While I plead guilty to gloating (just this once, promise) in this post, one can never accuse me of not telling the truth. The whole truth, nothing but so help me God.
I have been blogging for exactly seven weeks. To the painfully ‘Le Stats’ focused, I have a modest total of 4000 site views, sixty country visits, eighty two followers and more than 200 ‘likes’. These numbers are lame, by any standard and they do not matter much. I could have an audience of one (my husband) and I’d still go on writing.
He was and still is my writing mentor, my proofreader, my editor and worst critic. I don’t blame him. He was once features editor of the Philippine Collegian, the school paper of the ‘premier state university’ where he took up his degrees in journalism, psychology and law. Before going to law school, he had a stint with print media as proofreader, cub reporter, covering the police beat and eventually business and economics until he became opinion editor of a national daily broadsheet. Then he decided to go to law school. As a working student, he worked in the office of the President of the premier state university as speechwriter, ghost writer, a collaborator in a handful of coffee table books on antiques and artifacts.
It was a long distance relationship in five of the seven years before we got married. While I had a pager or beeper, that contraption than bleeps when you get a message, he had none. Neither did he have a mobile phone which in those days was as big as CB radios with antennas. The most logical thing for us to do then was to write. Not by email but by snail mail – the kind where you go to the post office, lick the stamps and paste them on an envelope and slide it to the mailbox. To his credit, he always used Speed Mail or EMS. To my credit, despite the shoe-string allowance, so did I.
There was a seemingly ex parte ratio to our exchanges. While he would write me seven pages on short bond paper (initially with the letterhead of the office of the president to impress me and I was impressionable), I would write him back fourteen pages back to back on yellow pad.
This ritual went on for years. When he was not busy, he would send back my letters with corrections with a mouthful about sentence construction, indentation, subject-verb agreement, tenses, syntax, parallelism, mixed metaphors, spelling, semantics and every possible ingredient thrown in for good writing – brevity, cohesiveness and unity of purpose.
I took no offense. After all all, this was coming from the man who wrote profound pieces like Ethos, Logos, Pathos, or Altius, Citius, Fortius . Or when he was teetering on the verge of a failing grade, the feature and cover stories for his professors unsuspecting of his evil designs.
One day, he wrote to tell me that I have become a better writer. I was over the moon. After all, this was from the man whom I wanted to marry the first time I heard his name. It was euphonious enough for me to trust that at least it should match his face. Then he sent pictures. Oh well, whoever said life is fair.
That was when I realized I might give a crack at writing.
I applied for and got accepted to national writers’ workshops. I got accepted in two where among the panelists was a national artist in whose house I played the piano while he sang and who discussed one of my works in his writing class at the premier state university. I met writers who asked me to contribute to anthologies like women writing in the South, women writing in general, the literary journal of the Cultural Center of my country and a compendium which uses my work in English classes at the Jesuit university in my city. I had one of my works published in the best of Youngblood 2, a collection of essays by opinionated wannabes less than thirty years old.
In the workshops my work got mixed reviews. One described my work as trite and hackneyed. One work was called ‘contrived’. But I was also cited as a runner up in the top ten best poems of the month. Out of the ten, I ranked number three, I think. That was the only good part. I got so scarred I stopped applying for workshops and retreated in my quiet corner of the room wondering why some people were so mean just because they thought they were pretty damn good.
I’ve had dinner with Nick Joaquin at the Fronton when Jai Alai was alive and well. I got invited when he was conferred the National Artist Award. He gave the shortest acceptance speech ‘But I have yet to serve my best wine!‘. I was in the audience on a personal invitation when NVM Gonzalez was conferred a Ramon Magsaysay Award (Asia Pacific’s equivalent to the Nobel). My point is not to drop names except for the fact that the greater these writers had become, the more humble they were – giving this trite, hackneyed writer front row seats in the milestones in their career, or maybe their lives. So unlike the panelists in my time who were so full of themselves. I am not writing this to settle scores with them. It is enough for me to know that their books do not sell and that is my redemption.
All this I am sharing as a foreshadowing. That I actually went into blogging not by accident but on purpose, by design – the kind that evolves.
What I intended to be a medical-cautionary tale blog post has metamorphosed into an odd mixture of Alzheimer’s advise, aging parodies, travel essays and reflections about twisted lives- mine and other people’s. I think this is what happens when one has work-shopped with mix-tards. The work develops a mind of its own.
Then came my post on my mentor Alex. Among all the other seventy four posts, this got the most stats – comment, stats, views and likes. My barometer says the day I published the post on Alex was the best day for ‘likes’. It would not have been big deal had not a lady of substance taken notice.
She was a friend on Facebook (about 20% of my site referrers are from Facebok). I did not know much about her except that her posts and notes have always been filled with references and musings on writing and literature of the most respectable kind. Her profile picture exuded an ethereal beauty matched with the mildness and tenderness of her words. The comments on her threads are from eminent writers from Italy, so were her subjects, writers from Pakistan, India, the US and everywhere else.
She commented on my link ‘I’m looking forward to reading the review when that turns into a book’
I chuckled as I read it. Wait, I got thrilled first then chuckled.
I replied ‘ Thanks but I need an editor and publisher’. I had to give her the props and I was not even groveling one bit.
She wrote back ‘ Email me your work and I’ll see what I can do’
This line made me skeptical. Why would a fellow writer be interested in the kind of things I write so I checked out her profile more closely.
Mamma Mia! She’s a publisher.
She did write e-mail her my work. Did she really write that?
But I should not sound too excited, should I? I have to breathe.
I have to tread this line very carefully now.
I wrote back ‘ Alicia, this is just a seven week old blog. I am a work in progress of the slowest kind.’
But kind Alicia wrote me back again ‘This is my e-mail address —-@—-.com I’ll be waiting. Kudos!’
Did she really write that? I wondered as I kept scrolling back and forth the exchanges in the thread.
After I collected myself and propped myself up again on my chair (after I had fallen off, jolted by the unexpected turn of events) I started to get serious and reorganized my life.
1. I checked the calendar for an auspicious day for a book launch, a date when the moon phase enters towards the full or when the tropic of Cancer crosses the lines of Jupiter (is there such an alignment?’)
2. I had planned the menu for the cocktail reception (there has to be plenty of tiger prawns and crab sticks).
3. I need to lose weight, about six more pounds so I could fit into my ethno-geometric abstract Chloe shift dress I’m wearing at the book launch.
4. I might need to buy a new pair of six inch wedges to match the dress.
5. I have about a hundred people in my list to invite to the book launch.
6. I’ll be using fountain pen to autograph my books in the book signing.
Did I miss anything?
Oh, she did say I have to e-mail her my work.
What work? Seriously?
And so this is the story why I’m grinning from ear to ear like a mild case of risus sardonicus (that’s tetanus for you), and why, despite my widely acknowledged humility, I am gloating.
I have a publisher!
That’s the whole truth, nothing but. So help me God, while my brain drains and my works marinate.