Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Author Meet-Up On December 18, 2010

There will be an author meet-up with Marianne Villanueva on December 18, 2010, 2 p.m., Libreria, Cubao X. Please go, if you can. You'll get a chance to meet this author, to meet other readers and Filipino Book Bloggers, and maybe even find something to read at Libreria.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

6 Writers Who Accidentally Wrote Their Masterpieces

These writers didn't set out to write serious pieces heavy with gravitas that were meant to be remembered by generations of readers. They just kinda' stumbled onto it in the process of writing, or did it as a playful challenge. In two instances, they were written for the money (one of whom is good ol' Bill, the guy academics and critics hold up as the epitome of the serious writer, hehe). Here are 6 Writers Who Accidentally Wrote Their Masterpieces. The introduction:

So what does it feel like to write something that will inspire audiences for generations? Apparently it feels like another day at the office, as it turns out some of the greatest works of all time weren't intended to be classics... and often were just dashed off for the hell of it.

5 Authors More Badass Than The Badass Characters They Created

I knew about Ian Fleming, Ernest Hemingway, and Lord Byron, but I learned something new about Lord Mallory and Arthur Conan Doyle. Here are 5 Authors More Badass Than The Badass Characters They Created. The introduction to the article:

When you read a story of a manly hero slaying a dragon and then bedding the princess, it's easy to imagine there's a 300-pound author sitting behind the typewriter in a tiny apartment full of cats. After all, fiction is all about escaping our real life, right?

Not always. In fact, if you look at the authors behind some of the most iconic heroes of all time, you find a writer who's every bit as badass. Not only did these guys insert elements from their actual lives into the stories, they actually toned them down a bit.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Secret History Of Charlie Brown's Christmas

Via PGS contributor Chiles Samaniego: The Secret History Of Charlie Brown's Christmas. I'd written before about how much I love this cartoon and its music, so my thanks to Chiles for this article filling me in a bit more on the background of its production. An excerpt:

But its success is even more ironic when you consider its very clear message about not commercializing the holidays. ("The half-hour special first aired on Thursday, December 9, 1965," notes Wikipedia, "preempting The Munsters and following the Gilligan's Island episode 'Don't Bug the Mosquitos'.") But in Hollywood on the same day, both the Daily Variety and Hollywood Reporter ran the producers' ad sharing "Our special thanks to the Coca-Cola Bottlers of America Who Have Made it All Possible." And another ad in TV Guide reminded viewers the innocent characters were "Brought to life...and presented to you by the people in your town who bottle Coca-Cola." But what's even stranger is that originally, the Coca-Cola logo actually appeared in the cartoons themselves!

"In the 'fence' scene, where several of the Peanuts gang are attempting to knock cans off a fence with snowballs, Linus is seen knocking down a can with his blanket," Wikipedia reports, adding that "In the original airing, this was a Coke can..." There's also a deleted bit in the skating scene, right after Snoopy grabs Linus's blanket and hurtles Charlie Brown into the snow under a tree. In the deleted scene, Linus is hurtled in the other direction, into a sign which Wikipedia reports originally read "Coca-Cola."

35 years later — on the night before he died — a 77-year-old Charles M. Schulz was discussing the Christmas special one last time with the man who'd co-produced it, Lee Mendelson. Schulz was excited about a book they were preparing together about the special, and his feelings about it were still very clear. Over the decades they'd produced 45 animated specials, but Schulz always insisted that the Christmas special had been his favorite. And in his book, Mendelson would also take a moment to remember something else that Schulz had told him years before.

"There will always be a market in this country for innocence."

And just like my message in 2008, the small part of my heart that is not Grinch-y wishes you all a Merry Christmas. :D

Okay, that's enough. Back to humbuggery.

The Cult Of The Book--And Why It Must End

An article on print vs. digital, The Cult Of The Book--And Why It Must End, which talks about why print must give way to digital. An excerpt:

The culture of the book in American higher education is in crisis. New e-reader technology, coupled with the rising cost of print production and the shrinking budgets of university presses and libraries, has led many academics to fret about the future of the book. They are right to worry. The culture of the book—the culture in which most scholars have built their careers—is no longer tenable, a reality that resonates with implications for research, tenure, and promotion. To move forward, academe must transform itself from a fundamentally print culture to one that is fundamentally digital.

The reasons are obvious. Paper-and-ink books are more expensive to produce (and reproduce) than their digital doubles, and more difficult to disseminate, search, and recycle. In short, digital books are more affordable, accessible, and environmentally friendly. So why has academe been slow to embrace digital publishing? Why, for example, do many in the academy discriminate against digital content by demanding that it also be available in print, as if only a print version can legitimate its digital double?

Many concerns about the intellectual quality of digital publications are valid, and digital content can be easier to plagiarize. But those concerns are historical, not permanent. There is nothing intrinsically inferior about spreading knowledge on a screen rather than on a printed page, and plagiarism is an ethical issue, not a material one. Words may look better in print, and a book may feel better in your hands than a Kindle or an iPad, but the words are the same.

The real difference—the real reason that academe has been slow to embrace digitization—is cultural, not material: an attitude rooted in the belief that the printed book is intrinsic to scholarship. Ink is permanent; pixels are impermanent, or so the argument goes. This perspective is not an ontological or metaphysical one: People who believe that books are permanent do not believe that books can't be destroyed. Rather, they believe that the comfortable manner in which readers approach a paper-and-ink object is fundamentally different from the attitude they bring to a digital copy. These attitudes are the products of cultural conditioning and habit.

We need to change—to resignify—the semiotics of academic culture. The idea of the book as a printed artifact is no more or less natural than its digital (and nonprinted) counterpart. Until academe, in particular the humanities, lets go of the myth of the book—the notion that printed books are the gold standard of academic achievement—academe will forever be caught between its digital destiny and its printed purgatory.

The book is the most readily identifiable and powerful sign in academic life, at least in the humanities. Books carry great meaning and value: They line our offices and fill our CV's. Students still bring books to class along with their laptops. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine a college campus or a Modern Language Association convention without books.

And yet, despite the pervasiveness of books, the belief that they are more integral than their digital counterparts is a myth.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

UST Publishing House To Launch New Books On December 10, 2010

From Carljoe Javier, the author of The Kobayashi Maru Of Love, and the new Business Manyaker*, I mean, Manager for UST Publishing House:

The UST Publishing House will be launching six new literary titles at the traditional Writers’s Night, to be held at the GT Toyota Hall of Wisdom at the UP Asian Center on December 10, 2010.

Five titles are by Fellows of the UP Institute of Creative Writing, while the sixth is by a writing fellow of the UP National Writers’s Workshop.

National Artist Virgilio Almario or Rio Alma, will be launching Pitong Bundok ng Haraya a book of literary criticism structured like a journey. Poet, critic, and literary scholar Gémino H. Abad’s Imagination’s Way: Essays Critical and Personal collects long and short pieces that showcase Abad’s ever precocious mind at play. Dean of the UP College of Mass Communications Rolando B. Tolentino’s Gitnang Uring Fantasya at Material na Kahirapan sa Neoliberalismo: Politikal na Kritisismo ng Kulturang Popular is a collection of critical essays on pop culture, ranging from film to “ukay-ukay” and malling, to almost anything and everything in between. Charlson Ong’s newest novel, Blue Angel, White Shadow is a hardboiled detective/murder mystery set in the seedy underbelly of Manila. Sagad sa Buto: Hospital Diary at Iba pang Sanaysay features poet Romulo P. Baquiran, Jr.’s is a creative nonfiction piece about his hospital stay, which is both humorous, factual, and profound. And young, prolific poet Mésandel Virtusio Arguelles launches his sixth collection of poems, Alinsunurang Awit.

The launch of the UST Publishing House titles will be part of the main program of Writers’s Night, which will begin at 6:30 pm. The Writers’ Night is an annual event, hosted by the UP Institute of Creative Writing, traditionally a party for all writers, including the writing fellows of the annual UP Writer’s Workshop, and lovers of writing.

New local books! Attend the launch if you can!

*Just kidding, Carljoe! Biruan lang! To everyone: This term I used is totally mine, not Carljoe's.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


Monday, December 06, 2010 A Website For Literary Teenagers

Here's an article about, which aims to be a website where teenagers can share their literary works with each other. An excerpt from the article:

The young people on the site weren’t much interested in “friending” one another. What they did want, he said, “was to read and write and discover new content, but around the content itself.” will be unveiled on Monday as an experiment in online literature, a free platform for young people to read and write fiction, both on their computers and on their cellphones. Users are invited to write novels, short stories and poems, collaborate with other writers and give and receive feedback on the work posted on the site.

The idea for Figment emerged from a very 21st-century invention, the cellphone novel, which arrived in the United States around 2008. That December, Ms. Goodyear wrote a 6,000-word article for The New Yorker about young Japanese women who had been busy composing fiction on their mobile phones. In the article she declared it “the first literary genre to emerge from the cellular age.”

Friday, December 03, 2010

Theodora Goss Interview

Writer Theodora Goss is interviewed over at Clarkesworld Magazine. Some of what she said:

What a sentence should do is multitask. It should do at least two things: convey character and move the plot, for instance. Once, at one of the Wiscon workshops, where I was the official professional writer, one of the other writers asked me how I achieved the density she had seen in a particular short story. I think that's the secret: each sentence has to do more than one thing. Other than that, each sentence should be clear.

This all sounds rather technical, but it's become instinctive, and I do it without thinking about it. When I write, it just flows, and I actually don't revise all that much, unless I workshop something and the other writers tell me that it doesn't work, and I agree with them. (I don't always agree with them.) Then, I'll revise quite a lot, but certainly not to make something more beautiful. I'll revise for clarity, character development, that sort of thing. In a way, I'm not particularly concerned with beauty. To the extent that happens, it's a byproduct of the fact that, you're right, sound really is quite important to me.

I think each short story does something different. There's nothing in particular that a short story should do, except whatever it is that particular story should do — its purpose is internal to the story. I'm not sure what you mean by working on the reader. The story should certainly interest the reader, but it should also leave the reader free. Sometimes in workshops people are told that a story should "grab" the reader or something like that. What would you do to someone who grabbed you? Probably punch them, right? Perhaps I can make one of those categorical statements that I'll end up contradicting later — a short story should interest the reader, whereas a novel should involve the reader. There isn't enough space in a short story to get the reader deeply emotionally involved. When a short story tries to get me emotionally involved, I almost always end up feeling manipulated. The best short stories, for me, are the ones that deal with ideas. But I learned to write short stories by reading Jorge Luis Borges, Isak Dinesen, and Angela Carter.

I don't think there's very much the short story can't do, and I've only begun exploring the possibilities. I feel as though I do something quite different with each short story, to be honest. As though I were exploring exactly what I can do with the form. To the extent that my understanding of the form has changed, it's because I've read short stories that show me what can be done. Reading Kelly Link and Ted Chiang, for example, always teaches me something.

Looking back at this response and the previous one, I'm realizing just how much I think of writing in terms of technique. What you see when you read the story isn't the technique, it's the story itself. But the foundation is technique. I took ballet classes for a long time, and when I watch Swan Lake, for example, one part of my mind pays attention to the story the ballet is telling, and another part is naming the steps, recognizing how they link together to form a particular movement. The same things happens when I read: I enjoy the story, but part of my mind is always thinking about how it's put together, and how I could do something similar, or make a particular move my own. What I'm doing now? Honestly, at this point I'm just trying to write the stories people have asked me to write. I barely have time to work on stories that haven't been, essentially, commissioned. But if a project excites me, I like the challenge of writing a story on a particular topic or to a particular theme.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Just Get The Words Down

In this blog entry, Inspiration Vs. Obligation: The Great Creativity Debate, the writer muses about when she gets her words down in her blog, whether she just plunks herself down in a chair and writes at a set time, or whether she waits for inspiration to strike. An excerpt:

Ali’s recent post discouraged us from forcing creativity. If you don’t feel it, she said, don’t write. Yet Gretchen recommends sitting down and writing every day, because you’ll get in a rhythm and stay connected to your material.

Well, which is it? Should you force yourself at your blogging, even when you don’t feel the inspiration, or wait patiently for the muse to visit, hopefully before you lose your readers through neglect? I’m curious to hear how you approach this question. After all, blogging is about content, right? If we can’t generate content on demand, what are our chances of being great bloggers?

As a professional writer, I’ve had plenty of time to consider the inspiration vs. obligation (or creativity vs. productivity) question, and I think the best answer revolves around self-awareness.

Do I write my best work when I’m inspired? Who knows? Over time, the idea of “creative inspiration” has become immaterial. I just write. I know when I have a wild rush of ideas, and I know when my mind seems more suited to the more predictable work of editing and polishing my content. But through the process I outlined here, the magical, mystical quality of “inspiration” has been replaced by the more sustaining notion of reliable output—output being, by its very nature, creative.

How do you manage the balance between inspiration and obligation when it comes to creating content for your blog?

In a way, it's similar to writer Salman Rushdie's attitude toward inspiration, that it's just a lot of nonsense, and that writing is more about focus and concentration. An excerpt:

Question: You’ve said that the act of writing transforms you into the best version of yourself; is it inspiration?

Salman Rushdie: It’s not inspiration. It’s concentration more and it is to do with developing skills of concentration and I think that is something which, well a few things I think about being a writer that you get better at with time. There are things that you perhaps don’t get better at. Energy is something which maybe declines, but I think concentration, focus, the ability to shut out the extraneous and focus on what you’re doing. I think the more you do it the better you get at it. I think that is true and I think it’s also true that… and I think I've heard other writers say it too, that when you write you in a way write out of what you think of as your best self, the part of you that is lacking in foibles and weaknesses and egotism and vanities and so on. You’re just trying to really say something as truthful as you can out of the best that you have in you. And so somehow the physical act of doing it is the only way you have of having access to that self. I mean when you’re not physically writing you don’t have the key to that door and but when you get into—and certainly speaking for me—when I get into a state of properly concentrated attention then I do think that that is... I think of that as my best self, the self that does that. And I wish I had access to it the rest of time, but at least I can find my way to it through that.

It’s not inspiration. I think inspiration is nonsense, actually. Every so often I mean like one day in 20 or something, you will have a day when the work seems to just flow out of you and you feel lucky. I mean you feel and often surprised and you don’t quite know why it is working like that. And on days like that it’s easy to believe in a kind of inspiration, but most of the time it’s not like that. Most of the time it’s... I mean I wish there were more of those days, but most of the time it’s a lot slower and more exploratory and it’s more a process of discovering what you have to do than just simply have it arrive like a flame over your head. So I do think it’s to do with concentration, not inspiration. It’s to do with paying attention and I think the business of writing a great deal of it is the business of paying attention to your characters, to the world they live in, to the story you have to tell, but just a kind of deep attention and out of that if you pay attention properly the story will tell you what it needs.

Pakinggan Pilipinas: The December Double Issue Is Live!

PGS contributor Elyss Punsalan's Pakinggan Pilipinas: The December Double Issue, is now live! Featured are the stories of PGS contributor Dominique Cimafranca ("Twilight of the Magi" from the PGS Holiday issue) and Maryanne Moll ("God is the Space Between" from the soon-to-be-released PGS Crime Issue). Click here to listen to these podcasts!

PGS Contributor Kate Osias Wins Canvas Young Readers Storywriting Contest

PGS contributor Kate Osias has won this year's Canvas Young Readers Storywriting Contest! An excerpt from the blog entry:

CANVAS is pleased to announce that Kate Osias has won our 2010 Storywriting for Young Readers Competition for her story, "Apolinario and the Name Trader."

Here's part of what Kelly Sonnack, agent for the US-based Andrea Brown Literary Agency had to say about it:

"I really enjoyed this manuscript. It has a traditional, classic feel that I like, while also feeling new and fresh – a good blend for today’s picture book market. It’s playful and capitalizes on something I think kids think about – how a different name might make you feel."