Last Saturday, January 29th, I had the privilege to attend a once in a lifetime event by National Bookstore and The Philippine Star. It is a discussion about the writing profession here in the Philippines, basically on how to improve our craft and how to make a living out of being a writer, and it was held at the National Bookstore, Shangri-La Plaza.
The forum featured Mr. Butch Dalisay, a world-renowned writer and author, together with three highly acclaimed personalities in their respective fields, Mr. Rico Hizon – Filipino journalist from BBC World News, Mr. Pepe Diokno – filmmaker and executive producer of Rock Ed Philippines, and Mr. Miguel Ramos – marketing head of National Bookstore.
I came in a bit late because I went first to a bridal expo at the Megatrade Hall. Well, a bit late for me to have my own seat during the discussion but just enough time since Mr. Dalisay was still introducing himself and giving out tiny pieces of advice as an appetizer. I positioned myself first at the left side of the platform but all I can see was Mr. Hizon’s back and side-view profiles of Butch Dalisay and Miguel Ramos. But then I got lucky to see Pepe Diokno right in front of me as he arrived for the discussion, yeah, a bit late, too. 😉
I repositioned myself right in the middle of the standing crowd because I really wanted to see their faces as they were introducing themselves. Although I was standing there for maybe at least an hour, I haven’t felt tired and hungry since the forum was really informative and entertaining (the Q&A portion) until I saw those trays of Starbucks coffee cups and Krispy Kreme donuts that the crews were handing out to those who were already seated. I instantly looked at the back of the crowd and saw these people helping themselves to a cup of coffee and a donut or a brownie, of course I couldn’t stop myself easing my way over there and have my share of these free treats!
I know that you are now wondering what have I learned from this discussion (of course not about the free coffee and donut!) and I am going to share them all to you (or at least what I can still remember).
#1. “Eat the humble pie”, said Butch Dalisay. You should let someone see your work and ask for their comments and suggestions about it, and you should not get heavily offended when your article/novel/script came back to you with lots of red circles and lines made by your boss or your editor, even the best writers in the world get their works edited. You should learn how to be humble and also don’t let yourself get too emotionally attached to your work.
#2. Read a lot. Read books, magazines, articles, and news on diverse topics. You should know how to connect everything and anything. When writing non-fiction articles/novels, be sure that you have thoroughly researched all the facts. When writing fiction articles/novels, be knowledgeable on how to use real facts and still make your readers believe that they don’t really exist. Good examples are Andy Molligan’s work like “Trash.”
#3. The writing industry here and abroad needs, according to Butch Dalisay: more novels, more fiction, more funny/comedic stories; according to Rico Hizon: more eye-opening news articles, business articles – because whatever is happening in the business industry will affect the progress of a country; according to Pepe Diokno: more scripts for telenobelas and movies. As Diokno stated, our movie industry here in the Philippines is declining because of lack of sensible and intelligent scripts. That is true, because I for one am never a fan of Filipino movies. I find them either too corny or too shallow. He even challenged everyone in that forum to write more scripts and send them all to him so that he can make a movie out of a really good script.
#4. If you want your novel/book to get published here in the Philippines, you will sweat blood and money just to get the attention of some publication houses, unlike in the U.S.A. and other countries there are a lot of talent scouts/agents who are in constant search for new talents/writers whom they can market to all the publishing houses. Here in the Philippines, Miguel Ramos said that Anvil Publication is your best bet in getting published and automatically get your published works out there in National Bookstores’ shelves right away. If you want to get published abroad, then you have to find yourself a good agent, how? Google them, my friend, for sure you’ll find lots of them out there. Just be sure to know which ones are the real ones and which ones are fake and will only milk you for money. (Oh, and by the way, Mr. Hizon gave us a name of a Filipino editor (not an agent) abroad who is willing to help out a fellow Filipino writer get published in the U.S.A. just send me a message, and I will share it with you.)
#5. For sure you already have an idea of what you want to write, may it be a book, a novel or an article. But for you to know if it’s going to sell, make a brief description of it – like a news headline, and see for yourself if it’s catchy enough or too bland for the taste (of course you should ask your peers to hear your “headlines” and let them comment, remember #1). And you should know the difference of creative writing and news writing. In creative writing, you can write anything you want as long as it is interesting for you and your readers/audience to read and consume. In news writing, you should know and write the facts, and you should write it having in mind that you are doing it for the people and not for yourself, catch their interest and attention, then you’ll have yourself regular readers of your work.
So there you have it, my fellow writers. I hope this post will encourage you to venture more into the writing industry. Yes, we are aware that here in the Philippines we can say that Filipino writers are “tag-gutom” (always hungry) and “isang kahig, isang tuka” (poor) but if you believe in yourself that you can do better, then force yourself into doing it. Being rich and being poor is only a matter of choice. Choose yours wisely, my friend. 😉