Siya at Ako, my third published novel, was launched yesterday at PopFicLove, a book-signing event together with Leng, Marco, Shiela, and Tina. I was a shy 22-year-old something when I became a part of the Pop Fiction family . . . and look how far we’ve come, and this is all because of the “xvisionists,” they call themselves, for their love and support for my works. I am very humbled and excited, and I look forward to Peach’s career. (We’re two different personas. Haha!)
I feel anxious, actually. I’ve told my friends baka langawin ako and punta kayo para may pagpapirma kunwari. Even though I told it as a joke, there was this gap inside me that it might and could be true. I am very proud of my previous readers who are now making a name in the publishing industry—Chelsea, Jhing, Kim, Max, Rayne, Sic, and a lot others—because they were able to maximize their youthful author years to market their talent. I wasn’t able to do so, and I regret it. I doubted myself, and my existential crisis overwhelmed me that I deleted accounts often to detach myself.
Maybe I’m now out of the limelight, and I won’t say it’s really okay. We’ve always wanted more, and being acknowledged, let’s admit, feeds our ego and, say, makes us think “we’ve found our purpose.” So to speak, I say, “To want more is human, to be content divine.” It’s slightly the art of not giving a fuck. Let me clarify that I find no fault in it. What’s dangerous—and I reiterate, dangerous—is when you get less of what you’ve expected. It could creep inside you and dig a hole, making you feel helpless and worthless and anxious. We ask questions like What have I done wrong? What are they doing right? until we lose our sight and purpose on why we write in the first place. I’m still in the process of self-healing and being content.
So to answer the question “What’s your advice for aspiring writers who want to be published?” yesterday again, I’d say
- Love what you write. Readers will feel it if you are uninspired. Write because something inspired you to write—whether it’s a song, a personal experience, a thought. While “Write for yourself” is an advice most writers give, I feel that there’s nothing wrong if you write for others. What’s more important, as I’ve learned, is you love what you’re writing.
- Finish your story. How will people know you if you keep on writing multiple stories but do not finish one? I know you have so many ideas in mind, but finish your story first. Make an outline. Imagine how you wanted the story to end. As I’ve written in my poem “Advice,” the beginning is at the end of your first piece. I write 1,500 to 2,500 words per chapter. Try to limit your story to 60,000 to 75,000 words.
- Market yourself. Dreaming of being a published author? Marketing your works is a strategy. Make a page. Put quotes of your characters on your page. Make your friends read it. Put links on your bio (but don’t make it annoying). Market yourself . . . but stay humble.
- Improve. Ask for improvements. Accept critiques, but don’t reply to hate (make sure you know the difference). Read more.
Yesterday was a humbling experience for me. It was my third time to be in a book-signing event (first, Pop Fic Fest for 548 Heartbeats; second, 2016 MIBF for A Miracle), but I still couldn’t get my anxiety out. Good thing I was with friendly authors—Leng, Tina, Marco, and Shiela—and James . Here are some of our conversations with them yesterday (nonverbatim).
Leng: Huy ano na. Ang taba ko doon sa picture.
Me: Shet. Nagpost na sila. *looks at the picture* Shet ako nga mukhang nag-camouflage sa background. Pink na pink yung mukha ano.
Inside the waiting room
Marco: Kasama po kayo sa Davao?
Me: Hindi . . . bakit may “po” na nagaganap? Oo na, ako na matanda.
Shiela: Magkakasing age tayo dito, Marco. Thirty ka ngayon, okay?
Shiela: Daming regalo ni Marco. Parang birthday.
Marco: Kanina nga may mainit eh.
Shiela: Ano bang mainit?
Leng: Baka pansit?
Me: Haha! Pansit talaga? *laughs*
*Shiela, Leng, and I were guessing kung anong mainit ‘yon.*
Marco: Wala, di ko na makita.
Me: Hanapin mo. Huhu. Di ako makakatulog hanggat di mo alam kung ano ‘yon.
Shiela: Uy, may JCo. Gusto mo tulungan ka namin diyan? *laughs*
Marco: Gusto niyo?
Shiela: Ito naman. Joke lang!
Me: Ang gusto naming sabihin ni Shiela, mamayang meryenda na lang. Busog pa sa lunch.
Shiela: Oo nga eh. *sees na ubos na ubos yung lunch ko* Baka gusto mo pa nitong chicken? *laughs*
Marco’s Reader: Willing ako maging kabit mo, Marco!
Me: *To Marco* Sabihin mo, wag silang pumayag maging kabit. Masarap kaya maging one true love.
My reader: Grabe, ate. I can’t believe. Fourth year high school ko pa nabasa ‘yan.
Me: Ano? Bakit?
Marco: Wala. Nagulat kasi na may fourth year high school pa.
Me: Oo na matatanda na kami. Wag kang ano.
Inside the waiting room
James: (To Tina) Ang ganda ng buhok mo. Anong ginawa mo diyan?
Tina: Pina-bleach tapos Brazilian.
Me: (thinking I might heard the wrong thing) Pina-rebond mo?
Tina: Hindi. Bleach lang tapos Brazilian blowout.
Me: Ah . . . akala yung Brazilian for pempem lang.
Leng: Jusko. Sumakit ulo ko doon ah.
I guess I’ve outgrown my introversion and was able to mingle with other people. I swear, you could ask the other authors how shy I was during the other book-signing events.
And with this, I would like to thank all who went there and grabbed a copy of Siya at Ako. It was the hardest for me to write, and to see this as a published book was an event I did not foresee.
For all of you who doesn’t know, I was able to complete Siya after eight years. I started it August 2007, and I remember that it was our before our school’s intramurals that time (my jersey’s name was Kyleen). I even printed it out in a short bond and placed it in a clear folder. I made my best friend, Geselle, read it, and because she brought it to her classroom (we weren’t classmates), her other classmates were able to read it until it was passed on.
I put it in a hiatus because I felt that it was so unrealistic. My characters had no flaws, and I felt “unrelated” to Kyleen, the protagonist. There was no connection. The only thing I could relate myself to her was she was my ideal. It seemed that it was more like a TV show than a book, and if you’ll read the first few chapters, you’ll see how perfect they were. I stopped it and wrote 548 Heartbeats instead, a story of two imperfect characters—an average-looking high school girl who was part of the cream of a crop having a secret crush on a good-looking guy who belonged in the last section. Parts of it were true because it was inspired by my high school “almost” love story. And even though I wrote it poorly then, I felt the connection.
The only reason I was able to complete Siya was I wanted a good story for my characters—my ideal self, my ideal guy, my ideal family, my ideal set of friends, my ideal life. The story was that long to prove that even though two people quite knew their feelings for each other, pride and greed and envy can get in the way of love; hence, more complications and chaotic, impulsive decisions were made. I chose Siya as a title to embrace the beauty of our language, the pronoun siya encompassing both genders, and of course, for mystery.
It was a long road for Siya, and I’m not expecting many will finish it. Kasi sobrang haba. And I guess it’s okay. I write because I wanted to share the world I imagined for my characters. Thank you for being with me, Kyleen, Leilyn, Aiden, Jake, Yohann, and the whole gang.
I hope you’ll be able to catch a copy of Siya at Ako, Siya‘s first book. Depending on the outcome, let’s look forward to Siya at Kami.