Saturday, August 30, 2008

Another Real Life Crime Prompt (And A Little Bit More)

I've searched, and it seems the ongoing feet mystery remains unsolved.

Here's another open case: Serial Killer On The Loose In California, a 23-year old mystery. Just like the most iconic one of them all, Jack The Ripper, this one's victims are prostitutes.

Los Angeles, California, police detectives are looking for a serial killer who they believe killed at least 11 people, many of them prostitutes.

Los Angeles Police Deputy Chief Charlie Beck said DNA evidence and ballistics tests have convinced detectives that the same killer is connected to the slayings in Los Angeles and Inglewood.

The victims were prostitutes or drug users who were sexually assaulted and then shot and dumped in alleyways or inside dumpsters, police said.

"We have a lot of evidence and the connection between so many cases of DNA will allow us to eventually solve this," Beck said.

The most recent killing -- in January 2007 -- was tied exclusively to DNA analysis to another case after 13 years. However, detectives have not been able to identify the killer through state or federal DNA databases of convicted felons.

According to Beck, authorities are still examining over 50,000 inmates in state prison for similar crimes, but not all of them have DNA profiles.

Pretty coincidental, but earlier this week I watched a serial-killer crime feature on TV. The criminal: Robert Yates, whose victims also were prostitutes (Jack the Ripper has spawned so many children). At show's end, I felt unsettled. A lot was unresolved. Though Yates was caught and brought to trial, and was even allowed to speak, no one, neither the prosecutors nor the friends and family members of the victims, were allowed to ask him why he did what he did (though they were allowed to address him directly if they wished). Yates didn't offer any explanations for his actions either, but he did apologize for what he had done. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, and according to the updates on the web, he's now also facing the death penalty in another county.

I felt confused at the end of the show, and remembered these two books that were suggested reading in psychology class during my college years. I'm no psychologist, but one of the premises of these books is that encounters with evil, in any form and with anyone, personal or otherwise, often leads to confusion. It's an effect that evil has on anybody. For those of you who are religious, the Jesuits have a guide to their spiritual exercises that sounds similar. If in your prayers and meditations you find yourself perturbed, bothered, and yes, they use the word confused too, then you're being influenced by what they refer to as The Spirit of Darkness. If you feel calm and certain of where your prayer is going, then The Spirit of Light is guiding you. (To those of you who know more about this, please forgive me if my explanations aren't entirely accurate, and feel free to leave a clarifying comment. I didn't listen to my teachers very much during my Theology and Religion classes, and I'm lucky to have come out of them knowing the little that I do).

Perhaps, on a less abstract and more direct level, I suppose I simply felt bewildered because it's human nature to seek out logical explanations, and if none are forthcoming, then all you can do is scratch your head. A friend told me years ago that not everything in life can find resolution, and it's up to us to accept this and move on because life won't stand still just because we've met a roadblock. This might be one of those moments for the friends and family members of the victims of Yates and that Californian serial killer.

And speaking of resolutions, one of the items discussed that night over dinner was story resolution. Said one of us (and I'm paraphrasing/rewording, so I hope I get the spirit of what was said correct), "Many readers expect a tidy ending, all nicely wrapped and done up with a bow, but that's not always the case. As with life there'll be loose ends, and even some ambiguity, something left over for the reader to ponder."

Add to that what another writer and friend told me in the past, that a story's ending should have some form of "inevitable surprise", that there is present a feeling that the story ended in a logical and predictable way but one that still surprises, complete with whatever loose ends the writer chooses to leave, and hopefully--if the beginning and middle are also done well--you just may have a tale that works.

Friday, August 29, 2008

On Manuscript Preparation Part 2

(Two straight "Part 2" blogposts, this one and the one just before it; 'tis a season for sequels).

Last November I made a post, "On Manuscript Preparation", explaining to the best of my ability the "standard manuscript format". Thanks very much to Zen In Darkness for sending me these three links on the same topic: a rant and a supporting post from Ellen Datlow and Paul Mcauley respectively, and a response from M. John Harrison.

Reading through these three posts and the comments, and being a printer who knows and is involved pretty much daily with the printing production process, I find myself siding with Ms. Datlow. Let me put it this way: anything that makes it easier for me and my fellow blue-collar hard-hats to get the job done, to lay out and strip the film of your work properly before they go to plate (assuming one doesn't have a direct-to-plate machine, like my small press), to get your story mass-produced onto paper, is a blessing. Anything that makes the job harder, that adds extra steps and costs us time, is not.

Here's an interesting comment from madwriter:

One reason I haven't done writing workshops for awhile is because now and again I would want to talk about things like proper manuscript format, proper spelling and grammar, and so on, but the workshop coordinators would get huffy and say they did not want to include technical discussions. In a few cases they made it clear that they thought technical discussions would impinge on creativity. In cases where I pointed out to a class that editors might not even bother looking at a manuscript containing errors of language or format, some coordinators got downright angry, implying that playing by the editorial rules was a detriment to creativity.

(Ms. Datlow goes on to ask what kind of workshops madwriter has been attending, if they were mainstream workshops, because she says she doesn't know any sff workshops that would react this way. Madwriter replied that those workshops were indeed mainstream ones.)

I respect and see the viewpoint of the creative. Technical stuff is, as I wrote in that old post, seemingly archaic, and surely boring. But there are reasons for technicalities, as I wrote then. I believe that there can be no better compromise than this comment from berry k:

I really don't understand why so many people argue about this. The manuscript format is for the EDITOR'S convenience, not the writers'. They should: 1) Write however they like: Times Roman, Garamond, Unicorn Sans, a hand-cut pen made from a phoenix plume using their life's blood on handmade papyrus, whatever. 2) When the time comes to submit, if the market has formatting guidelines, do that. Don't argue. 3) If there are no guidelines, use Standard MS Format of double spaced 12pt Courier, 1 inch margins, paragraphs indented 1/2 inch, black ink on white USLetter paper, pages numbers on top, etc. DON'T ARGUE! Don't make it EASY for your work to be rejected!

Simple, really. Everyone's happy, the creative and the technical guys. Well said, berry k.

There exists the editor who reads the submissions, like Ms. Datlow. This editor, depending on his adaptability, can adjust to different submission formats. Or not. It's his choice. But in the printing process there exist people behind-the-scenes who won't care about the nuances of your prose and how easy or how well it reads, or whether your story is terrific or not. In fact, chances are, they won't even read your work. Rather, these people care about getting your text onto paper, into the proper form for readers. And that involves technicalities. They care about making sure the text reaches paper in its complete form, in its readable form, with clear instructions from those who read the words. The guidelines set by the publication are what help all these people make it easier to get the work onto paper. The easier it is to get this job done, the better. The more steps, the more time taken, the more difficult the job, the crankier these folk get. The crankier they get, the more careless they get, which leads to more errors, and then, more delays. And maybe even a poorly printed story.

It's been argued that with computers as fast as they are, and the power of modern word processors, writers should be allowed to focus on the creative side and leave the adjustments to the editors. But writers outnumber editors. Why not help the editors out and follow the guidelines? Maybe it's a sign of professionalism, maybe not, but it's certainly one of courtesy and respect, of being polite to the other guy, the same as being asked to "Be Kind, Please Rewind" (this is for those of you who remember renting VHS and Betamax tapes; if you don't, go ask someone older). The amount of submissions PGS receives is manageable, which is why there is a high level of leniency here with regard to format. It doesn't take too long to adjust manuscripts into the preferred format. Five, ten minutes, tops. But imagine larger publications here and abroad which receive ten, twenty, thirty times the number of submissions. A good hour could be spent fixing all those submissions into the preferable format, maybe more. Time that could be spent reading the pieces instead of fixing margins and font sizes. Even if PGS is lenient, I'd like for contributors to practice with us. I've always encouraged everyone to send in their work to other markets, bigger ones, and if you've practiced the standard form with PGS it should come pretty automatically when you send your story to other places that are stricter.

Here's a comment from Robert Stephenson, who works at an agency:

I get single spaced justified and unparagraphed submission at my agency. Sometimes, when I am feeling generous I do read a page, but am usually left disappointed. These days if a mss comes to me badly formatted I just dump it - life's too short. Cruel, I know, and maybe I might miss a gem but if you can't submit properly it immediately tells me you haven't done any homework on the industry at all. If you can't get simple things like that right how could you get the complexities of a novel right?

When doing anthologies I'm a little more forgiving but problems still exist and they aren't getting any better. A good format means I'm more likely to read your work.

You wouldn't want your work dumped and unread, would you?

You wouldn't want the film-stripper or the layout person scratching his head and taking a guess as to how to sequence your sentences, paragraphs, or pages in their chronological order, would you? Remember, these are the guys who most likely aren't reading your work, just setting it up before it gets to the big machine, and following the instructions of those who have read the work. Once this gets to the machine operator, all he'll know is what's on the plate, and that he has to get that onto paper. Imagine if the chronology is wrong, and he's printed two thousand copies already. What a waste.

Different media, different formats. What is easy to work with for an online ezine is different for a print magazine. A short story's format is different from that of a novel's. And poems! You know how many forms that can take.
With so many variations, even when things are done properly, as with anything, mistakes slip through the cracks. I can only gnash my teeth that despite my best efforts, there are errors in released PGS issues (Forgive me, have mercy!). Making it easier for those who work behind the scenes to produce the physical copies lessens the number of mistakes.

(I would like to point out that
we always do ask for soft and camera-ready hard copies of a client's chosen design and layout, that is, how they want the final product to look. Then it’s up to us to execute, using the MSS as something of an instruction manual, and the soft and hard copies in their preferred format as a mock-up and guide.)

There are big names who don't follow formatting, for sure, but they have the clout (whether that's a good excuse or not I leave to you), since they've proven themselves in terms of sales and readership. Urban legend or not, I emailed Zen In Darkness that there's a story of Stephen King sending in one of his manuscripts to his agent typed on old and dry milk cartons when he ran out of paper. The agent had to ask his secretary to retype the story so he could read it. But that's Mr. King, and I don't think he does that now. Mr. King probably can hire a secretary to format his work for him. And whether you're a big name or not, it doesn't hurt to be courteous and professional.

So the safest and best bet is to follow what berry k said above. Write as you please, then follow the guidelines where they exist, and in the absence of any specific ones, query, or simply follow the standard. You can't go wrong. In fact, there exist magazines and ezines that provide several formatting options for contributors to choose from. And as I've said many times, following the guidelines gives your work an even chance at being read and hopefully, published.

If formatting becomes a habit and second-nature, this technicality actually becomes the easiest part, leaving you to focus on the harder part of getting your work as close to perfectly written as you can.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

English For Non-Americans In The LPGA Part 2 (Updated)

As a nod to Tapayan Ni Hans, Alice Ty 鄭睎仁, and K.a.f.k.a.e.d. (all of whom commented on the discriminatory nature of the LPGA tour's new English regulation on the PGS Multiply mirror), here's an article by Roy S. Johnson, LPGA's English Only Edict: Dumbest Rule Ever.

In addition, here's a sarcastic blog-post aimed at the new rule and written in broken English.

Required versus requested.

In college, my classmates and I were made to take 12 units of Spanish. We were part of the last batch that needed to fulfill this requirement before we could graduate; the next batches were not obliged anymore by the D.E.C.S. to take Spanish, but were instead allowed to sign up for 12 units of any language of their choice in the University's curriculum, not including Filipino and English, which were and still are required. At that time, the Japanese economy was hot, similar to the way the Chinese economy is now, so Japanese language classes became very popular. I can imagine how full Chinese language classes must be now.

But I highlighted the original article because from the way it was written, the non-Americans on the LPGA tour were taking a very positive, "can-do" attitude to learning English. It's an attitude that those in our country who are having difficulties with Filipino or English today can adopt. It's an attitude I wish I had taken when I studied Spanish, because for the life of me, I didn't do well in my classes, and can barely remember anything I took up. I relied solely on short-term memory to pass the subject (by the skin of my teeth), when I think I should've given the effort to actually learn the language. I lost a lot there, lost insight into a culture and the attitude of a people that learning their language could offer; it was a window to see through not just to the people of Spain, but even those from Latin America. It's a regret that resurfaces everytime my more studious classmates tell me they can still follow Spanish-language TV channels (and missing out on TV shows is the least of it). I believe that if, say, Korean, Thai, French, or German had been required instead of Spanish, and I had taken the same lackadaisical attitude, I would still carry the same regret today. Now, I can only say "Vamos!", and that's only because I'm a Rafael Nadal fan.

The LPGA though has more practical concerns: sponsorship. It's a major issue given two factors: the difficult world economy; and that the LPGA doesn't have a major charismatic player like the PGA's Tiger Woods, who can raise interest even in the most casual of fans (Tiger's injured now and is resting for the rest of the year, and as proof of his drawing power, viewership has tapered off). In this interview, Helen Alfredsson (a Swede whose second language is English, and a veteran who has been on the tour since 1992), says:

"I think it (the rule) is good. The Koreans are such good players, and we are one of the few sports that have direct one-on-one contact with our sponsors through the pro-ams. I think it’s very difficult if you play 18 holes, and the person you play with says nothing. What do they get out of that? All the sponsors want to leave with something. The problem is the Koreans are not brought up that way. I think it’s a process, but it is a good rule. We are in America and we should learn English."

Comparing the LPGA tour to University classes is not a perfect comparison because an academic setting is not the same as that of a sports tour. The LPGA isn't requiring perfect English of their players, just understandable English. A classroom setting requires more than that. But it's in learning how to communicate, how to understand and make oneself understood, where the venn diagrams overlap.

Indeed, suspension is harsh. To lose your livelihood on a tour whose main purpose is golf excellence and not language skills is a bitter pill to swallow. Losing good golfers makes for a lessser LPGA. If the PGA tour had the same rule, so many good players would have fallen aside (here's an article where PGA members criticize the LPGA's new rule). But no less bitter for that same tour is losing fans, and the sponsors that follow them, in the event that these viewers can't connect with the personalities playing. A required tutorship may be the long-term answer, one that won't give immediate results.

The LPGA is far removed from us here (outside of our cheering for Jennifer Rosales), but the issue of languages is not. There have been complaints made against Filipino and English in the same tone and manner I used in college to rant against Spanish. I believe we can learn something from the attitude of the non-Americans on the LPGA tour, and to approach our learning these languages with effort, diligence, and understanding. No matter what skill level one attains--and I think that with a good enough effort it'll at least be a level that is competent--one won't have to burden oneself with the regret that I carry.

When Writers Have Dinner Together

Awardees, Judges, and The Philippines Free Press Higher-Ups

Free Press Literary Editor, Angelo "Sarge" Lacuesta

Karina Bolasco of Anvil Publishing, Luis Katigbak, Yvette Tan

Starting with the swarthy and mustachioed tall one standing in the middle, moving clockwise: Dean Francis Alfar, Andrew Drilon, Kate Aton-Osias, Alexander Osias, Vincent Michael Simbulan, Nikki Alfar, Ichi Batacan, Coke Batacan, and myself.

(Pardon the less-than-perfect photos. I only know "point-and-click").

I was at the Captain's Bar, Mandarin Oriental in Makati last night to attend the 2008 Philippines Free Press Literary Awards, which coincided with the said publication's centennial (thanks very much to literary editor Sarge Lacuesta for inviting me). Bigwigs everywhere, not just from the literati and publishing (Sir Krip Yuson, Sir Gemino Abad, Ms. Gwenn Galvez and Ms. Karina Bolasco of Anvil Publishing, to name some), but from politics, business, and society too.

Congratulations to all the winners for poetry, essay, and short story, but most especially to the first place winner in the short story category, F.H. Batacan, whose piece, "Keeping Time" impressed all the judges (Katrina Tuvera, Dean Francis Alfar, Vicente Groyon). I'm really glad she agreed to be the guest-editor for the coming special PGS crime issue. Congratulations again, Ichi!

I also met up with another lady I'm equally happy to be working with, this time on the special PGS Horror issue: Yvette Tan. She was there with another writer and friend, Luis Katigbak.

(This post is beginning to read like one of those newspaper high-society columns. Must shift gears...right now.)

Being the publication's centennial, and this being my first time to attend any kind of literary award ceremony, Nikki Alfar explained to me that the event was bigger than usual. I arrived about half-an-hour early and even caught a band rehearsing. A band! Security was pretty tight too, what with all the politicians scheduled to arrive. I'm glad I found parking right away, and that I made it in without being frisked. The announcement of the winners was first on the agenda, followed by the retrospective on the history of the Free Press, and then, speeches.

A number of us got hungry (in my case, ravenous), and couldn't wait for the buffet to open. So once the winners were announced, nine of us (see fourth photo above) sought out another place to eat, and ended up at a restaurant just ten minutes away from the hotel.

And what happens when writers get together for dinner and by happenstance get serious enough to talk shop? Let's just say that great conversation over dinner isn't overrated. I learned a lot about what drives these writers whom I've known and dealt with for less than a couple of years (and for some, less than a year): the why's, the how's, the way they like to make sense of and show something about life as they see it through their words, their approach to writing, and how they communicate with those willing to put in the effort to read their pieces. This applies not just to those writers I was with last night, but all the writers I've dealt with and come to know since PGS began, including those who stayed at the hotel. It drives home to me more that our life experiences--all of us, no exceptions--are a goldmine for what stories can be told, and it's just a matter of bringing it out. As readers we sometimes don't know how lucky we are to have access to the Pinoy writers' insights through their stories. Makes for a good case to continue reading, especially the works written by our own.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Two Workshops (New Dates)

The two workshops that were first announced here will be moved to mid-September. Here's the email from Palanca winners and workshop moderators Mookie Katigbak and Angelo "Sarge" Lacuesta:

Dear Workshoppers (and Would-Be):

Because of slight logistical problems (book orders) and schedule conflicts (construction of Starbucks branch in the bookstore), both the fiction and poetry workshops sponsored by A Different Bookstore, will be postponed.

Angelo Lacuesta's fiction workshop, "Telling the Untold," will be moved to
September 18 and 25 (Thursdays) at 5pm to 7pm.

Mookie Katigbak's poetry workshop,"Lightning in the Mind," will be moved to
September 19 and 26 (Fridays) at 5pm to 7pm.

We will also be asking the workshoppers for reconfirmation so we can provide the bookstore with enough time to order resource books.

We ask that you reconfirm your attendance asap by sending a short email to sargelacuesta(at)gmail(dot)com.

Sorry for the inconvenience—this is because we wish to bring you a better workshop experience. We look forward to seeing you!


Sarge Lacuesta and Mookie Katigbak in behalf of A Different Bookstore

And Another Sale

The Bookay-Ukay Bookstore in Quezon City is having a sale from September 1 to 3, 2008. Click here to go to their site for a list of books for sale and their address.

Click here to go to a previous post that lists or gives links to all the ongoing or forthcoming book sales that I know of.

Thanks, and have a good time searching for your favourite titles!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

English For Non-Americans In The LPGA

The Ladies Professional Golf Associaton (LPGA) in the U.S. is requiring its players to learn English. There are many non-Americans playing on the LPGA tour, including the Philippines' Jennifer Rosales. I've heard Jenny speak in an interview and she has no problem with English, but the new requirement seems geared more toward other non-Americans who don't have the same grasp of the language as Jenny does. The largest group of non-Americans are from South Korea (and boy, can they play)!

[Aside] I like the way Jenny sometimes lights up a cigarette while walking the course. Yes, I know cigarettes are bad for the health, but after whacking the ball a mile she would do what very few else on the tour does and light one up. The way she cups her hand around her lighter as she lights up, her lips grimacing in a pucker, or when that white stick is dangling from her mouth as she lines up her putt, well...let's just say you don't see this often in professional American sports nowadays. Sort of labels her as the girl with the "attitude" on the tour. [aside ends]

I'm glad that all these players seem to be taking a positive attitude to this mandate. Se Ri Pak, a top player from South Korea, agrees that when one wins the speech should be given in English. She says though that when one is so excited at winning one doesn't think in English. Another player, Seon-Hwa Lee, does her best to brush up on her English because "The economy is bad. We are losing sponsors. Everybody understands." In other words, being able to communicate in English helps narrow the gap between the players and the fans. This is reflected in what the president of the Player Executive Committee, Hilary Lunke, said, "The bottom line is, we don't have a job if we don't entertain. In my mind, that's as big a part of the job as shooting under par."

Beginning next year, all players must pass an oral evaluation of their English skills. Failure means suspension, but the LPGA tour also takes a supportive stance: "Hopefully what we're talking about is something that will not happen," said Libba Galloway, the tour's deputy commissioner, of possible suspensions. "If it does, we wouldn't just say, 'Come back next year.' What we would do is work with them on where they fell short, provide them the resources they need, the tutoring ... and when we feel like they need to be evaluated again, we would evaluate."

There is a charm to the way non-native English speakers carry the language, though the pressure to speak perfect English can numb one into fearful silence. Jeong Jang, another player, said that she used to think perfect English was necessary before speaking to the media, but she now realizes that this was not expected of her and the others, and feels more comfortable attempting to speak in English. Good attitude!

With constant use and practice, and the gentle correction of errors, one can only get better at English. Or with golf. Or with anything else, for that matter.

It Doesn't Pay To Be A Grammar Nazi... two self-styled vigilantes found out. What did they do? They "defaced a more than 60-year-old, hand-painted sign at Grand Canyon National Park, were sentenced to probation and banned from national parks for a year. They had removed an extraneous apostrophe and added a comma to the sign." In fact, they had been touring the U.S. wiping out errors on government and private signs.

One of those caught, upon encountering the word "emense" rather than the proper "immense", wrote in his diary: "I was reluctant to disfigure the sign any further. ... Still, I think I shall be haunted by that perversity, emense, in my train-whistle-blighted dreams tonight."

To all the psychologists out there: is this behaviour borderline O.C.?

I suppose it's safe to say that one should keep one's grammar-policing to the proper places. :)

Via Zen In Darkness.

New Stuff From Notes From The Peanut Gallery

Dean Francis Alfar (author of "The Middle Prince" from PGS1 and "In The Dim Plane" from PGS4) blogs about some of his forthcoming pieces, one in The Philippines Free Press, and two others in a couple of anthologies. Click here to read his post, and then do check out his pieces when they're out and available.

State Of The Nation

How Bestsellers Chart The State Of Nations is an article by Philip Stone over at The Guardian. Stone writes, "What people are reading can tell you quite a lot about where they're reading it". In other words, what a country is reading reflects their concerns and interests. He then enumerates what's on the bestseller charts in different countries, from Japan, to American, to Australia, to Germany (of which he says, "I'm not sure you'll want to know what Feuchtgebiete means, or indeed what it reveals about Germany.").

So, what do you think is on the reading lists of Pinoys? Could this be used as an indicator of what's on our minds?

This article came via Zen In Darkness, whose message in his email reads, "I suspect there's something here that might be gathered from the recent 'resurgence' (?) of genre fiction in the country. I'm afraid i can't wrap my head around it at the moment, but you might feel better up to it."

I'm not sure if I can handle what Zen In Darkness put me up to, and I really don't know how genre stands with the greater reading public, but yes, there is a greater interest in it among many readers I know, but my experiences are anecdotal at best. So I'm throwing this topic out there for others to think about and comment on. To be frank, I'm just glad that it feels like there are more people reading. :)

New Version Of The Kindle

Amazon is releasing a new version of The Kindle before year's end. But...but...I haven't even tried the first version yet! (I first wrote about it here). Not that any of us would've been able to use it to its full potential here where we are. But technology improvements, man, they're so fast.

I do still hold to my earlier contention that the screen should read like real paper. Or at least have adjustable contrast and brightness controls to reduce glare. What I do like about it, and other e-readers, is that they can do what no printed book can do: adjust the font size. You can read in point size 16 if you want, and for guys like me with thick eyeglasses and aging eyes, that's a boon. Heck, my cellphone text messages are set to 16 points, and I've heard enough snide comments about it to last me for years. :)

Well, maybe one day there'll be an affordable e-book reader here in our parts that's durable and easy to carry. But frankly, if the price isn't low enough, it might be more tempting to get a UMPC (or netbook) and read from that.

This is what caught my attention from the article about the new Kindle, and yes, it's about the screen:

What's Driving e-Book Sales

One of the factors driving the market is innovative screen technology from companies such as Cambridge, MA-based E-Ink, which licenses its E-Ink 'paper' screens to a number of vendors, including Amazon, Sony and Blackberry.

Current e-book readers can be difficult to read and practically useless in some situations. The latest screens are not backlit, and therefore are highly readable in a variety of settings, including full sunlight.

Amazon began the Kindle rollout with 90,000 titles available for instant download via the Sprint 3G network. Estimates of titles available now are at 140,000.

Sony, another big player in the e-book market, uses the same screen as the Kindle in its 505 model eReader. Larger form-factor E-Ink screens are in the Readius and the iRex iLiad, which runs a Linux-based operating system.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Komikid Is A Finalist

Andrew Drilon (author of "Thriller" from PGS1 and "Noche Buena" from the PGS Special Holiday Issue) is a finalist at The Philippines Free Press Awards this year. We'll know if he makes it on August 27, 2008! Congratulations, Andrew!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

PinoyWriters Workshop

From my inbox:

PinoyWriters in cooperation with Powerbooks, 105.1 Crossover, Hallmark, Bic and All-About scrapbooking present:

2008 Seminars & Workshops

Do you have a creative dream inside you that you know has the power to
make you come alive—but you've never done anything about it because it
was never the right time, or you didn't have the right resources?

Or maybe you already took steps to turn your dream into, but then
`life' took over, and it got buried somewhere along the way?

`The Creative Dream Seminar: Overcome Your Fears, Achieve Your Creative Dream!'
can help you revive that dream again!

Aileen Santos will help you:
• Identify the fears that are keeping you from achieving your dream
• Understand, battle with, and overcome your fears and limitations
• And, finally start living with passion and purpose again, as you
take concrete steps towards the life you've always wanted—a life where
you never have to wonder "What if …?"

Seminar is on September 12 and 19, 7-9PM, Powerbooks-Greenbel t 4.

Fee: Php2,000 for two sessions (includes complete self-discovery kit).
Early Bird Fee: Php1,750 only when payment is made at least seven days
before the workshop. For inquiries, please send SMS or call +639209219312.

Bundled Mini-Module Writing Workshops

• You thought writing for the Web is just the same in Print? You
better think twice. Learn to craft contents that serve their purpose
effectively—targeting online audience.

Join the Writing for the Worldwide Web 101 (a.k.a. `WWW workshop.')

• Have you been itching to write something you are `passionate' about
and be `profitable' at the same time?

Learn step-by-step guide through Blog Your `Passion' and Earn from it!

• Use WORDS that translate ACTION at first glance, attract your
readers and help rank in search engines.

Attend How to Craft an Engaging SEO Copy offers the technical know-how
and the sense in making keywords hook surfers and site visitors.

Workshop Dates is scheduled on September 13, 27 and October 4, 2-5PM,
respectively @ Powerbooks-Megamall . Fee is at Php3,000 for three
sessions. Php1,000 per workshop. Early Bird Fee: Php2,750 only when
payment is made at least seven days before the workshop. For
inquiries, please send SMS or call +639235657378 or +639158233747.

For Reservations, please call (632) 757-6428 to 29 or send an email to

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Making Do With What We're Given

A direct copy-and-paste from Dogberry's blogpost:

I not only knew precisely what he [Tobias Wolff] meant but I agreed [that the ending of one of my stories was too long], and I knew he would have written the end better, and as a reader I would have enjoyed it more; and I knew that I wouldn't change what I had written, because that was the only way I could write it, and if I changed it, it wouldn't be mine anymore. We can't make them perfectly, only as best we can. Hemingway once said that he had very little natural talent and what people called his style was simply his effort to overcome his lack of talent. Don't take that lightly. What is art if not a concentrated and impassioned effort to make something with the little we have, the little we see?

Andre Dubus, "Letter to a Writers' Workshop," from Meditations from a Movable Chair (New York: Vintage Books, 1998, 1999)

An Interview And A Feature

The Bibliophile Stalker continues his round of interviews as a run up to the 3rd Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards. This time, he interviews Yvette Tan, 2nd place winner at the 2nd Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards, author of "Chimaera" from PGS4, and guest-editor for the coming PGS Special Halloween Issue.

Zen In Darkness sends in this article about a Bosnian immigrant to the U.S. who, fifteen years ago, could only speak basic English, but now has a book out, The Lazarus Project. The prose of the author, Aleksandar Hemon, has been described as "powerful".

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Books To Movies -- A Rant

No, it's not that post that I've long wanted to get into.

Rather, it's a rant, over at The Guardian, Cinema Stole My Favourite Books. An excerpt:

I expended time and imagination to absorb these stories. Why should people be entitled to think they know them without putting in any effort?

As Morrissey once opined, we hate it when our friends become successful. Well, some of us also hate it when our favourite books become successful movies. Can there be anything worse than lovingly engaging with a couple of hundred thousand words of prose over perhaps two or three weeks, drinking in the author's dialogue and descriptions, creating your own vision of the work in the privacy of your head, only to have every man and his dog (special offer on Tuesdays at your local Odeon) blast your intellectual ownership of the book out of the water after spending 90 minutes slobbing out in front of a cinema screen?

Elitism? Of course it is. But then, the love of books is surely a minority sport, isn't it? It takes time, effort and determination to finish a book with the rest of the rubbish that modern life throws at us, so surely we readers should be rewarded with some kind of badge of honour.

Click the above link to read the whole article.

Thanks to Zen In Darkness for the heads-up.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Board Game As A Crime Prompt

The deadline for the PGS Special Crime/Mystery/Suspense Issue has been extended, so here's another crime prompt.

The board game Cluedo (Clue in North America) was first released in 1949. Growing up in the 1980's, it was pretty easy to find in Manila stores. My family used to own at least a couple of Cluedo's because the cards and the board would wear out from so much gameplay. Simply put, the concept behind it is the whodunit mystery turned into a boardgame.

The owner of the Black Manor Mansion, Mr. Boddy, is dead. Murdered! There are six suspects, six possible murder weapons, and nine different rooms in which the murder could have taken place. No police (why spoil the fun and bring in the authorities?), as the mansion is isolated, and a sudden storm has severed all telephone lines (no internet or mobile phones yet in this era). The goal is for each player, taking their turns, to hunt down clues and to deduce, via the process of elimination, who committed the murder, with what weapon, and where. The one who guesses right from 324 possible solution-combinations, wins.

How classically cliched is this old game?

Well, you have your usual dark mansion room choices, like the Conservatory, the Study, the Billiard Room, the Kitchen, the Dining Room, the Ballroom, the Hall, the Lounge, and my favourite, the Library. I always imagined Mr. Boddy slumped in an armchair in The Library. The Hall was the most boring place of all to die in.

Then you have your weapons: The Wrench! The Candlestick Holder! The Lead Pipe! The Rope! The Knife! And yes, there's a gun too, the Revolver! But it's not just any kind of pistol. Rather, the game-piece looked like something that came out of the era when the most advanced rifle of the age was a musket.

But this game wouldn't work without its stock characters:

Colonel Mustard (old, European, buffoonish military man, probably a drunkard, wears a monocle, stuck reliving the glorious combat days of his youth in India)

Professor Plum (the middle-aged, absent-minded academician; smokes a pipe, always misplaces his eyeglasses, has lousy interpersonal skills, invariably dressed in tweed)

Mr. Green (corrupt businessman, complete with paunch, smelly cigar, and angry glare, with just a hint of the underworld surrounding him; always seems just one step away from a quarrel)

Mrs. White (the frazzled, dotty housekeeper, who often surprises everyone by being present where she isn't expected to be, complete with her feather duster and her wide-eyed, nervous look)

Mrs. Peacock (the old, snooty lady who holds herself aloft from all this tomfoolery, the one who uses snobbery as a pretense to dignity, and whose fingers are weighed down by jewelry (but are they all real?); think matrona for our local equivalent)

Miss Scarlet (ahh, the femme fatale, svelte, smooth, and who likes her nicotine via a glossy, black, long-stem cigarette holder. Oozes sex, secrecy, and cunning. The Black Widow. Smokin'!)

There is even a chance for a little role-playing, since players can choose which characters they want to represent. My female cousins tripped all over themselves trying to be the ones to play Miss Scarlet, and hoped against hope that not only could they play her, but that she would also be the one who committed the crime (yes, the game can end up where you are the murderer, but if you guess right, you're still the game-winner; you'll just celebrate your victory behind bars, is all). The cousin who got to play her would ham it up like anything. She'd pretend to hold a cigarette between two fingers, puff non-existent smoke out, and through half-lidded eyes, do her best to look sultry and devious at the same time. I just thought she looked sleepy.

I wasn't afraid to tell her this--"Hey! You look like you need a nap!"--but despite my ribbing she never broke concentration or character. Instead, she would whip her head in my direction and fix me with The Searing Stare Of Female Evil (head still up, nose still in the air, shoulders perpendicular to me, chest out, and yes, don't forget the imaginary cigarette still dangling from her fingertips; then she would blow invisible smoke into my face. "Cretin!" she would then call me).

Needless to say, none of my female cousins wanted to be Mrs. Peacock or Mrs. White, often choosing to even be Colonel Mustard over those other two.

As a young guy, I always chose Professor Plum, but I think if I were to play now I'd very very very much like to be Mr. Green. Hmm...I just might get a chance at this. I think I'll check out the stores and see if Cluedo is still being sold. The younger members of my family are, I think, old enough to have fun playing this game, if they wouldn't mind horsing around with an old geezer like me. Geez, I've become Colonel Mustard in my old age.

The climax is reached through an incremental build up. As one gathers clues (cards, which one keeps the other players from seeing) one can "suggest" or "suspect" others. "I suspect that Mrs. Peacock did it in the Kitchen with the Knife!". And then more clues are passed around to confirm or discredit the suspicion, until one is sure of one's logical conclusions. Then one can go for the win:

"I accuse Mrs. White of doing it in The Conservatory with The Rope!"

Woe to you if you're wrong, lose. And the others get a chance to recover from your illogical deductions.

My playmates and I came up with our own versions of the game. We invented new places like The Garden, The Tree House, The Attic, and The Basement. We had new weapons like The Wire, The Letter Opener, and The Heavy Ash Tray. And we changed the characters we didn't like. Mr. Green became someone else, a mailman, I think. Professor Plum and The Library stayed where they were because of me, as did Miss Scarlet because of my cousins, but Mrs. White and Mrs. Peacock became so many other things, over time.

In fact, There have been many variations of the tales woven around this game's characters. Mrs. White has been portrayed in some versions as some man-hating serial killer. Miss Scarlet is supposed to have been courted by all the male characters at one time or another and has spurned them all. She started out as a blonde, became Eurasian at one point, and is now a brunette. But she was always sexy, secretive, and deliciously evil. Professor Plum is either thoughtful or forgetful, depending on the version you're playing. Mr. Green was, in some versions, a Reverend, and Colonel Mustard, instead of being old, was a young and handsome military man in the European publications. In fact, the most consistent character is Mrs. Peacock, who is always concerned with society, manners, and wealth, though in one instance she was revealed to be Miss Scarlet's mother. Oh, the scandal! What would Good Society say?

There have been books on all the possible adventures that could arise from the game, and I believe, a movie too.

And now, in its latest incarnation, Cluedo is going modern. Mr. Green is now African-American who knows "all the ins". Miss Scarlet is now a famous actress always in the tabloids. Mustard is a football player, and Plum is a video-game designer. The lead pipe, revolver, and wrench are gone, replaced by the dumbell, trophy, and poison. Boddy is still, well, just that: a dead body, doomed to resurrection then immediate death whenever the game is started anew.

It's not everyday you can use a boardgame for a crime prompt! But this is one not-so-serious way to have fun with the crime/mystery/suspense genre, and make up tales around it in the process.

Paul Haines On Rejection

Australian horror writer Paul Haines is battling cancer, and based on his blog, he's doing it as bravely and with as much dignity as anyone can muster. Send some good thoughts and wishes his way, and if you wish, you can also help via this fund-raiser.

I found this article over at the Australian Horror Writers Association website. Paul talks about rejection, and gives advice on how to deal with it. An excerpt:

I came out of Clarion South with fantastic critiques of the work I produced there. Great stories. Minor tweaking tweaked. Sure-fire sell. I haven’t sold any of them yet. They’ve been rejected over and over and over from the big slicks in the USA. After a while you get to recognise the ranks of sub-editors and editors and how far up that rank your story has gone before it’s rejected. (I’ve managed to acquire Gordan Van Gelder’s autograph on most of the Clarion stories I submitted to F & SF -- I’m informed that’s a great achievement as you don’t normally get past Joseph Adams).

And after a few solid months of rejection I still get depressed about it and question the worth of my writing. Should I give up? Am I crap? Will I never make it? Last year was the worst year for my writing, or so I thought. I was burned out, all my new stories were rejected. I didn’t want to write. I thought there was no place for my work. "The Last Days Of Kali Yuga" was rejected from the Australian market I sent it to. I believed in this story. It went on to win the Aurealis Award for Best Horror Short Story and has been nominated for the Ditmar. (NFG, the magazine who published it, have nominated that story for several other awards, all of them overseas). And yet "Kali Yuga" hasn’t made the Australian Year’s Best - -another rejection. It still hurts, and so far that’s been my most successful piece.

The best advice for dealing with rejections: on the day you receive the rejection, send the story out again.

The most rejections I’ve had for any one story is seventeen. I believed in this story as well. And finally, so did someone else. It’s being published very soon, and if you read it, I hope you’ll believe in it too.

Another Intelligence Test, Just For Fun :)

Here's a link to another test called Multiple Intelligences. A friend, Alice Ty 鄭睎仁 suggested it, after reading this post. Wala lang. Fun stuff. In case you have the time and inclination, give it a try.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Two Links From Zen In Darkness

Okay, I'm back. No more worries about I.Q. tests. :)

Here are two links about two authors, care of Zen In Darkness.

F. Kafka, Everyman, from The New York Review of Books.

Raymond Carver: King Of The Dirty Realists, from The Guardian.

Franz Kafka is most famous for his novel, The Metamorphosis. Here's a link to the e-novel (as far as I know the copyright has lapsed, so it's legal to link to this, but if I'm mistaken, please let me know so I can take the link down).*

As for Raymond Carver, here are three of his online stories: "Little Things", "Beginners", and "A Small Good Thing". Again, if these stories are copyright protected, please let me know and I'll take the links down.

*My thanks to Dogberry, who pointed out that the page I first linked to had copyright restrictions. The new link to The Metamorphosis above is now the one of Project Gutenberg.

Dumb IQ Test

A member of a forum I frequent started a thread with a link to this online IQ Test. It's the usual spatial/pattern multiple choice questionnaire, the one that asks you, "What comes next?". You're given 39 minutes to answer 39 questions. The test gets progressively harder. It reminds me of the IQ tests I took when I was still a student in school, the results of which were strictly guarded by the school psychologists, so I never found out how I did.

I took the online test for fun. Result? I'm dumb. As in stupid (and not mute). Now, I'm cross-eyed as well. I also know why the school psychologists never let me know what I scored.

A baseball fan explained to me once that when major league ace pitchers in the U.S. lose their velocity/confidence/consistency, and are regularly getting their pitches whacked by mid-level batters, their coaches send them to the minor leagues to pitch there for a while. It's a way to help them regain their mojo. After some time, they are brought back to the majors, ready to pitch against the big boys again.

So, to redeem some of my damaged self-esteem, I'm off, to look for a simple word quiz or an easy to intermediate sudoku board, somewhere. I will also have to buy some tissues to wipe the tears from my eyes. I've made a wager with myself: if I fail even these quizzes, I promise to go watch Prom Night, part one of Dark Knight. I will also go and look for my old "See Spot--see Spot run" books.

I want to shout, "I not stupid!"

To all the makers of these kinds of tests: Hoy! E.Q. is better than I.Q.! And if you can't accept that, then I'm gonna' take a flamethrower to your houses! Grr...

Bobo. Gong-gong. *sniffs*

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Still More On The Generational Reading Gap

Here's a link, The Dying Earth, by Patrick Nielsen Hayden, still on that "generation thingie" mentioned here, here, and here. In his post he notes with curiosity the ages of the winners, and sees that not very many are below a certain age. More evidence of a gap? Read and decide for yourselves.

Via The Grin Without A Cat.

From The Bibliophile Stalker

Some interesting bits and links from The Bibliophile Stalker:

The current fate of Sword & Sorcery by Douglas Cohen and Erik Mona. It recalls the posts that were linked to here and here.

Four free book downloads at Small Beer Press. If you like what you downloaded, go get the real book!

An interview with Michael Co, author of The Off Season from the PGS Special Holiday Issue and co-1st place winner at the 1st Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards.

The Bibliophile Stalker's post, One Generation To Another, his essay on the generational reading gap, mentioned here and here in earlier posts.

The Bibliophile Stalker also made a review of PGS4, one I thought I had made a link to but a quick search revealed that I didn't. Oops. My bad. My apologies to The Stalker. I've updated the links here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Two Calls For Submission In My Inbox

Here are two e-mails I recently received. Haven't checked out the links or the details, but those of you who are interested might want to inquire for yourselves. Here they are, copied-and-pasted as is, word-for-word:

The 1st e-mail:
Volume Three Issue Four of Inscribed ~ A Magazine For Writers is now
available for free download. Please visit to
download, or if you prefer to receive our publications in your
favourite RSS reader, simply add
or search for us on iTunes.

The next deadline for poetry, fiction, essays and artwork to be
included in Inscribed ~ A Magazine For Writers (Volume Three Issue
Five) is September 25th, 2008.

In September, rtso will feature Ellen Peckham, an artist from New York.

Inscribed ~ A Magazine For Writers' sister publication Stuff My Ear
will be debuting in September 2008. We are still accepting
submissions. Please visit for full guidelines on
all publications.

To keep in touch with the various contributors and readers of
Inscribed ~ A Magazine For Writers, find us on Facebook at:
http://www.facebook .com/group. php?gid=21980681 552

The 2nd e-mail:
We are looking for simple yet provoking stories, either a reinvention of Philippine Folklore or any topics that tackles social issues of today society - environment, family, anti-poverty, education or the likes. Any genres you want to add to your topics. The chosen stories will have the chance to make into FILM. Amateurs writers are also welcome to apply.

Please email your credential to globalfields_info(at)yahoo(dot)com, together with your script. Deadline of submission is until August 15, 2008.

PGS4 Reviews (Updated)

Electrick Twilight Boogaloo emailed me that he's put up his review of PGS4. I'm glad that he enjoyed "Blink, Wake Up", and that he also found "The Last Stand Of Aurundar" and "In The Dim Plane" all right.

Update: My apologies to The Bibliophile Stalker, who posted a review of PGS4 sometime back. I thought I had made a post and link to it, but a quick use of the search function shows that I didn't. Oops. Another case of slipping through the cracks. Here's the link to The Bibliophile Stalker's review of PGS4.

Powersale 2008 (Updated)

For the entire August there will be a sale at all Powerbooks branches. Discounts will be from 20% to 70%. More details here.

With all the past sales, and then this latest one by Powerbooks, and then the coming Manila Book Fair, I'm beginning to wonder if there is some great conspiracy going on aimed at siphoning off all our cash!

Update: Whoah! More book sale news. Just got an email that National Bookstore will also be having a one month sale, their yearly Cut-Price book sale, from August 28, 2008 to September 28, 2008. There. More ways to dispose of your income.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Two Workshops

A Different Bookstore in Serendra will be hosting two workshops by the Palanca-winning literary pair of Mookie Katigbak and Angelo R. Lacuesta. Details:

"Lightning In The Mind" with Mookie Katigbak on August 29, 2008, Wednesday, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. A two-part poetry workshop highlighting image and meaning in poetry. All author's proceeds to go to World Vision. August 29 and September 5. Registration fee of P750 to cover resource book, snacks and workshop materials. Participants also receive a permanent 12% discount card from A Different Bookstore.

"Telling The Untold" with Angelo R. Lacuesta on August 28, 2008, Thursday, 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. A two-part writing workshop highlighting the art and the craft of fiction. All author's proceeds to go to World Vision. August 28 and September 4. Registration fee of P750 to cover resource book, snacks and workshop materials. Participants also receive a permanent 12% discount card from A Different Bookstore.

Check out A Different Bookstore for possible updates or changes in schedules. Thanks!

Olympic Play On Words

Was watching ladies' gymnastics on TV. Saw a young vaulter run, leap, and launch herself onto the horse and into the air, twisting, turning,...then landing unfortunately on her backside instead of on her feet. Ouch! At least she didn't seem injured, outside of her pride.

Sayeth the announcer: "Oh my. She didn't meet the floor well on that one, did she?"

Gee, you think?!

Our Olympic euphemism of the day. :)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My Own "Generational Reading Gap"

Here's a post over at the Philippine Speculative Fiction website, My Own "Generational Reading Gap". The post's author, Rebecca Arcega (author of "The Magic Christmas Box" from the PGS Special Holiday Issue), talks about the books she read when she was young, what interests her now and why, and where they stand from a generational standpoint. An excerpt:

I grew up in a library that my father built up from scratch. Most of my literary education came from this. But I’ll have to admit, I feel like growing up with this repertoire led me to become more isolated from the readers and writers I correspond with.I know very few readers from my generation (or older) who call themselves “sci fi fans,” and at the same time know who Cordwainer Smith even IS. They may have read a little Asimov, a little Clarke, a little Philip K. Dick - but for the most part they’ve read and liked more Carl Sagan, Greg Bear, David Brin, and people who got published WAY after the “golden age,” than I ever will.

I sometimes get vibes from younger readers that run along the lines of: “Well, you’re not a real sci fi fan if you haven’t read China Mieville/Iain Banks/Stanislaw Lem” and my knee-jerk defense is to go “Yeah? To me, you’re not a real sci fi fan unless you’ve read “Doc” Smith/Theodore Sturgeon/at least one Aldous Huxley title that is NOT Brave New World.”

No, I’m not automatically resentful… and I don’t blame people for this, of course.

Full post here.

She's read Cordwainer Smith! And Theodore Sturgeon! Like many do toward Mecca everyday, I bow in your general direction. Or rather, I would, if I knew where you were right now, but since I don't, "cheers" nalang. :)

The Filipino Novel Comes Of Age

The Filipino Novel Comes Of Age is an article over at the Read-Or-Die site written by Kristel Autencio. The author talks about Pinoy novels she has read, and gives a review of Soledad's Sister by Butch Dalisay. An excerpt:

There has been a gradual change in the recent years. Recent Palanca Award for the Novel winners ranging from Vincent Goryon to F.H. Batacan to Dean Alfar, attempt to do exactly that, produce novels that are at once literary and accessible, tapping into the contemporary consciousness while trying to maintain the stylistic verve that characterize their other shorter works.

F.H. Batacan’s Smaller and Smaller Circles gained popularity after being lauded by the Palanca as a spunky, erudite detective novel featuring two Jesuit priests. They solve a series of murders through forensic anthropology. The plot seems to be straight out of a CSI episode, but interestingly enough, the still unpublished detective novel won the Palanca in 1999 exactly a year before the CSI franchise started invading our television sets.

Another winner, Dean Alfar, waxes lyrical about the marvelous and often implausible feats of love with Salamanca. It diverges significantly from realist fiction by blending reality and fantasy into a heady concoction that can make you believe that beauty can make houses transparent and that love can conquer all.

2008 can be considered a high watermark for the Philippine novel as Jose Dalisay, already an established name in Philippine letters (as well as columnist, academic, and untiring blogger), came close to bagging Asia’s most coveted literary award.

His quirky hybrid of a novel, Soledad’s Sister has been a literary triumph even before seeing print. It is included among the five shortlisted novels for the first ever Man Asia Literary Prize, inaugurated this year. Beating other English-language works from much more robust literary scenes like India and China, the Jury calls Soledad’s Sister, “a work of warmth, humanity and confidence."

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Spirit Of Storytelling

My Life As A Bed informed me that tomorrow, August 9, 2008 at 9 p.m., there'll be a TV feature on CNN called The Spirit Of Storytelling, just in case anyone might be interested to watch. Here are two other interesting articles, also on the CNN site: Doris Lessing: Born Into Stories; and Uncovering The Secrets Of Storytelling. Here are some excerpts:

We have all heard that time-worn phrase trotted out about everyone having at least one book inside them, and most of us like to believe it's true.

And why not? Humans after all are natural storytellers. From the gossip we pick up at the watercooler, to the soap operas we watch on TV, telling each other stories seems hard-wired into our DNA.

But how do you make those stories engaging and exciting? That's the million dollar publishing advance question all aspiring storytellers must grapple with, and one of the reasons that for many, that long-cherished book never gets beyond the planning stage.

Kurt Vonnegut's first piece of advice is sacrosanct and one by which all stories live or die.

"Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted," he wrote.

Nadine Gordimer insists that any author who tries to push a message on a reader ahead of narrative is in danger at best of producing bad writing, and at worst of lapsing into propaganda.

"The moment the fiction writer, the novelist, the storyteller, the poet starts to think that 'I am writing to persuade, I am writing propaganda' then this is a tremendously bad thing for whatever talent you have," she tells CNN. "You cannot put it at the service of something like this."

The British author Doris Lessing is even more emphatic. "If you're going to write to a formula of some kind the writing is dead, which we know by having seen it so often," Lessing says.

"Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for" Vonnegut also wrote, and then about motivation, "Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water."

Now for rule four: "Every sentence must do one of two things -- reveal character or advance the action." Put more simply, every word must count.

The great American writer Ernest Hemingway despised this kind of flabby, indulgent storytelling. Early on in his career he had a $10 bet with colleagues that he could produce a story just six words long. This is what he came up with:

"For sale: Baby shoes, Never worn." Needless to say he won the bet.

George Orwell said that a long word should never be used when a shorter equivalent existed, and that redundant words should always be cut out.

Back to Vonnegut, who as you may have by now picked up, had a very wry sense of humour. For rule number six he wrote: "Write to please just one person." It may be that you are aiming your story at others but, if you're not happy with what you're producing, it's unlikely you'll manage to convey much enthusiasm to an audience.

Or as Vonnegut put it: "If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia."

Libraries In The Digital Age (Updated)

Libraries go tech! Computerized card catalogues! Robot librarians! Well, maybe not that last one. Here's the article: Libraries Step Into The Age of iPod. An excerpt:
Hoping to draw back readers, libraries have vastly expanded their lists of digital books, music, and movies that can be downloaded by their patrons to a computer of MP3 player--and it doesn't cost a cent, unlike, say, media from Apple Inc's iTunes or Amazon. In Phoenix, for instance, branches have banded together to create a digital library that currently has about 50,000 titles of e-books, audiobooks, music and videos that can be "checked out" from anywhere.

The way I see it, it's become a matter of space, storage, and ease of access. Click the above link to read the whole article. Would that we could see something like that here someday soon.

Update: Check out The Bibliophile Stalker's essay on Libraries here.

September 10!

Remember this post from late June, Apocalypse Now, Again? Well, the Large Hadron Collider I mentioned there, the one that many people are afraid is going to cause the end of the world, is scheduled for launch on September 10, 2008, in Geneva, Switzerland. Many scientists have been at its construction for more than ten years now in a bid to crack the mysteries of the universe.

Well, if the world comes to an end on that day, I guess it's okay. The U.S. Open would be done by then. :-P


Hahaha! Hilarious! If you go to the web-page where this strip is on and hover your mouse pointer over the image, the following words come out:

"If you think this is too hard on literary criticism, read the Wikipedia article on deconstruction."


Thanks very much to The Imagination Station for pointing me to xkcd, a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.

Deadline Extension

The deadline for the Special PGS Crime Issue has been extended from Aug. 15, 2008 to October 15, 2008. While we have received a good number of submissions, we have not yet hit a critical mass of publishable stories. Thus, we would like to give more time for writers to email their submissions. Please refer to the above-link for the submission guidelines. Thank you!

Pauline Baynes (1922-2008)

Pauline Baynes, the illustrator who depicted C.S. Lewis's Narnia and J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth, has passed away. A couple of links:

Pauline Baynes: Obituary At The Independent
Pauline Baynes: Queen Of Narnia And Middle Earth

Here are some image results for Pauline Baynes via Google.

Thanks very much to Welcome To Simpleton, from whom I first learned of this.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

More Congratulations!

As a follow up to this earlier one, Celestine Trinidad (author of "Beneath The Acacia" from PGS2) emailed me that she has won first place in the Short Story for Children In English at the 2008 Palanca's! The title of her entry is "The Storyteller And The Giant". Congratulations, Celestine!

Komikasi Comics: Call For Submissions

Komikasi Enterprise, the company behind Talecraft, has issued a call for submissions. Here's their email:

We are Komikasi Enterprise and we have no comics...

How wrong is that?!


Komikasi Enterprise is now open for comic submissions! We're looking
for fun, witty, engaging comics; comics that will leave us shouting
for the next issue! If you have a comic series you'd like us to
consider, send us a detailed summary of the series, and the first
issue of your series.


Size: 180 x 250 mm + 3 mm bleed; 150 x 220 mm drawing frame
Colors: Black and White; Screen-toned
Num of pages: 30-60 per issue
Language: English or Filipino
Theme: open; as long as it's interesting
Readers: young adults; no sex, please, and easy on the violence

When you send your first issue, save the pages in JPG format at 72
dpi. Since we're still evaluating, we don't need them hi-res yet. As
for the detailed summary, keep it within 5 pages. Let us also know how
many issues your story will be. If you don't have the exact number, an
estimate will do. Save your summary in RTF format.

Send your summary and first issue, along with your name, age, contact
number, favorite ice cream and any other information you'd like to
share about yourself to feedback(at)komikasi(dot)com. Deadline is on
September 19, 2008. We'll be waiting!

The above submission guidelines are also posted on the website: