Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Post In Which I Realize I Should Blog More

I should. Because I love my blog.

But maybe I shouldn't be blogging right now because what I should be doing right now is working on a little schpiel I have to give at tonight's PTA meeting. As you may remember, I am in an almost constant state of fretfulness over the plight of struggling readers. When I see a kid who can't read, I want to throttle someone. Seriously. It wrenches the heart all over the place. I believe that if you don't have anything else in the whole world, you should at least possess the skills required to lose yourself in Harriet the Spy, for god's sake.

Anyways, months ago a night of feverish Googling unearthed a wonderful, local non-profit called Reading Partners. They set up reading centers at schools, and then twice a week—for 45 minutes each time—they provide intensive, one-on-one reading instruction for struggling readers. Is this not brilliant?! So of course I e-mailed them and set up a meeting to persuade them to set up shop at our school. And guess what?

So tonight I am asking our parents to volunteer for the program. This invitation will be met, I am certain, with an echoing silence. But this shall not stop me. I will smile! I will engage! I will straddle the fine line between enthusiasm and heavy-handedness! I will persuade, wink, and perhaps perform an interpretive dance!

And then there will be more silence.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Summer No-Plans, Plus Some Books

There is a canyon-like divide between the things I would like to do and the things I am doing. But I have a good feeling about the summer. The secret for me, I think, is not to bother with personal goals or plans because they are inevitably waylaid. This isn't so much a complaint as a simple fact and a reminder not to plan, essentially, for frustration. No, lovely readers, this will be the Summer of Catch-As-Catch-Can for your Nesting Ground Mistress.

I've been meaning to mention both what I read while on vacation and which books I purchased (I should note that the book selection at PowerBooks thumped the selection at National Bookstore). I read...

...The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff. Based on a true story, this novel tells the story of a married couple—both are painters—whose male half is the first person to undergo a sex change operation. What this book manages to do, basically, is expand the idea of love: what it is, what it isn't, what it can be. Most of it takes place in early 1900s Denmark, and when we left Boracay, I ended up giving it to the Danish couple we'd met.

...Un Lun Dun by China Miévelle. I don't know why I picked this up, except that I wanted to bring along a variety of books. It's a young adult fantasy, alternate-London-universe type of thing (get it?—"Un-London"), complete with plucky heroine, fighting garbage cans, a guy with a pincushion as a head, flying buses, wicked giraffes, and all manner of wackiness. I almost gave it up a few times, but it turns out I had actually emotionally invested myself in the heroine.

...Mr. White's Confession: A Novel by Robert Clark. I think this is the first novel I've read that falls anywhere near the detective/mystery genre. Mr. White is a sad, lonely, misfit of a man who—perhaps too conveniently—has no memory. To compensate, he keeps detailed journals and scrapbooks that eventually serve to incorrectly finger him in the deaths of two taxi dancers. Oh, poor Mr. White.

My forays into Makati bookstores were unfortunately brief, and I was ever mindful of our already stuffed suitcases (we were comically over the luggage weight limit on the plane to and from Boracay). I had to rein it in. I picked up...

...Kite of Stars & Other Stories by Dean Alfar.
...The Jupiter Effect by Katrina Tuvera
...The Flip Reader subtitled Being a Greatest Hits Anthology from Flip: The Official Guide to World Domination and edited by Jessica Zafra.

I haven't read any of these yet, as I'm saving them like pieces of jewelry to be worn only on special occasions. I also bought many, many children's books including two anthologies of Palanca prize-winning stories: The Night Monkeys and The Golden Loom.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Call For Submissions:

Philippine Speculative Fiction V

Ready your pencils, people:

Editors Nikki Alfar and Vin Simbulan are now accepting submissions of short fiction pieces for consideration for the anthology "PHILIPPINE SPECULATIVE FICTION V".

Speculative fiction is the literature of wonder that spans the genres of fantasy, science fiction, horror and magic realism or falls into the cracks in-between.

1. Only works of speculative fiction will be considered for publication. As works of the imagination, the theme is open and free.

2. Stories must cater to an adult sensibility. However, if you have a Young Adult story that is particularly well-written, send it in.

3. Stories must be written in English.

4. Stories must be authored by Filipinos or those of Philippine ancestry.

5. Preference will be given to original unpublished stories, but previously published stories will also be considered. In the case of previously published material, kindly include the title of the publishing entity and the publication date. Kindly state also in your cover letter that you have the permission, if necessary, from the original publishing entity to republish your work.

6. First time authors are welcome to submit. In the first four volumes, we had a good mix of established and new authors. Good stories trump literary credentials anytime.

7. No multiple submissions. Each author may submit only one story for consideration.

8. Each story’s word count must be no fewer than 1,500 words and no more than 7,500 words.

9. All submissions must be in Rich Text Format (.rtf – save the document as .rft on your word processor) and attached to an email to this address: Submissions received in any other format will be deleted, unread.

10. The subject of your email must read: PSF5 Submission: (title) (word count); where (title) is replaced by the title of your short story, without the parentheses, and (word count) is the word count of your story, without the parentheses. For example – PSF5 Submission: Meeting Makiling 4500.

11. All submissions must be accompanied by a cover letter that includes your name, brief bio, contact information, previous publications (if any). Introduce yourself.

12. Deadline for submissions is October 15, 2009. After that date, final choices will be made and letters of acceptance or regret sent out via email. Target publishing date is February 2010.

14. Compensation for selected stories will be 2 contributor’s copies of the published anthology as well as a share in aggregrate royalties.

Kindly help spread the word. Feel free to cut and paste or link to this on your blogs or e-groups.


Nikki Alfar

Vin Simbulan

Dean Francis Alfar

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Making Friends

I know I vowed to blog incessantly, but shit happens. It happens over and over again. It's astonishing, really. Pipes explode, children require extreme levels of parenting, children cut their feet and bleed all over the place, the top pops off the vacuum, teachers must be appreciated (for it is Teacher Appreciation Week), there are appointments to keep and to make, events to attend, and trips to the store and trips to the store and trips to the store. Just forward my mail to Target already.

If I were to blog, I would blog about who the girls ended up playing with in Boracay. There was no shortage of kids staying at our hotel, but with only one exception, Risa, Vida, and Lea gravitated towards none of them. Unlike me, they are frighteningly social and I observed that they did, in fact, try to befriend some of their fellow hotel guests. But the relationships didn't gel, and because my girls didn't really articulate beyond vague whisperings of, "They're not very nice," I don't really know why.

Their companions of choice turned out to be a sweet-as-pie Danish couple (ages 30 and 32) and fifteen or so kids (ages 3 to 12)—many related in some way—whose parents worked in various capacities at the establishments along White Sand Beach. This was fine by me, as my girls were having a more concentrated dose of fun than I can ever remember having as a child. It was a few days before I realized that they were the only ones playing with the local kids. It's not that the children of the other hotel guests were being told not to fraternize; it's that the thought of doing so didn't even occur to them.

I admit I second-guessed myself. Were the other parents—gasp!—flaring their nostrils at me (flared nostrils being, of course, the classic Filipino expression of grave disapproval)? Were they all going to start blowing their cigarette smoke at me (seriously, what's with all the smoking?! Someone needs to start a campaign)? This anxiety didn't last long, as I quickly realized I didn't give a possum's posterior, a skunk's scooty, a lamb's larynx...a...a...a turkey's tailfeather.

Here are the girls and their buddies:

On a boat ride around the island:

Every night, just before sunset, the kids carve these designs into the sand using two tools: a spoon and a broom. When they're done, they put candles in the holes and set out a can for donations:

Throughout the week, the kids exchanged several little gifts, each one treasured: barrettes, candy, bracelets, shells. They taught each other songs, they taught each other how to catch tiny fish, how to tumble, play volleyball, dance. I loved watching all of this play out; it was one of my favorite parts of our trip.

On the plane ride home, I was reading Luis Francia's (amazing) Eye of the Fish: A Personal Archipelago. He writes about leaving tokens behind for some guerillas with whom he'd just spent time:

These impromptu gifts represented more than just a practical gesture. They also spoke of a sentimental streak in the Filipino's nature, the desire to attach emotional value to friendly encounters, no matter how fleeting or brief. Objects became iconic, even talismanic, minirepositories of personalized history. At every encounter with society or with fate, the Filipino is obsessed with reducing everything to an interpersonal state. Abstractions with little relevance to a life lived, to the here and now, are routinely ignored, an attitude often thought of as hedonistic; in fact, it is the very opposite, a seemingly carefree spirit that acknowledges its shadow, mortality.