Ephemera, and the magic and mysticism of the artist and her muse

9Muses

There is a widespread perception of “the editor is the enemy because he is the gatekeeper,” that editorial process stifles our true voices and our truths. And rather than rush to debunk the perception of the editor as gatekeeper and stifler of truth, I want to say that I am interested in how experienced, knowledgeable readers, teachers, mentors work to support us by bringing us into focus, by pushing us into more pointed, more thoughtful exploration of language, speaker, perspective-position-argument, nuance, complexity, layers, texture.

This goes much deeper, well beyond expressing one’s truth. In a well written, well composed, well edited work, one’s truth is laid bare and tested.

Virtual Blog Tour, Is Pinay Lit a Genre, and Tagging Others

From Vince Gotera: The “virtual blog tour” is an excellent, friendly way for writers, artists, and other creative folks to bring attention to their own work as well as that of others. It begins with an invitation from another artist or writer. Then in your blog you acknowledge the person who invited you, answer four given questions about your work and your process, and then invite three other people to participate. These people then do the same thing, referring their blog readers to the blogs of three more people, and so on. It’s a wonderful sort of “pyramid scheme” that’s beneficial for everyone: the artists and writers as well as the readers of their blogs. We can follow links from blog to blog and then we can all learn about different kinds of creative process and also find new writers and artists we may not have known about before.

The person who invited me to take part in the blog tour is Vince himself, a poet and educator, who, like me, hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. Now, though, he’s a landlocked Pinoy in Iowa. A more formal biographical statement is as follows: Vince Gotera is the Editor of the North American Review and a creative writing professor at the University of Northern Iowa. His collections of poetry include the forthcoming Pacific Crossing as well as Dragonfly, Ghost Wars, and Fighting Kite. His work has also appeared widely in magazines, anthologies, textbooks, and online venues. Visit his blog, “The Man with the Blue Guitar” at http://vincegotera.blogspot.com.

Allow me to introduce to you, his poem, “Aswang,” a Philippine mythological creature that continues to fascinate so many of us. Perhaps this excerpt may help you understand the fascination:

… and I saw his mother, a pretty mestiza widow,
her face hidden by hair hanging down
as she bent far forward from the waist.
A manananggal, the worst kind of aswang:
women who can detach themselves at the hips,
shucking their legs at night like a wrinkled slip.
They fly, just face and breasts, to prey on infants.
For a moment, a shadow like a giant bat
darkened the moon…

"Aswang," by Hellen Jo.

“Aswang,” by Hellen Jo. helllllen.org

I would like to think the writing we are doing stateside is contributing to the lore.

Vince has also written up some wonderful explanatory text on the creature and on the poem, so let me not say too much more, except that our aswang poems will be sharing space in the forthcoming anthology Kuwento: Lost Things (An Anthology of New Philippines Myths) (Carayan Press). Go read this poem, and allow yourself to be spooked. Though, please notice the stanzas that comprise this poem are in sonnet form. He has written about formalism, and his use of form as well.


Here are the four questions I’ve answered about my own work:

"Gabriela Silang," by Francisco Coching.

“Gabriela Silang,” by Francisco Coching.

1. What are you currently working on?

Many things — developing and teaching college classes and community workshop, and editing an anthology, all of which are centered around Pinay Lit. Pinay, for those of you not in the know, is a term we use for Filipina, or Filipino girl or woman. Some use it in casual conversation, as affirmation, and others have politicized it (shouting with fist raised: “Pinay Power!”).

I have also completed my own poetry manuscript centered around Pinay voice, writing on the Pinay body.

2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Is Pinay Lit a genre? Let’s go ahead and say it is. However conversational or politicized the usage of Pinay, I’ve been interested in some time now, in potentially Pinay-centered literary space, in writing, reading, and teaching. Can we push the discussion to where it’s most sharp, most difficult — regarding historical and social issues, and just as important, narrative, craft, language, form.

Can we do this in spaces where those who identify as Pinay are both encouraged and emboldened to speak and push their writing, without the kinds of gendered, racialized pressures exerted upon us by our Filipino male community members who want to tell us what to do and what to think, by our white women colleagues who want to save us and speak for us, by our oblivious American classmates who just don’t give a shit. Can we do this without descending into an uncritical Kumbayah. Can we create a strong foundation on our own terms, welcome and maintain rigor, be empowered and articulate wordsmiths. I hope we can.

3. Why do you write/create what you do?

Much of my interest in Pinay lit is not just in the fact that I identify as Pinay and a Pinay author, but in my general observations and experience interacting with other Pinay writers. There’s so much fear, reticence, and timidity that I want to understand and dispel, not because all of us should be shouting and showing our teeth, bearing machetes and fists (though, isn’t that some kind of fierce, wonderful image), but because of how that fear hinders us from writing our stories and getting them into the world.

4. How does your writing/creating process work?

I am always online! The internet has become a place that concerns me, as much as the geographical places I’ve been writing about. I’ve been trolling Filipina bride websites for advertisements and testimonies (from brides and “clients”), and news stories about Pinay OFWs. Perhaps it’s morbid, but I am always looking for narratives about these women and girls being bought, sold, and broken, and I do this because I want to know what is happening to them in the world, and why. I don’t want to pretend none of this matters to me. I also don’t want to pretend that what happens to them also is happening to me. But I need to write about these women and girls. I’ve been crafting poetic lines, trying to flesh out narratives, to humanize the sound bytes and statistics I’ve been gathering. I need to find their resistances. I need to know that they fight back.


Now, as for the four bloggers I am tagging — yes, I’m only supposed to tag three, but these four are good:

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz is a Filipina writer living in the Netherlands. She attended Clarion West in 2009 and is an Octavia Butler Scholar. Her short fiction has appeared in a variety of online and print publications including Clarkesworld Magazine, The End of the Road anthology, Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond, Philippine Genre Stories, the Philippine Speculative Fiction anthologies and We See a Different Frontier. Her Movements column appears regularly on the online magazine, Strange Horizons. http://rcloenenruiz.com

Rashaan Alexis Meneses: Born and raised in the seismically fractured and diverse landscape of southern California, Rashaan Alexis Meneses was recently awarded 2013 fellowships at The MacDowell Colony and The International Retreat for Writers at Hawthornden Castle in Scotland. Current publications include a personal essay in Doveglion Press, short stories in New Letters, Kurungabaa, UC Riverside’s The Coachella Review, University of North Carolina’s Pembroke Magazine, and the anthology Growing Up Filipino II: More Stories for Young Adults. http://rashaanalexismeneses.com

Anthem Salgado founded professional development program and web resource, Art of Hustle, providing training and consulting for creative entrepreneurs, small businesses and nonprofit organizations. His experience spans 15 years across industries that include arts, education, nightlife, cultural and community affairs, and more. He focuses on marketing, helping maximize on audience development, referral building, and income generation opportunities. http://www.artofhustle.com

Melissa R. Sipin is a writer from Carson, CA. She won First Place in the 2013 Glimmer Train Fiction Open and her writing has been published/forthcoming in Glimmer Train Stories, PANK Magazine, Fjords Review, 580 Split, and Kweli Journal, among others. She cofounded and is editor-in-chief of TAYO Literary Magazine. As a Kundiman Fiction Fellow, VONA/Voices Fellow, and U.S. Navy wife, she splits her time writing on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts and blogs at www.msipin.com. She is currently working on a novel. http://msipin.com/blog

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Pinays, We Can Have Nice Things

Elsewhere on the interwebs, someone asks how our Filipino American community orgs. are evolving with the times. Given technology. Given other innovations. Given all of this change, how do we garner community engagement, and (how) can we sustain it? How do we garner support for our orgs., given the state of art funding in this country. How do we create as artists today? Central to the question of support is this: what are our community members willing to support monetarily, such that we are able to sustain what new work we are doing as artists and community workers.

As the VP of the Board of Directors of PAWA, I have always believed in providing a space that is reflective, meaningful, and of value to community members. I am also a minimalist. Not into spectacle and circus. Minimize administrative costs.

I am also a firm believer in paying the artists.

At PAWA, we created a regular reading series maybe five or six years ago, but interest in that fluctuates, and attendance is kind of sad to me. We have offered workshops; attendance and participation in these have also been quite sad. We offered poetry manuscript consultation, which brought in pretty good revenue, but that was really hard for me to sustain. And there was definitely interest, but not too many people able to afford, even with the sliding scale. That’s for real.

Now, we are offering a 10-week, online Pinay literature and writing workshop, and are using generally the same sliding scale as the manuscript consultation. And people are signing up! So this is telling me something about what our (my?) community members value and think of as beneficial, such that they are willing to commit their time and money to 10 weeks of a pilot, internet-based workshop program.

One thing I’m thinking more and more about is that we must learn to work, operate, interact, and communicate much better in e-space. As the teacher of the Pinay Lit class at USF, I’d received all kinds of comments on FB, from folks in the general community that they wished they could take my class. So then I sent out an informal “feeler” via FB post, regarding interest in such a course if it were to be offered via PAWA and with a creative writing focus. The feedback was enthusiastic that online, much more so than in an actual brick-and-mortar space, folks would hella totally do it. And they really are.

It’s great. You don’t have to leave your families and commute, pay for gas and parking. You carve out the space in your own home life, a couple of hours here and there. You do it. You plug away, and you do it. You work independently, and you do it.

And we do this, not with set e-meeting times, but with a schedule of what to read and write and by when. As the instructor, I create the structure and the schedule. I can record myself speaking if I must, or I can just write. Just like this.

This is great for our org., in that we do not have to worry about finding, reserving, and paying for spaces. This is great for me, because I don’t have to leave my home or my work desk. I can open up the option of Google Hang-Out or Chat or whatever it’s called these days, and it can be optional, by appointment.

As an org., we have to charge, because there is indeed value to what we offer, and so that people know there’s a commitment involved. And for me as the instructor, this is a lot of hard work.

But yeah. You know what, Pinays? Yes, we can have nice things. PAWA Pinay workshop info is here.