THE FILIPINO literary community urged writers to get published and extend readership locally and internationally through its second Manila International Literary Festival held at the Ayala Museum in Makati City last Nov. 16 to 18.

The three-day event, with the theme, The Great Philippine Book Café, was organized by the National Book Development Board (NBDB). It included panels, performances, book launches, a book fair and daylong literary conversations on the craft of writing. Literary writers and scholars, teachers, parents, students, bibliophiles, and even Pulitzer Prize winners took part in the activities.

According to NBDB Executive Director Andrea Pasion-Flores, the festival introduces the diversity of writing, language, and all sorts of markets the world of publishing has to offer.

“We have to re-establish our connection with the Asian literary circuit,” fictionist Jose Dalisay Jr, said. “We cannot wait to be discovered.”

Unleashing the creative genius

Junot Diaz, Pulitzer winner and a native of Dominican Republic gave emphasis to reading as the primal key in writing, adding up that there no shallow work to become a good writer.

“Writing is incredibly hard, and chances are you’re going to be the worst writer always,” Diaz said. “You can write, but the question is can you write a book that you can put your name on it?”

He also added that writers don’t have to please everyone because they are responsible to bring out the truth through their expression.

“We are artists,” he said. “We have to deliver not just what people want, but what they need.”

Meanwhile, in the lecture on “How to Bring Literature to Life”, director Khavn Dela Cruz said that one should only use their imagination to create things and even cited works like “Cold Mountain” whose scriptwriter did not grow up in the setting but was able to depict it well.

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“You don’t have to be poor in order to portray it,” Dela Cruz said. “I tend to immerse and work on many poems [for my visual arts].”

Kooky Tuason, whose performance poetries have been featured on Myx and Knowledge Channel, showed some of her works to the audience, one of which was entitled “Holdap,” which she performed through body language with the lines of the poem written all over her.

Publishing dilemma

The country’s top publishers discussed the situation of Filipino literature in the world market, citing the death of translators.

Karina Bolasco of Anvil Publishing House said regional writers have less chances of becoming National Artists because their works are not translated to Spanish or Filipino.

In the session “The Philippine Writing and Publishing Landscape”, J. Niel Garcia, a UST alumnus and University of the Philippines Press director, said that in publishing, the question of whether to publish a book in the country or not would always be an important and challenging problem.

“We have to keep publishing books because we are under the government and [even if we are] in no obligation to make profit,” he said. “We are subsidized. We put out books that might not sell but are deemed necessary because we are always looking forward to that abstraction of the nation.”

He added that as much as they would like to publish novels that would sell, they would not if it was not parallel with the vision of their publishing house.

On the other hand, John Jack Wigley, assistant professor and officer-in-charge of the UST Publishing House, said that in their case, they produce more books according to the University’s need.

“[We publish a lot of] religious and medical books, because it’s UST,” he said, also adding that it also pays if authors are known by the readers especially if they are media personalities or the authors themselves marketing their books.

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What sells fastest

Random House-published author Samantha Sotto explained in “How to be a Bestseller” that a bestseller is not the best-written book but the fastest-selling one.

“How to be a best seller is not something you can answer definitively,” she said, but while it might not be possible to write a bestseller she believes people can market one. “If there was a step by step process for this topic, I don’t have the answer.”

Another Pulitzer-prize winning novelist, Edward Jones shared how he came up with his novel “The Known World” and his insights on writing.

Jones said that although research is a crucial part in creating a novel, it can be “overrated” especially when it is something one has heard about.

“When you’re writing fiction, you have to make the reader feel it is true,” Jones said.

He added that in order to be a good writer one should always read, which he said is the foundation of writing, if not the prelude.

“The more you read, the more you get a sense of what is good and what is bad [in writing a novel,” he said.

Inspiring youth to read

Speaking over how to get the young to read, Faculty of Arts and Letters professor Ralph Galan said that at the age of three he was able to read Greek mythology, which helped build his love for reading.

Honeylein de Peralta, managing editor of Flipside Digital Content Company, disproved that children today do not read at all, and added that schools destroy their creativity because they force students what to read.

Online blogger Tarie Sabido said that we could get the young to ready if we show them it is a social activity.

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“They should know it is a social activity. We should form reading groups, getting friends to talk about books, and connect everything,” Sabido said.

On the other hand, well-known poet Gemino Abad said that the “most crucial” part in poetry is the feelings for they cannot betray you.

“Feeling is deeper and wider than thought; it is true,” Abad said.

Addressing the literacy needs of regional communities, poet Allan Popa said that they have been conducting exchanges with people all over the people and share poetry with one another.

“We become porous with the people from regional communities,” he said. “‘Di lang kami nagiging scholarly. [We extend] because this widens our knowledge more.

Literary glitches

On the lecture on “Writing Basic Fiction”, UP professor Carl Joe Javier said that in writing a story, humor is the hardest part to get.

He added that to get the interest of his students to like creative writing, as some of them were students of engineering and science, he “reverse-engineers” the story.

On the other hand, Holy Thompson, a lecturer at Yokohama City University, said that the one of the problems she has with her students back in the United Kingdom where she also teaches is that they do not want to read stories that were not originally written in English.

“I want my students to read books [from] all over [the world]. It doesn’t matter what your background is,” Thompson said.

Fictionist Rosario Cruz Lucero, who gave a talk on creative non-fiction, said that the “ways by which you can make big impact are through the small things.”

“Essay is both philosophical in detail, while memoir is the reflective voice. They are the simplicity of your own voice,” Lucero said.

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