Tuesday, November 27, 2012

of missing poems and broken hearts

I have decided to create a new photo album in my Facebook for sharing random poetry. I have hundreds stashed in my hard drive, in my journals, on scraps of paper, and a lot more crawling around my head.

And then some of them are on lovely paper in the possession of those who inspired them, if they have not thrown it away already (possibly accompanied by a shiver of dread.)

In any case, they have always been hidden. My little children. Offsprings of my heart.

Then last night there was this series of events. First, the "dark" side of writing a novel has reared its head. All the memories, angst, emotions I gathered material from are still out in the open, raw and pulsating under daylight. I have not had time to put them away and also I was still editing so I still need them for filling in plot holes. But without the mad dash towards a finish line or meeting word count requirements, there are now spaces for breathing and those raw things in the open started to moan and groan and suddenly I was a vulnerable mess.

Second, I stumbled upon a beautiful photo of a couple I know (on Facebook of course, where everyone gets to craft a dream life) and it was taken specifically for showing off how perfect and in love they are. Regrets for my own past failed loves keened and tried to find dark corners to hide in.

Third, I seem to have lost a poem I had written years ago. It was the only one I ever wrote for one specific person and I could not find it. I started looking for it after I saw the photo because I wanted to read it to soothe myself, to comfort the dis-ease in my own heart. And when I could not find it I was overcome by a feeling of loss so great that I felt I would die in my sleep of a broken heart.

In my desire to find the missing poem I was led into many forgotten files of poetry, both finished and unfinished. They made me weep, as if I died all over again, as if I got un-chosen all over again. After a mighty torrent of tears I quieted down. My eyes were red and swollen I could barely see through them.

This morning I started to organize my poetry, killing off the bad ones, cleaning up the good ones. Then I decided I would share them. Maybe that is what I am meant to do now. Instead of hiding.

Here is a remake version of the missing poem.

On a more positive note, I feel better today. A few ideas were released by the deluge of tears and I am now playing with them, seeing where they could lead me.

Monday, November 26, 2012

the worst of times, the best of times

from http://fivejs.com/for-book-lovers-everywhere/
This has come true for me in its literal sense. I am job-hunting now and have been living on a very strict budget. The job-hunting seems to be going as well as my lovelife - which means there have been many possibilities but they have so far left me hanging or waiting indefinitely. I crafted a visually engaging CV which is both honest and brave. It has stuff in it that are not necessarily meant to impress but instead meant to express. It has a bit more heart, a bit more spirit, which were my intentions.

Today I went to the supermarket to buy food and cat litter. The cat litter could not be compromised but the food could. So I halved my food budget (less meat, more plants) so I could buy these two books.

I have wanted to read Anna Quindlen since I read a sample of her book Lots Of Candle Plenty Of Cake on Kindle. The Solitaire Mystery is a book I have read years ago and would like to read again. I never had a copy of this because my sister just lent me hers to read. I believe it's time I got my own, and it even has the printed autograph of the author.

I have this dream of getting a well-paid job in a publishing house or a book shop or a library.

When I was fresh out of college, after my mandatory stint as a teacher in my high school alma mater (a condition of my scholarship that mysteriously surfaced when I was already halfway though university), I sent out applications to many companies, one of which was a publishing house. That publishing house was the first to call me for an interview. So I went and they interviewed me, and made me take an editing test. They seemed to be very pleased with the results because the very next day they were offering me a job. Except that on that same day I also got a call from a well-known advertising agency requesting for an interview. I was young and naive. I declined the publishing house and went for the advertising agency (associated with fame, glamour, and ridiculously high salaries), which led me to a very successful career that I had to leave fourteen years later because I was longing for something like what I would probably have become if I had chosen the publishing house.

"It's odd when I think of the arc of my life, from child to young woman to aging adult. First I was who I was. Then I didn't know who I was. Then I invented someone and became her. Then I began to like what I'd invented. And finally I was what I was again."    -Anna Quindlen, Lots Of Candles, Plenty Of Cake

Sunday, November 25, 2012

oh joyful words, balm to my heart

Way back in 2005 or 2006 I had this major crush on a work colleague. He was an artist and he was charming and sweet and funny. I was an overworked, generally unhappy, and creatively-empty head of a department. I was in a relationship on a downhill with someone else but I was too much of a coward to end it because it was just too much trouble. Besides, my artist crush was also in a relationship. Nah, too complicated and I didn't think my artist ever saw me in that light.

So that time I was so fascinated by that artist that I found myself writing little poems on the margins of my work notebook. Then I found myself contemplating the idea of a novel because it was the only way I could give free rein to the tumult of emotions that were harassing my flagellated spirit. Needless to say that artist also inspired my main character.

I started writing the novel and got as far as the first chapter. Then work took over my life again and the novel was shelved and I started to think I was not cut out for writing fiction.

It was a fantasy novel, with magic and dragons and a love story.

Two years ago I quit the job that sucked my spirit dry and it took me those two full years to heal my spirit back to health.

This year on All Hallow's week, I was visited by the ghost of an old professor, a writer, who had encouraged me to write. I found her letter as I was looking for something else, I think it was an account number or a receipt. As I read the letter I got goosebumps, and then quite teary-eyed. She had passed away years ago, you see. And to read her kind generous words at a time in my life when I am just aching for some magic to happen was just so timely.

The next day, I don't know how but a Facebook link led me to NaNoWriMo and I heard my old professor's voice repeating what she wrote. Then my mind went: You don't do fiction. You do poetry. You do essays and feature writing. You do blog posts. Never fiction. You won't be able to sustain it. You will just end up writing something so cliche and trite. And one of the loudest: You should not be wasting the month writing a novel that will most likely not be published. You should be Looking For A Job.

So I went for a walk, found myself in a bookstore, and my feet, by habit, brought me to the fantasy section. Jutting out incongruously among the young adult fantasy books was a hardbound book in black and red that first shouted "Neil Gaiman"(who wrote the foreword) to me, then followed immediately by "Diana Wynne Jones". Two of my most admired authors. It turned out to be a book by Diana entitled "Reflections On The Magic Of Writing".  I skimmed the contents and found pieces that would be helpful if I dared to write a novel.  I checked and found that it was the last copy on the shelf. I wasn't even sure if it was supposed to be there. Goosebumps again. Was it waiting for me? And here's the thing. She has also passed away so maybe she was recruited by my old professor to cheer me on.

When I got home I signed up for NaNoWriMo, read through the instructions, and waited for November.

When the time had come to start writing, I did. And everything I ever read about writing from Anne Lamott, Ann Patchett, Stephen King, Natalie Goldberg, Susan Wooldridge, and Julia Cameron came crashing back. I suddenly had these inspiring teachers looking over my shoulder urging me forward. Yes, just keep on writing. It's okay to have shitty first drafts. Listen, watch, the story will take you where you need to go.

I had decided to resurrect that old idea for a novel I had in 2005-2006, with some tweaks. Now it is a fantasy novel, with magic and dragons and three love stories on which the survival of a world depends. Something along those lines. One of the main characters was still inspired by that artist - I am still in touch with him and he is still charming and sweet and funny. Another main character was inspired by a person who continues the tradition of everyone else I have ever liked who never liked me back. Yes, now you see why I need to write. The happiness I feel when writing can easily make up for being ignored or passed over.

Last night I submitted my novel for validation, having completed a most-likely shitty first draft that exceeded the minimum requirement of 50,000 words. This morning I was confirmed a winner on my first attempt to write a novel.

I finished ahead of schedule, and I am now starting to work on the editing as well as filling in the plot holes and doing extra research for authenticity.

I had written a novel. After years of believing I never could or would.

The idea of getting it published is a nice thing but I want to edit and clean it up for myself more than anything else. I have a few friends who genuinely want to read it and I will let them. But the most important thing I learned as I was writing this novel was how much I do love writing and that I have been limiting myself by keeping away from fiction. Now I have a good list of ideas for a collection of short stories. I am also motivated to get all those poems in order and put them into a semblance of a book.

November is on its last week and I still don't have a job but I have the first draft of a novel. Instead of 50,000 cash, I have 50,000 words. Yet somehow I feel strangely very happy.

What beautiful thing has happened to you lately?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

making story and art

I am a week ahead of targets for NaNoWriMo. Sometimes writing this novel feels like crafting one long spell and at the end of it my own life will take on the shape of its happy ending.

Friday night I painted a gift for someone who shared my admiration for Neil Gaiman so I drew a version of Death inspired by Steampunk. Some of the designs in the artwork were also inspired by the novel I am writing so it is all connected and complex that way.

I write an average of 3-5 thousand words a day, including what I write in my journal. My writing has been the thing that saves me and keeps me sane through the storm of questions orphaned of answers. My art-making, on the other hand, helps express or magnify what I could not contain in words.

Lately love has been lurking and I let it sit beside the lamp while I write as long as it does not interrupt me from my writing. But sometimes it would sigh and I would hear it and we would stare at each other unable to offer any consolation. It likes to hang out by my desk on late Saturday nights when it knows I tend to be more vulnerable but I am used to its tricks and I manage to bury it in a good pile of words. I would write, write, write until my fingers would cramp and my eyes would ache and love would be barely breathing beneath the pages. Of course in the morning I would find that it had managed to slip through between the lines and everything I have written would have love's taint.

I just keep on writing.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

writing and music

This is a long overdue post but I have been busy doing something I absolutely love. Writing. Supplemented by lots of reading. More writing.

I have reached the 25,000 words halfway mark ahead of schedule in my NaNoWriMo novel. I have been sleeping between two to four in the morning because I find that I write better during the dark quiet night, with only a single source of light.

Except last Saturday when I slept at four in the morning because I was creating a playlist in my iTunes to provide a music soundtrack for the fluttering agitation that had me trying to write and wringing my hands and standing up suddenly and pacing and sighing oh so many times. I ended up not writing very much at all although I made a playlist and listened to it in loops while staring out the window until I started to feel sleepy at four in the morning.

"Oh you're in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter, and so sweet
Oh I could drink a case of you, darling
 Still I'd be on my feet"
~ Case Of You/ Joni Mitchell ~

"Do I love you
Do I hate you
I can't make up my mind
So let's free fall
And see where we land"
~ Where We Land/ Ed Sheeran~

"I'm just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are"
~ 100 Years/ Five For Fighting~

"Every time you're not around
It doesn't matter
'Cause you're everywhere to me."
~ Everywhere/ Bran Van 3000~

"Ten to one, you're gonna smile when you walk by
Fifty-four to one, you're gonna stop and say hi
Two million to one, you'll be the love of my life
Infinity to one, we're gonna last a life time"
~ Infinity To One/ Jason Reeves~

"Sometimes it stops,
Sometimes it flows,
But baby that is how love goes.
You will fly and you will crawl;
God knows even angels fall.
No such thing as you lost it all.
It's a secret no one tells;
One day it's heaven, one day it's hell.
It's no fairy tale;
Take it from me,
That's the way it's supposed to be."
~ Even Angels Fall/ Jessica Riddle~

"I turned around
And the water was closing all around"
~ Crystal/ Stevie Nicks~

Oh, yes. Gotta weather this particular storm and channel all its excess energy to finishing my novel!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

a book cover

I am being pressured by the empty book cover box in my NaNoWriMo dashboard so I put one together quickly. Here is working cover which basically captures the play of the elements crucial to the story, with a heavier emphasis on water and fire.

Appropriately I used and edited a photo I had taken during my recent trip to the beach this May. The photo was shot beneath the Spider House where we stayed.

And here are my stats for the day. So far, so good.

NaNoWriMo quick post

I am on the fourth day of the NaNoWriMo challenge and I have more than six thousand words.

My novel is a fantasy with magic and dragons and a love story thrown in for good measure.

I mustered up the courage to join and afterwards to persevere with the challenge because I was sent messages by the ghosts of two authors : Doreen Gamboa Fernandez (a local author who was also my journalism professor in college) and Diana Wynne Jones (popular British author of the Chrestomanci series). Appropriately these happened right before Halloween and on All Souls' Day.

My cat Mogget has kept me company through the late writing nights.

I powered myself with coffee, pizza, Coke, and occasional trips to write in McNeighbor for a change of scenery. This was just for the first three days to get me going with the first few thousand words. I am on a good pace now and no longer need extreme measures to keep writing. So far so good.

In the process of writing this novel I have discovered a whole new level of joy.

My novel writing is interspersed with a lot of journal writing, sometimes like a running commentary on how the novel writing is going. Sometimes the novel writing triggers other writing project ideas or life project ideas and I put those down in the journal. I have never written so richly, not since the time I was spilling out love poems almost everyday when I was in my twenties. The poetry has been sparse for the past ten years but I can feel it gearing up for a comeback soon. Oh what lovely time lies ahead!

I invested in a paper dictionary and thesaurus because there is nothing like the feel of paper and smell of ink when you are in the midst of creating a world in words. I also find the dictionary apps and online dictionaries too distracting with too many extras on the side. I also want my resources portable and not dependent on battery life. I want all the battery life of my iPad spent on writing.

A part of me regrets that I have not done this sooner. And then another part of me responds with the thought that there is always a Perfect Time for everything and Now is my Perfect Time for this. There is nothing to regret.

ink love

I would absolutely love to get inks for Christmas.

I downloaded this ink sample document from the J. Herbin site,

a link that I discovered through Rants of the Archer,

a person who has made pens and paper his passion and as such he receives free stuff to sample and review. I am vert with envy.