Monday, September 17, 2007

Luis Katigbak at Pisay

From I.C.A. and Xavier in San Juan (see here and here), I scooted over to Philippine Science High School in Quezon City.

Looking at the very active high school students who were up, about, and fully active inside the ASTB-Audio/Visual Room at eight o'clock on a Monday morning--not a nodding head among them--I reflected on the energy I had as a youth; as in: where the heck did it all go? Luis Katigbak* and I are more or less from the same generation, so while watching him speak to an audience of about sixty teenagers, I wondered if the same thought had crossed his own mind.

After the Bloggers' Kapihan last September 12, 2007, I had the good fortune to meet Anna Santiago-Oblepias, Luis's English teacher back when he was still at Pisay. I broached the subject about having me back to promote PGS to a wider audience of Pisay students, offering to bring what writers I can to speak to them about reading and writing. She was all for it, and mentioned Luis by name. Prominent alumnus, he. So I invited Luis, who graciously agreed to give a talk, and a date and a time were set. Which was why we were there at eight o'clock on a Monday morning.

Anna (who sadly, was not present due to illness) gathered twenty students each from the Creative Writing Club, the school paper, and the Journalism Club to hear Luis talk. Luis couldn't stress to them more that the two greatest secrets to writing are to read a lot and to write a lot, and that they are lucky because today there are more outlets for them to find homes for their work (PGS among them, plug-plug, addressing the genre side, plug-plug).

Again, just like in San Juan, today's youth showed their talent and wit in a writing exercise. Luis asked them to write a four to five sentence opening paragraph for a story that begins with "I know you won't believe this, but...". Some of the more memorable ones were openings for a story pining for romance, a confession of homosexuality by a son to his father, a reflection on being caught in time in a photograph, a writer caught in a time loop, and a story about a vampire that can only drink blood from a virgin octogenarian. (Regarding this last one, if the author of this piece is reading this blog-post, I'm interested in this potential tale the way you wrote it, as a humor piece, if you can develop it into a full short story. Just wanted to let you know).

An interesting question was raised by one of the students. "How do you join and win a Palanca?" someone asked. Joining is the easy part as the Palanca Foundation usually posts on the web the rules and application form for a particular year. But to win?

"Well, you can do what I did," Luis said, "and go to the Palanca offices and read all the winning entries of the past to see what type of story usually makes it. But that doesn't always work. There are years I've joined when I thought I was sure to place, and didn't. And there are years I've joined when I thought that I had no chance, yet did all right. Just write what you want and send it in, and if it doesn't win, you can always send your work to other markets for another chance at seeing print." Sage advice.

Luis held the interests of his listeners, and he confided in me afterward that they also held his. "They're a smart bunch," he said, and agreed with me that most of the opening paragraphs held promise to become lengthier stories. He collected their exercises and their email addresses and generously offered to answer any further questions they may have.

Thanks very much to Luis for giving the talk, to Anna and her co-teachers for setting up the period, and to the Pisay students who attended and gave us your full attention. We hope you found it interesting and worth it.

(Luis has written about his talk in his Manila Bulletin column, The King Of Nothing To Do, here.

*Luis, who I am wooing for a PGS story, is a two-time Palanca winner, once for "Subterrania" (in the now defunct Futuristic Fiction category), and once for "Miko and Friends" (in the Short Story for Children in English category). His 2001 collection of short stories "Happy Endings" was nominated for a National Book Award in 2001, as was his 2007 collection of essays, "The King Of Nothing To Do". Currently, he's the Editor-in-Chief of and the Music Editor of Burn Magazine.


Anonymous bhex said...

a story about a vampire that can only drink blood from a virgin octogenarian.

this is possibly the most brilliant thing i've heard in a while. i'd really like to read this story!

6:40 AM  
Blogger pgenrestories said...

Hi bhex! I'd really like to read this story too! I hope the writer pushes through with making it into a full short-story.

6:48 AM  

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