Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Peter Gordon Talk

Last January 24, I attended the presentation of Peter Gordon, the Executive Director of the Man Asian Literary Prize, at the AVR of U.P. Diliman's Rizal Hall. I went alone, but had the good fortune of meeting another loner there: fellow Grinch Exie Abola. We two Grinches found each other and shared our Christmas war-stories, needless to say feeling chipper now that the holidays were way over. No Christmas emo from either of us! Bah, humbug!

Mr. Gordon talked about the literary prize and its goals. I admire what he and his organization are trying to achieve: wider readership among Asians of novels and stories about each other. In his observation, each country usually only reads their own (I was thinking there are few enough readers here as it is), in addition to the usually well-marketed Western fare. So Singaporeans would read only other Singaporeans, Chinese would only read Chinese, ditto for Indonesians, Filipinos, and everyone else. The prize aims to bring recognition to stories by Asian authors so as to generate interest among readers from other Asian countries, and not only the country where the writer lives. Lofty goals, but worthy. And really, it is interesting to read the stories of other cultures. The blurb for last year's winner, Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong, has piqued my interest.

Sir Butch Dalisay's Soledad's Sister was short-listed for last year's prize, and in answer to a question of whether this has helped him get recognition and advance himself as a writer, he told us that he has received five emails from publishers/agents already ever since the list was released. So yes, this literary prize can open doors for writers.

Peter Gordon mentioned that the topics of the novels from last year's competition ran the gamut of subjects, including genre. This shows the openness of this prize to any material, and he specifically mentioned several times that the judges are so well-read as to be able to handle anything thrown their way.

The deadline for this year's competition is March 31. It need not be the full novel, and the judges understand that what is being sent may just be a draft. The lower minimum is 10,000 words only, with the remainder to follow some three months later should your work be long-listed. So those of you with long works languishing in your desks or drives, you may want to consider sending your opuses to the Man Asian Literary Prize.

Sir Butch also informed us that there are two other novel-competitions whose deadlines, coincidentally, fall on the same date. These are the U.P. Centennial Gawad Likhaan Literary Prize, and the Palancas. So, novelists, prepare your work! There are three competitions for you to join, three opportunities that don't come around very often.

It struck me while I scanned the faces in the crowd that if a bomb had gone off in the AVR that afternoon, Philippine literature would've been set back for years. Of the names I could put to faces: Bienvenido Lumbera, Krip Yuson, Gemino Abad, and Butch Dalisay for the more accomplished generation, and then, Tin Mandigma, Exie Abola, Emil Flores, Apol Lejano, Janet Villa, Yvette Tan, and Luis Katigbak for the, um, "less-accomplished" doesn't seem to be the right adjective. "Younger" sounds better, doesn't it? Not that this latter list lacks in accomplishments either. It was a pleasure to see familiar faces, and to briefly meet new ones too in Apol and Janet! Apol's story will be coming out in PGS4, by the way.

So there, more reasons to get writing.


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