Tuesday, April 28, 2009

tunay na lalake

Sino ang tunay na lalake?

Wasak na wasak!


Monday, April 27, 2009

litcritters - readings for May 2, 2009


After a somewhat unexpected break (brought about by summer, schedulings, book launches, workshops, Holy Week at iba-iba pa), we resume our regular schedule beginning this Saturday, May 2.  Follow the story links below, read up and meet us at The Coffee Beane & Tea Leaf, Robinsons Galleria at 2PM.

"Exhalation" by Ted Chiang (download it from NightShade Books)
"Evil Robot Monkey" by Mary Robinette Kowal (direct from her blog)
"Sun Magic, Earth Magic" by David D. Levine (from Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

See you there!


Saturday, April 18, 2009

baguio reportage

On Thursday, we began with Alvin's poetics, characterized by an elevated magical realism and "bagabag". I think this is a form of literary horror and feel that, while it may have other concerns in terms of its problematics, it's spec fic - which is really cool (his text, alternate history, has beautiful stuff like mice adopting a human). During his workshop session, an undue amount of time was spent discussion jsut who the hell introduced sodomy to the Philippines (some say it was the Chinese, pero hindi ba posible na meron ng man-to-man action ang ating mga ninuno bago dumating ang kung sino-sinong impluwensya?).

Cris, who came next, is an ex-journalist who transitioning from creative non-fiction to fiction. She's a fellow for CNF but her text is fiction, which threw me for a loop. It's very well-written, but the discussion tackled the ethics of CNF, the issue of naming real people (which would later be reprised with Jing Panganiban's session). Ever since Mia, I've been intrigued by CNF.

Carlomar presented his poetics for his poetry, expressed in the context of his next collection. He used the language of fashion and talked about voice. He was great to listen to, as he linked his thoughts to his work.

Yesterday, Friday, we began with Jing's poetics, which she calls "Akology". Apparently, one of the concerns of CNF is the "I", so it was instructive to listen to what Jing Hidalgo and the other panelists had to say. My question concerned the issue of truth versus fact, and if what truly mattered was the core subjective authorial truth or insight, rather than the mere facts. Later in her workshop, we tackled her delicious piece and again the issues of naming names came up. CNF is fiction under oath.

Iwa is simply the man. Once I read his transgressive fiction, I was hooked (and that's hard to do given my ineptitude and low ennui levels with text in Filipino). We share similar sensibilities - especially regarding the primacy of story - and I'll look for his books back home. Wasak ang workshop niya - utter fun. Tuwang akong makilala si Iwa, bilang kapwa nobelista pareho ang pinoproblema namin.

Noong gabi, may kaunting inuman, kwentuhan at tawanan - at food trip (pinapak ko yung relyenong bangus).

Today, I woke up before 6AM, looked at the work that has piled up at the office and am thankful once more for this break, kahit isang linggo lang. Pero malapit nang matapos. Malapit na ang uwian. Miss na miss ko si Nikki at ang mga anak ko. Kagabi, tumawag ako at umiiyak si Sage (something about a lizard, hindi ko masyadong maintindihan) at napakalakas ng pagnasasa kong yakapin siya. More and more I realize what is truly important to me. Miss ko rin ang barkada ko (in my absence, Alex ran Call of Chtulhu). Alam kong paminsan-minsan kailangang lumabas sa aking comfort zone para makakita ng iba, makarinig ng iba. Pero tama pa rin si Dorothy about home.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

to Dumaguete!

No, not me (though I wish I had the time and money to visit again), but shout outs to Mo Francisco, Keith Cortez, Stanley Geronimo and Philip Kimpo - who will be at the 48th Dumaguete National Writers Workshop. Kudos to all the fellows - you'll have a blast!

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baguio 2009

(Top: Gelo Suarez, me, Carlomar Daoana, Vlad Gonzales, Mikael Co; Bottom: Alvin Yapan, Carljoe Javier, Jing Panganiban, FH Batacan, Cris Yabes, Ayer Arguelles)

Thanks to Philip Kimpo for the pictures!

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

workshop update

Yesterday morning, we took up Gelo's poetics and had his workshop session back to back (oddly enough, the sessions are structured such that the poetics presentation and the workshop session for each fellow is, by default, not taken in sequence - I think mas mabuti na tuhugin nalang ito, with generous ciggie breaks, of course).

Gelo's conceptual writing truly challenged my notions on what poetry is (and can be). For now, he has moved into spheres beyond the printed page, engaging his audience in so many different ways. His poetry goes beyond mere shock. One of the things I picked up from him I shall present here right now (nagpaalam ako sa kanya at sabi niya okay lang dahil hiniram din niya ito):

This sentence is speculative fiction if I say so.

My workshop followed next, and as expected parts of it became predictive critique (how can you critique an incomplete novel?). But there were good questions on my process and a little drama (oo naman). The resistance to spec fic is still there, as the critical frameworks used are looking for things that spec fic does not prioritize. Pero (and this is me talking to myself) tama na itong gritted teeth thingie, haha!

During the tailend of Kael's workshop session, an interesting point came up. One of the fellows commented that she used to like these particular poems. But after listening to Kael's poetics, she found herself questioning/maybe not liking them anymore. I agreed with how Kael framed his response - basically, nasa iyo na yun. Poetics are not published next to our work, and the author cannot explain everything to each reader - the text must stand by itself, and if the reader brings something/reads something sa text, then good. If not, well, yun na yun.

Later, we had our Fellows Night. Compared to stressing about our poetics, this was a non-issue. We were tasked to entertain the panelists and guests. Early on, we decided just to go with music (as opposed to anything literary, like reading stuff) so we agreed on 4 numbers, all revolving the single guitar that was miraculously acquired. As things began, tinopak ako and I asked to sing a capella, "Bring Him Home". Masaya naman (and I hope I didn't embarrass myself too much - all in the spirit of conviviality naman kasi) - to the point that Charlson Ong tapped me for an impromptu duet with him, more Les Miserables, this time "I Dreamed A Dream" with me in English and him in Filipino (sabi ko nga sa kanya, "I guess I found my mentor" haha). It was hilarious - and it felt good to just have some fun (halata bang sabik sa Red Box?). Jimmy Abad blew me away with recitations of poems from memory (in particular, "The Flying Monk") and some of our guests gamely got up and performed too (mahirap maging audience sa ganito, haha). Everything was hosted wonderfully by Butch G. and we afterwards, we hung out with beer and whiskey. I stayed up until bumigay na ang mata ko. Masaya, masaya - pero ngayon back to the grind.

There are pictures and other cool stuff over here.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

pine fresh

It's only this morning that I finally really began to enjoy Baguio. For the past couple of days, I've been anxious about my poetics presentation, trying to follow Rio Alma's instruction to be honest and open, Ricky de Ungria's desire to see where I am and what I've got in the pipeline, my feeling that my poetics are less complicated or sophisticated than everyone else's, and my skepticism about blahblahs.

I've learned much from those who presented their poetics before me. Ayer blew me away with how he approaches his poetry, plus the way he thinks in terms of books of poetry (the analogy would be for me to think of writing a themed collection from the get go). What I had difficulty with was the way the panelists, during his workshop session, asked impossible questions of the (yet to be finished) text and made summary judgements ("this will not work") - predictive critique. Personally, I'd prefer to have submitted a finished/published book/s so the exploration of our growth as writers can be looked at. A work in progress - at least to me - can change completely. Sana kahit first complete draft man lang (although patay kami ni Ichi doon kasi buong nobela ang isusumite).

I guessed the reactions of everyone to Ichi's poetics, infused with clear ideas and vague details (by her choice) of how and why she got to writing. When Ichi had dinner with the LitCritters last year, I remember being shocked and distrubed by what she'd gone through, and have a better understanding of what drives her as a writer. And I think it's cool (and progressive) of the workshop folk to give the two English fiction slots to Crime Fiction and Speculative Fiction.

Listening to Vlad was like trying to catch a deluge with a paper cup. What I like about him (apart from his killer CNF) is the fact that he's brimming over with thoughts and ideas. I teased him about his tendency, when asked a question, to launch into something else he forgot to mention before answering the query. I admire the fact that he's gung ho about exploring the space he's selected. He is one of the few writers I know here in the country whose books sell (it is clear, with four printings of his book and comparisons to Bob Ong that he has readers).

Kael's poetics began with a light moment: Bien Lumbera started by calling him "Mario", before asking him to define critical three terms. Listening to Kael define what drives him, and hearing him articulate his thoughts during the Q&A session was instructive. Butch Dalisay asked the question I wanted to ask: Kael writes in two languages, so how does he choose which language to express that thought?

When my turn came, I dispensed with the original poetics material I submitted and opted to share with the panel and fellows what I (and other spec fic writers here) negotiate when we write fiction. And in the spirit of honesty, I shared my concerns when I wear multiple hats as author and advocate. Along the way, I said that spec fic did not need anyone's validation or permission or approval - but it will be up to us to apply rigor and such. During the Q&A Ichi suggested I lighten up haha. Oo nga naman. Minsan, over itong "balls-to-the-wall" crap ko.

On Monday night we met up with the Baguio and Cordillera writers (and Frank Cimatu! my Facebook friend!). Climbing up six flights of stairs when Bien Lumbera made me want to be him when I'm older - up the stairs, no complaints (I know I'd have bitched about it). Our peers and counterparts were welcoming (if a bit shy at first). I mingled around and introduced myself - and was rewarded when a writer, JM, pulled out a copy of The Kite of Stars and asked me to sign it (siyempre naman happy ako).

Last night, after my poetics, I just felt so tired - but it did not stop me from taking a cab to SM Baguio and buying the one thing I need for better sleep. I found a large pillow, got a pillow case, and suddenly had to deal with a fire at work which involved talking to three people with nary a note in hand. Mukhang okay naman, pero madaming kailangang pagusapan pagbalik,

Today, I woke at 6AM, went out with my cigarettes and laptop and began to write. May dumaan na uwak, big and black and mysterious. Tapos, nawala.

Let's see what happens during my workshop.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

no, no, to sarah geronimo and john lloyd cruz (or how i yet live)

I utterly loathe long bus rides. The sheer tedium, the cramped leg space, the same recycled air going around, the faulty airconditioning, the fact that I can't stop for a smoke whenever I please, my vertiginous reactions to attempts to read while in motion - I avoid it if I can. And today, irksome films make my list.

I actually like Sarah Geronimo as a singer. But this film, the "inflight" entertainment of the bus, wore away all my goodwill. Gah. So I dozed, going in and out of consciousness, hoping it would be done only to see more and more of the film.

My iPhone saved my brain from total disintegration due to ennui. I used Safari to Twitter and check out some sites (being careful not to engage the 3G capability, which previously cost me an arm and a leg when my bill came), listened to shuffled music (rediscovering a lot of stuff I forgot I had), tinkered with settings, and played the games I've been buying (I still love Virtual Villagers 2, Bookworm, Fieldrunners, Dr. Awesome and Orions), somehow responsibly maximizing my battery life.

When we finally got to Camp John Hay, we quickly checked-in, dumped our stuff and rushed off to Ben Cabrera's lunch feast (BenCab is one of the most accomplished Filipino artists). Dizzy with hunger (it was well past lunchtime), we were greeted by a canao feast when we got to his namesake museum. We missed the ritual but got to eat (hands only, no utensils please) and watch the dances with gongs. Afterward, I wandered through the various floors of the museum and took photos of the pieces that most intrigued me (sadly, still stuck in my camera since I forgot to buy a card reader before I left - hmm, but SM Baguio is not too far).

I got to know some more of my fellow fellows a bit more and we all shared our anxieties about our respective poetics presentations, scheduled throughout the week. I'm not certain I approached the thing correctly and may cobble together a powerpoint or something; we'll see.

I have some office work that I need to complete for a client's website so I need to make time for that or Nina will kill me. So I tried to connect via WiFi only to be thwarted repeatedly. Until Vic came to the rescue and walked me through the process of checking and unchecking my settings and such. And so, I am connected - and Luis and Janet were correct! It's a strong signal and I should have no issues posting stuff, sending work back to the office via email and getting my news.

Tomorrow, the work portion of the workshop begins formally and I can't wait to see just what is what, poetics-wise ;)

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

off to baguio

So I'm done with packing, stuffing everything I think I'll need (mostly clothes) plus my laptop, my camera and my readings. The call time is 5AM tomorrow (Easter Sunday) which kind of sucks, not because of the time, but because I don't get to spend Easter with my girls.

Since Sage was three years old, Easter has become a mini-Christmas for us. We indulge the pagan side of the celebration by buying lots of plastic eggs, filling them with all sorts of things which will delight a small child, hiding them all over the house (including the ref) and watching Sage turn the place upsidedown on Easter morning.

This afternoon, after checking out of the Crowne Plaza Hotel (where we retreated when we found out that there would be no electricty where we live on Good Friday), Nikki and I hit the malls and secured the toys for secreting in the eggs (with stuff for Rowan too). While selecting things for my kids, I felt bad that I wouldn't be there - but of course I understand that we, as parents, simply can't be there for our children all the time. It sucks, but it's true.

Another point of stress for me is all the work I'm leaving behind. Kestrel is in the middle of several things digital, and we're kneedeep in a couple of campaigns. I'm told that the place I'll be staying at has WiFi so communicating with the Kestrelfolk hopefully is not an issue. Work is simply impossible to completely behind - the curse (and blessing) of being a businessman.

But while family and livelihood are important, writing is too, in my totem pole of things. Writing usually takes a back seat in terms of priorities, but when it is writing's time, it's writing's time.

I'm one of the fellows for English fiction at the 48th UP National Writers Workshop over at the summer capital, along with eleven other writers (details are here and I have a page over here). I look forward to learning more from the panelists and my fellow writers - and yes, hopefully, get some writing done (I have three story deadlines looming). And some R&R, perhaps.

But I already miss my girls.