Emily Breunig’s The Loyalty of Water

Friend and inspiration Emily Breunig has initiated a new shared online writer’s space called The Loyalty of Writers, featuring women on writing by writing women. Treat yourself and take a peek:

This is the inauguration of a mini-series, The Loyalty of Water, a virtual meeting of the minds and a reflection on the challenges and failures, the grind and the joys, of being a writer and a woman today. Contributions will come from writers in as many places and stages of life as I can drum up.

Read more here.

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This is definitely a site for bookmarking. Please spread the word and enjoy.

Geography as the Body & Inherited Landscapes: A Shamefully Overdue Re-Cap on the 2012 Mills College Workshop

Absolutely and positively late in re-capping but still here it is, an overview of the Mills workshop that your salonniere was invited to as a guest speaker hosted and organized by the gracious and talented writer and publisher melissa r. sipin , sponsored by ANAKBAYAN East Bay, TAYO Literary Magazine, Philippine American Writers & Artists and Mills College. The Political Content & Engagement Writing Workshop was a series of five free writing workshops where participants from all age ranges and from across the Bay Area also performed at a reading gala and had their work published in the “i am ND” anthology.

Your salonniere was honored to  present the workshop“Political Narratives in Colonial Amnesia: Filipino/American Landscapes” on Sunday, November 18, 2012 at Mills College. On a gray and wet Sunday afternoon, which happened to be the birth date of my late maternal grandmother Ramona Accompañado Napala, who I dedicated the workshop to, a strong mix of talented and keen writers came to spend the last daylight hours of the weekend discussing Pin@y writing and reading. Armed with their laptops, Moleskines, and notebooks, all of them deeply involved, they introduced themselves and named their favorite authors, which included the likes of Albert Camus’ The Plague, William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch and Walden Bello.

Sipin opened the discussion asking what about the emotive responses for the assigned readings: Kartika Review’s interview with Evelina Galang, her stories, “The Guerra Sisters Who Never Talk” and “Laban for the Lolas.” Lysley Tenorio’s “Save the I-Hotel” a New York Times article on activist Larry Itliong and a story by yours truly, “Here in the States” from GUFII.

The writer-participants discussed the loss of space and identity and how space evokes disparity and emotion. They also covered ideas on identity politicking and how a story can essentialize cultures and traditions versus playing with and subverting tropes. A quote from Bhanu Kapil was raised about “reverse migrations” and how diasporic cultures move forward and backwards.

The workshop’s description as described on their website:

This political content & engagement workshop invites writers to shape their memoir, poetry, prose, or performance work with an emphasis on impacting perceptions, be thy political, personal, social, literary, or cultural. We exchange our writing and develop voice and authority while working on techniques to elevate the richness and toughness of our voice. We read and analyze authors to observe how they effectively move the reader, affect perception, and perhaps opinion. Class discussions focus how our work affects how we are perceived and how the events of the world are understood. The elements of each genre are addressed as well.

When it came time for writing, your salonniere created prompts to play with ideas on memory and/or cultural amnesia regarding native land, family, culture and tradition. The students wrote about body and space, concerning their hometowns of Vallejo, Toulumne, Los Angeles, and my neck of the woods, Paradise Hills in East County San Diego. The slides below are from the presentation on “Love & Labour: Geography and the Body” where writers explored their childhood neighborhoods and were challenged to describe their homes as a lover or an old friend.

At the end of workshop one of the students asked for book recommendations for her “traditional” mother. Some possible titles suggested include, Marianne Villanueva’s Going Home to a Landscape, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard’s When the Rainbow Goddess Wept and the two anthologies she edited Growing Up Filipino I and II from PALH.

The talent and integrity of each participant was inspiring, and it was a real privilege to work and learn from these writers. Here’s to more community workshops.

A Conversation on Dialogue

 

Favorite all time film and a great example of scintillating dialogue: The Lady Eve, Preston Sturges, 1941.

On January 1, 2013, your salonniere started the new year with an engaging discussion about writing dialogue prompted by a very near and dear family member who makes writing comedy his specialty. While we waited in line to be seated for New Year’s brunch, sipping caffeine under a surprisingly strong January sun, we bantered on the following. The comedian said consistency of character is what’s important. Making sure the actions and motivations are believable and retain some constancy of character for each personality portrayed. Borges comes to mind here. From a New York Times article by Rivka Galchen “Borges on Pleasure Island,” June 17, 2010:

In “The False Problem of Ugolino,” an essay on Dante not included in “On Writing,” Borges quotes from an essay by Stevenson that makes the rather Borgesian claim that a book’s characters are only a string of words. “Blasphemous as this sounds to us,” Borges comments, “Achilles and Peer Gynt, Robinson Crusoe and Don Quixote, may be reduced to it.” Borges then adds: “The powerful men who ruled the earth, as well: Alexander is one string of words, Attila another.” The great deeds of the past may become no more than words, and no more than words are necessary to summon a power as grand and enduring even as Quixote or Achilles. Think of it this way: there is a vast unwritten book that the heart reacts to, that it races and skips in response to, that it believes in.

But it’s the heart’s belief in that vast unwritten book that brought the book into existence; what appears to be exclusively a response (the heart responding to the book) is, in fact, also a conjuring (the heart inventing the book to which it so desperately wishes to respond).

In this sense, Borges string of words is a comfort. The characters’ motivations and actions have to be similar strings of words that evolve or devolve as the story progresses. Get the initial string of words down right for each character, and make sure that the sum of the words equal the same character from start to finish even as the character changes in the story.

Your salonniere added that a writer should not and cannot afford to be afraid to steal from real and everyday life. Pillage and then paste on the page. Character, place, and situation will morph in revision, so go ahead and plunder from friends, family, colleagues, and strangers. Everything is fair game. Expect some blowback, but if you use composites, you can feel safe about your own remixes. Just know that some companions and kin will still come at you with questions. Even if your Tiya Lita comes at you wondering why the character who you modeled after your boss from your first job twenty years ago sounds like her, remember writing takes a certain amount of ruthlessness. Make no apologies. Let yourself be yourself and others be themselves.

The third and dear party of our tête-à-tête noted that he’d heard an interview on the radio where a writer had said his characters had to be smarter than the author. They had to know their motivations as if their intentions were branded into their DNA. Give your characters the intelligence you wish you had. Actions are deliberate. Motivations transparent for each individual character. They have to know what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, why they said what they said.

What seems to sum up the conversation, the running thread throughout is a heightened consciousness on the part of the writer. One has to be highly cognitive of their feelings and experiences, yet still immersed in such a way that the transfer of emotion and experience can be deftly remixed and relayed on page with integrity. The writer may not understand her own emotions or experiences, but she damn well better apprehend her characters’. In essence, it takes a great deal of metacognition, a lot of piracy, and some great masterminding.

Your thoughts on what it takes to make good dialogue? Join the conversation at the salon.

Part of the Political Content & Engagement Writing Workshops at Mills College

Your Salonniere is honored to be invited as a guest speaker for writer Melissa Rae Sipon-Gabon’s Political Content & Engagement Writing Workshop where we’ll be discussing “Political Narratives in Colonial Amnesia: Filipino/American Landscapes” on Sunday, November 18 at Mills College.

POLITICAL CONTENT & ENGAGEMENT

in story, memoir, and poetry

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five FREE writing workshops
participants’ reading gala
“i am ND” anthology

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DATES | Oct. 21, 2012 at 2pm–4pm
and every other Sunday onwards
(11/04, 11/18, 12/02, 12/16)

LOCATION | Mills College
5000 MacArthur Boulevard

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instructor melissa r. sipin and hosted by

ANAKBAYAN East Bay
TAYO Literary Magazine
Philippine American Writers & Artists
Mills College

“Every colonized people—in other words, every people in whose soul an inferiority complex has been created by the death and burial of its local cultural originality—finds itself face to face with the language of the civilizing nation; that is, with the culture of the mother country. The colonized is elevated above his jungle status in proportion to his adoption of the mother country’s cultural standards.”

— Frantz Fanon

This political content & engagement workshop invites writers to shape their memoir, poetry, prose, or performance work with an emphasis on impacting perceptions, be thy political, personal, social, literary, or cultural. We exchange our writing and develop voice and authority while working on techniques to elevate the richness and toughness of our voice. We read and analyze authors to observe how they effectively move the reader, affect perception, and perhaps opinion. Class discussions focus how our work affects how we are perceived and how the events of the world are understood. The elements of each genre are addressed as well.

amplify your writing
cultivate your craft