I had a blast this weekend geeking out on books, author and illustrator encounters, and more at National Book Store’s Philippine Literary Festival in Raffles Makati.
I was determined to attend the LitFest this year because I missed the 2014 LitFest (which featured Amy Tan and Chang-Rae Lee) while I was in China. I still missed Day 1 this year (mainly because I’ve filed too many book-related leaves this year already and it’s peak season at work), so by Saturday I was raring to go — I was there bright and early, in time for the first session.
Here’s my weekend at the Philippine Literary Festival, in snapshots.
My first stop was the “ABCs of Hand Lettering” workshop and book signing by typographer Abbey Sy.
Back story: I intentionally made a beeline for this session because I actually got a copy of the book the day it came out a couple months ago, but I saw the workshop details too late and all the slots were filled already by the time I got to the bookstore and I ended up consoling myself with a 24-color set of Sakura Koi brush pens :D
The one-hour workshop wasn’t hands-on for the participants, but I really appreciated the live demo, where Abbey basically went through the process and gave tips on materials, typefaces, emphasis, color schemes, layout, and other considerations in creating hand-lettered art. I thought the tips were helpful and practical and I’m really looking forward to applying them (now, to find the time to create something… gah!!!).
And I finally got my book signed:
After lunch, I headed over to the Author Spotlight on Meg Wolitzer. I had actually just started reading Belzhar that very morning (and finished it off when I got home — I quite enjoyed it) and I wanted to listen in so I took a seat right in front.
The q&a was hosted by National Book Store managing director Xandra Ramos-Padilla and Meg Wolitzer was so delightfully candid!
Here are some quotables from Meg Wolitzer:
On her literary influences
“I love Virginia Woolf. I love Ewan McEwan — those are two really important ones. When I was growing up I read “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath, and it really blew me away. It was the first book I read as a teenager where I felt things so, so deeply.”
On writing YA
“I was an adolescent once — you don’t forget it. Those of you who are young now, things are happening to you that you’ll never forget, and those strong, sharp feelings stay with you for a long time. If you’re a writer they sort of plague you to get it down on paper.”
“I like writing YA. The audience is so enthusiastic, and you feel like the books change people’s lives. You remember the books you read when you were young, and it just lights a match in you.”
On adults reading YA
“We want readers who love what they’re reading. And I think that the fact that adults read YA, what speaks to them is about being young that’s very powerful, and that you never lose. When I read YA, I don’t have to enter it as a mom. I am allowed to enter the notion of youth in a way that feels fresh and vivid in all its pain and complications. I believe YA explores human emotion in the same way that adult novels do. I don’t believe in shaming anybody for what they read, absolutely not.”
“Creating a voice for a character is so important. I have this theory. You know when you go to a bookstore or a library and pick up a book, and put it back down on a shelf? What made you put it back down? I think that every reader asks of a book, ‘Why are you telling me this?’ And if a book or a writer doesn’t answer that, then the reader puts it down. It’s up to a writer to really answer this question. Fiction is made-up stories about made-up people. There’s a great Emily Dickinson line that goes, ‘tell all the truth but tell it slant,” and I think that’s what fiction does; it tells the truth but not necessarily in that non-fiction, objective way, but tells it slant.”
On her writing process
“I try to be in touch with writing all the time. I try to have some connection with my work everyday. Even if I’m not writing, I look over at the work I’ve done recently and think about it.”
“After about 80 pages I start really making an outline. Some authors make an outline from the start, and I never understand that because the characters don’t even exist yet. I want to know who my characters are before they do anything.”
“Writing funny can be the most serious thing in the world. Funny writing sometimes contains the tragedy of life. There’s a difference between a joke and humor in a novel. Humor in a book comes out of a character, out of the tragedy and absurdity of the fact that these are just mortal beings. And it really can be very moving and serious.”
On gender bias in literature
“There have been some improvements but the conversation definitely needs to be kept alive because things are far from perfect… Women sometimes books that publishers put out in covers that I call ‘little girl in a field of wheat,’ while men write books with titles in big, bold letters… We want books to be read by everybody. A writer’s dream reader is somebody who is enthusiastic and open. And I think that any book that seems to try to keep readers out isn’t doing its job. I feel for the publishers because they want readers, and if they feel that a book will appeal to women more than men, does it stand to reason that they should make it so that it looks like women might like it more? I think there should be a way to get everybody to read books by all types of people.“
On writing what’s important
“One of my first writing teachers, the best advice she gave to our class was, ‘Only write what is important,’ and what that really meant was to write what’s important to you. What do you think about all the time? What obsesses you? You have to be honest with yourself. Some writers feel like a writer is a certain way and they lose some of their real self. And I feel like the books that we all love the best are the books that have the most of the writer in them, and I don’t mean that autobiographically.”
On Day 2, I joined the panel on “The Art of Lola Basyang Books,” with fellow series illustrators Ruben De Jesus (Sir Totet) and Elbert Or.
If you’ve only just recently started reading this blog or don’t know me personally, you probably won’t realize I have a “past life” as a children’s book illustrator because I haven’t been actively illustrating in the last four years or so. In fact, the Lola Basyang book I did, “Ang Pag-ibig ni Maryang Sinukuan” was the last picture book I illustrated.
I’ve only just started drawing again a few months ago, and working on my slides for this talk brought back so many memories! Also, I regularly give book talks but I’ve never had the chance to speak as an illustrator so this was a great experience for me.
I dropped in on the Author Spotlight on Matthew Quick, which was on at the same time as our session.
I only caught the tail end (right as they were wrapping up), but luckily I had sent in my copy of “Silver Linings Playbook” ahead for signing.
I capped off the day with Egay Samar’s talk on “Ang Pagkahatì ng Manananggal, o Kung Ano ang Bago sa Pagbabagong-Anyong Kagila-gilalas,” where, woohoo, we got a copy of the first chapter of Janus Silang book 2: “Si Janus Silang at ang Labanang Manananggal-Mambabarang” (plus a discount voucher for MIBF!)
And, giveaway time! I have something for you guys, too: A signed copy of “The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman” by Meg Wolitzer, a copy of “Hue Can Do It!,” (Summit’s lovely new adult coloring book featuring a lot of my illustrator friends at Ang INK), and I’m also throwing in a copy of “Ang Pag-Ibig ni Maryang Sinukuan,” which I’ll happily sign for you (or whoever you want to give it to).
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