Antonio Vivencio del Rosario Archives, University of Santo Tomas, Manila

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Main Building, University of Santo Tomas, Manila: January 2018

The University of Santo Tomas is the oldest university in the Philippines. The first book printed in the Philippines, the Doctrina Christiana, is housed there, in the Antonio Vivencio del Rosario Library (named after self’s great-great-grandfather). At the opening, self’s great uncle, who donated the money for the archives, cited a thesis self had written in the Ateneo de Manila, which traced the del Rosario family history back, four generations. But self wasn’t there. Her brothers went, and great was their shock when they heard her name mentioned as the reason the archives exit. (Self couldn’t go because — well, she couldn’t afford the airfare. Husband was out of work. None of her family offered to make up the fare)

She FINALLY got to drop by in January 2018, met the librarians, and took pictures. The archives survive on the generosity of individual donors. Three full-time employees are responsible for digitizing the vast collection.

“How many books have been digitized so far?” self asked.

The answer: 150.

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Self is thinking about the archives because today she decided to try and work on her 18th century novel-in-progress, Blue Water, Distant Shores. Her novel — a product of over-reach, self is no historian — is about a Spanish priest who, in 1736, is sent to the Philippines to fight demons. She’s reading about books by the early missionaries, books like the Ilocano catechism of 1621, translated by Fray Francisco Lopez.

“Your books should be here, ma’am,” she remembers the librarians telling her. “We’ll add them to the display.”

What? No . . .

On second thought! She’ll contact her press right now. Please send copies to the Antonio Vivencio del Rosario Archives in University of Santo Tomas, stat!

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Found these copies of self’s third short story collection in the National Bookstore in Gateway Mall, Cubao, Metro-Manila! (January 2018)

Afterwards, self dropped by the Program in Creative Writing, and got to pose for a picture with the professors:

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University of Santo Tomas, January 2018: Creative Writing Program Director Jing Hidalgo is on self’s right.

Dearest Mum’s only response, when self showed her the pictures: Why are you so short?

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Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Work-in-Progress: Speculative Fiction

Self found this unfinished story in one of her old computer files.

An angel is roomies with a struggling college student. “He” is the angel.

He sat down and picked up an apple from a bowl on the kitchen table. “I’m hungry. Feed me.”

“You took an apple,” I said.

“Not enough,” he said. “A gammon joint. With apple and whiskey sauce.”

This is a very demanding angel!

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Stay tuned.

 

Hardly Seems Possible: #amwriting

  •  They tested the salinity in the top layers of ocean water left behind by the ice melt. The data was extracted from brine droplets trapped in pockets of glacier ice. The average was 35 kilograms ppt: 35 kilogram parts per thousand. Suddenly, after a month, salinity in parts per thousand had dropped drastically, to just above 20 kilograms ppt.

Would you believe self wrote this?

Reading it over, now, it all sounds like gobbledygook.

She started this particular story in Annaghmakerrig, Ireland (All her best science fiction were written at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig). That was really bold, since she’s never been to either of the Poles, North or South.

In addition, she’s the furthest thing from a scientist you can imagine. Put numbers and other hard data in front of her, and her mind will cease to function. She’ll go into shock.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Novel-In-Progress: Hard Pruning

Self has cut so much from her novel-in-progress, Blue Water, Distant Shores, it’s now just 314 pages.

The parts that stay, that made it through three drafts, will be part of the end manuscript now. For sure.

Such as this passage:

The new Gubernador-General announced his intention to establish a system of garrisons ringing the southern Philippine kingdoms of Maranao and Sulu, to contain the Moslem threat. Everyone knew this was idle talk. Spain could not send more soldiers. As the situation stood, she could barely hang on to her prize, the Most Holy City of Manila.

Matias’s watchtower preceded the Church. The site he found was a narrow spit of land that followed the Bago River from its mouth to the Guimaras Strait, which united the Visayan and Sulu Sea.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Novel-In-Progress: FARM, MOUNTAIN, SEA, Ch. 1

Self’s novel is set on the island of Negros, in the central Philippines, at the start of the Japanese Occupation during World War II. Honorato, an hacendero‘s son, and Moses, the enkargado, are ordered to the mountains by Honorato’s father.

Self is bringing it, people. Just bringing it. Right now, her manuscript stands at 247 pages.

The next day the forest rears up before them, indescribably dense. It takes them a mere hour to reach the first line of trees. Upon entering, they find themselves under a thick canopy of foliage, the light fading to a cathedral dimness. Birds and an occasional monkey frolic overhead.

Moses leads the way, hacking the heavy vines and tree branches that block their path. Soon, his back is soaked with sweat. Honorato watches silently as the enkargado removes his shirt. The older man’s back is ribbed and corded and hard-looking, with small scars pocking the surface, from what past injury Honorato can only guess.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Another Novel-in-Progress, Found

This one takes place in the Philippines during World War II.

The working title is Farm and Mountain:

Four days later, the enkargado took Honorato to the mountains.

It was almost too late. From across the narrow strait separating them from the neighboring island of Panay, smoke had been rising, for days. The Zeros had made straight for the fuel depots in Iloilo.

243 pp.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

More From Self’s “Residents of the Deep”

Self’s story is set in some unknown century. The explorer who is the MC is something like Captain Cook (Oceania! What a fantastic exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts!):

  • From the lack of authentic records, ascending into remote antiquity, the origin of most very ancient cities is involved in obscurity. Who would have supposed that a very old civilization existed on the ocean floor, one that had escaped the notice of man for centuries, equaling — nay, in some cases exceeding — the grandeur of ancient Rome.

In self’s story, the Residents of the Deep accomplish all their daily tasks in one-quarter time. That is, they appear human, but their behavior is just a little “off.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Work-in-Progress: “Residents of the Deep”

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Map of Oceania

Self began this story on her very first visit to the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig and has added to it, bit by bit, over the years. She was in Unit # 4 and there was an old maritime book in one of the cupboards.

She doesn’t worry about finishing this story. It will always be “in progress” — it will always exist in middle time, like her visits to this part of Ireland and beautiful Annaghmakerrig.

Here are the opening sentences:

There is something singularly impressive and affecting to the imagination when, in a perfectly calm tropical sea, under a vertical sun, one is able to look down through a depth of thousands of fathoms of clear water and see on the ocean bottom glimpses of the City and all its strange and wonderful objects. The discovery of a populous City existing under fathoms of ocean is an occurrence with no precedent in the annals of exploration, one that overshadows even the discovery of the Americas by Columbus.

Self’s stories are always birthed this way: with the opening sentences. No matter how many drafts her stories go through, the opening sentences never change. If the sentence is strong, it is like a fine, big engine that can power her through — even 20 or 25 pages later — all the way to the end. See the interview she gave to Bellingham Review, the Contributor Spotlight that accompanied their publication of self’s story, Ice. (The first four or five paragraphs of Ice were unchanged from first draft)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Story-in-Progress: Problems With Sleep

I have problems with sleep. It gets much worse during Dead Week. I keep myself going with Red Bull and Adderall; I live off fear.

The truth is, a B at Stanford is like an F everywhere else. We’re the half-percent smartest people in the world. And we’re undergraduates, which means we’re, most of us, rich.

Work-in-Progress: Inspired by a Solo Trip to Dharamsala, India, January 2012

The music comes on and she recognizes Edith Piaf. Of all things to play! Is it because she is sitting by herself in this restaurant and someone feels compelled to provide her with some distraction, some light background tune, or because they do not want her to be lonely (she is, though: loneliness is always seeping out of her skin), or perhaps they worry she is getting bored, sitting by herself at a small table, eating a vegetable chapati and sipping sweetened Masala tea at 9 in the morning when it is 32 degrees Fahrenheit outside?

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En route to Dharamsala, self stopped by a small temple. She dredged up the courage to ring the bell, too (though she couldn’t ask anyone to take her picture while doing it)

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