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Be a writer and see the world…

For what it is. That’s how we may extend the title’s promise above, as a paraprosdokian, that curious figure of speech. But on a literal level, it works just as well, more often than not.

Jimmy Abad left last week to attend the 4th Filipino American International Book Festival in San Francisco over the past weekend, where he joined a reading and presented a poetry anthology he recited from.

Many other longtime friends were in attendance. Among those who flew in from Manila were AdMU Press director Karina Bolasco, investigative journalist, blogger and author Raissa Robles, who must’ve had a centerpiece presentation with her best-selling Marcos Martial Law: Never Again (published last year by Filipinos For A Better Philippines Inc.), and Australia-based poet-fictionist Merlinda Bobis, who was here recently to launch her latest poetry collection, Accidents of Composition (UP Press).  

California residents included poet-editor Eileen Tabios, publisher Aileen Cassinetto, prizewinning novelist Cecilia Manguerra Brainard (who launched her latest novel, The Newspaper Widow, in Manila several weeks ago), journalist Gemma Nemenzo, fresh immigrant and fiction author Jenny Ortuoste, poet Barbara Jane Reyes and poet-educator Oscar Peñaranda.

Other friends and familiar names scheduled for panels and readings were M. Evelina Galang, Joseph Legaspi, Marivi Soliven Blanco, Ben Pimentel, Reme Grefalda, Noelle de Jesus, Mia Alvar and Eliza Victoria.

While the event covered only a weekend, much was expected in terms of participation and audience turnout, book sales, and the strengthening of the Pinoy literary community, which is steadily if slowly growing global. 

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Our presence in international literary events continues to expand and vibrate, with no end in sight in terms of far-flung venues, or those opportunities to die for. Many Filipino writers have done residencies with Rockefeller Foundation grants at the Bellagio Study and Conference Center by Lake Como in Italy, and at Hawthornden Castle in the Midlothians, Scotland, with the first batch of poets celebrating their respective turns at that month-long International Writers Retreat with an anthology, Luna Caledonia: Five Filipino Writers in Hawthornden Castle, edited by Ricardo M. de Ungria (Aria Editions, 1992)

For a similar effort, over the past year, Pinoy attendees at the International Poetry Festival in Medellin, Colombia, started putting together our reminiscences, poems and photos, and are just waiting for a final run-through by editor Marjorie Evasco.

Some of us have also been to the poetry festival hosted by picture-pretty Granada in Nicaragua. My own experience there led to an invite to the Gerald Manley Hopkins International Conference and Festival in Newbridge, Ireland.

Among other memorable literary get-togethers I’ve had the pleasure of being part of were the International Writers Reunion in Mukkula, Finland; Rotterdam Poetry Festival; Poetry Africa Festival held in Durban, South Africa; and the World Poetry Congress in Tehran, Iran (with Ricky de Ungria). 

A few months ago, it was poet Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta who represented us in Rotterdam, while her partner Sarge Lacuesta attended a writers’ conference in Reykjavik, Iceland. A couple of weeks ago, Mookie was off again to read a poem and a paper in Kuala Lumpur.

Next month, representing us at the Singapore Writers Festival is Dean Francis Alfar, who will be joining a panel, among other things, on “Sexuality and Desire in Asian Writing.” Come to think of it, what other things can there be?

This month, Jhoanna Lynn B. Cruz, or “Joy,” will be figuring in panels and readings at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Bali. And early in November, poet and novelist in Filipino Edgar Calabia Samar will take part in the 36th Sharjah International Book Fair, said to be the world’s third largest book fair. 

These literary activities abroad are among the perks of being a writer. These opportunities usually come when one has paid her/his dues. But then our younger writers have also been reaping international rewards through sheer diligence and determination, apart from their creative writing skills. Networking via the Internet takes them places, for which, hooray!

Per SunStar Manila, Vida Cruz, a fellow of the Silliman University National Writers Workshop in 2012, “has been declared a winner of the Writers of the Future Contest, one of the most prestigious writing competitions judged by some of the premier names in speculative fiction.”

Her winning short story, published in the annual bestseller, L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34, earns her a cash prize of $5,000. Wait, there’s more! It also includes a trip to Hollywood for a weeklong intensive workshop, attendance at the gala awards ceremony, and a chance to win the Golden Pen Award.

Vida has worked as a journalist, and writes children’s storybooks apart from teaching Chinese kids English. She also previously won a scholarship to the Clarion Writers Workshop in San Diego. Her fiction can be found in Expanded Horizons, Lontar: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction, and the Philippine Speculative Fiction anthologies.

Another piece of good news is that an anthology of flash stories, The Lightspeed Magazine special issue, “People of Colo(u) r Destroy Science Fiction,” which includes Kristine Ong Muslim among its co-editors, has won the 2017 British Fantasy Awards’ Best Anthology award.

Based in Maguindanao, Kristine Ong Muslim ensures that her indefatigability as a poet, fictionist, essayist and editor succeeds in gaining world-wide approval through the Internet. We’ve long heard of her, and of how her poetry and stories have been widely anthologized. We share here part of her bio-note, which is nothing short of impressive.  

“Kristine Ong Muslim is the author of eight books of fiction and poetry: Age of Blight, Butterfly Dream, Meditations of a Beast, Black Arcadia, Lifeboat, Grim Series, We Bury the Landscape, and A Roomful of Machines. Her short story collection, Age of Blight, was one of the best books of 2016 according to the Chicago Review of Books, while her poetry collection, Grim Series, was included in the preliminary ballot of the Horror Writers Association’s 2012 Bram Stoker Award for Poetry and was twice nominated for the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s Elgin Award.” 

It also turns out that her 2016 title Lifeboat (UST Publishing House) has recently been chosen as a fnalist for Best Poetry Book in English in the 35th National Book Awards, while another, Black Arcadia, is a recent release from UP Press. We look forward to picking up copies of these poetry collections soon.

Meanwhile, our congratulations to these young writers for finding their prideful places everywhere, through their exemplary world-building with the written word.

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