li(li)t(h) fair-ing

It was a fun week for literature both local and foreign.

Resil Mojares delivers the keynote speech

I attended the first two days of the Manila International Literary Festival, the second one. Last year was the first time this was held. This year, it was held at the Ayala Museum which I think was cool, but also it was limiting because they have really small function rooms there, not enough to hold a lot of people and not much room to breathe. Hm well maybe next time, there’s a better venue. But hey, it was scenic and artistic, and the location was also okay. Again, this was spearheaded by the people at the National Book Development Board but I wish the conference secretariat was more attentive. It took them ages to answer my query email about rates and stuff, and they weren’t able to trace my pre-registration form when I arrived there. Oh well, conference glitches. But that could be improved, I know.

I just wanted to jot down a few notes of some thought-provoking things I picked up from the speakers, and also a few comments of my own regarding some connected things as well. It was quite hard to pick the sessions I wanted to attend since there were at least three parallel sessions (hm is that even correct? tatlo na nga, parallel pa hehe. whatevs) happening at a given time block. But of course we had to prioritize, or we could be swayed by friends to attend what they’re attending hehe.

The day opened with Filipino author Resil Mojares talking about the Filipino writer and where we are in the world. Too bad I didn’t catch the first part of this since the van I rode took forever to travel EDSA’s busy work route, but what I caught was substantial enough. What he said about being visible to the world by being visible to our own literary space first (meaning the Philippines) hit home, very hard. I actually wrote about this in my defunct Manila Times literary column when I heard Butch Dalisay lament that “Filipinos are reading; they’re just not reading us.” I don’t think it’s a matter of publicity — or the lack thereof — or anything like that. Bob Ong is being read. Maybe we have to think about that.

Pulitzer winners in Manila

The next part is a shared talk with two visiting American Pulitzer prize-winning authors, namely African-American Edward P. Jones and American-Dominican Junot Diaz. I have to admit that Diaz was a more engaging speaker than Jones and I somewhat found some of Jones’ statements a bit odd (especially when they answered my question about what issues challenge “minority” writers in America right now and such).

I haven’t read the works of these two authors since I’ve been focusing a lot on reading female-bodied authors, especially of the queer kind, and I really am biased that way. There are a lot of heterosexual-focused texts out there and there are also a lot of queer texts, and I really tend to focus on the queer. If I engage in male-bodied texts, they have to be queer as well, or they should be written by my default favorites, like my favorite Canadian author Douglas Coupland whose latest book I am reading now (The Gum Thief). But now that I’ve heard Diaz, I immediately bought his book (The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao) and had him sign it, of course hehe, and started reading it during day 2 of the festival. And it’s a good balance with Coupland’s book, actually, so I take turns reading the two dudes right now.

I’ll expound on what Diaz said in a different post na lang because what I learned from him deserves a separate blog post (yes, new fan girl mode!), really.  He was the one who made the most sense in this conference, really, and I will also post the videos of snippets of his talks as soon as I upload them on my Youtube channel. I tell you, this man is a walking postcolonial writer quotable quotes giver hehe. I want to turn his sentences into tshirts, is what hehe. My inner gay man is soooo crushing on him hahaha!

Anyway, the afternoon session I attended was the World Book Market vs. World Readership paneled by two Filipinos who worked/still work in the marketing part of things in two international publication giants (Simon and Shuster and Random House), Jennifer Javier and Rino Balatbat, also the local Visprint publisher Nida Ramirez who’s the only person who knows who Bob Ong is hehe, so they say, and this panel was moderated by Anvil Publishing’s Karina Bolasco.

the publishing panel

It’s interesting  to learn about the publishing side of things. As a writer, we should also be attuned to this, like trends and such, but also, they’re reminding us to just write what you’re passionate about. Passion sells, they say, but of course, we also have to keep an eye on market trends, di ba? Fair enough.

The day 1 afternoon was capped with a one-on-one with Junot Diaz. Oh man, I didn’t take notes here because the man is too good for note-taking. I videotaped it — to last longer! Since I only have a punycam to record video and stuff, I just chose portions of what he talked about. But I think what hit me the most was his last words, as caught on cam:

That’s Sir Butch Dalisay leading the conversation with Diaz as Diaz reminds writers to not write for fellow writers but for readers. PAK! And writers shouldn’t hang out much with fellow writers daw. PAK! Could this get any better? I love the wisdom of this man. I wish he were queer! Would have made things greater haha but that’s just me.

After the talk, of course we lined up to sign books. I think I was third in line hehe.

Him: What a beautiful name.

Me: Thanks. It’s actually short for “Liberty” but my real name is Olivia. I hate it because it’s postcolonial. Haha!

Him: Haha don’t we hate that all.

Me: Indeed.

I swear, that was the conversation we had when this pic was being taken. (Oh, thanks to Maru of Pandora’s Books for the snap.)

Day 2 was also interesting. So since I was officially stalking Diaz haha, I attended the interesting panel on writing away from home, cross-cultural experiences and the immigration experience. An American young adult lit author based in Japan, Holly Thompson, joined Gemma Nemenzo and Diaz in this panel moderated by Oscar Campomanes.

drat not a good seat hence not a great pic

This was also a great panel where all the authors, Campomanes included, gave great insights about writing from their locations, wherever these locations are, but still having some sort of disconnections, in a manner of speaking, as he said “You are classified first before you are embraced” or something to that effect when you find yourself being in America and writing as a non-white writer. Of course our favorite rebel rouser added to that thought as Diaz said that no one is categorizing “non-ethnic writers” as “that white writer” and expounded on talking about something that’s not talked about much in important pop culture contexts, which is white supremacy. Wagi lang teh!

The next panel I attended was about the young adult literature audience. Thompson merely gave an overview of what’s YAL that it somehow reminded me of my grad school writing for young adults course hehe. Perpi Lipon-Tiongson of Kuting also presented the Pinoy side of YAL things and the panel was moderated by RayVi Sunico. There were a few nice nuggets here and there but as I was listening, my mind really flew and thought of all my pending YAL projects hehe. I thank this panel for jolting me awake about that one, as I kinda put that at the back burner for now, since I was consumed with film again hehe. But I digress.

The next panel I attended was influenced by my former grad school creative writing classmate, and I thank her for influencing me hehe. This was the myths, folklore and legends stuff panel moderated by speculative fiction writer-editor Dean Alfar with Budjette Tan, Yvette Tan and Karl de Mesa who gave an interesting lecture on demons and from whom I learned that the offspring of fallen angels and humans are called gibborim hehe. Wagi lang. This (former) lesbian lilith is happy hahaha! Chos!

this was a happy bunch

Again, as I was listening to this panel, my mind really, really flew and thought of my other projects at the back burner — my specfic works, specifically a few shorts and a novel/graphic novel (which also excited me again since gaining positive feedback from a bookworm feminist friend who said my concept was interesting – yay!). Okay okay, I’ll write na! Now nah! Hehe.

The last panel I wanted to attend was The Many Forms of the Novel but I got curious about How To Be A Bestseller since in attendance was the author du jour, Samantha Sotto who recently launched a book that’s now classified as an “international bestseller” which was published by an international publisher. And to think she’s a first-time writer who wrote this book because she didn’t have anything to do while waiting for her son to come out of his Ateneo class and she didn’t want to drive back all the way to Paranaque. So yeah, why not, write a novel in Starbucks Katipunan. Who knows, it’ll get picked up!

last panel

Eros Atalia who was also there, the author of Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me which also became a Cinemalaya film, didn’t want the bestseller tag on him, but he’s thankful naman daw about the sales. He’s a happy speaker to listen to hehe. Anyway I’m not sure I was happy about this panel overall but what the hey, we need to listen to new speakers anyway, so there.

I skipped the third day because I had things to do this week pa that needed my attention plus there was nothing in the line-up that interested me that much. But the first two days were already cool with me, and I am certainly motivated enough (again) to face those projects I left behind due to some form of literary heartache or other. You know what I mean. Will post about those next time na lang.

Overall, this was a fun experience. It was also cool to meet up and hang out, even only during lunch and snack breaks, with fellow writer friends and new acquaintances as well. Also great to see the “old reliables” (no ageist pun intended po) of Philippine lit in this conf. It always reminds me of good days in grad school whenever I see these people. I actually miss it. Hmm I should probably start my PhD soon na. I miss studying actually, nerdy me.

I didn’t splurge on books this time, unlike last year hehe. I just bought the two books of the foreign authors and had them sign it. No, I didn’t buy Jones’ but I bought Thompson’s YAL novel in verse. This is also a cool conf because it reminds me of a personal event in my life last year, not totally anchored in the conf itself, but what happened after. Haha that’s a long story. Maybe next time 🙂

For now, let’s just read. And write. So many things to still write about. There’s no time to waste.

Tap tap.


~ by leaflens on November 20, 2011.

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