As tellers of story, use your creativity, perform generative and imaginative acts of storytelling, to counter the destructiveness, silencing, and invisibility ongoing in this world. Deploy your words, your voices, your talents and honor our stories — however difficult and painful, they are beautiful and necessary; craft stories that are brave, empathetic, compassionate, and true. http://bit.ly/12XshbG (That’s from my commencement address.)
The image above is Jessica Tarahata Hagedorn’s first book, Dangerous Music, published by Momo’s Press in 1975. I’ve got a first edition at home. It’s one of my treasures. I am able to be a writer and author because of its existence, and what must have gone into creating it and getting it into the world.
It has been a long year because it has been an eventful year. Some highlights:
Archival photo from University of Wisconsin.
I started teaching Pinay Lit at USF in 2012, and having taught the class two semesters in a row, this continues to be one of the most amazing things ever. I am not surprised about the amount of interest in this class, from students and from folks in the community and around the country, as the class is one of a kind in this country. There are never spaces to center Pinay literary works here, especially for some hard discussion of the themes presented/handled in the literature (race/ethnicity, colonialism, work, gender, war, body, sexuality, et al). Here, I mean hard discussion, as opposed to cloying environments of “affirmation” and “empowerment” in the forms of uncritical feelgoodism and anti-intellectualism. As a writer, I am interested in also directing the discussion towards language, form, craft, nuance, and complexity. So teaching Pinay Lit has been a welcome challenge. Having a budget for the class has also been great, having the ability to invite local Pinay writers into the classroom, and to bring students into community spaces such as Bindlestiff Studio.
It’s no secret how much Juan Felipe Herrera’s performance lecture, “A Natural History of Chicano Literature” has rocked my world. I have always loved the casualness of this talk, coupled with its intensity, its literary and historical reach. I love that its being interdisciplinary — soundly academic, poetic, talk story. Of course, we know the community value of such talk story sessions; we know how necessary they are to us, as communities traditionally thwarted by American institutions.
Prolific thank you’s to Sean Labrador y Manzano, editor of the forthcoming Conversations at a Wartime Cafe, an anthology which began as (from) his column of the same name at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. I am especially grateful to him for not only including me in his project, but for persisting with me as I lagged on his deadlines. And really, I have a bunch of editors to thank for persisting with me on my recent, terrible practice of lagging on deadlines. So, thank you, salamat, diyos ti agngina, Sean.
Regarding wartime, yes, it’s been nearly ten years since 09/11/2001, so what does this mean for us, and how we’ve lived, and how (whether) our consciousness has shifted in this past decade. I’d promised him a piece incorporating my thoughts on Major General Antonio M. Taguba (Ret.) as a major player in how my consciousness has clarified in being muddled. Yes, clarity in my state of muddle. Sean’s also asked for a quick write-up on where we were on 09/11/2001. So here’s most of what I’ve sent him to accompany one of my poems based upon the Abu Ghraib images.
Continuing on with what is now looking like a series of blog posts on submissions and publishing, I want to reiterate that I’m writing all of this to think out loud about my presentation for the PAWA 07/30/2011 workshop. I am anticipating a relatively specific community of writers, most likely emerging local writers of color who participate in local and grassroots arts orgs, and who have limited publishing experience.
A friend of mine, a fellow writer, recently held a women writers submissions party somewhere in the Bay Area. I did not attend, but it was interesting to see the comments thread on Facebook. There really was a lot of articulated and admitted fear. I don’t know anymore what this fear is about; it’s no longer my experience. Maybe it once was. But the very reason why I am offering this workshop is because of those kinds of articulated and admitted fears.
Really, is this what the goal is, and/or is this what the goal should be? And if so, how to attain Google-ability?
This comes up as I have been preparing for the PAWA Submitting Your Work for Publication workshop. I have been asking other writers questions about what some issues and hang-up’s around publication are. Google-ability has come up.
I believe that’s beyond publishing, not necessarily a separate issue, but one that detracts from the core work and efforts of publishing.
That said, I do believe in maintaining a steady and professional web presence. This is why I have this website (and all these ancillary sites: FB, Twitter, Goodreads, etc. Really, look at all these places, though I can only realistically be active in one or two, and just have RSS feeds lead back here), which I should be updating more regularly than I do. I used to post here nearly daily, but that’s becoming impossible.
I have been posting calls for submissions like mad, over at the new and improved PAWA blog, and have been a little surprised at the non-response to them. I know; just because I’m not hearing any feedback does not mean folks are being unresponsive. It’s just that I have been trying to gauge community interest in submitting work for publication.
Here is what befuddles me: There’s so much dialogue over our invisibility and non-presence on bookstore shelves and on course syllabi, coupled with reticence to put work out there in a major way. As well, there’s so much interest in self-promotion, in being recognized, so much desire to be given props and praise for being poets and writers, coupled with reticence to put work out there in a major way.
What gives, with the contradictions? I am interested in untangling that, and giving substance to the picture of “poets and writers,” and the necessary work to make it so.
As my friend and fellow author Sunny Vergara has recently blogged, it’s loaded, “self-promotion,” and the term, “shameless self-promotion.” Submitting work is part of the work of self-promotion. With every cover letter we write to accompany every submissions packet we send out, we engage in self-promotion. We’re submitting to the possibility that our work is good and/or interesting enough to warrant publication in a potentially competitive field. He’s listed some truths, which I believe are important to arrive at on our own schedules, after going through our own processes:
You cannot sit on your ass and hope to be discovered.
You cannot sit on your ass and hope to be invited to speak.
You cannot sit on your ass and hope to be published.
This morning I am thinking about our Filipino American relationship with reading, with the book, with those that write the book, and with the industry that publishes the book. If we are distrustful of language, of letters, of published letters, of rigorous and intellectual, solitary pursuits that produce published letters, then how do we interrogate this distrust, and how do we ultimately overcome it?
First things first. Happy Birthday, Oakland! You look aiight at 159 years old.
Also, Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor’s essay “Saying Yes: The Making of Pause Mid-Flight,” which includes video, is up at Doveglion.com, where we’ve also just featured David Keali’i, and Craig Santos Perez. Next up will be Margaret Rhee, Sesshu Foster in collaboration with Arturo Romo, Tina Bartolome, and others TBA.
OK, I am belated in posting some of my own poetic updates.
I have work forthcoming in Arroyo Literary Review, North American Review, and Hambone.