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Do you know how frustrating it is to write a play? And how much more stressful it is to rewrite one? I do not feel like a playwright at all. I don't. The blinking cursor has been judging me for far too long.


Misplaced Baggage.

It's the working title of my play for CW130.

A short summary: Charlie wants to move out of her parents' house as soon as possible because at twenty-six, she feels suffocated and stuck in a rut. In the middle of the night, she rushes up to the attic to look for her missing suitcase, only to stumble upon her childhood crush, a rockstar in all his cardboard-cutout glory. They start to talk about things in the past as they become nostalgic over the things she finds in the attic.

I took the unrealistic, a-bit-absurd approach because I was hoping its highly improbable plot would underline the contrast, bringing about something honest and truthful about the human condition: we let a lot of the baggage in our past still weigh us down. By bringing in a character who is not exactly the lead's doppelganger or mirror but as someone she likes enough to trust while being, to some extent, still a stranger willing to easily point out her faults, I wanted her to try making sense of the things going on in her mind and in her life in an external manner. Which in this case took the form of a former rockstar idol.

Trust me, this is light years away from my original story concept pitch. The road to shaping this one up was bumpy and slow, but I'm actually quite happy with it now. It's my first time to write with an unrealistic twist; I'm surprised it came out less difficult than what I expected.

Dr. Juan is probably one of the best professors I've had so far in UP and despite the constant anxiety attacks brought upon by our meetings, I want to deserve being in his class. I honestly enjoy CW130 even if it stresses me out. Sure there is always that fear of one's pride being crushed down to pieces as he tears down a play, but nothing compares to a silent little nod of affirmation from him.

Submission of the revised draft tomorrow. I bite my nails with unease.

Lights out. Exit stage left.


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Why CW majors are bulletproof.

What I think most people do not know about creative writing as a discipline in the academe is that beyond the supposed "glorified suffering" of being alone with your unpredictable emotions, finding solace/anxiety in words, having your mind bled dry from all the thinking, [blah blah blah insert all the stereotypical writing frustrations here], is something more distressing, nerve-wracking and undoubtedly terrifying than the actual writing process:

The Workshop.

Contrary to popular belief, we do not just type to our heart's content, letting our fingers type away random words on the keyboard like an inebriated driver stepping on the gas pedal (although sometimes the alcohol-to-speed ratio may be the same), submit the paper under the category "This is my art and you can fuck off if you don't get it," and hope for the professor to see through our "eccentricity" and give us an A+ for creativity. Although we're not exactly given specific requirements about what to write, we're not easily warranted the permission to go crazy on our work either. The piece (and consequently, the writer) has to undergo the workshop.

In a nutshell, the workshop goes like this: the class sits around in a circle and everyone comments on a piece of work. You say what you like and don't like about the piece, down the nitty-gritty. No detail goes unnoticed: from the title, to the commas, to the grammar. In fiction and playwriting, the plot and the characters. In poetry, the rhythm and the wording. In nonfiction, the voice and the urgency. But most of all, what gets really nitpicked is the style. The aesthetics. The technique. The way you write.

That was a really downplayed, sugarcoated way of describing it. To borrow a quote from one of my toughest (yet greatest) professors, "It's a blood bath."

No writer emerges from a workshop unscathed, especially the first time. Of course it begins with everyone pointing out the strong points of your piece, going through all the parts they really found interesting, which will of course make you feel awesome-- until someone raises a problem with your plot, or character, or ending or all of them. Bam! Suddenly all your faith in the literary world crumbles to pieces along with your dignity. Just when you think you've created the best piece of art in your career, someone will point out the tiniest detail to make you feel ashamed you ever considered taking this course in the first place. Let's not forget: it's face-to-face. You say what's on your mind while the writer is in the room. Some say it's a kind of "constructive bashing." It's brutal. And the tough part is, it always happens. It has to happen. A part of you will always die a little (or a lot), even if you undergo the process again and again.

I've had my share of really bad comments in the last few semesters. The most embarrassing are the nitpicking ones on grammar (Yes, I forget my commas too, sometimes.) But the hardest ones to take are those that (deliberately or otherwise) question my effectiveness as a writer -- how come the character is shallow? Why don't I get what is happening? What is the point of this? It hurts to see a character I poured myself into get deflated by some question I never even thought about. It's painful to have someone else come up with something better to do with my work. I think no matter how constructive I know it is supposed to be, I will always leave that room affected in some way after a workshop.

(And remember, we do this for every CW subject, every semester)

But the great thing about the workshop is that the effect doesn't have to be entirely negative. I've seen the harshest criticisms thrown to people then suddenly being surprised by how drastically their stories improved the next meeting. It really forces you to see through everything and go beyond what is expected of you. It raises the stakes; it makes you more aware. And honestly, it doesn't always go bad: the workshop can also be the affirmation of your talent, or at the very least, your improvement. There is no greater feeling than having someone say they enjoyed reading your work or found it promising, even if that's just one person. And the workshop provides that kind of feedback a writer needs for revising, improving, and maturing.

It is, in short, like most things in life, a necessary kind of pain.

I think that is why I've learned to handle criticism a lot more gracefully now. I can have someone say something to my face and I wouldn't have the urge to cry. I consider negative comments as questions that can help enrich my piece, not remarks to weigh me down as a writer (or as a person, even). It's equipped me with a good amount of toughness and I've learned how to weed out the critique I really need. More importantly, it's taught me that there is always, always room for improvement. But that shouldn't stop you from stepping up and going beyond the expectations.

It's a rough ordeal, and having to go through it every week is no joke. Sometimes, I still get carried away, to be honest. But it's all part of the learning process. I guess the workshop spells the difference between a person who just writes and a CW major: the experience of having your work fleshed out constructively is something you can only get from being in this discipline. I'm not saying we're automatically better writers, but it helps to be toughened up as part of the curriculum.

Workshops for several of my CW classes are coming up in the next few weeks. I'm half-nervous and half-excited. I'd love to quote a very famous Kanye Song/Daft Punk line right now but I think there's a more appropriate (and more awesome) song that could sufficiently end this post:

This time, baby, I'll be bulletproof.




I like you when you take off your face

You put away all your teeth
And take us way underneath
'Cause you could die if you take it alone

I watch you taste it
I see your face
And I know I'm alive
You're shooting stars
From the barrel of your eyes
And it drives me crazy
Just drives me wild

- Beauty School by Deftones

In the movie of my life inside my head, this song would definitely be playing in the background in the epic, passionate scene in slow motion. (Because "Sextape" would be the soundtrack of the antecedent makeout scene.) What a beautiful, honest song this is about getting through all the walls, finding the beauty in the rawness of a person; don't we all wish someone felt this way about us?

Deftones nails the meeting of the sensual/violent, the beautiful/sad, the haunting/hopeful. Their album Diamond Eyes is the proof of that. My heart breaks that I'll be missing their concert on February 12.


Two weeks notice.

You feel this tidal wave of change approaching and you are all sorts of nervous, anxious, and excited. It's never easy to deal with the aftermath of any kind of change, especially the abrupt kind. Like in most things in your life, you like change to be nice and slow: a gentle transition to slowly usher you into a new place. But then again, that never really happens. Things veer away in various speeds, some barely noticeable while others at a rate faster than your mobile broadband, but regardless they all add up and you just suddenly wake up to a new place you barely even recognize. You close our eyes and wish the deviating just stops but does it ever?

The universe is always up to something, you eventually realize. It will find ways to jolt you and get you going even before you've nestled comfortably with what has been given. You open your eyes to find another surprise staring at you, begging the question: can you handle more? More often than not, another change is a complete nuisance. On any other day you would've said no, mumbling an excuse of how you can manage, while silently wishing things to have turned out the other way.

But for that moment you know that that change was the one thing you needed. You look at it in the eye. You cannot wait. The countdown begins.



I wish I were making it up, I wish it were something that came out of my mind, like most of my stories do. On paper, how I long to sustain the tension, to extend the long periods of silence, to say something more with the absence of words. They say it's the mark of a good writer if a reader was evoked more by what was unsaid rather than what was actually written. Tension, they say, moves the story.

And yet, how ironic that it's that tension and silence that I wish to escape right this very moment. It's not as if I don't make an effort, I do. But sometimes there are things that just don't add up. You can't put them together no matter what.

Now this is the kind of moment where I wish I had a car and I would drive somewhere, anywhere, nowhere in particular. And later somehow I'd just find myself back home.

Thank God for torrent downloads to keep me sane and somehow stop my need to run outside the streets of Katipunan shouting expletives at the top of my lungs to release anxieties caused by acads and unnecessary room tension. I am watching Easy A for the third time this week because (1) it's just made of pure awesome (2) Emma Stone is a goddess (3) it makes me a hundred times better (4) I like her corsets (5) one character kindasortof looks like some guy I know. But of course, said guy is much, much, much cuter. And of course, I am very, very, very biased.


In other news, I think my question box has been effin' up lately. For the past few days I've been getting blank questions only. I thought someone just kept on pressing the send button by mistake, but when I tried typing something, blank entries still got through my email, so I've decided to fix it -- and ended up changing my layout as well. (Something to reflect this blurry/confused/detached phase I'm feeling. Blech, I feel so emo I hate it.)

Anyway, the question box is up and running again so you can resend your questions that (most probably got lost and) were left unanswered.


* It's a theatrical term we aren't really discussing for any of my playwriting classes but sounds relevant nonetheless. Don't know what it is? In the words of Olive Penderghast, "Look it up, big boy."


And to this day, when everything breaks..

It's been said that actions speak louder than words. But sometimes, you need to actually hear "Everything's going to be okay," first before everything starts to feel okay. Then the actions just sustain the volume. Like someone's fingers getting tangled up in yours, someone's confidence making you believe, someone's arm on your shoulder letting you feel encouraged, someone's laugh causing everything to seem alright again.

..you are the anchor that holds me.


More books, endless books.

One question I just got in my ask box regarding books I've loved or I've read that are not novels prompted me to write an entire entry dedicated to it. Actually, I have quite a lot of non-novel books on my shelves (nonfiction, poetry, anthologies) that I really hold quite dear to me. Most of them I got from Book Sale and other similar bookstores, some I got from UP Press because several are by Filipino authors. I have to admit that it's usually these anthologies that are the result of impulse book buying because more often than not these little gems I find buried amongst a sea of other equally glorious books have so much to offer from a variety of different authors that it's just too much to pass up.

I guess I can say that my most prized find among all these are the Norton Anthology of English Literature and the Norton Anthology of Poetry that I found for only Php120 each at Books For Less. For the uninitiated, the Norton Anthologies are THE authority and source for everything you will ever need in the world of literature. It's the Holy Grail of literature, I'm telling you. The Norton Anthologies are almost always a requirement for all of my classes, and getting your hands on a copy in our library is such a difficult task because (1) it's in the Reserve Section and (2) I think there is only one copy per edition. It probably won't mean as much and be such a delight to read for people who are not Literature majors but it's definitely a great book to feast your eyes on.

But a lot of my favorites are not as intimidating as Norton. The thing with anthologies is that it gives you a taste of different flavors all in one book. Whether an anthology for one author or anthology of a specific type of writing, you can get such a diverse set of writings for just the price of one book. I don't usually read them in one sitting or in one go, unlike my novels. I love taking them in one at a time, alternating from one book to another, never fully reading them page after page. I enjoy them better that way, I guess.

Here are some of my favorites (and where I found them):
  • Brief Interviews With Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace. In my opinion, he is one of the best fiction writers of this decade. He is such a loss to the literary world. This is one of the rare books that got me literally laughing while reading his short stories. Signifying Nothing and Forever Overboard are my favorites. I've only seen copies of this so far in Powerbooks in MOA and Trinoma. I don't think Fully Booked has DFW nonfiction (but I'm not so sure about this.)

  • The Likhaan Anthology of Philippine Literature in English. It is such a joy to read our local literature in English. These anthologies, updated every few years or so, published by the UP Press, showcases a myriad of different forms of fiction, drama, and poetry by some of our best Filipino writers which I think should be required reading even in high school. They boast of immense talent and cultural relativity. I think this is the local equivalent of the Norton Anthologies. That being said, I got this at (where else?) UP Press.

  • The Ladlad Anthology of Philippine Gay Literature. The three books in this collection were required for my CL184 (Gay Literature) class two semesters ago, but I'm going to be honest and say I'd buy them anyway even if it were not for academics. Of course, the apparent topic of discourse here is homosexuality in the local setting and how our gay community thrives amidst all the hullabaloo and controversies, but more than that it really is such an excellent collection of some of the best works of fiction and poetry out there. You don't need to be gay or lesbian to appreciate the literature in these books; anyone with a keen eye for a great work of art would be impressed. All National Bookstore Branches have this.

  • Fast Food Fiction. A local anthology of short short stories edited by Noelle Q. De Jesus. I bought this at a book sale in our college; I spent my emergency one-hundred on this! :)) Worth it.

  • Laughing Matters (Global City Review). An anthology of stories, poems and plays on laughter and humor. A gem I found at one of the book sales held at our Faculty Center for only Php25.

  • The Playboy Book of Humor and Satire. Similar to the previous one, it is a collection of essays, dramas, and stories on humor. A lot of the works are really laugh-out-loud funny. Php90 at Book Sale MOA.

  • Reconnaissance. A collection of stories by UP graduate Tara FT Sering. My favorite here is the title story, "Reconnaissance" which I first read for our CL111 class. I got this for a hundred bucks at the Manila International Book Fair last year.

  • The Proxy Eros. Poems by Mookie Katigbak. A great Christmas gift from one friend two years ago.

Being the bookworm that I am, I must admit that reading novels can, at times, get exhausting too, especially if most of them are required of me and not really those that suit my tastes. Reading anthologies like these can be a good way of getting your mind stimulated without the commitment that novels usually entail. I think I've read more anthologies in the last few months or so than novels (mostly for acads), which is not really a shame considering the diversity of writings one can gain from them. Both my bedside table in the dorm and at home have at least one fiction/nonfiction/poetry anthology on it, just to satiate my sudden appetite for small doses of literature. Glad to say they always deliver.

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On my (new) bedside table.

My parents surprised me with a new bedside table when I got home yesterday evening from Quezon City. Since buying my new single bed, I've settled for this tiny black side table that can barely hold my books, lampshade, and some other stuff I'm too lazy to put somewhere beyond an arms' length when I'm already in bed. (Most of the time all my chargers, notebooks, my iPod and my phone just find themselves lined up on the floor.) I've never really complained, but my parents found it necessary, I guess, to get me a serious bedside table that could adequately contain all my junk and more. But it's not only a bedside table -- it's a bedside shelf! It has different compartments which can hold not only my books but also my reviewers (in case I fall asleep while studying, which always happens, ugh) and for all the other floor-bound junk. I am surprised at how ecstatic this makes me -- I am actually more excited to finish reading all my books now! Funny how a bedside table can change this room.

So without further ado, the books that have just found a new home:

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby. This was the last book I finished reading in 2010, but it's still on the table because -- well, I still like to go through the pages from time to time. It is actually the first Hornby book I've read, because I've always secretly wanted to read High Fidelity first before everything else, but given that the synopsis at the back seemed so interesting, I couldn't resist it. It tells the story of a long-time couple, Duncan, who is an Tucker Crowe obsessed fan, and Annie, his secretly suffering girlfriend. It basically revolves around the premise of how fans read so much into their idols' words and music and create this glorified image of them that it begins to distort not only the artists' real life but also their own. Mostly viewed from the perspective of Annie, who is not really into the whole Tucker Crowe mania, the novel draws its charm from her straightforward and understandable desire to change, to do something, to move. What I particularly liked about the novel was how it used music to really divulge what's inside the human psyche -- it's not unusual for us to get carried away by the music we listen to, and how much we let it affect our lives, unconsciously or not.

Fallen by David Maine. I have always been fascinated at how literature allows itself to be rediscovered by literature. This reverse retelling of the Fall of Man gives us a closer look at how the first people got through the overwhelming waves of human thoughts and emotions, and survived the undiscovered land that is the Earth. I'm only on the third or fourth chapter so far, but it seems promising. I've been wanting this for the longest time, I'm so glad I finally found it at Fully Booked Serendra.

The Complete Novels of Jean Rhys. I must admit that I only heard of Jean Rhys after my CW111 prof told me of her very interesting Jane Eyre retelling, from the point of view of Mr. Rochester's wife. I found a copy of this at Books for Less for only Php 125 and I told myself I just had to buy it. Five books for that amount? Crazy. "Wide Sargasso Sea" is the last novel in the book but it's the first one I'm reading since it got me curious about Bertha's back story -- I am probably one of the rare few who, after reading Jane Eyre for the first time, never really felt for Jane, but rather for the wife. I'm excited to find out how Jean Rhys gives her life and total redemption.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I confess I should've finished this book for our Eng22 class over the break but alas, food, the Internet, and petix time got in the way. I'm almost done though. I'm stunned at how much I've enjoyed reading the novel, especially late at night. The whole idea of this monster coming to life gives me chills, but I am amazed at his eloquence and his charm -- which probably is not surprising, considering that I really do find intellect quite alluring more than anything else.

Cum Laude by Cecily Von Ziegesar. I won't even deny my love for this woman. Gossip Girl (the book series) was so special to me especially during my early teen years because I think the whole ridiculousness/glamour of the Upper East Siders' lifestyles helped rein in much of my anxieties and feelings caused by raging hormones, all while trying to make sense of them. The TV show will never equate to the books for me, and that is because I have so much respect for how Von Ziegesar shaped her characters. Cum Laude is set in Dexter College, a small, exclusive university in Maine, with different kinds of edgy and out-of-the-box students finding their way. I'm in the middle of the book right now and I absolutely missed this kind of prose from the writer -- how her details are able to pack in a lot of meat for the characters, but at the same time, reading through them is so easy and effortless.

The Bro Code by Barney Stinsen. My Christmas gift from Mom! Because she knows how much I love How I Met Your Mother. I've had the audio book for quite a while now, but nothing beats holding the actual thing in your hands. It's legen-- wait for it-- dary! These days I read it with the audio book on my ears. Neil Patrick Harris is awesome. Everything else is irrelevant.

I've contemplated on making a book-related New Year's resolution, but I know I cannot force myself to read a number of books a week or a month; that only makes me not want to read. Besides, with the amount of acads-related readings I have to focus on for most of the year, I don't think I can always get my hands on my new books. So as long as I don't ever run out of books on my bedside table, and that I finish all of them by the end of the year, no matter how many they are, I'm good.



Believe it or not, I just finished writing my first play.


It's the first draft for our CW130 (Playwriting) class, which may I just say, is one of my most challenging subjects this semester. Probably my biggest mistake, which I'm getting to realize only now, is to underestimate playwriting. I took this as one of my genres to escape from Poetry, which is a genre I definitely felt uncomfortable with. I enjoy reading poetry, yes, but somehow it just doesn't really go well with me -- any attempts at being poetic sound contrived and/or cheesy. So I took playwriting as my escape route. Wrong move.

It's not enough to have a picture inside your head. There is no such thing as a short short play. Or a flash play. You cannot just have this image on your head and work on just that one frame, that one scene. (Which is what usually happens to me when I write fiction.) In playwriting, you have to see everything in the now, from where the boxes lie to how the curtains move, and not just that but also everything about the past: how the character was born, whether she puts her bra or panties on first, how she likes her eggs, scrambled or sunny side-up. It's that specific. You have to be conscious of every movement, every word. Because unlike fiction, poetry and nonfiction even, where there are space for footnotes, playwriting leaves the audience nothing but just that play. That's the whole story, that's the whole explanation. That's all there is to it.

Which is why for the last few nights I've been pouring myself over this one-act play I'm writing. A twenty-minute play with two actors and mostly dialogue is no joke -- I tried to come up with the simplest concepts possible, but really, there is no easy way out of it. On some days, the story made complete sense to me, on most days, I'm just like, "What the hell am I doing?" But thankfully, I got the whole thing down to twelve pages (which is not a bad thing at all!) and hopefully it's tight, concise but surprising enough to be considered "okay."

Just a nod from our professor would already make me want to treat all my friends at Drew's until they hurl their livers out (but that is not a promise, just an analogy!) I really want to do well in this class. But right now, I'm not even thinking about my grades. I just want to get this thing going and hopefully, it turns out to be something worth watching.

The first reading of my play will be on Wednesday. I'm nervous! The topic proposals, meanwhile, for my other playwriting class (MP174) will be next week, I think. That's another play for me to worry about. But until then, I'm crossing my fingers on this one.

I still don't feel like a playwright, though. More like a playwrong.

(I apologize for the rambling. Sorry, my brain's all mush right now.)

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Back to regular programming.

School started today. Just a few days after welcoming the new year, the reality of going back to UP again kicks in quicker than the fireworks vanishing into the darkness. As much as I would like to keep my eyes glued shut and my thoughts fixed on fancy, I had to peel myself off the bed this morning and pick up the pieces from where we left off: midterms to submit, stories to write, plays to construct -- oh, hello second semester.

And oh yeah, hello 2011.

I noticed I've been seeming so indifferent to the new year these last few days, maybe due to the fact that I'm (already) a (half)jaded 19-year-old girl who never really made a big deal out of resolutions and obligatory beginnings just because of a date, but most probably due to acads.

But albeit my less-than-spectacular welcome, there are actually quite a lot of things to look forward to this year that I am particularly excited about. 2010 has been, without a doubt, such a great year for me physically, academically, mentally, emotionally - the whole deal, really. I know I've probably milked this simile too many times, but it really just came to me like a quiet, little surprise: unexpected and yet every bit as delightful. It was so easygoing; so effortless in its small, hushed charm. More than anything, it was the year I finally felt adjusted, affirmed, and appreciated -- something I've long been wanting to feel since this big, dramatic changed happened, aka college. And for that, I am truly grateful.

But then begs the question, what awaits me after this comfortable snuggling with familiarity and normalcy? Already the possibilities of 2011 are glaring me in the eye: it's the end of my junior year. The first anniversary. The last summer of college. The beginning of senior year. Graduation picture taking. And probably the most nerve-wracking of them all: The Law Aptitude Examinations (for UP and Ateneo).

So I brush off my worries and anxieties by immediately throwing myself back into schoolwork and course requirements, I push these thoughts to the back of my head in hopes of calming down the nerves. There really is nothing I could do about it right now, after all, other than to cross my fingers.. and wait. (Which is not always my strongest point, but given that I have no choice, maybe it's time for me to hone my patience-lengthening skills.) And when the moments finally do come, I hope for nothing more but the graciousness to take them all on in the most awesome way possible.

I know I am rambling and not particularly coherent but I'm truly excited about this year. I hope you turn out to be a wonderful surprise, 2011. Until then, let me go bury my head in my books and bite my nails in anticipation.


A 2010 self-portrait in telegrams.

Dear January stop never get enough stop she's the sweetest drug stop you know this much is true

Dearest February stop roses are red comma she was wearing a dress stop in backseat of the car comma a girl said yes

Dear Summer stop porkchop with Heinz and Viva Venezia pizza are best shared with someone who can explain dynamics of refrigerator

Dear June stop run Forrest run

Dear July August September stop stress factory has gone back to work stop insomnia creeps in stop you stare at ceiling or blinking cursor until words arrive stop I'm alive

Dearest October stop nineteen years old stop last teen year stop you still look sixteen stop that's always a good thing

Dear November stop start of new semester stop you seem fazed stop carry on

Dear December stop things to smile about do not seem to end

Dear Rolfe stop don't stop your Liesl