“Place, Memoir, Journey” Workshop, This Saturday & Sunday

Self’s primary purpose in coming here to Mendocino is to teach a workshop. A travel writing workshop. A workshop on writing about place. About a physical location. Something that exists. And damn self is going to make the students write as hard as they can. Write write write write write write, dear students. The funny thing about travel writing is: you’re writing about place, but you’re also writing about memory. And damn we will mine those memories to the max, dear students! Especially those of you who arrive in Mendocino from far away. From, say, Louisville! So, in order to prepare the students for this wonderful two-day hard writing weekend, self has been immersing herself in manuscripts. She’s looked at Zack Linmark’s Leche, which is tremendously inspiring for voice work. And she’s reading Tony Robles’s about-to-be-published manuscript Cool Don’t Live Here No More, which is amazing for being about a specific place that he loves so much: San Francisco, South of Market (which may be disappearing under the onslaught of construction and high-tech companies moving in)

She’s also reading the absolutely heartbreaking memoir by Sonali Deraniyagala, Wave. Deraniyagala lost her entire family in the tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004. She lost her parents, her husband, and her two sons. And everyone told her: You’re so lucky you survived! Which just goes to show, people are stupid when it comes to pain. They either don’t feel it, or they feel it but they don’t want to feel it so they fight it and end up doing things like telling a woman whose entire life has been wiped out in one day: Thank the Lord you survived!

She’s also reading Thomas Lynch, who’s a poet but also an undertaker and also a memoir writer. She’s reading Nandini Dhar’s Lullabies are Barbed Nations. She wishes she had something by Atul Gawande and Abraham Verghese but after all, she could not bring her whole personal book collection to Mendocino. She’s still reading Roberto Bolaño and on the basis of the individual sentence, he is amazing. She thinks he has one sentence that goes on for two pages (Translator Natasha Wimmer, self salutes you) She will include the first page of her story “Rufino,” because it’s so far the only one of her short stories that mentions Neil Young. And Luisa Igloria’s poem “Oir” from her collection The Saints of Streets. And that’s as far as she’s taken her reading list at the moment. Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Depth 5: About Self’s Attachment to Books

Books, for self, are the ultimate uncharted territory.

The depth of her love for books knows no bounds.

She was running low on her copies of Ginseng and Other Tales From Manila and Going Home to a Landscape: Writings by Filipinas, but her publisher sent a box of those to Mendocino last week and they arrived safely.

Two other books: Mayor of the Roses and The Lost Language, are in Gallery Bookshop on Main Street. Those copies she signed.

Self ordered more copies of her books. They arrived from the publisher last week.

Self ordered more copies of her books. They arrived from the publisher last week.

Gallery Bookshop, Main Street, Mendocino: A shelf in the science fiction section (BATTLE ROYALE meets LORD OF THE RINGS)

Gallery Bookshop, Main Street, Mendocino: A shelf in the science fiction section (BATTLE ROYALE meets LORD OF THE RINGS)

Gallery Bookshop, Main Street, Mendocino

Gallery Bookshop, Main Street, Mendocino

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Story “Rufino” (from MAYOR OF THE ROSES, Self’s 2nd Collection)

Towards the end, he couldn’t wear any clothes. They had to cover him in banana leaves.

It was in July he died — I couldn’t believe it. A voice on the phone told me.

“Rufino died na.” It was my mother speaking. Naturally, she had to be the one to break the news.

I was staying in a friend’s house in the Santa Cruz Mountains. In the mornings, fog blanketed the hills. We heard the mournful mooing of invisible cows. One or another of us would look east, toward where we heard Neil Young had his ranch, wondering whether we’d catch a glimpse of his pink Cadillac that day.

*     *     *     *     *

Mayor of the Roses was published by Miami University Press in 2005. The press was known as publishers of the American Poetry Series. Self’s collection was the first book of fiction that Miami University Press ever published.

Heartfelt thanks to Brian Ascalon Roley for bringing the manuscript to the attention of the press and Keith Tuma.

The collection’s been taught at Bates College (Maine), Pampanga Agricultural College (Magalang, Philippines), Skyline College, and Stanford University.

One story, “Lenox Hill, December 1991,” was in the syllabus of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, in a course on Ethics and Medicine.

Self Got The Full-On Star Treatment From TAYO Magazine!

Oh the FEEELZ!

TAYO Magazine posted an interview with self.

Check it out.

The banner they used for self’s interview was a picture she took in The Red Room of Café Paradiso in Cork.  That is in fact the ceiling light. Love Ger and her cooking and her warmth and all her fun group of friends who invited self to share their champagne.

Self’s author pic was taken (years ago, cancha tell) by none other than the fabulous Stella Kalaw.

(It’s very funny because self thought all she was doing was having dinner — in Karilagan restaurant, just hailing distance from Max’s in South San Francisco — with Melissa Sipin-Gabon, fiction writer and editor of TAYO, and it turns out what she was actually doing was giving an interview. BWAH HA HA HAAAA!  If only self had an Effie Trinket around to prep for her propo! Any gaffes are entirely her own)

Stay tuned.

 

Going Live This Week at EUNOIA REVIEW: Two Short Shorts

Self has been reading Eunoia Review for several years now.

She loves the writing.  They publish poetry (beautiful poetry) and a kind of prose self considers “TransGenre.” Fits right up her alley.  Ever since self heard the word “TransGenre,” a few years back (Hotel Amerika featured her piece “Ghosts” in their TransGenre issue, and gave a name to the kind of short short stuff self had just begun writing), she loves the word.  TransGenre: not sure if you need to capitalize the “G.”

Which reminds her:  She has to look and see if Hotel Amerika is at the AWP Book Fair!

She didn’t know anything about the editor, Ian Chung, until he sent her a message yesterday, saying the two pieces he’d accepted for the review were going live this week.

That’s when she decided to google him and found out that he edits the review from Singapore!

She wants to make sure she puts this announcement in before heading to the craziness of the AWP annual conference, this year being held in Seattle.

Self’s head is about to explode.  She got a message from PANK late last night, and then just remembered she hadn’t yet submitted her signed author contract to Philippine Speculative Fiction vol. 9, and it’s due Mar. 1.

Panic attack!  Nice panic attack, though.

This morning, she decided that the best thing for her to calm down would be to take a yoga class, and lo and behold, she got to Peacebank in downtown Redwood City, five minutes early, but after she checked in, there was no space.  Wall to wall yoga mats, and no one wanted to budge even a few inches to give her a chance to squeeze in.  Stone-faced, all!

The two people manning the check-in desk looked so impatient when self said there was no space.  They said, maybe you can ask someone to move?  Are you kidding?  Did you see the grim-faced visage of everyone in the class when they saw self stumble in, clue-less and panting? 

Which meant:  good-by, yoga class!  Au revoir!  Till we meet again!  Whenever or wherever!

In the meantime, self almost forgot:  the link to Eunoia Review!

Here it is, dear blog readers.  Enjoy.

Coming Soon in 5_Trope

5_Trope is a very nifty literary magazine that soon, very soon, will be posting some new content:  fiction/poetry/creative nonfiction/art that includes — SHAZZAM! — self’s story, “Hollow.”

“Hollow” is her anti-ode to Daly City/Colma/South San Francisco.

Self loves that cluster of cities, don’t get her wrong.

It is the most amazing place.  Where else can one find, in just one city:  Goldilocks, Max’s of the Philippines, Ma Mon Luk, Lucky Chances casino & restaurant, Ling Nam, Intramuros, Ongpin Noodle House, and all the charming eateries of her childhood?

Anyhoo, self appears to be getting ahead of herself, again.

Check it out now, dear blog readers.

And stay tuned.

Cadence: Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo’s “The Painting”

With any luck, self will finally get to the last story of The Best Philippine Short Stories of the Twentieth Century, edited by Isagani Cruz, which she began reading — oh, let’s see — about a decade ago.

The story self is reading at the moment is a marvel of unreliable narration.  The fact that the narrator is a young priest (from an illustrious family — even better!) makes the story feel very “slippery.”

The story begins with the priest telling the story of his family’s connection to the national hero (and there is only one, so if you are Filipino then you know who that hero is).

We proceed to the sacred mountain, and to the cult that venerates Jose Rizal as a minor deity.  And to the native priestesses — call them babaylan, if you wish.

I wonder if any of you have ever seen these priestesses.  They are impressive individuals.  All have a commanding presence, and some are strikingly beautiful.  This one was very tall and very fair, with strongly chiseled features in an ageless face; large, penetrating eyes, and long hair drawn back in a bun.  She had changed from her vestments into a loose white robe and was sitting in one of the wooden benches to one side of the chapel, where she always received people who wished to consult with her.

The Suprema was speaking with someone whose appearance was a striking contrast to hers — a woman in her late forties or early fifties, perhaps, of medium height, plain-looking, and a little on the stout side, her hair cut short, as though she did not wish to be bothered with it.  She wore thick glasses and a simple dress of some unfashionable color — I believe it was purple.  One of her shoes had fallen off, and she was swinging a bare foot to and fro as she talked.  They appeared to be having a good time, for their conversation was punctuated by laughter.

Dear blog readers, self can hardly wait to see where this story is going!

Stay tuned.

Jose “Butch” Dalisay in MANILA NOIR

It is hawwwttt!  Hawwwttt as all get out!

Today was self’s day to meet Joanne H downtown.  Joanne H is the mother of Tom H, who has been friends with son since elementary school in St. Raymond’s.  There is a very funny story connected with today’s meet-up, which self will share with dear blog readers when she is a little less pressed for time.  Anyhoo, it is so hot today, unbelievable.  But The Ancient One has somehow survived the entire bristling afternoon on the deck, not moving.  Self thinks to herself:  She’s bought it!  But the minute The Ancient One hears the creak of the wood floors inside the house, self hears the rhythmic thump of her tail against the deck: Thump thump thump thump thump.  Tears spring to self’s eyes.  The Ancient One is the most enduring, most loyal pet — no, GIFT — ever.  To reward her for her unparalleled loyalty and spunk, self unwraps one of the rib-eye bones from last night’s dinner and heaves it onto Bella’s doggie dish.

The Ancient One

The Ancient One

Then, she resumes her reading.  Which, this afternoon, is Manila Noir.

The further self gets, the more riveted she is by the material.  She just finished F. H. Batacan’s marvelous “Comforter of the Afflicted” and has begun Jose “Butch” Dalisay’s “The Professor’s Wife.”  The setting of Dalisay’s story is Diliman, where the University of the Philippines is situated.  Self wanted to attend this university, she would have chosen Anthropology as her major.  It’s hard to get in, but she did make it.  She eventually opted to attend Dear Departed Dad’s alma mater, Ateneo de Manila, instead.

Back to the Butch Dalisay story.  It is excellent.  In addition, it is one of the drollest stories she has ever read.  Considering it’s in a book called Manila Noir, one would hardly expect that level of wit and drollery, but let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth, dear readers!

SPOILER ALERT!

Here’s the Backstory:  A professor in Diliman is fondly remembered by a witty narrator.  The narrator is very interested in analyzing how the professor ended up with his young and luscious wife, Lalaine.  The couple are fodder for salacious gossip all over the campus.

I can imagine Professor Sanvictores coming to UP as a young instructor, eager to make his mark in history.  Or was it economics that he first signed up for?  This was years before his stint as a teaching assistant and doctoral candidate in Minnesota, where he picked up and cultivated the American accent that many coeds found charming, if not irresistible.  Now, every two-bit club and radio deejay and call center agent has one, but none of them can come up with and use a word like “contumacious” the way the professor did to describe certain tribal chieftains in old New Zealand.

I was dying to ask either the professor or Lalaine herself how the two of them met, and more than that, how they ended up being man and wife.  I mean, what ever did they see in each other?  But of course, silly, I knew what he saw in her, I could see that even with my eyes shut.  But what about Lalaine?  I could understand her developing a schoolgirl crush on him, especially if he put on that Minnesota affect and gave his sophomore-class version of his lecture on Rizal’s women and free love in the nineteenth century.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“Portents,” Part 3: In Which Our Heroine Wends Her Lonely Way Around Makati

Backstory:  Filipina is pregnant.  And unmarried.  Not exactly A Fate Worse Than Death, but close.

All the taxis were taken, and the buses were so full people were sprouting out the windows.  I could see the passengers crammed together like fillings in an enormous sandwich, bumping and rubbing against each other with every lurch of the bus.  Maybe if someone asks who my kid’s father is, I could say I took a really crowded bus and got knocked up.

By the time I got back to my apartment my feet were throbbing.  A menu from a pizza parlor that delivered had been shoved under my door:  reading it I had a sudden wild craving for anchovy pizza.  Pregnant women are supposed to have these wild cravings, but I was slightly worried.  I’ve heard old people say that what you crave during pregnancy determines how your child will turn out.  For instance, if you crave guavas, your child will be stubborn.

Which sets self to wondering:  that word, guavas.  How long has it been?  How long has it been, self, since you’ve tasted one of those?

Back to the Jessica Zafra story:

I switched the TV on.  There was this soap opera about a little girl whom everyone maltreated.  The actress who played the little girl was so good at being a martyr, it was as if she had a sign on her forehead that said, “Kick me.”  The soap was interrupted by a news broadcast:  262 more Filipinos had fled Kuwait.  A middle-aged woman told a reporter she had been raped by Iraqi soldiers.  Why should I be ashamed, she said, I didn’t want it to happen.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Personal Library # 26: Son’s Room, Part 7

When will self ever finish this book tabulation project, she wonders?

She is still counting books in the tall bookcase in son’s room.

There are 20 books on the third shelf.

877 + 21 = 898 Total Books Counted Thus Far

Of course, on this shelf, as on the previous ones, there are, in addition to books:  an MGM Grand room key;  rocks, both shiny and not; corn husk people (obviously, some grade school art project), and many, many video games like Command and Conquer.

So, here are some of the books on this shelf:  The Night Angel Trilogy (Books 1, 2, and 3), by Brent Weeks;  Black Hawk Down:  A Story of Modern War, by Mark Bowden (Incidentally, his piece on the killing of OBL, in the December Vanity Fair, was more gripping than the Kathryn Bigelow movie, in self’s humble opinion); Before & After:  Stories From New York, edited by Thomas Beller (This is a very interesting book:  it has two covers, one showing the New York skyline with the WTC towers, and the other showing the day of, with the towers already surrounded by great billowing clouds of smoke.  The “Before” contains a piece by Manny Howard called “The Jumper” that begins:  “I recently spent an afternoon watching a guy entertaining three of New York’s finest on the eastern parapet of the Brooklyn Bridge.”);  Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi; The Men Who Play God, a short story collection by the late, great Arturo B. Rotor; and Scunnered:  Slices of Scottish Life in Seventeen Gallus Syllables, by Des Dillon (Sample:  “Attitude:  Treating every time/ like it’s the very last time/ feels like the first time.”)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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