12/30/2008

Random Things

Marianne tagged me earlier this month and I suspect by extension Ver also tagged me, so here's seventeen random things about me.

1. I love memes. I find them very addicting.

2. I try to avoid memes. They're very addicting.

3. I usually, eventually, do what I'm asked to do.

4. That comes from 10 years of Catholic school, I think.

5. Kindergarten at public school was pretty fun.

6. Middle public school was not very fun.

7. I've had hair down to my waist twice in my life.

8. I cut my hair about two months ago.

9. I'm on my second hairstyle.

10. I look like something out of an 80's hair band.

11. I can't decide whether to try another cut or call my current look my "growing out stage."

12. I thought Star Wars was the weirdest looking movie I'd ever seen a trailer for.

13. Star Wars is one of my favorite movies.

14. Return of the Jedi wasn't bad.

15. The rest of the franchise was obviously written by the few misinformed midichlorians flowing through Jar Jar Bink's slobber.

16. I am hoping to rent Clone Wars soon.

17. I think this makes me an optimist.

**stall**

Seventeen. That wasn't hard at all. I think I could have gone on for quite a few more random things...cause I can talk Star Wars for /days/.

Since my stats show I only get about an average of 6 hits a day, I think I'm hard pressed to find 17 people to tag. So instead, look to your right, scroll down, and check out someone from my blogroll. They're all really cool people.

Next: Lynda Barry

12/29/2008

Wisdom from the Margins

The thing about new routines is that they're like new plants - when the environment changes and becomes unstable, it's really hard to keep new things growing and deepening, and there's nothing more unstabling for me than 2 foot of snow over Christmas.

We've come through it all okay. We had a wonderful Christmas at home with new friends and did a bunch of house cleaning/sorting. We're all adjusting to the fact, though, that we weren't able to do the traveling that we wanted to and that for about 10 days we wondered "are we going to make it up/down the hill today or should we just stay put?" I feel like we've been in a holding pattern and just now landing and figuring out what can be done with the last few days of the year.

Spent most of the weekend dredging out my bookshelves which meant a lot of soul-searching. I realized that I have so many unread books on my shelf that even if I read a book a week for two years, I wouldn't finish them all. Yes, I'm a bookaholic. So then came the sorting, facing the fact that I wasn't going to be able to read all the books I had bought and setting new criteria for what I'd keep and what I'd pitch. It wasn't fun, but it wasn't as devestating as I thought it would be.

Ironically, it made me feel rather wealthy realizing I had more books than I could conceivably read, that life is quite abundant for me and that's a really nice feeling. I have more than enough resources to get done what I envision now, and those projects could take a few years to finish. It made it easier to let go of stuff.

It also allowed me a chance to group things together (exactly how many books on characterization does a writer need anyway?) and remember some texts I had started but not finished. Katrin DeGuia's Kapwa was among them and seeing it reminded me of the Four Agreements and a bunch of other books I've read over the years which talk about indigineous and traditional belief systems.

In all cases, it seems, there's this sense of 'going back,' of getting to the essential, the stuff that has been cluttered by modernity and politics and structuralism.

It always bothered me a bit, especially in the heigh-day of the New Age, where 'white folk' looked to 'colored folk' for wisdom. When did people of color become the keepers of wisdom tasked with teaching their 'masters' the error of their ways?

I realized recently that part of that search has to do with the lack of language in the dominant paradigm to adequately describe 'otherness' and 'difference.'

Here's the thing - if we need a system to address everybody's experience and everybody's longing and everybody's encounters with the sacred then that system is going to be pretty...generic. The system becomes complicated and convoluted because the system isn't designed to address difference - only sameness. The trouble comes from the fact that humans are all unique and that difference from sameness creates fear and fear mixed with power or lack of power creates conflict.

Trouble is, we forget that the system, the dominant paradigm isn't designed to handle difference. It's only able to handle sameness. So even if a person comes pretty close to having similiar attributes to the sameness established by the system, there will be times that person will feel outside and different. Could be a small thing, like a preference for cinnamon ice cream and the lack of that flavor at an ice cream shop, but still there's that shift to 'outside' and 'different.'

But there's no language in the system to account for this, other than words and stories about 'outside' and 'different' that calls for adjustment, usually on the part of the individual.

Being able to celebrate difference, having the supporting stories for difference, and seeing other differences supported and celebrated - these are the things we look for when we try encounter artistic expressions and explorations that are indigenous by nature.

Where I get troubled, though, in finding teachers and books who work in these spaces, is the idea of 'authenticity.' What makes an authentic FilAm experience? What is authentic indigenous Filipino art? Is there authentic North Puget Sound culture present in 2008? Who are the keepers of authenticity? What claims of authenticity can I make about what I do and the path I follow?

I think authenticity goes back to that generic sensibility, the imposition of the same cultural rules and regulations as those placed on the dominant. "Authenticity mavens" create an 'other,' a binary by saying "this is authentic, this is not," with no regard for intention, respect, or community.

I'm coming into a space where 'indigenous' means 'inclusion' - everyone contributing to an experience of art, everyone's story being part of the whole. This is a challenging place to be, because I know I'll encounter folks and art that I don't think 'belongs' to me, but I guess I have to remember that nothing belongs to me. I am a participant or not a participant - that's my point of choice.

Anyway, language - when I read the work of Katrin or Leny or Barbara Jane or Gaiman or DeLint or Bach or the Chatelaine or any of the others I list on my blogroll, I'm looking for resonant language.

Resonance. Language. Inclusion. Choice.

These are the bits of wisdom I find at the margins.

Next: Random Things

12/10/2008

Exercise is Not a Four-Letter Word

"Sit down as we relive our lives in what we tell you." - Genesis, Home by the Sea

Heard it on the way into work today. Haven't listened to the album in ages.

The lyric struck me - this is what happens when we gather oral history, get folks to sit down and tell stories on themselves, on each other.

This time of year is ripe for that sort of connection, that strengthening of kapwa-tao. Tao Po!/Tuloy! - I am a human being. Come share my world.

Can't say for sure what my ancestors from warmer islands gave for a reason to sit down this time of year, before the Spanish came, before the Muslim came, before the reckoning of a specific grouping of days as a cycle of life. I think it's rainy season in the Philippines - I was there once over Christmas/New Years, but I was six then and my memories are about green grass being pulled up as weeds and the fire that nearly leveled the town. I'm pretty sure, though, there would be times to do this, sit down and listen to each other tell the stories of our lives.

'Round here, cold times meant slowing down, bringing life from outdoors to indoors, gathering around a fire, doing the things to preserve life during winter, mend things that were broken, and most of all tell stories.

Reliving life, the time spent in the last few months, and reflecting.

Reflection isn't about /producing/ anything. It's not about /investigating/ or /questioning/ even. It's more about saying This is what happened. Look, we survived. I think I learned this. I think I want to do the same/different.

And most importantly, we /ask/ each other - How about you?

But it doesn't happen in a void, it happens in community - here's the thing you might not know about me, about this place, about how I'm connected to you and this patch of earth and this community and this memory/these memories.

An expansion/further meditation on Collaborative Storytelling, in a sense, but before, I'd only seen oral history as a one-way transmission, forgetting that in the act of Telling we have the opportunity to relive something lost/forgotten, to gain perspective and meaning from that. Giving and receiving all at once.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

So...this post was supposed to be on how Exercise is not a four-letter word.

It's a habit of mind, I realize, that the post above, the spontaneous meditation born of a significant moment (i.e. inspiration) is what I really love the most. Something strikes me, sends me to the keyboard, gives me a moment of panic that the feeling will slip away before I reach my computer, wait for it to fire up, and locate my blog. I write and think at the same time, no pausing, except to hear/listen to what the moment is doing to my brain, my body, changing my experience into something new. It's exhilarating.

As opposed to exercise.

I know it's really about the way I've approached exercise, in writing and in physical movement. It's not spontaneous - it has to be scheduled and planned in with everything else. It's usually rigorous so the body doesn't get lopsided and the mind stretches to new places without snapping back in painful brain cramps or emotional tailspins.

I know it's "good for me" which isn't really a good motivator for someone who tends to put themselves last on the list, who prefers signature hot chocolotes over say fruit-n-protein smoothies.

But I'm learning to exercise and finding that moving/writing for the sake of exercise is a good thing. Like reflection, exercise doesn't /produce/ anything, at least not right away, but it does /feel/ good (after the initial - ohmygoshIamsooutofshape). It's something to do just for myself.

So, I got a Wii last summer and I've been getting better about getting on the board and putting in the time. I signed up for a weekly writing exercise class -

- the last session, some weird stuff came out - everything from Aswangs talking with Silkies and other characters from nearly every Filipino folktale I know. It was a long sentence, kind of creepy in a Neil Gaiman-Coraline sort of way. But I also got a cool bead on a piece about my Lolo...still stalking that one carefully. Early work is so easily spooked.

The playshop/class (at Nancy Canyon Studios) is great for generating new material and that's what I think the next few months before I start into the MFA track again will be about - gathering as much new stuff as I can and practicing...sort of like the MFA is a marathon I'm training for. There's no instruction, per se, just three exercises - first, five minutes of short sentences; second, ten minutes of chained sentences; third, twenty minutes of a single, continuous sentence.

Anyway, been off the Wii for almost a week now due to sickishness, but maybe tonight I'll get on that board, just for today and that will be good.

Next: Wisdom from the Margins

12/08/2008

The Miraculous Journey of BunBun the Bunny

T-minus 4 days to The Tale of Despereaux. I have great hopes for the movie, although from the trailers, I can already see that they've added scenes that weren't in the book (I think...darn, I'll have to read it again. :) What I loved best about this story is how Despereaux fell in love with books and became a better creature because of them.

Kate DiCamillo is one of those marvelous authors who not only knows how to tell a good story for children but knows how to tell a good story for the child-within-us. She believes in courage and hope and all the things we wish life could be like, but at the same time recognizes that sometimes, oftentimes, it takes struggle to attain those jewels. Adventure is part and parcel of her work and recent events coupled with the release of the movie, puts another book of hers, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

Edward Tulane was a china bunny who learned how to love and be loved, and I imagine BunBun was much the same. She left us one post-Easter a few years back, finding herself out of favor momentarily, sent to live with another family via Goodwill. Sadly, her owner regretted sending BunBun away bitterly and often cried herself to sleep wondering where BunBun could be. We discovered Edward Tulane's story about a year after BunBun left our house and we often comforted ourselves with the knowledge that somewhere, BunBun was having adventures of her own, perhaps as a tramp on a train or as a companion to a sick child.

But the loss of BunBun was heavy on the heart of her original owner and many tears were shed both in sadness and worry. Three years, she was gone, then miraculously, just like in the book, BunBun returned home, but thankfully before her first owner had grown too old to hold her close at night, never to shed a tear over her again. The tale ends with great joy as BunBun reveals to her first owner the many places she's gone - Paris, France; Wisconsin, South Dakota - to name a few.

And much rejoicing was had in our house.

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A mother's addendum - if you ever find yourself needing to find a special stuffy, seek the many eyes and warm hearts of Plush Memories Lost Toys Search Service. They also found a 'younger brother' of another beloved companion whose worn ears and never-quite-clean cloth are the badges of 11 years of loving and comfort.

Next: Exercise is Not a Four Letter Word

12/04/2008

Ladders to the Moon


(* We pre-empt our regularly scheduled column for the following announcement. *)


Ladders to the Moon: Solstice Concert Series

What Does Compassion Sound Like

Through Music, Dance, and Stories from Around the World

December 21, 2008

4:30 to 6:00 Family Performance
7:00 to 9:00 General Performance

Firehouse Performing Arts Center
1314 Harris Avenue, Bellingham, WA

Suggested Donation $10.00 per Family Group: $5.00 per Individual Per performance at the Door


Featuring: Raven Dancer Gene Tagaban with

Cindy Minkler, Mockingbird, Bolor Smith, Rebecca Saxton,* Dudley and Dean Evenson, Gail and Becca Smeadley, Annilise Kamola, and Doug Banner


We will be creating the sense of the village coming together for the evening of storytelling. Bring your blankets and pillows as we will be sitting on the floor in a great circle around the performers.

Seating is limited (only 90 seats)

This event is sponsored as a collaboration of The Bellingham Compassion Movement, The Sound Essence Project, The Bellingham Storytellers Guild, Allied Arts of Whatcom County, Compassion Action Network, and other sponsors.

For more information contact: bhamstoryguild@comcast.net or 360-820-9631

* I'll be performing at the 4:30 event, but likely will stay for both.

*****************************************************************

Doug writes:

In East Africa, it is said, there is a certain tribal people who, when commemorating events of collective and communal importance, call for ‘a night of storytelling.’ The traditional opening formula ought to be enough to alert one to be ready for a magical evening.

The occasion might be a birth, a marriage or a funeral or perhaps a harvest or some other calendar, seasonal, solar, lunar or stellar event. For the sake of this story, let’s say it is the Winter Solstice. The event will begin at sundown – and is to happen in a special place such as the Firehouse Performing Arts center. Already the story is counseling us that storytelling can have a ritual aspect as well as a casual aspect.

The storytelling has already begun: it began on the way there, in fact it may even have begun when the announcement of the event was made.

SUNSET
When everyone is foregathered in the special place, then, as the sun bleeds into the west, someone commanding respect comes forward and utters the equivalent of : Friends we are gathered here this day to celebrate peace and compassion...’ And so, as the stars begin to shine through the dark cloth of dreams, the formalised storytelling commences.

First the stories of the ‘dear departed friend’: anecdotes about the mischief he or she got up to, reminiscences of the bold and generous deeds they did. As the moon rises, perhaps the stories move to his or her ancestors, ‘He was so like his father’ and ‘Do you remember the time when...?’ But then someone says, ‘Old George here, he’d hate to have us all moping around his coffin. Do you remember that joke he used to tell about the bloke who goes into the pub and sees a tiny feller playing a miniature piano on the shelf behind the bar...?’ And so traditional narratives – passed on, collectively owned and shared – make their presence felt. Jokes turn and spin, perhaps eventually clustering around a culture hero such as Duncan Williamson’s ‘Donald Archie Dougal Douglas McLean’, or Nasreddin Hoja, or Brudda Nancy. These become the stories of the folk – we, you, many and I: the rich and the poor; the wise and the foolish; the old and the young; men and women; rural and urban; and all those vain, conceited, hopeless hypocrites who meet their reflection in the owl glass...

The moon is rising high, and someone says, ‘But there are more things on heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your philosophies’ (Horatio). Then stories of ‘the otherworld’ begin: stories of spirits and ‘My Life in the Bush of Ghosts’, etc. All are ‘legends’ that have a toehold in the landscape of here and now.

Then someone starts ‘Once upon a time’ signalling that the toehold has gone: the stories are now ultimately metaphorical, their world is an inner one - the land where we stand, where North, South, West and East meet; where the false-mothers, ogres, weak kings, beggar-guides and middle brothers are all aspects of ourselves as we journey through inner landscapes of swamp and desert, dark pit and high mountain. These ‘wonder tales’, beloved of Freud and Jung (and, after them, so many other mythopoetical thinkers) aim to make us wonder about the nature of the energy dancing unobserved in our inner, subconscious, passion play.

The moon is at its zenith. Someone says, ‘...but we owe the fact that we are free to assemble here on such a night, in peace, to our ancestors: they who first brought our people to this valley.’ And then the tales of the legendary ancestors begin, they who achieved great things – with help from higher forces – their faith, the spirit world and the deities. These stories begin to suggest a bridge between this world and the manifest forces of fate and destiny that govern it. Yet, perhaps the ancestors are barely mentioned as the stories move now to Epic, fully fledged episodes in which larger-than-life heroes and heroines collide with each other and with the Gods, all driven by the chaos of an emotional life painted eternally loud and clear - and all too familiar.

And then, as the moon dips to the horizon and prepares to leave the skies, so the humans barely feature in the stories. The stories have become the exclusive domain of the gods: pure expressions of knowledge, passion, force and logos incarnate.

As the dawn breaks in the Eastern sky, the stories have become myths of creation, speaking of how-and-why the world was created, how-and-why humans were put into it, and how-and-why it is that we die. As the sun rises we find we have travelled during the night from stories detailing the incidents of our individual lives to vast stories that strive to understand the cosmic purpose of the humanity to which we belong. With the daybreak, we return to the quotidian, the everyday: a reality enhanced by imagined metaphors suggesting purpose, possibility and hope.

The Night of Stories makes a journey of ever increasing perspective. It is a little like those wonderful books of aerial photography that show someone sunbathing, and then someone sunbathing in a garden, and then a garden in a suburb, and then a suburb in a city and then a city in a county and then a county in a country, etc, until you are left drifting up there in a universe of tiny flecks of radiant and reflected light. Funnily enough such books are no more than the brilliant contemporary equivalent of the traditional cumulative form of a nursery tale such as, ‘The House that Jack Built’: ‘This is the sun that rose with the dawn, to call the cock to crow on the morn, to wake the master with horse, hound and horn, to summon the priest all shaven and shorn,’ etc. The individual perspective gradually yields to the cosmic perspective.

12/03/2008

Collaborative Storytelling

As Swil Kanim has been known to say a time or two...

A looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong time ago...

...there was a Teller who decided she wanted to focus on her writing, to commit herself so fully to her art that she would reduce her life to three things only - writing, family, and work.

Now this Teller had heard tales that if you do what you love, the money would follow, and she dreamed that once she started her MFA, the need for a bread job would fall away. She knew that focusing on school would mean giving up things like TV watching, leisurely weekends with the family, and other 'smaller' stuff. She figured Telling fell into that 'smaller' stuff category too, so hung up her Teller vest (just for a couple of years) and set to reading and writing.

For six months, she tried to balance the Three, compromising family and work where she could to carve out time for writing, new writing, old writing, any writing, and lots of reading. At first it seemed to all come together...then work needed more and family needed more, and the Teller realized that she liked the stability her bread job offered and liked spending leisurely weekends with her family and that when these two other things didn't quite happen, not matter how much time she carved out for writing, the writing didn't happen. Coursework deadlines loomed and there was nothing on the screen. Or on the page. Or in the brain.

So, like any good Teller, she shook her bag of tales and spread them out on her bed, looking for clues to what ailed her. Because stories are medicine too. And she picked up the time for walking downtown and she picked up the time to bring work home to finish and she picked up time for, of all things, Telling.

Now this Teller is shy. Uncertain, really, and often only Tells when asked. So she wasn't expecting to Tell that First Friday in November - she'd gone to support another Teller breaking new ground with original work. But then One Crazy Raven came hopping over for a hug and asked. "Have you got a story tonight?" And she said "Yes."

Alitaptap is the housefly who becomes the firefly, and that night the Teller remembered the part of her story she'd set aside, the part she realized she needed in order to /be/ a writer. She lived a dream, a story told in shadows of a moment in the light, sharing the stage with two of her heroes. The moment had nothing and everything to do with writing, and like the Skyking, the Teller plucked a star from the sky and lit up the night, remembering what Telling meant to her.

So the Teller and the Telling came back, both on the stage and in gaming. She carved a new path and wonder of wonders, things shifted and moved into familiar but well-supported spaces where work and family and writing and Telling could all exist together.

The rest became toilet paper

(and if you didn't get that last, you've gotta see Swil Kanim tell his Tree Story)

************************

Collaborative Storytelling

It's what we do everyday, the thing we live and experience without knowing it. We build stories with others at work, at home, at school, at play, even shopping. We tell ourselves stories, imagine other's stories, witness stories in progress, help stories move in new directions, hopefully better ones.

It's what good Tellers do when they perform together - That First Friday with Gene, we told stories about being different and celebrating our differences. We were still high from Obama's win and believed (still believe) that Yes We Can make change, change for the good, while knowing it will take work. Lots of work.

Two Friday's later at the Fireside doing our Tellebration Gig, we mixed personal stories with old tales, some true folktales, some true original stories. Didn't matter - with the drums and the dancing and the wild gestures - we were all making stories, drinking stories to make our lives richer and remind us what forgiveness and courage can do.

It's what on-line Role-Players do, gaming on MUSHs and MU's, creating and living as characters in made up worlds, using pixels and their imaginations to advance themes and tell stories to one another. We bring out the best in each other while we play and when we play well, the story grows and shifts as if there were only one narrator. We're all heroes and hero-makers.

The coolest, bestest thing about Telling these ways is that there's no rehearsal, no script, no set way that things have to be done. You know a story, you know a character, you gauge the audience, you assess your strength, you reach for what you think you need from the story (which invariably is the thing the audience needs from the story) and you go.

You unreel it, slowly at first, building momentum, getting feedback from the listeners, shifting the story, dropping a new gag here, covering a fumble there, and it comes out - maybe not perfect - but exactly what it needs to be. That's magic touching reality. Nothing more, nothing less.

Collaborative Storytelling

What story are you telling yourself today? Does it serve you or make you suffer? Does is bring the best out in others or oppress them? What story are you being told today? How can you change that story for the better, create the changes you dream, find the support you need? What story are you making with others? What theme are you all bringing forward, reinforcing, growing, bringing to light?

As Grandmother of One Crazy Raven once said -

Your life is a story, make it a good one.

Next: The Miraculous Journey of BunBun the Bunny

12/02/2008

Happy New Year!

A few days late, but things always get a bit busier this time of year, eh?

Sunday was the first day of Advent and technically the first day of the new liturgical year. In all my days at Catholic school plus the last few my gals have attended, I've not felt like Advent was the start of a new year. This year though, I really felt it, the Beginnings as the first child of the new year was baptised and the first purple candle of the wreath was lit.

Perhaps I needed to start over a bit earlier than the Gregorian reckoning. It's been a rough 6+ weeks with the rearrangement of a great many plans, not the least of which was/is my MFA.

I'm still pursuing my MFA, but I'm switching programs to one more local that has residencies only once a year instead of twice. Most of the last few weeks have been mourning and grieving (and gnashing of teeth early on, saying goodbye overly late), but I'm now looking forward as one usually does at the beginning of a year. The change will mean de-emphasizing some projects and dusting off others, but mostly creating *new* material.

I'm rolling around the idea of "writing for myself," something I've been encouraged to do by more than one mentor recently. I'm remaking the story behind that phrase - the old story has stuff like "write for yourself - cause no one else really cares" or "write for yourself - cause you'll never make a living off something so obscure/common-place" or "write for yourself - cause who else will listen to what you have to say?"

I picked up a copy of Lynda Barry's What It Is. Lynda is a hapa-pinay...I found her because of a post on one of my FilAm forums. I don't clearly remember the post, but what stuck was her name, her drawing, and her book. She questions a lot, questions, questions, questions, and I love that because it opens up rather than narrowing into a specific 'writer's intent.' By the time I got to the section "Writing the Unthinkable," I began to remember that "writing for myself" was what I used to do - I wrote to tell myself stories.

Fear and Doubt, they're always asking questions too, but ones that close down rather than open up, and Barry reveals the only answer that stops their questions:

I Don't Know.

I don't know if this is any good, or if the plot is all messed up, or if the character should be gay or straight, or if a theme is over-wrought even before it's finished.

But I want to find out - what happens, who are they, why do I care, what do they become?

I'm interested in failures and redemption, how communities heal and harm, where magic and reality meet and blur. I'm interested in telling my story, the stories I've heard, the stories I need to hear.

So this year, I'll be writing for myself, cause I don't know, but I want to find out what the stories are and where they go.

Next: Collaborative Storytelling

10/21/2008

So, How are You?

Really? Wow.

Me? I'm fine! Busy. Yep, with the whole working full time, two kids in school, MFA thing. Challenging and fulfilling describe, but don't fully encompass all that's happened since July. Torn my hair out in frustration (okay, actually had over a foot cut off and donated to Locks of love), nearly thrown in the towel more than once (but mostly just trying to keep laundry clean on a regular basis), and had a few reversals of fortune (economic downturn...need we say more?), but I'm still here, still plugging away, still living and believing the dream.

Just wanted to keep a quote from Wil Wheaton's blog that I found tonight:

This is something I tell actors all the time: you have to find ways to enjoy auditions, and as hard as it is, as counter intuitive as it is, you just can't make success or failure about booking the job. You have to make success or failure about enjoying yourself.

Substitute 'actors' for 'writers,' 'auditions' for 'manuscripts,' 'booking the job' with 'publishing the manuscript,' and you pretty much get my Ah Ha Moment. When I get tense about writing, stressed about 'making it,' I just have to remember to PLAY. Cause if it ain't fun, even when I'm struggling to find the right words, the right turn of events, the right nifty thing that must appear, then I've lost my perspective.

And as Richard Bach would say: Perspective, use it or lose it.

7/24/2008

You Want One, I Know


The graduating class of the VCFA program gifted the first semester students (that would be me) with spiffy journals at the grad ceremony.

Not content to just give us Moleskines, they instead found journals at Ex Libris Anonymous, a purveyor of journals made of old hard bound books. Spiral bound, the journals contain ample numbers of blank pages interleaved with pages from the old book. Most of my cohort received journals made from Dr. Seuss books and Dick and Jane tomes. Me, I got a journal made from "Tom Swift and His Space Solatron"



As Ver would say, you're jealous. I know it.

7/22/2008

Galatea Review: Beijing Background


Now appearing in issue 10 of Galatea Resurrects:

Beijing Background by Bob Marcacci (Dis Press, Beijing, 2007)
Reviewed by Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor

Beijing Background rolls and rollicks, hums and clatters with all the background noise inherent in a city over 17 million strong. Marcacci's eight poems bring our ears and attentiveness to the things unnoticed with the deft skill of the musician and the involved observer. ...more...

68 reviews grace the issue! A feast of poetry!

7/10/2008

VCFA MFA WCYA


Where am I these days? As the tagline shows I'm at a ten day residency for:

Vermont College of Fine Arts, Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults

**big grin** Yep, I made it!

To read my adventures, please see the entries at What If?

In general, I'm still nervous and excited, but now I'm also tired, which they tell me is really, really normal.

6/23/2008

Recent (and not so recent) Events

I know a great many of you have been waiting to hear about the Words Expressed event at Pagdiriwang this year. Unfortunately, my pictures didn't come out very well and I wasn't able to record any of the event since it will be broadcast on the radio soon. I do have this picture, though, of the wonderful emerging writers that also read:



The youngest reader, Jennalyn, is a poet currently in middle school and the eldest were Pauline and Myra who are undergraduates from Seattle University. The group was rounded out by Roxie who is a sophomore, but unfortunately Ciana was too ill to attend. In her place was her sister Shigeko (who's name I didn't write down but helpfully provided by Marianne). So much good energy and willingness to take risks in their work and I was very glad to hear them read.

Maria and Bob arranged an incredible line-up and a terrific venue marred only by having to compete with the larger Pagdiriwang Festival a floor above us. There were about 50 in the audience at any given time, but for me, the real joy was sitting and listening to the stories and poems the other writer's shared.

Nancy Calos-Nakano led us off with an excerpt from a monologue about her mother. A natural storyteller, she has the gift of memoir able to put humor into the most poignant moments. Angela Dy followed with her high-powered spoken word pieces that ran chills up my spine and made me hungry to see/experience more of her work. Then came Donna Miscolta's fiction piece which read like memoir, smooth and creamy as it revealed the story behind the loss of three fingers by a pensionado/featherweight boxer. Mimi Noledo read her poetry among her paintings giving visuals to words and words to her visuals. I went next reading two poems and an excerpt from Yellow is for Luck, a piece in the forthcoming Growing Up Filipino II anthology.

Then came Tess Uriza Holthe reading from her novel When Elephants Dance showing her skill in making history personal and evocative. Marianne Villanueva challenged us all with her reading of the Mayor of Roses, ever so gently apologizing for the violence depicted in the story, but never shirking from the realism of her work. The event wrapped with Toni Bajado's haunting poetry which resonated with all of us.

In one afternoon a community of women writers was formed, one we were all hopeful would continue, but even more so, we all left inspired to continue our own work while encouraging each other to keep working on our art.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Last year, I had a chance to attend part of the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society conference when it was held in Tacoma, WA. I met folk who gave me more information on what my grandfather likely experienced as a member of the 26th Cavalry. One of the people I met was a documentarian and he sent me this:



I'm not sure if it's his work, but I recognize some of the re-enactors that also came to the conference. I've been contacted by a couple of descendants of other Philippine Scouts, both looking for information I might have. I wish I had more, but it will be nice to revisit that research. I think it would make a good topic for a novel, maybe even a YA novel, but I think I need to do more research to pull it off.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Christina announced last spring that her new single Mango Man has been released and coincides with her poem of the same name published in the Fairfield Review.

Just as if the sky turned the colors
of burnt orange and the world smelled
of incense and my grandmother's coconut oil


Louisa has also released poetry recently including What We Ate After Passing the Cape of Eleven Thousand Virgins in qarrsiluni and "An empowered damsel" in poemeleon's Persona Poem issue.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Finally, ZenHabits recently published a guest post by chessmaster Josh Waitzkin who offers the following as a cure for the multitasking virus (which I seem to have an acute case):

1) Do what you love;
2) Do it in a way you love and connect to;
3) Give people a Choice and they become engaged;
4) Release a fear of failure;
5) Build positive routines;
6) Do one thing at a time;
7) Take breaks.

These are the principles I'll be applying as I continue to learn how to approach and succeed in grad school this time around.

6/13/2008

Two Dozen Days

...before I leave for Vermont College.

I'm having anxiety attacks. I can't put two words together that lead very far. I worry about the money to pay for school. I worry about my family and my job. I worry that my words won't be strong enough to carry the dream. But somehow, this quote helps me feel a bit better:

...words aren't cheap. They are very precious. They are like water, which gives life and growth and refreshment, but because it has always been abundant, we treat it cheaply. We waste it and pollute it and doctor it. Then, when we take a drink from a city faucet, we wrinkle our nose and say: "This is terrible water." And we blame the water because we have misused it. [Katherine Paterson]

Words might be a renewable resource, but like all renewable resources, it has to be treated with respect and reverence.

I've been working to clean my resevoir, and sometimes I've mistaken the gunk for life-giving, and the life-giving for gunk. But mostly, I've seen my words as cheap because of this abundance, and that is a terrible mistake.

Another quote, an aphorism really, one found in a book I just finished reading (Elijah of Buxton - excellent middle grade reader):

Familiarity breeds contempt.

Respecting my own words. That's what it's all about today.

5/24/2008

Writing It Real

Sheila Bender is one of those writers I've read off and on for years, mostly for her sound advice on the process of writing. I discovered A Year in the Life soon after the birth of my second child and it influenced the final edit of my MA thesis. Through her passion for poetry and essay, Sheila transmits a sense of capability and honor to the young writer - she believes that if a person wishes to write, then they have what it takes to not only begin but to succeed.

I was excited to read earlier this year about her essay contest and sent three pieces off in short measure. I was overjoyed to hear from her a few weeks later - Becoming a Woman of Color had won first prize!

"Becoming" is a piece that my close readers have enjoyed, but one that never seemed to quite fit the journals to which I submitted it. The form is a non-traditional essay written second person, and the piece was often criticized in workshop because of this. Male readers didn't feel comfortable being asked to read from a woman's point of view, folk-not-of-color didn't want to inhabit the ambivalent space between privilege and prejudice. I tried changing it several times to make it more 'accessible' only to return to the voice of it's original.

Sheila writes:

"Becoming a Woman of Color" by Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor offers a satisfying and moving read. A lyric essay in structure, it is built in sections that each begin with a command: Imagine, Remember, Picture. The symmetry between beginning and ending the essay with the word imagine and the repeated commands of remember and picture sandwiched between the opening and closing of the essay carry both writer and reader through a rewarding emotional journey.

I am /so/ grateful that she responded so positively to the piece and grateful that she chose it as the winning entry for her contest. She and her co-publisher Kurt VanderSluis have published Becoming a Woman of Color in her online journal http://writingitreal.com/.

As part of my prize, Sheila looked over one of the other two essays I submitted. She gave me a very frank assessment which showed I still have far to go with my work. There were technical difficulties to the piece but what was most helpful to me was that she contrasted that piece with "Becoming." I learned that when I trust my voice, instead of trying to make a piece into what I think others will respond to, I do /much/ better. It's something I've read time and again in books on writing and something I've heard time and again from veteran writers.

The difference with Sheila, though, is that she /showed/ me what that meant for my own writing and as any writer will tell you Show Don't Tell is the first and last rule of good writing and good critique.

5/11/2008

Pagdiriwang: Words Expressed


(click image to embiggen)

Less than a month before the Pagdiriwang event! Writers Workshop Co-chairs Maria Batayola, Robert Francis Flor and Dale Tiffany have put together a terrific program, and promoted it incredibly well. I'm very excited to read, but even more excited to hear the work of all the fabulous pinay writers featured:

Melissa Nolledo
Nancy Calos-Nakano
Angela Martinez-Dy
Donna Miscolta
Tess Uriza Holthe
Toni Bajado
Marianne Villanueva
Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor

The place to be:

Words Expressed: Filipina Women Writers Workshop

Saturday, June 7, 2008
Noon-4:00 pm
Seattle Center, Centerhouse Theater

****

(Aside - I'm very grateful to note that being at this event does not mean I'll miss my daughter's ballet recital on June 8 as I had previously thought!)

5/08/2008

Synchronization

Sometimes, oftentimes really, all the parts that make up my life seem to get out of sync. There's this project and that crisis and this conflict and that resolution. First a great tragedy, then great comfort mixed with writing challenges and travel. I found this the other day and somehow it made me feel much better:



See, the metronomes are all the different parts of my life now, often strumming along at different beats, tugging and pulling me every which way. But they're all there and they're all part of me, and when I allow them to share energy, allow the chaos of movement that is change, then I have great hope that soon, things will settle out, synchronize and all will be well again.

In the meantime, there's a new story brewing that I hope will take shape over the next few days. This is the part of writing I like best, I think, the plotting and planning and getting to know the characters. I'm hopeful it will turn into a YA novel, or perhaps a middle grade reader.

School starts in a couple of months, but I'll need to send in 20 pages by the 23rd. I'm reading picture books and children's novels at a rapid pace, but haven't been able to update my GoodReads blog yet. Writers for children carry a different sort of passion than I've seen in writers for adults. Neither worse nor better, just /different/ in the sense that they have a deep commitment to making a difference in children's lives, whether by telling the stories about their lives that children can't quite articulate or by giving children hope in the future by helping them make sense of their world. I'm not certain I could call myself a children's writer yet, but I'm looking forward to learning and growing through the experience.

4/25/2008

Progress to Filipino Vets Equity


Last November was the last I'd heard any movement on the movement to give back benefits promised to Filipinos fighting with the US during WWII.

Although I'm not sure what the status is of H.R. 760: Filipino Veterans Equity Act of 2007, yesterday I learned that S. 1315: Veteran's Benefits Enhancements Act of 2007 has passed the Senate.

Here's the press release:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, elatedly applauded his colleagues in the Senate for passing S. 1315 , the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 by a vote of 96 to 1. Prior to voting on final passage of the bill, the Senate debated an amendment to remove a provision providing a limited pension for Filipino World War II veterans residing in the Philippines. This amendment was defeated by a vote of 56 to 41, with Akaka leading the charge for the Filipino veterans' pension.

"The Filipino veterans of World War II fought bravely under U.S. military command, helping us win the war only to lose their veteran status by an Act of Congress. I commend my colleagues for supporting those veterans who stood with us," said Akaka.

Akaka continued, "I am also very pleased that the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 can finally move forward. This bill makes needed improvements to veterans' benefits by expanding and increasing support for veterans, their families, and their survivors. I urge my colleagues in the House to act swiftly on this much needed bill."

This comprehensive, budget-neutral omnibus veterans' benefits bill was approved by the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs last June and reported to the full Senate last August.

The Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 would provide a veterans' pension to Filipino veterans of World War II residing in the U.S. and in the Philippines. Under the proposed bill, veterans residing in the Philippines would receive a smaller pension than those residing in the U.S., to account for differences in cost-of-living in the two countries.

The Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 also includes a multitude of improvements to veterans' benefits, including provisions to:

- Establish a new program of insurance for service-connected disabled veterans;
- Expand eligibility for retroactive benefits from traumatic injury protection coverage under Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance;
- Increase the maximum amount of Veterans' Mortgage Life Insurance that a service-connected disabled veteran may purchase;
- Provide individuals with severe burn injuries specially adapted housing benefits; and
- Extend for two years the monthly educational assistance allowance for apprenticeship or other on-the-job training

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives.

4/23/2008

4/21/2008

Run-up to SCBWI

Headed out this weekend to attend SCBWI Western Washington Conference...which I see is sold out. Whoa. I'm glad I got my reg. in a few weeks back.

I want to pitch a couple of picture books, but I registered late and didn't get any pitch appointments with agents/eds. I feel like I need to bring /something/ though, so I'll bring copies of the manuscripts at least. I'm also trying to remember how to do a cold pitch letter. I learned about cold pitches the last time I was at a SCBWI conference... ten years ago in Honolulu... So to the Intertubes I go tonight.

Came across this terrific article on Query Letters by Nathan Bransford of the Curtis-Brown Agency. It's got the skinny on the hook-line-and-sinker of how to capture an agent's attention with a simple 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper. If nothing else, I have a template to use when I send queries out after the conference.

I know publication isn't the focus for the MFA program at VC, but it's something I have/want to keep my feelers into while I'm in the program. It's a way to understand the audience you're approaching, I think. I don't want to become market driven, but knowing what's out there, what's worked, and what's being looked for will help me develop ideas more carefully, I think.

I've been updating my Goodreads Blog complete with a few annotations. So many books to read before the residency starts. Just counting the faculty books at one each is 17 books and in many cases of authors that are doing work I'm interesting in producing, I'm hoping to read at least two books, maybe three. In the meantime, I've been tagged by Dawn, one of my future classmates with the following meme:

  • Grab your WIP (work-in-progress)

  • Find page 30 of the MS or page 3 for PBs

  • Find the fifth sentence.

  • Post the next three sentences.

  • Tag five people


  • So, from my WIP which I may/may not work on during VC:

    She eyed the other two again. "Well, I got corn fritters cooling on the table and hot coffee if you don't mind the burn."

    She stepped out of the house and started shooing them in as if they were chickens. "No need to be hanging on my doorstop like a bunch of vagabonds," she muttered, then shut the door behind them once they'd all crossed the threshold.


    Betty is such a cool character.

    Alrighty - Not sure who's reading me anymore, so if you're here, consider yourself tagged.

    4/18/2008

    Achiote Press Release Party and Reading

    Achiote Press will celebrate the release of our Spring issues with a party on Friday, April 25th at the Ethnic Studies Library on the UC Berkeley campus.

    The event will feature special readings by former Achiote contributors Barbara Jane Reyes (Poeta en San Francisco) Truong Tran (Within The Margin), and Oscar Bermeo (Anywhere Avenue).

    Maria Tuttle will read from her new Achiote chapbook, Saramé. This chapbook contains an excerpt from Tuttle's historical novel about the life of a Chicana in El Paso, Texas during the early 20th century. Gabriela Erandi Rico will read from her contributions to the new Achiote Seeds chapjournal.

    Javier Huerta, author of Some Clarifications y otras poemas, will perform selections from the other contributors to the journal: Cristina García, Emmy Pérez and Brenda Cárdenas. Poet Oscar Bermeo will emcee the night.

    We'll have food, drinks and music. The event is free, open to the public and we welcome families and children.

    When: Friday, April 25th: 6pm--8pm
    Where: Ethnic Studies Library, Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley Campus
    (see a campus map here)

    Sponsored by the Ethnic Studies Graduate Group, Asian American Studies Program, and Chicano Studies Program.

    ******

    Such good memories of last years launch! I wish I could be there. So much good writing and community. Hope folks can make it there for me!

    4/15/2008

    Philippine Speculative Fiction IV - Call

    Dean Alfar announces the call for subs for Philippine Speculative Fiction IV

    He notes: Speculative fiction is the literature of wonder that spans the genres of fantasy, science fiction, horror and magic realism or falls into the cracks in-between.

    Got Magic?

    4/14/2008

    The Big Reveal

    I've hinted a bit about this in recent posts, but now I'm finally able to gleefully announce:

    I've been accepted at Vermont College for their dual-MFA in Non-Fiction and Children's Writing.

    This is my 'big project' that had me writing and nervous and writing some more since last Fall. My original thought was to apply to low-residency MFA programs that had strong non-fiction faculty. I started with the local ones near Seattle, WA, then asked the advice of colleagues and friends at Western. I narrowed the field to three, one of which was Vermont College.

    I admit that Children’s Writing wasn’t on my radar right away, but when I was looking into VC, I discovered that they had a dual MFA program option that would enable me to work on my memoir project(s) and look into children’s writing again. When I was in Hawaii in ‘97-’98, I was involved with SCBWI a bit - went to their conference and won second prize in their writing contest. I have a couple of picture book manuscripts that I’m going to be circulating as soon as I get a bit more research done on agents and publishers, and put together a decent query letter for each. I’d like to write YA historic novels, along the lines of Christopher Paul Curtis or even Sherman Alexie (although I haven’t read The Absolute True Diary of a Part Time Indian yet to know for sure.) Picture books, though, are also a draw and I think I'll start with that first.

    There’s a lot of Filipino American history not written about yet and with my focus on family relationships and empowerment/identity, I think there will be plenty of material to work with. I had the option to either start on the nonfiction track or the children’s and I opted for children’s as much because the opportunity was there to work on my current manuscripts as it was that I have found myself at various local SCBWI events. It seems obvious now that I am more drawn to children’s now than I realized, but it has taken me a bit to actually /realize/ it. It’s very gratifying, then that the opportunity was there for me to take.

    I am a bit afraid of getting ‘locked in’ to a genre, but given my track record of publication in everything from trade magazines to poetry, plus a passion for performance storytelling, I doubt I will ’settle’ for anything else but a multigenre career ultimately. In the meantime, the MFA affords me the time (carved out of an already full life) and the mentorship I think I need to really move my writing to the next levels.

    I've opened a new blog dedicated to just my adventures in the MFA journey: What If?. Feel free to drop by!

    4/09/2008

    66 Years Ago

    My grandfather heard the words he never thought he would hear.

    Never imagined that after becoming a Philippine Scout and learning all he could about being a good soldier in the US Army, he would be asked to do the unimaginable.

    Never thought that the people he admired most in the world for their intelligence, bravery, and honor, would ask him to do the unthinkable.

    Although he never had a chance to tell me himself, I heard the story from other Scouts, how they held the line so MacArthur could escape. Rationed food and bullets while giving their all to fight a battle already deemed unwinnable. To hear that final word from a commanding officer --

    Surrender.

    The Bataan Death March and the 66-Year Struggle for Justice

    We don't know exactly when Lolo escaped the March, but it was sometime early in the march, perhaps April 11 or 12th. They came to an artesian well, the story goes, and there was a rush to the clean water. In the confusion, Lolo and two others slipped into the jungle, ran as long as they could and when safe, headed in three different directions. I don't know if Lolo ever saw the other two again. Lolo headed to his mother's province where he found his young wife and their three girls. My mother, the oldest, was seven years old and she tells of how Lolo stumbled into the nipa hut, tears streaming down his wan face, grabbed my grandmother and simply said:

    We lost.

    He struggled through malaria, then struggled against becoming part of the resistance. He believed MacArthur would return and he had no orders to be part of the resistance, so lived as a farmer, moving upland when the Japanese did their patrols. The villagers kept him and themselves safe with a series of codes tapped in rice pounders. Mom tells of Japanese soldiers who left them alone because they prayed out loud as they hid beneath their hut, and also of collaborators who stole food from them even when the Japanese did not.

    Lolo waited for word of MacArthur's return and when it came, he reported for duty, coordinated the Scouts who also reported and went on to retire from a full career in the US Army in the mid-60s.

    My Lolo believed. Even when they told him to surrender, even when he knew they had lost. I can't fault him that faith, even with all it's colonial and post-colonial implications.

    All I can do is witness and remember.

    4/04/2008

    Gift of Collaboration

    Came home late tonight after working all day, taking the family out for dinner and catching the First Friday Concert by Swil Kanim.

    Swil is a musician, storyteller, and philosopher who's name is Richard Marshall but who /is/ Swil Kanim – Works for the People.

    I've seen Swil perform off an on for years, ever since seeing him in the Business of Fancydancing and finding out he played not only locally, but monthly at a local coffeeshop. He plays for free and liberates his CDs for free, and folks donate what they can, when they can to help he and his wife keep being who they are – artists and ardent supporters of human beings.

    I always learn something from Swil, even if the set pieces are the similar. I learn about how to be a better artist, be a more excellent person, live with failure, and live with passion. Tonight, I learned about the importance of collaboration between artists, how we need to encourage each other to honor our gifts, support each other, give each other a safe place to be the artists we are. I also offered my own gift to him, offered my experience as a writer to get one of his stories made into a children's picture book. It might be in the works already, but it was important for me to connect and offer what I had after he had given so much of who he was to me and to others.

    That's the medicine of Swil Kanim, the ability to create connections, heart to heart and keep that going, performance after performance. To witness to gift giving and gift receiving, and call our attention to it so we can all be grateful together.

    4/03/2008

    Hopeful Progress

    Last October, I wrote about the unfortunate choice of characterization in an episode of Desperate Housewives.

    I'm happy to see that the outcry has become something tangible and I hopeful that it means change for the good:

    An outreach project by
    Disney/ABC Television Group
    in collaboration with
    The National Federation of
    Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA)

    The Disney·ABC Television Group has the most comprehensive and diverse talent development programs in the industry. ABC discovers and nurtures the finest talent, preparing them for careers in acting, writing and directing.

    You are cordially invited to participate and learn more about ABC’s programs. Please note that due to the capacity of the venue, we will only be able to accommodate a first come first serve basis.

    RSVP by April 15th
    Jon Melegrito, NaFFAA Communications Director, jonmele@aol.com

    When Opportunity knocks, be there to open the door!

    April 24, 2007
    6:00-9:00PM
    Washington D.C. Capitol Hilton
    Pan-American Meeting Room
    16th and K St. NW, METRO STOP: Farragut West

    COME AND TALK WITH
    The Disney·ABC Television Group

    Bob Mendez, Sr. Vice President, Diversity
    Disney·ABC Television Group

    Tim McNeal, Vice President,
    Talent Development & Diversity
    Disney·ABC Television Group

    Frank Bennett Gonzalez, Director
    Talent Development
    Disney·ABC Television Group

    Tracey Waecker, HR Recruiting
    Disney·ABC Media Networks

    4/02/2008

    Words Expressed

    Pagdiriwang Festival

    Words Expressed: Filipina Women Writers Workshop

    Saturday, June 7, 2008
    Noon-4:00 pm
    Seattle Center, Centerhouse Theater

    Filipinos and Filipino Americans have a long rich tradition of written expression which is etched in our souls. We have brought these expressions to the United States as poems, novels, essays and political analysis. Yet where is our literature? Why are our writers unknown?

    Let us honor our Pinay poets and writers, listen to their moving and challenging pieces, learn from them and celebrate as we pass on this wonderful tradition of …words expressed

    Featuring the work of:

    Melissa Nolledo
    Nancy Calos-Nakano
    Angela Martinez-Dy
    Donna Miscolta
    Tess Uriza Holthe
    Toni Bajado
    Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor
    Marianne Villanueva

    Writers Workshop Co-chairs
    Maria Batayola, Robert Francis Flor and Dale Tiffany

    Supporting Agencies:

    Washington Poets Association
    Seattle University Wismer Center for Gender and Diversity Studies
    Seattle Central Community College
    Filipino American City Employees
    PoetsWest
    Elliott Bay Bookstore
    Artists Trust

    Sponsored by the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, City of Seattle

    3/31/2008

    Riding the Wave

    Writing begets writing.

    I'm going to have that printed and framed, I think.

    So riding the crest of my work last night, I took three unpublished pieces from my files and sent them off to an essay contest. When I sat down to work, I thought I had a month to get the pieces ready, but a quick check of the submission guidelines revealed that the contest would end on the 30th of April... and the submissions are due tomorrow.

    Again, it would have been easier to give up and look for another contest, but my 'big project' including shaping these three pieces into the best state I thought they could be. So, I took them out, dusted them a bit, and sent them off. Thankfully the contest had a terrific submission system that allowed me to pay the reading fee via PayPal.

    I lurv the Intertubes.

    I also got an update on a reading I'm giving in early June. The program is shaping up nicely and I'm looking forward to meeting all the other writers. I'll post details once I receive the official blurb.

    3/30/2008

    Reaching Out

    **looks around** Where did March go? I distinctly remember celebrating Leap Year and suddenly it's past Easter and nearly April Fools... It's the snow, I'm sure of it. Who heard of snow after Spring Equinox? Snow is /so/ out of context for me this time of year.

    Seriously, though, between the getting ready for Easter and the family crises big and small, plus the project I'm working on (that sadly, I can't share much about here...yet) it's been a crazy month. I've gotten some good work done - rewrites of older material but new possible venues, so that makes for happy.

    It was good to work on material for submission again, having a definite goal in mind, selecting the pieces, shaping them into things I thought would match their aesthetic. I hit that place, though, where it all looks close to being finished, but not really /feeling/ finished. It seemed easier to walk away, but I know I need to get into that practice of shaping and submitting material so it seems as natural as breathing.

    I'm learning to be comfortable with risk. I'm reading “Take the Risk: Learning to Identify, Choose, and Live with Acceptable Risk” by Ben Carson and its helping me know that there are different kinds of risk and that avoiding risk doesn't guarantee safety. Carson speaks of how in the US we've created a culture afraid of risks and therefore are unaccustomed to evaluating risks with a measure of wisdom. Avoidance seems 'safer' than failure.

    A friend recently said to me, in a completely different context: "There (comes) a time that we wish to be more than who we are. To realize that we *can* be (what we aspire to become)." While another quipped: "...the risk is probably worth the taking--if you know who it is you want to be."

    I know I want to be a successful writer – paid, published, and prolific – and I know that my big project will help me reach that goal by challenging me to expand my writing and take more risks. I can't afford any longer to let the fear of failure continue to hold me back. Who I 'be' is a writer and everything I do must reflect that commitment.

    3/01/2008

    Kaya Mong Maging Dakila!

    Attended the WWU Bond Children's Lit Conference today. A single day event, but to say it was inspiring would be to understate the experience. Incredibly moving, would come closer to describing the event. I laughed, cried, scribbled notes, saw new things in my writing, remembered old things I wanted to see with my writing.

    I remembered being in Hawaii and being asked by a book seller to tell the stories of FilAms, not the folktales and history books for kids, but the fiction stories so obliquitous in other cultures which filled shelf after shelf in bookstores and libraries. I didn't know any FilAm writers then. Didn't even know about Carlos Bulosan or Jessica Hagedorn. I just wanted to write and be read. But then the stories started coming, the possibilities of stories meant to reveal the history of plantation life in Hawaii, farm worker strikes in California, escaped slaves in Louisiana, Alaskeros in Seattle. Too many stories all at once, but at the same time, I wrote my first two picture books, one based on a folktale and the other on a boy coping with his grandfather's stroke.

    That same year, I published my first poems and drafted the skeleton of a memoir. I dreamed of the Oprah Book Club, attended three writing conferences, each in different genres, and finished my BA by correspondence. It was about the writing - didn't matter what I was writing, just so I /was/ writing. And I survived one of the worst, one of the best years of my life.

    Circling back on Children's Lit is sort of like coming home for me and at the same time walking toward a future I'd set aside to work on other projects. I used to see this as a flaw, the coming around, the never really settling, the always beginning and never finishing. Something shifted today, though, maybe not quite a healing, but definitely a stitching together of lost pieces. The drive to tell stories about surviving grief and betrayal, to give voice to lost/buried history, to find the humor and love that always surrounds us, and celebrate independence and belonging all at the same time.

    Aileen Ibardaloza of the FLIPS listserve sent me the link to a collaborative song called Kaya Mong Maging Dakila! (You can be noble). It's a sort of "We are the World" piece featuring several Filipino artists, but the entire song is in Tagalog and I couldn't understand much of it.

    Usually, I don't engage well with Tagalog or the other dialects my elder family speaks. I can respond in English usually to simple questions and conversations, but I usually feel a little less, a little outside, and more than a little lost when I'm around the dialects. These were the languages used to punish, hide, shame me as a child, leaving me confused, frustrated, and angry more often than not. I tried once to learn Tagalog, taking classes locally, but I lack my husband's ear, perfect mimicry, and unselfconscious ability to make language work for me. Speaking English can even be difficult as my thoughts run faster than my words.

    What was different this time with Kaya Mong Maging Dakila! is that I kept listening, kept watching as the lyrics were held up for me to read. I could finally put what I heard with what I was reading and suddenly concepts were getting through. I didn't get all of the song, couldn't translate it if anyone asked, but it helped me feel connected to something I hadn't yet, something gapped even with all the research and writing I've done this past decade. Still working out the specifics, but in the meantime, here tis:



    I think the themes I'm thinking about now are in the song. I can't be sure until I find the translated lyrics. Some of them I can see on the pages held up during the video - bata (children), pilipino (Filipino), kapwa-tao (people in community), isang (one or single), puso (heart), Rizal and Tandang Sora and Bonifacio (historic heroes).

    Themes. I guess that's where I start with my writing, themes and character experiences. Sometimes it comes out as fiction, sometimes poetry, sometimes spec fic, sometimes YA, sometimes memoir, sometimes academic writing, sometimes performance storytelling. The /form/ doesn't matter, it's the themes, characters, and sense of place (location and/or time) that matters to me - whatever will serve the thing I'm trying to make meaning out of.

    Writer/illustrator Eric Rohmann (Kitten Tale, My Friend Rabbit) talked about how children don't read illustrations left to right or top to bottom, they take in the whole image and then apply their experience to the image to make sense of what they are seeing. He urged us to look 'behold' the images in picture books, to /be/ with the images and see them as a child does, and to understand how our own experiences shape meanings for us.

    All four speakers were incredibly funny, talented, and inspiring, but Christopher Paul Curtis (Bud, Not Buddy, Elijah Buxton) touched my heart the deepest. "Follow your heart," he said to me while he signed my books.

    He echoed what Maurice Sendak said to writer/illustrator John Rocco (Wolf! Wolf!, Moonpowder) "Don't try to figure out what publishers want, or what readers want, or what Whoopie wants. Draw from your heart."

    Maybe I'm finding my way to the same place as Kaya Mong Maging Dakila, the place I never had a name for, but only knew there was a path I had to follow to get there.

    2/28/2008

    In My Language

    Amanda Baggs speaks frankly about the double standards placed on language and 'the disabled' using first her own language, then standard English through a computer program.

    Wired featured her video recently and examined the assumptions made about autism and Aspergers, revealing the prejudices behind the science and psychology in relationship to those 'disabled' linguistically. The scientific arguments are painfully familiar - the objectification of an entire group of people by dominant paradigms which fail to recognize and respect the group enough to find fault in the dominant for it's labeling of the group as 'non-persons.'

    " (the video)...is a statement about what gets considered thought, intelligence, personhood, language, and communication, and what does not." - Amanda Baggs



    Thanks to JeffL of the FLIPS forum for the link.

    2/26/2008

    ODLP Started It!

    ...memes...I lurv memes...




    You Are a Question Mark



    You seek knowledge and insight in every form possible. You love learning.

    And while you know a lot, you don't act like a know it all. You're open to learning you're wrong.



    You ask a lot of questions, collect a lot of data, and always dig deep to find out more.

    You're naturally curious and inquisitive. You jump to ask a question when the opportunity arises.



    Your friends see you as interesting, insightful, and thought provoking.

    (But they're not always up for the intense inquisitions that you love!)



    You excel in: Higher education



    You get along best with: The Comma

    2/07/2008

    Excuse Me Ma'am, Your Inner Geek is Showing

    After finishing Janet Stickmon's Crushing Soft Rubies and Pati Navalta Poblete's The Oracles, I've been thinking about the shows I used to watch as a kid and how that might have affected the way I look at things now.

    Pati opens her book mentioning how she wanted to be the missing Brady daughter, while Janet reminisces about Bill Cosby routines helping her laugh during her deepest tragic moments.

    This morning I found myself hearing the tune from The Banana Splits in my head...



    Trying to explain to my children the concept of the Banana Splits (and finally ending an argument with my husband over whether the characters were monkeys or dogs - yep, both right, both wrong), I found myself surfing YouTube for Sid and Marty Kroft bits - The Bugaloos, HR Pufnstuff, Land of the Lost, Dr. Shrinker, Wonderbug, Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.

    I stumbled on the intros for Arc II and Space Academy, reminisced about Space:1999 and Jason of Star Command, and realized that I was into dystopian storytelling waaaay before I could tell a dysta from a utopa.

    By far the jewels, though, were finding that the complete series of ISIS can now be found on DVD:



    As well as several seasons of Star Blazers:



    What struck me most, though, was the diversity of casting. Yes, all the mains were white folk, but their sidekicks were people of color, of different age and of stature, which is more than I can say, unfortunately for my later favs Star Wars, Buffy, and Firefly. Yah, I wanted to be Andrea Thomas and find the necklace of ISIS to be powerful, but Renee Carrol and Cindy Lee were there too, being confidantes and friends, so at least I saw them as important enough to be portrayed.

    I used to think that the housekeeper from Courtship of Eddie's Father was the only Asian I saw on TV as a kid, but now I know differently. I'll be looking through these old vids more as I put together my essays, seeing what else comes up. Viva La YouTube!

    1/30/2008

    Wishin'

    Wishin' I was going here this year, but if all goes as planned, I'll be there when it hits Chicago next year!

    So here's to hopin'!

    1/28/2008

    Journeys Within: The Princess Arisen

    Gura announces the forthcoming publication of Journeys Within: The Princess Arisen". Excitement!

    It's got myth. It's got the promise of adventure. It could be fiction. It could be memoir. It's got a very pretty cover. I want to read it!

    Must.. wait.. for.. release date. **sigh**

    I wonder if I could get a pre-release review copy...hrm...

    1/26/2008

    Field of Mirrors

    Adding Philippine American Writers & Artists who announced the Feb. 16, 2008 launch of Field of Mirrors, edited by Edwin A. Lozada and featuring 71 FilAm writers.

    Seventy-one FilAm Writers. And there's FilAm writers I've met who aren't in the anthology, so there's even more out there than 71.

    Time was I couldn't name even one FilAm writer alive. Whenever I'd ask, people would shrug and not know of any FilAm writers or refer me to Carlos Bulosan. Sequestered in a small Idaho town for too many years, I was lucky to meet anyone who knew the difference between lumpia and longanisa.

    Pretty cool what the internet can do to connect people. Now I can find them or they find me, and there are bunches and they write and critique and gather.

    So what's a FilAm writer to do now, now that I've found them?

    Write and critique and gather. Repeat often.

    ***

    I've been in a flurry of writing lately, mostly revision, some new stuff. The result: one new essay and two revised children's picture books available for submission. Plate's not quite clear enough to get them out the door, though. Got a few more small things that are turning into 'big' things to get out of the way first.

    ***

    I'm also reading The Oracles by Pati Navalta Poblete . Very cleanly written and I especially liked the voices of the Oracles at the beginning of the book, where Pati's grandparents speak about who they are and why they are in America. She writes with certain beats, resonances to my own experiences, but also brings California in the 70s as counterpoint.

    I'm toward the end now, and the narrative style has shifted which I find really interesting. The moment her grandmother tells her to write her grandfather's eulogy, Pati alone out of all her 40 some cousins, reminded me of the moment my father turned to me to write his eulogy for his brother's funeral. There was no asking, really, only expectation based on certain skills and the need for expediency because the role is given at the last possible moment - just hours before a certain critical thing is needed.

    Anyway, Pati's book has me thinking about style and theme in memoir, how I like essays that suspend time, dig deep into environmental details, and show the changes that happen between people, the shifts that happen because of a realization. I like essays that are journeys to wholeness and that talk about how life isn't whole most of the time, how we look for wholeness and often miss it completely because we're looking in the wrong direction, then get startled into wholeness when we look at things differently for the first time.

    My writing, I think, is about working out that sense of lost-ness that has never really left me for long.

    1/03/2008

    Furious Kudos

    ...to Oliver for being featured recently on Poetry Daily.

    His poem What the Ear Said uses negative space to carve a haunting narrative of loss and yearning, contrasted with an ending of hope.

    A good place to start off the year.

    *smile*

    1/01/2008

    New Year Wishes

    The words aren't mine, but the sentiment is:

    May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself. -- Neil Gaiman

    Step new in the 2008 and let the path be the grace that guides you.