Month: May 2015

Why Writers Keep Journals

“People who keep journals have life twice.” – Jessamyn West “I’ve been keeping a diary for thirty-three years and write in it every morning. Most of it’s just whining, but every so often there’ll be something I can use later: a joke, a description, a quote. It’s an invaluable aid when it comes to winning arguments. ‘That’s not what you said on February 3, 1996,’ I’ll say to someone.” – David Sedaris “I got out this diary and read, as one always does read one’s own writing, with a kind of guilty intensity. I confess that the rough and random style of it, often so ungrammatical, and crying for a word altered, afflicted me somewhat. I am trying to tell whichever self it is that reads this hereafter that I can write very much better; and take no time over this; and forbid her to let the eye of man behold it. And now I may add my little compliment to the effect that it has a slapdash and vigour and sometimes hits an unexpected …

Friday Web Finds

As we near the end of May, we are saying goodbye to the last few days of summer. We are now experiencing sunny days interspersed with thunderstorms. It had been a searing summer – the hottest I’ve experienced here in my native Philippines. During the past three months, we had a handful of days when temperatures reached 104°F – way above the usual 91°F average summer temperature. June will usher in the 5-month rainy season. Soon we will begin preparing for the floods and the typhoons…we’re  living and thinking on the margins. Vivian Gornick is A Woman on the Margins . In this interview, she discusses the problem with writing programs. Gornick expounds on the memoir’s potential for dishonesty; and she tells as how she finds her way in this world as a writer. Louise DeSalvo is one writer who finds her way in this world through The Art of Slow Writing (this works well for me). In this post, Margarita Tartakovsky discusses why The Creative Process Takes Time (And That’s A Good Thing). The post focuses on DeSalvo’s book. We’re …

From OWN: 3 Rules Every Aspiring Writer Should Follow

In this short video (1.20 min)  the Oprah Winfrey Network features writer Cynthia Bond, author of the novel Ruby. Bond talks about putting together the Blackbird Writing Collective – a writing group – because she needed to finish her novel and  the support of like-minded minds and spirits. The members of the Collective discuss  3 rules that can help aspiring writers. Click on this link to watch.

Oh, those Filtering Devices!

I’m still trudging through Rebecca McClanahan’s book, Word Painting. After traversing pages dealing with grammar, I am now learning that to write more descriptively, we must get rid of filtering devices. Such phrases as “he noticed” or “she felt” and “he noted” are called filtering devices. This stylistic tic, John Gardner says, drains the energy of the writer’s language. These filtering devices clutter our sentences and act as barriers between the reader and the sensory images we want the reader to experience. Says McClanahan: “In most cases, stating the image directly is more effective than filtering it through the narrator’s , or a character’s consciousness.” This paragraph contains filtering devices: The boy eyed the  contents of his grandmother’s room, noticing the tiny figurines arranged in tiers on the mahogany shelf. He saw the bouquet of miniature irises, the ceramic Cinderella slipper, the glass horse with the painted blue eyes. He felt a sadness sweep through him like an autumn breeze. This is how the paragraph reads when the filtering devices were removed: The boy eyed the …

Writing Prompts from Life

I have this thing with writing prompts – I hate them. Those questions or direct orders to write don’t inspire me to write at all. I don’t know why I detest them, but I do. That’s why it’s hard to find a writing group and attend writing classes and workshops where there are prompts galore. What I love are writing prompts that I receive from life. Those little things I see on the ground, the major events that either ignite or rock my days, and the seemingly ordinary occurrences that happen, or a word or gesture from the  people who flit through my life. I love the way they encourage me to feel my feelings at that very moment. Watching out for the writing prompts from life allows me to live in the moment. And later, when I can sit down, I love the way they inspire me to dig deep. The words always flow as a result of my excavation efforts, along with revelations, realizations and lessons. No thinking, just feeling. Ironically, this post was inspired by a prompt …


Originally posted on Malate:
I lost my way out of Lucban after the Pahiyas walk. One wrong turn led to a stretch of mistaken path. Off-track. Astray. All despite the non-complex setup of this humble little town. I lost my cool as well. Nobody seemed to be able to give me a clearer direction. I lost my cool realizing I’m running out of phone loads, battery, and daylight. I lost my cool knowing friends are waiting for me somewhere and — without a doubt — are losing theirs too. You know what they say about how a man’s character is defined by how he behaves when he doesn’t know what to do? Mine wasn’t so bad at all — mine was terrible! I felt agitated. I was dead-tired. I cursed and swore and walked around like a headless chicken. Did I fell under someone else’s spell or was I in the middle of that time of day when people think and act strangely. Whatever happened to my audacious youth and all the wisdom of getting…

The Fire of Pentecost

“At Pentecost, initiation occurred not only at the individual level (“and a tongue rested on each of them”) but also at the corporate level. The outpouring of the Spirit upon the whole community reminds us that we are not on an individual journey but a shared one. God calls us, compels us, to attend to the Spirit in one another. “The celebration of Pentecost beckons us to keep breathing. It challenges us to keep ourselves open to the Spirit who seeks us. The Spirit that, in the beginning, brooded over the chaos and brought forth creation; the Spirit that drenched the community with fire and breath on the day of Pentecost: this same Spirit desires to dwell within us and among us. Amidst the brokenness and chaos and pain that sometimes come with being in community, the Spirit searches for places to breathe in us, to transform us, to knit us together more deeply and wholly as the body of Christ, and to send us forth into the world.- continue reading —  Jan Richardson   …


Originally posted on Malate:
PAHIYAS is a woman’s charm — there is more far beneath than what is captured by the lens. Pahiyas is a celebration. In honor of farmers’ patron saint San Isidro de Labradore. An acknowledgement of a season’s good harvest. Pahiyas is a party! People trooped to this small Lucban town, far flung and middle-of-nowhere any which way you take. Pahiyas is an expression. All the trimmings are statements of Lucbanians’ creative skill and imagination. Pahiyas is gastronomy. You should eat ’til you’re sleepy here. And sleep ’til you’re hungry. Pahiyas is twenty-four-carat Pinoy hospitality. I’ve stopped by each castle along the way and made myself feel at home. Pahiyas is labor of love. “We have taken great pains for this and are happy for it” — a local declares while emptying a glass of lambanog. No question Pahiyas is lambanog. Locally made. Up to ninety-percent proof! Pahiyas is life. Unbelievable. Most of all, Pahiyas is experience. Don’t just take photos, live the moment. And most, most of all, Pahiyas was fascination…

Friday Web Finds

Time to share some great finds… This may be of interest to this blog’s readers from the U.S – a post about The Most Popular Book Set in Each State — in One Surprising Map. Ever wondered why it’s hard to get up in the morning? Well,Scientists May Have Figured Out Why It’s So Hard to Get Out of Bed in the Morning! Lastly, here’s how you can Use a Writer’s Notebook to Inspire Your Craft. Have a Beautiful Friday everyone! Photo credit: Michelle Bulgaria via Morguefile

Poem-Making as Play

I learned how to write poems by reading the book of John Fox. I devoured Finding What You Didn’t Lose, Expressing Your Truth and Creativity Through Poem-Making. I highlighted, performed the exercises and read the poems featured in the book. I had so much fun! Poetry set me free in so many ways. I loved the book so much I wrote John Fox and told him how I enjoyed learning poetry through his book. Those were the days of snail mail and to my surprise, Fox snail mailed back, with  a short note of encouragement. Here are some wonderful quotes from the book, lifted from Chapter Four entitled “Language as Play.” “Writing poetry will come naturally if you allow yourslf to become as direct and free as a young child, if you can access a child’s sense of curiosity and joy, a child’s contact with feelings unfettered by analysis, as well as a child’s ability to create metaphor by uninhibitedly making connections between everything seen and experienced. ” “Playfulness in using language occurs on many levels. There is the …

A page from My Journal: Mind Play

27 September 2014 The days come and go. My mind grapples to name them… Monday. Is it Thursday now? No, it is Saturday! If I had my way, I wouldn’t mark the days by names. How then? Perhaps by how it feels?  Today everything seems to be in a frenzy…Energetic day! Everything outside is wet….Rainy day! Everything outside looks so green…Verdant day! My mind is playing and it makes me happy. like the birds I’d like my mind to sing too. no storms a-brewing But I have to get real. Days need to have their specific names. I settle for a compromise. Sunny Monday. Dull Tuesday…Exciting Wednesday. Haibun gives my mind permission to play. old habits fading, the mind grapples to begin new names for the days In our part of the world… The quaint city of Vigan was officially inaugurated as one of the New7Wonders Cities early this month. Vigan  is one of the few Hispanic towns left in the Philippines. It is famous for its cobblestone streets with houses that showcase the unique fusion of Philippine, Oriental, …

A Page from My Journal: A Haibun

20 August 2014 I wrote very little this morning in my journal. Again, my brain goes into projection mode. It rehearses what I will tell a beleaguered client tomorrow. The thoughts rise above the desire to read and write. Rustling sounds draw my attention towards the window. I take a look and see Boots, one of my rescues. This gentle cat is lying on the ground in sweet surrender. The brain stops chatting. My body breathes. I smile. clutter in my mind signs of insecurities cat asleep outside     Haibun Definition from Contemporary Haibun Online Contemporary haibun is a combination of prose and haiku poetry, sometimes described as ‘a narrative of epiphany’. Like English haiku, English haibun is evolving as it becomes more widely practiced in the English speaking world. Haibun is the Japanese name for 17th Century poet-monk Basho Matsuo’s poetic-prose travel journals which were studded with haiku. The best known are The Narrow Road to the Deep North and The Hut of the Phantom Dwelling. Bruce Ross in an essay entitled “North …

A Space to Write

Originally posted on Myths of the Mirror:
Spring has arrived in the mountains. It’s always a couple weeks later than down in the valley, and though the mornings are still frosty, the leaves have unfurled, and the dogwood wears its white petals. I’ve filled the hummingbird feeders and opened the windows to capture the afternoon sun. And my writer’s room beckons. In 1929, Virginia Woolf wrote that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Well, that money thing would be convenient, wouldn’t it? Yet, it’s not a prerequisite for writing in my mind. Time strikes me as the rarer commodity. But what about that room of her (or his) own, that “must” for the imagination to bloom?  A sacred space of quiet and solitude without the common daily distractions of television, movies, and videogames? A space where a writer can shut the door? When I moved to the mountains, there was a half-finished room above my husband’s shop. I claimed it as my writing room…

Facing Challenges

“As somebody said to me once, no matter what’s happening, something else is also true. Bad news, shock, trauma can make us feel pinned to the wall. It makes us feel paralyzed and immobile until we realize and remember that there’s another side to it. To everything that happens, there’s another side.” – Mark Matousek in Writing as Spiritual Practice     Photo courtesy of wyman H via unsplash  

What Writers Should Look for

In his article Writers Should Look for What Others Don’t See, Joe Fassler highlights key points in his interview with the Serbian-born poet Charles Simic: “To me, the ideal poem is one a person can read and understand on the first level of meaning after one reading. An accessible quality, I think, is important. Give them something to begin with. Something that seems plain and simple but has something strange—something about it that’s not quite ordinary, that will cause them to do repeated readings or to think about it. The ambition is that, each time they read, they will get to another level of the poem. This fearsome little 10- to 15-line poem becomes something like this poem of Whitman’s, which the reader wants to read over and over again.” – Charles Simic   A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim by Walt Whitman A sight in camp in the daybreak gray and dim, As from my tent I emerge so early sleepless, As slow I walk in the cool fresh air the …

We’ve Got Talent!

I’m dedicating this post to the amazing Filipino talents that were showcased in the first ever Asia’s Got Talent competition. The Grand Finals were held tonight in Singapore. El Gamma Penumbra – the Filipino shadow play group that earned several standing ovations from the judges and audience during the competition was proclaimed Grand Finals winner. Here is their award-winning performance. This six-minute video will amaze and inspire you – promise! Please watch it!       Filipina Gerphil Flores was among the three Grand Finalists. Her performances also gained her several standing ovations, plus a promise from Canadian musician, record producer, composer, songwriter, and arranger David Foster who publicly said:“I promise you, I promise you, the world is going to know about you. That’s a promise.” Here is her amazing grand finals performance.       Coming in second were the Mongolian ‘throat singers,  Khusugstun who were recognized for their spellbinding and ethereal performances. Another personal favorite!  

A Writing App Named after Hemingway

I wrote this post using Hemingway Editor. Since English is only a second language, I figured this app would help me write better. This app shows you how you’re doing as you type the words. As of now, I’m doing well. I see on the right side of the screen that none of the sentences I’ve written are hard to read. I haven’t used the passive voice. My readability score is Grade 3, which is good. I’m going to try writing with this app for a while. I think it will help streamline my writing style. But this post from the New Yorker says Ernest Hemingway’s writing didn’t pass this  app. Oops, that sentence is now highlighted in yellow. That means it is hard to read. I can understand why Hemingway’s writing failed. This app wants you to write short sentences. It would be a change to write short sentences because I tend to write complex ones. You can find the online beta version of this app here.  

At a Turtle’s Pace

I’m making slow progress in rebuilding a writer’s life. I’m going at a turtle’s pace, so different from last year’s attempt, when I thought I was just being determined. But going at a fast and at times frenetic pace resulted in stress and soon I began to equate writing with stress. Now I am going slow, taking my time. I am enjoying the process of waiting and watching the words flow and typing and writing them down. Blogging used to be a big deal and required much time and thinking. Now I sit before the computer and ask myself, “What do I want to blog about today?” I asked myself that question a while ago and there was no answer. “Oh my, I don’t have anything to write about,” I whispered to myself. So I decided to meander and see where the energy would take me. I thought of revisiting  an online writing community I used to participate in and was so surprised by the changes within the group. It has grown beautifully. I made a decision …

Blooming time

Originally posted on redosue:
Twenty years ago a thoughtful cousin gave us a sapling cherry tree as a shower present to mark the arrival of our daughter. Three days ago it wasn’t in bloom and now it is, full of airy white blossoms, astonishing, like a baby discovering her fingers. Twenty years ago – my daughter. Three days ago – the cherry tree. I was watching. I witnessed the unfurling. And yet every year I am surprised when the cherry tree blooms, defies the past bitter winter, when it gives testimony to beauty, bounty, and fruition in a sudden spring exaltation. In a few weeks our 20 year old is taking her first solo holiday – a backpack, a fearless heart, and The Diary of Anne Frank as her luggage – and soon she will be lifting her chin, her eyes, and her mind to new places, new smells, new people. Naturally, I am worried. Naturally, she is not. I give voice to my worry in the form of traveller’s advice. My husband says, mocking…

Friday Web Finds

I practice Tsudoku. I bet you do too! Tsudoku is a Japanese word that means piling up books that you bought but have not read. Sounds terrible, but  Umberto Eco says it’s ok. Maria Popova explains why in Umberto Eco’s Antilibrary: Why Unread Books Are More Valuable to Our Lives than Read Ones. In a A Seizure of Happiness: Mary Oliver on Finding Magic in Life’s Unremarkable Moments, Popova clarifies why attentiveness, more popularly called mindfulness, could be tantamount to “total, effortless surrender to happiness.” This one’s a keeper – I’ve bookmarked it and can’t get enough of it. Old Masters…After 80, some people don’t retire. They reign.  Why are we afraid of aging given all the possibilities? Have a happy Friday!  In our part of the world… We’re the midst of a searing summer season. To help her cope with the heat, Mali, the only elephant in the Philippines, gets several baths daily at the Manila Zoo.

Showing Up

Everyday, I show up at my writing desk early in the morning and before going to sleep. I used to do this in the past  because successful writers advice us to do it. But when it started to feel like an obligation and responsibility, I used my work load as an excuse to quit, and then I went back to my old habit of writing whenever I could find the time during the day. But I missed showing up at specific times of the day at my writing desk. Slowly I went back to the practice – but not because I want to become a successful writer. I picked up the habit again because I love to write; and it feels good to give time and importance to my writing practice. These days, I show up at my writing desk twice a day because it has become a ritual that lends color, texture and meaning to my days. Those two occasions during the day are some of the happiest and  most meaningful moments  of my waking hours. There …

Helpful Apps for Bloggers

I’ve been using Pocket to clip interesting posts since I started this blog. I used to rely on Evernote, but somewhere along the way I lost interest in the application – I think it became too complicated for my brain. “OneNote is the best Microsoft program you’re probably not using,” says Derek Walter of PC World. How true. Up until a few months ago,  I haphazardly used OneNote, during attempts to write a book (a project which has now been dumped!) But the commitment to blog daily necessitated taking lots of notes and bookmarking websites. This time I turned to OneNote for help. It’s an amazingly easy, convenient program to use. OneNote has been a big help in my bid to blog daily for one year. If you ever need a handy program for your writing projects, consider OneNote. It comes with Windows, and you can download it for free if you are using Mac, iPhone6 or an android. It’s a versatile digital notebook that may just inspire you to write a book. Oh well…..  

Embracing the Painfully Impossible in the Human Heart

Originally posted on BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog:
A guest post from Kelly Morse, examining the work of Claudia Rankine, one of the anchor authors for our forthcoming Special Issue on Race, Racism, and Racialization: When the world all around is calling for clear distinctions, loyalties to Self and hatred of others . . . . —smooth narratives—what greater threat exists than that voice which rejects such easy orthodoxies with their readily understood rhetoric and urges, instead, the most difficult readings, those that embrace the painfully impossible in the human heart?”  – Maria Rosa Menocal, from Shards of Love: Exile and Origins of the Lyric Lyrical writing, like the lyre it originally accompanied, holds its heart in song and in the address of another. It is an observation shared with someone else, when the ‘I’ of the singer births a ‘you’ in the form of an audience, or a writer a reader. However, there’s a funny trick that happens with lyric: a blurring begins. The pronouns get mixed up. It occurs every time you sing your favorite…

Sunday’s Blessings: Prayer

“With or without speech, prayer is born of breath and bones, and hearts held open to ancient connection. It is the deepest song of the sea sounding through us. It is the oldest trace of living starlight that is buried in us and cannot be contained.” – Karen Herin in Writing to Wake the Soul Photo courtesy of Morguefile

Elizabeth Gilbert on Living Your Own Waking Dream

This was posted on Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook page some time ago: Dear Ones – I found this picture today that my husband took of me in 2011, doing research for THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS. This photo captures exactly what I did for three straight years. I sat in a chair, reading books about botany, evolution, abolition, women’s history, missionaries, Dutch 18th century commerce, and more…in order to fill my brains (and index cards) with enough information to write that novel. There is no situation in which I could possibly be happier than this — submerged in the vocation that I love, vanishing for hours a day into my work. Un-showered, greasy hair, eyes tired, totally falling down the rabbit hole of research…this is me, living my dream. I was thinking today about all the other paths that I did not take in life, no matter how shiny and appealing they may have looked. I’ve had the possibility of living so many different kinds of life that could have been a dream for somebody else. …

Friday Web Finds

When Sarah McKay, Ph.D began blogging, it soon became one of her great passions. Her blog became her “north star.” Her blog keeps her brain healthy. How? She explains in Why Finding Your Passion Is Essential to Maintaining Brain Health. If you’re one of those people who still love to read books (I do!), take note:Science Has Great News for People Who Read Actual Books. Last week, I featured some quotes from Eudora Welty. Here is her full treatise on The Making of a Writer: Listening in the Dark.  Writers’ notebooks: ‘A junkyard of the mind’ will give you a peek at some writers’ notebooks. Happy Friday!    Photo credit: Morguefile