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.


in story, memoir, and poetry


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


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


instructor melissa r. sipin and hosted by

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

Shadowboxing the Lyrical Punch: The Dirty Play of Revision

File:WLANL - 23dingenvoormusea - Shiva Nataraja.jpg
From Wikipedia. Shiva is seen as the Supreme God and has five important works: creator, preserver, destroyer, concealer, and revealer (to bless), which makes this deity the master reviser.

By Your Salonniere

There’s nothing dirtier than revision. Its dirtier than dirt. Such a grimy task, a filthy word for a filthy business, really. After the free-fall adventures of brainstorming, after the gumshoe pursuit of research, the bulk of writing is a messy, painful, crazy-making process, comprising ninety percent of the work, give or take a few percentages.

Revision comes in all sorts of manifestations. Here are some of the shapes noted thus far during labor. You might recognize them yourself or have some to add.

Tunneling through the Mountain of Crap- If you’re the type who likes to get all the possible story ideas and words out in one blobby mess then you might be familiar with this beast. Some writers like to throw all their ideas onto the wall and see what sticks; this process often feels like tunneling through a mountain of crap once you sit down to see what you got. Digging though is an endless task. You have to constantly find your footing, unsure of what exactly you’re stepping on, wondering if the ground steady enough to hold you, so you can go further. You hone your senses, alert for avalanches that might bury you and take weeks if not months to climb out. Its not a pretty picture, sitting there wallowing in the middle of your own crap, thinking this shouldn’t be necessary. You could be at a BBQ, throwing back a couple beers, letting the sun do its work on your skin, but you push through because you’ve been fatally stung by the literary fever. The way of the words is in your blood and there’s no getting around it.

Civil Engineering- There are those writers who prefer to revise as they go. They have a clear sense of the shape and content. The map shines bright and clear in their mind. Working more like civil engineers, they plot the land, flatten where it needs flattening, dynamite through massive boulders, and drill, bulldoze, bolster, solidifying the groundwork before laying down the tracks that the plot and characters will follow. These engineers are masters of surveyance, practicing an art otherwise known as outlining. Whether its mental cartography or massive diagrams pinned to the wall, outlines are the preeminent foundational work of revision.

Wrestling Your Sibling- At some point the manuscript gets more familiar to you. You recognize it as a part of your being. You share a history, a bloodline, but you still don’t quite understand the piece. It’s moody; it turns on you, it stabs you in the back, feeds your insecurities, and then, out of the blue, reminds you of your own cleverness or reveals how brilliant life can be. You unexpectedly enjoy spending time with it. You share a few laughs and tears and wonder how can this quixotic being exist. How does it work? What makes it tick? The inner workings still eluding you, you plug away, trying to penetrate the mystery of the manuscript, which really is the mystery of yourself.

In the Footsteps of Rodin- As the sculptor, you’ve cleared away a lot of the unnecessary bulk of the first few drafts, enough to see the strong veins that will give you a striking contour, or at least tapped in deep enough to follow a vein though you know you need to do more shearing. You cut, and cut, and cut away admiring the smoothness. You find muscle, and you want to unearth it, let it do its thing. You are honing, chopping, knifing, and you’ve found a pace, a rhythm that is starting to feel consistently good though, every now and again, you run into stubborn knots, but this time around, its expected, and you have ways and means of working with it or around it.

Shadow Boxing the Lyrical Punch- You have the inner workings down. You understand what makes the piece move, but its not quite moving, certainly not with the pace and breadth that you’d prefer. This form of revision is painstaking, arduous, nitpicking, until you get into the flow, which comes and goes, but when you’re in it, its sleek, shiny, and rides like a dream. You never want to let go of this feeling. This is why you write, why you put through with all the many stages that came before. This is what it means to create.

Other shapes and forms of revision include handwriting and note-taking. Some writers who are accused of being luddites prefer to pen their manuscript first by hand and then transcribe to computer. The transfer from one medium to another is undoubtedly a type of revision, since the author is most certainly re-imagining the shape and feel of the piece via a new medium.

As a close friend explained, revision is a collaboration with yourself. Your past, present, and future selves must all work together. “All good art is not epiphanal but lends to epiphany for the audience.” The creative process is not, repeat, not borne from epiphanies. When you practice an art form, like writing or painting, revision is the beginning and the end.

Writer’s Digest newsletter featured a step-by-step guide of revision in their article “How to Outline (the Easy Way) Like Janet Evanovich by Zachary Petit, published April 20, 2012:

Evanovich: Storyboarding is a little more visual. When I’m plotting out a book, I use a storyboard—I’ll have maybe three lines across on the storyboard and just start working through the plot line. I always know where relationships will go, and how the book is going to end. When I storyboard, they’re just fragments of thoughts. I write in three acts like a movie, so I have my plot points up on the preliminary storyboard. Another board I keep is an action timeline. It’s a way of quickly referring to what happened a couple of scenes ago. The boards cover my office walls.

Yuvi Zalkow stresses revision in his online video “10,00o hours” from the Failed Writer Series #11

To stay sane and save time, strategic plans can be indispensable. Some of the vital steps to revision include but are by no means limited to some of the following:

1. Print out draft.

2. Check out exercises on Revision to keep in mind in reviewing draft.

3. Have a clear system in place for note-taking to add, take away, and revise to the manuscript.

4. Count how many scenes are necessary and have a clear list of these scenes that you can rearrange.

5. Create a timeline or calendar and track the dates from start to finish of the manuscript. Be sure to include flashbacks, and events that may have occurred outside of the manuscript’s present story.

7. Determine what can be left out or explained in exposition.

8. Tighten every scene.

9. Tighten the dialogue to push for speed and distance.

10. Make sure characters are consistent.

11. Weave in concrete details and added research to peg the story down.

Revision is endless and takes infinite forms. These are just a few noted. What experiences and encounters have you had with the one and only creative process?

Must See BBC Part Deux

By Your Salonniere

Can’t get enough of British Television? At the request of a friend, here’s a list to get your Anglophilia on.

*Since the day of posting, an (I) means the show is available on Netflix Instant.


Black Books – Hands down one of the funniest shows ever, and I’m not ashamed to say Bernard Black is my hero (I).

The Young Visiters – A masterpiece classic based on a novel written by a young girl, and quite a sophisticated romance to boot.

IT Crowd – Modern comedy for the thoroughly modern viewer (I).

Shameless – All in the title, a comic-tragedy about a Mancunian family with a dad who puts Homer Simpson to shame (I).


Small Island – Andrea Levy’s hilariously sad and sadly funny WWII saga. Read the book first or regret it!

The Way We Live Now – Trollope seemed to have an eye on our future (I).

The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton – A curiously funny biopic of Martha Stewart’s predecessor.


State of Play – An irresistible thriller with an irresistible cast including Bill Nighy, Kelly MacDonald, Benedict Wong, and James MacAvoy.

Page Eight – Another irresistible thriller with another irresistible cast: Bill Nighy, Rachel Weisz, and Judy Davis.

Wallander – The original Swedish version isn’t nearly as posh and polished as this British knockoff, and who knew Oslo was so sunny?

Mystery of Edwin Drood – Dicken’s unfinished novel.

The Shadow in the North- Another Sally Lockhart story from Neil Gaiman’s trilogy.

Spooks or MI5 – Saving the best for last, hands down, ultimate favorite suspense series (I).

There’s titles missing of course, so let us know. And check out the first listing of must see BBC “Jane Austen as the Gateway Drug”

Carve Magazine Welcomes Salon Member Rio Liang

Three cheers for Rio Liang, who joins Carve Magazine. We’re thrilled they’re thrilled!

Introducing Rio Liang: Our Newest Guest Blogger

Posted on: DateFriday, June 1, 2012 at 9:34AM

It may be called the “From the Editor” blog, but there’s room for more than just me!

Our newest guest blogger: Rio LiangPlease welcome Rio Liang to our blog as our contributing “Story Spotlight” writer. On the 1st and 15th of every month, Rio will post a new “Story Spotlight” that focuses on a previously published Carve story. He’ll give you an overview of the story and the delights to look for while reading or re-reading it.

Check out the full interview here. Then peep his first post: Story Spotlight: “Used to Be” by Elizabeth Baines Posted on: DateFriday, June 1, 2012 at 9:33AM