, gathering bloggers from different interest groups and speakers of various backgrounds. In the past two years, I've met many great bloggers (you are not alone!) and my understanding of how blogs work has increased.

I'm happy to say that I've been a speaker for iBlog from its inception, musing about how the blog can be used as a tool for writers. This year, I'll be talking about the Literary Blogging Experience, Observations, and Trends. But I'm just a small part of it - believe me, there's something for everyone.

iBlog 3 will be held on April 13 - 14, 2007 at the School of Economics Auditorium of UP Diliman.

Admission is free. Go and register to ensure your seat and free stuff. Bring a friend or four.

Here's the iBlog 3 site.

And here's the Program of Events (I'm scheduled for April 13, in the afternoon):

iBlog 3 Program

April 13

Morning: Newbies track
9:00-9:15 Opening remarks
9:15 - 9:30 Keynote (VIP)
9:30-10:00 Blogging for Newbies (Chris Haravata)
10:00 - 10:30 Do’s and Don’ts of Personal Blogging (Lauren Dado)
10-30 - 10:45 Break
10:45 - 11: 10 Personal Blogging Success Story (Noemi Lardizabal Dado)
11:10 - 11:30 Unlocking your creative blogging potential (Marcelle Fabie)
11:30 - 12:00 What every business person should know about blogging (Arelle Valla)
12:00 - 1:00 Lunch
1:00 - 1:15 Building Communities: One Blog at a time. The E-Games Experience(Jaime Enrique Y. Gonzalez, CEO, IPVG)

Art & Literary Track
1:15 - 1:40 Injecting humor in blogging (Anton De Leon)
1:40 - 2:20 Blogging as alternative publishing for comic book creators (Jonas Diego)
2:20 - 2:40 Photo Blogging (Anton Diaz)
2:40 -3:10 Literary Blogging Experience, Observations, and Trends (Dean Alfar)
3:10 - 3:30 Break

Legal Track
3:30 - 4:00 Philippine Libel Law and its implications on blogging
4:00 - 4:30 Bloggers Code of Ethics (Emerson Banez)
4:30 - 5:00 Blogging and Copyright Law (Atty. Jaime Soriano)
5:00 - 8:00 Raffle, Bloggers Networking, Cocktails

April 14

Blogging for Newbies
9:00 - 9:30 Abraham Olandres: Blogging Success Story (Philippines’ Most Read Blogger)9:30 - 9:45 Sponsor slot
9:45 - 10:15 Philippine Politics and the Blogosphere (Manuel L. Quezon III)
10:15 to 10:45 Break
10:45 to 12:00 noon Blogging Trends Panel (Moderator: Janette Toral)
12:00 - 1:00 Lunch
1:00 to 1:15 Sponsor Talk

Blogging and Journalism
1:15 - 1:40 Blogging and Investigative Journalism (Alecks Pabico of PCIJ)
1:40 - 2:00 Blogging as Mainstream Media (Angelo Racoma of the Blog Herald)
2:00 - 2:20 TV Journalism and Blogging (Malou Mangahas of GMA Network)
2:20- 240 Panel Discussion (Moderated by Rachel Khan)
2:40 - 3:00 Break

Professional Blogging Panel
3:00 - 3:30 Blogging for advancing one’s career (Marc Hil Macalua)
3:30 - 4:00 Professional blogging (Jayvee Fernandez)
4:00 - 4:30 Increasing blog popularity (Gail Dela Cruz - Villanueva)
4:30 - 5:00 Raffle, group picture, networking

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Friday, March 02, 2007

where stories come from

In the process of reviewing stories submitted to me for publication or critique, I got to thinking about where these stories come from (and no, the answer is not from the hearts and minds of the writers).

As a country where only a small fraction of the population write, it bears to consider the question. My best guesses (since I have no research handy):

a. Academe - Students enrolled in creative writing courses or similar classes that require the development of texts must write stories. It's sort of like forced savings, in financial terms. Some of the stories developed here are quite good (especially in the post graduate courses) and have gone on and been published and/or won literary awards (e.g. Janet Villa's excellent "Undercurrents" and Socorro Villanueva's "Mahogany Waters"). In the undergrad level though, finding a good story is a bit harder - people, after all, are still learning craft - but once in a while excellent stories written for a class come my way and floor me (thanks for Krip Yuson for asking his students to forward me spec fic stories) - with a little work, they're ready for publication. Included in this category are stories written by students even if they are not in a creative writing course - because I suspect that, given their exposure to things academic (including required readings and interdisciplinary studies), school is a profound influence on what they choose to write about and how they write it. Also included would be work by writers who are teachers or otherwise part of the university system - these writers also create surprising fiction that deserve a wider audience.

b. Writing Workshops - Technically, no writing is done in workshops as each fellow "auditions" with a select set of stories, plays or poetry which obviously was written beforehand. However, these texts undergo the workshop experience where they are critiqued in Dumaguete or Iligan or Bacolod or Baguio or whichever lovely place is chosen by the organizers. In my experience, rewriting occurs after a critique (whether placid or devastating), and so the work becomes more polished. A lot of workshopped pieces go on to publication and/or literary awards. But certainly the benefit here is not on a per story basis but in the critique and in what the fellow learns from the panelists (techniques, terminology, critical approaches, history). Apart from the formal workshops hosted by various universities, there are also a number of informal writing workshops (such as the LitCritters Manila and LitCritters Dumaguete) which go on during the year.

c. On Demand - Every so often an editor issues out a call for submissions for a certain anthology. Usually these anthology are themed (by subject or genre) and the editor is looking for a certain kind of story. If the writer has no story that fits the requirements, that author needs to write a new story if she wants to submit a story for consideration. Sometimes, this brings out exciting texts, sometimes it doesn't. But when it does, the resulting anthology is a fine read, a blend of editorial taste and manifold authorial flavors. Once in a while, an editor may contact an author directly (for an anthology or a magazine) and request for a particular story or type of story from that author, with the ecpress purpose of publishing that story in said antho or magazine. Whichever case, if the author's inventory does not contain that needed story, then the author must write a new one.

d. For Periodical Publication - A number of Filipino authors develop stories with the intent of submitting these stories to the various periodicals that publish fiction (Story Philippines, Philippines Free Press, Philippine Graphic, Digest of Philippine Genre Storie, Manual and others). Respect the "no simultaneous submissions" policy - once you submit a story to a particular magazine, you should not submit it to another other/s - especially if you're also looking at the international market. So it helps to have a number of stories awaiting their black or white fates with various mags; when one is rejected, you can pass it to another venue (after the requisite agonizing and rewriting, if you are so inclined).

e. Competitive Writing - There are a number of literary competitions, the most famous of which is the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. Some writers develop texts specifically for competition. My stand on this has always been clear - it is akin to athetics, and writers must also exercise writerly muscles in competition against other writers. Judges change from year to year and so do their tastes. Some people say that the awards are rigged (syndicate system wherein awards are given to friends of judges) and I must say this is not true. In my personal experience, 9 of my works have been awarded Palancas (plays, fiction, novel) and therefore been scrutinized by 27 judges (3 per category) over the course of 16 years (I won my first in 1990). I am more maverick than establishment and am certainly not friendly-wendy with the judges (a lot of them I don't even know personally). I've also been a Palanca judge and certainly did not collude to give prizes to people I knew. Believe me, having to read through all the entries is work, and wrestling with the other judges to determine which text wins which place is also work.

f. Personal Writing - There are a number of authors who just write stories because they like to write stories. Majority of these are not up to publishing standards but do give a sense of the author's potential. On occassion a gem can be found and this is just a delight. I firmly believe that stories are written to be read, and to be read they need to published, and to be published they need to be a certain quality. Young, unpublished authors with a number of stories need to start showing their stories to readers, other writers and certainly editors. That said though, I imagine there must be a number of unsung, unpublished writers with phenomenal stories waiting to be read. But ultimately, the action must spring from the author, to expedite discovery.

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46th Dumaguete National Writers Workshop

Call for Submissions to the 46th Dumaguete National Writers Workshop

National Artist for Literature Edith L. Tiempo has announced a March 31 deadline for applications for fellowships to the 46th National Writers Workshop to be held in Dumaguete City from May 7 to 25.

Panelists this year are Gemino Abad, Alfred Yuson, Susan Lara, Anthony Tan, DM Reyes, Marjorie Evasco, and others. They will compose the revolving panel of writers together with National Artist for Literature Edith Lopez Tiempo, and resident panelists César Ruìz Aquino, Bobby Flores Villasis, and Ernesto Superal Yee.

Fifteen (15) fellowships are open for young writers all over the country.

The first screening panel, composed of the workshop’s resident writers, selects the writing fellows for the summer based on the manuscripts submitted by the applicants. These selected manuscripts are forwarded to the Director of the Workshop, who does the final screening and formally approves the final lineup of writing fellows.

The writing fellowship covers lodging for the full 22 days of the duration of the entire workshop, a modest stipend, one-way fare reimbursement, and workshop manuscripts and reading materials.

The applicant must submit original manuscripts consisting of at least three to five short (3-5) stories, or three to five (3-5) essays/creative non-fiction, or two (2) one-act plays, or seven to ten (7-10) poems. Stories, poems, plays, and essays in English are preferred. Only unpublished manuscripts are accepted. Works which have previously won in literary contests will not be accepted.

Other requirements include an application letter addressed to Workshop Director Dr. Edith Tiempo; a diskette or CD containing the various submitted literary works encoded in Microsoft Word; a recommendation letter from a renowned writer or literature teacher; two 2x2 pictures; and a brief biodata or résumé.

These must be sent before the 31 March 2007 deadline to Dr. Edith Lopez Tiempo, National Writers Workshop Director, c/o College Assurance Plan, 2nd Floor, CAP Building, Rizal Boulevard, 6200 Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, Philippines.

Accepted fellows are usually notified by postal mail, or email, or by phone call, although the announcement is usually published by major Philippine dailies.

Interested parties may also apply for sit-in or auditing privileges.

The National Writers Workshop was established by Edith and Edilberto Tiempo in 1962, making it the longest-running creative writing workshop in Asia. The 2007 edition is sponsored by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Silliman University, and College Assurance Plan, in coordination with the Creative Writing Foundation Inc. and the Dumaguete Literary Arts Service Group, Inc. Donors to the fellowship program include Senators Edgardo J. Angara and Mar Roxas as well as former NCCA Chairman Jaime Laya and Ms. Erlinda Panlilio.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

going bloghopping

I'm one of the judges for the 2007 Philippine Blog Awards - which means that I'll be doing a lot of reading in the next couple of weeks.

Looking at the list of judges, I'll stick to what I know and read for content, writing style and tone, uniqueness of voice, and certainly, "literariness" (because I believe that the best-written blogs are examples of today's digital literature, as the best old style handwritten journals once were exemplary of their writers' concerns in the past).

The best thing for me is that I will be exposed to many Filipino blogs I'm currently unaware of.

Should be interesting.