stories from the filipino readercon 2015

This year’s Filipino Reader Conference was held in De La Salle University. I’ve never been inside the campus. The massive Henry Sy Hall reminded me a bit of Singapore’s National Library.

We weren’t able to leave early enough to catch the Conference opening and the first few panels. I’m not on any panels this year; it felt good to just attend the event as an audience member. (For one thing, I was late but didn’t have conniptions.)

Filipino ReaderCon 2015

Filipino ReaderCon 2015

Filipino ReaderCon 2015

Filipino ReaderCon 2015

We attended the “Supporting the Authors You Love” panel, facilitated by Paolo Chikiamco.

“Supporting the Authors You Love”
It’s tough to make a living from being an author, but many authors have untapped allies in their struggles – their readers. While it’s harder for an author to stand out in this day and age, it is also easier than ever for readers to take a more direct hand in supporting authors. The voices of readers have more sway than ever before. This panel is for readers who want to exercise this power wisely, in supporting authors, both as individuals, and by championing pro-author issues. The panel will also include a response from readers, who will speak with regard to what authors (and publishers) can do to help readers help them.

Panelists: Kim Villanueva, Beverly Siy, Mina V. Esguerra, Tepai Pascual
Facilitator: Paolo Chikiamco

Filipino ReaderCon 2015

Filipino ReaderCon 2015

What can readers do? Personally, just sharing my website link and mentioning my books to friends (with or without a review) already means a lot. There are a lot of books out there; it’s easy to get buried (or be pushed into a dark unseen shelf) and fall into obscurity. A book sometimes does not get sold not because it’s bad, but because LITERALLY no one knows it exists. So if a reader acknowledges that my book exists, that’s already a big deal.

We also attended “Live Reading with Gio Gahol and Rachel Coates hosted by #romanceclass”. This is a live reading of excerpts from local romance novellas, which sparked a discussion between J and I.

(Warning: digression ahead.)

We were trying to figure out why I don’t read as much romance novels as the average attendee in that activity. (Most of the audience members were female.) I told him that most of the romance tropes do nothing for me, most of the time: the lingering looks, the blow-by-blow description of the kiss, the description of the physical male form that caters to an ideal, which is not necessarily my ideal. This may be an effect of my fierce need to protect the personal, as in, Well, that’s nice, but you don’t need to tell me that.

I told J that I probably just demand other things from the romance stories I read. I’m thinking: I didn’t have a high school sweetheart. Or a college sweetheart. (J and I met when we were both already working.) I was a cynical and pragmatic teen, and still probably a cynical and pragmatic adult, so most romance stories to me seem staged. Un-honest. (In case it’s not clear – and before I get hate mail – this is not a criticism of romance and romance writers. This is an exploration of why most novels in the genre does not work for me.) What works for me: humor. Humor, for some reason, always seems honest to me. Or rather, I don’t need to worry about authenticity in something that is funny, so I can relax and just enjoy the story instead of demanding more from it.

We also asked, Is romance a luxury? Most of the stories read had middle-class protagonists. We realized that most of our local romance stories have at least one upper- to middle-class character; either they’re both middle-class or one belongs to a lower class to heighten the dramatic possibilities. If you write a romantic story with poor characters, will that still be labeled “romance”? They will be faced with problems different from the problems faced by middle-class protagonists like where to go get coffee, or what to do about the snotty wedding planner, or what hotel to book for that vacation abroad, or which gym to go to. Without recognizable romance tropes, that story will be labeled “drama”. What if the protagonists live in a war zone? “Drama”. Romance is airy; romance is not cash-strapped. It requires a light hand that can push away the concerns of the world, so the individual can focus on variations of this single question: does he/she love me back? In some scenarios, this question is the least important question to ask. So, is romance/romantic love a luxury?

I’m sure there are more arguments for or against this claim, but for now, moving on!

UPDATE! Following is a(n accidental Facebook) conversation between me, J and Mina Esguerra.

Mina: Eliza Victoria Eee awesome post! Answering here because kalat na sa Twitter.

“If you write a romantic story with poor characters, will that still be labeled “romance”? They will be faced with problems different from the problems faced by middle-class protagonists like where to go get coffee, or what to do about the snotty wedding planner, or what hotel to book for that vacation abroad, or which gym to go to.”

Yes, as these are tropes found specifically in contemporary romance featuring middle class characters, but not in, say, paranormal romance or historical American Western, or historical Regency, or Precious Hearts in some cases, but those have their own tropes as well.

“Romance is airy; romance is not cash-strapped. It requires a light hand that can push away the concerns of the world, so the individual can focus on variations of this single question: does he/she love me back? In some scenarios, this question is the least important question to ask.”

This is, sadly, the generalization of romance that I get most often. (I can say that any reader of romance will say it’s not all airy, that people in romance are also poor, but I’ll step back from that because it’s exhausting.) The thing with romance genre books though is that it pre-supposes that the reader finds this a valid question. Those who don’t, will not read the book. As I do, when I encounter books or entire genres that do not resonate at all. The questions they pose there I understand are important to them though.

“So, is romance/romantic love a luxury?”

Yes — as much a luxury as fantasy, poetry, crime fiction, horror, any fiction is to me. Is there a way to discuss this without inadvertently shaming women for wanting read about love and acknowledging desires? (It’s an actual question! I don’t want to go there. I like discussing romance in a shame-free way.)

Me: Thanks for answering Mina! And yes I have to acknowledge we were discussing contemporary romance. Sumakit ulo namin ni Jaykie while discussing this, we should’ve roped you in. Idea for a panel? Hehehe.

J: Interesting topic ito sakin! Lately kasi I notice stuff that appeals to young women tends to get dismissed (e.g. “mababaw ang AlDub”) and I find it kinda unfair, so ayun mej marami na kami napag-usapan haha

I think where we left off is trying to determine what is considered Romance and what isn’t. I mean, I like Charlie Kaufman movies and I certainly think there’s romantic elements to them, but I don’t think they get categorized as Romance really? Except Eternal Sunshine, but maybe not even that.

Mina: As far as publisher guidelines are concerned, it has to be romance as the A plot, ie main conflict is a threat to the romance, and the climax is a resolution to the romance. Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books, for example, despite having a lot of romantic elements, do not climax in romance resolution so they are not romance novels, and the author herself won’t call them that. Nicholas Sparks novels, same thing, as those normally resolve the romance and climax at something else (like death). There are structural elements also and beats that have to be met. Many Wattpad to print stories for example are not strictly romances, structurally.

Mina: Chick lit will for example resolve the main character’s dramatic arc often independent of the romance, ie a promotion, validation at work, winning something, so they’re not strictly romances either despite a romance element present.

Mina: Oh and there’s also the romantic suspense subgenre where there’s usually a threat to their lives and the characters are in conflict situations/actual peril, but romance still main plot

Me: Nito ko lang na-gets ang difference ng Chick Lit at Romance! (Some people lump them together, which confuses me!) Salamat!

J: Oh so follow-up question, the resolution could be anything that addresses the indefinite status of the relationship, right? So if the ending is that they decide not to be together it’s still ok?

Mina: Oh but happily ever after is actually a requirement (for many romance publishers) and they won’t accept a submission without it. There’s a debate on this because self publishing, so authors can do what they want and some aren’t ending their stories happily anymore. But then the debate is, what’s the point of this 150 page journey if the answer is no? Did you pull a bait and switch on the reader who had very solid expectations of what they were paying for? The compromise is the “happy for now” which is a decision to stay in a loving monogamous relationship but isn’t a proposal or a wedding

J: Ah, that’s interesting. Ang naisip ko kasi ay baka may story na tipong two people are very much in love, but ultimately they mutually decide the relationship isn’t feasible? But yeah, valid point din na parang bait and switch nga yung ganyang ending

Mina: Eliza – That took me a while din! and I was already writing the books when I figured it out huhu

Mina: Thank you for asking! I like talking about this. grin emoticon The formula and rules naman are being tested a lot and I read the books that are testing it, but hit or miss. I usually don’t enjoy them as much especially if they sacrifice romance for whatever other agenda.

J: Your responses really add some much needed context for me Mina so thanks! Your expertise is very much appreciated. Another follow-up! Are happy endings more a prerequisite of written work, or does it apply to other forms of Romance media? I ask because I think of a number of films that don’t necessarily have happy endings (not even the “happy for now” variety), but I think would still tend to be categorized as romance. An example for me would be Once, which has a romance A plot, and I think does follow the Romance beats consistently (if somewhat more muted), but doesn’t end with a relationship for the two main characters.

In fact I feel like a lot of romantic films written by males tend to follow suit–somewhat more muted expressions of love, coupled with not-necessarily-happy endings. I think I’d place Being John Malkovich under that category, and Woody Allen films also.

Mina:  I haven’t seen Once! I know I should huhu. But I’ve seen Begin Again and if it’s similar (I’ve been told that they are?) I wouldn’t call it romance genre based on the movie I saw. If that were a book it would get backlash in the reviews, and there would be requests for it to be categorized as “Women’s Fiction” or “Contemporary Fiction” instead (if mostly male POV). A romance book written Woody Allen-film-style would get the same response I think.

But yes these will probably be categorized as Romance in other media. I suspect that their creators will often say in interviews that they’re “not just romance” though precisely because they’re getting some backlash for being bland romance. “Muted” romance I wouldn’t call romance at all; if I were into horror I’d think an author who specialized in “mildly scary” just wasn’t being edited by the right people.

Thanks, Mina!

Filipino ReaderCon 2015

Filipino ReaderCon 2015

Also signed some books!

Filipino ReaderCon 2015

A cute calamansi muffin from Chris Mariano, author of Cover (Story) Girl.

Filipino ReaderCon 2015

Filipino ReaderCon 2015

My ReaderCon haul:

Filipino ReaderCon 2015

  • Janus Silang comic book by Carljoe Javier and Natasha Ringor, based on the novel by Edgar Calabia Samar (Anino/Adarna)
  • Likhaan Volume 9, which has a story of mine. Received from Kyra by way of Gabby. Thanks!
  • The Merchant of Venice, from the ReaderCon loot bag
  • Cover (Story) Girl, signed by Chris
  • Mockingjay, from the ReaderCon raffle
  • Ang Subersibo nina Adam David at Mervin Malonzo (Anino/Adarna)
  • Muros #1 by Paolo Chikiamco and Borg Sinaban (Studio Salimbal)
  • The Garbage Artist by Andrew Drilon (Studio Salimbal)
  • Hukbong Sandatahan ng Kahaggardan! by Manix Abrera (Visprint)

Congrats to Honey, Tina, Paolo, Mina and the rest of the ReaderCon committee! It gets bigger every year.

2016 poems + filipino readercon

November’s coming to a close, and I’m ending it with a couple of acceptances, a writers night, and a reader conference.

  • UK-based Neon Literary Magazine will be publishing my poem “What Waits” in a 2016 issue. Thank you to editor Krishan Coupland. You can read a poem of mine here, published in Neon’s 34th issue. You can read Krishan’s interview with me here.
  • Singapore-based Kitaab will be publishing my poem “Tiny Tragedies”. My thanks to poetry editor Desmond Kon.

The 9th Likhaan volume, edited by Luna Sicat-Cleto, Eugene Evasco, Isabela Banzon and Charlson Ong, and which includes my story “The Seventh”, will be launched during Writers Night at the UP Executive House on November 26. Read the details here.


The 5th Filipino ReaderCon will be held this Saturday, November 28 at the Henry Sy Hall, the De La Salle University in Manila. Register here  and check out the panel descriptions here.

‘dwellers’ is best novel finalist for the national book awards, and other writing news

In this post: National Book Awards, Philippine Speculative Fiction, Voyage to Bathala, Best of the Net, Philippine Literary Festival, Filipino Readercon, goddess fan art, #BuwanNgMgaAkdangPinoy.

2015-08-15 21.41.381. First off, my short novel Dwellers is a finalist for the 34th National Book Awards (Best Novel in English). Thank you to the NBDB (National Book Development Board) and the MCC (Manila Critics’ Circle) for the honor, and to Visprint for giving my words a home. My congratulations as well to friends and other fellow finalists. You can see the entire list here.

This is my second nomination. Last year, Project 17 was a finalist for the same category.

To know more about Dwellers (what’s it about, where to buy online and in the bookstores), click here.

2. My story, “The Target”, will be appearing in the upcoming tenth volume of Philippine Speculative Fiction. This is part of a collection of interconnected science fiction stories that I’m working on, and I’m excited to share this one piece of it with you. Thank you Dean and Nikki! Here’s the full TOC, from Rocket Kapre. PSF10

A Long Walk Home – Alexander M. Osias
A Report – Sarge Lacuesta
A Small Hope – Gabriela Lee
For Sale: Big Ass Sword – Kenneth G. Yu
Children of the Stars – Francis Gabriel Concepcion
Fisher of Men – Razel Tomacder
Hunger – Lakan Umali
IT Girl – AJ Elicaño
Lamat – Noel Tio
Marvin and the Jinni – Raymund Reyes
Mechanical Failures – Jose Elvin Bueno
Mene, Thecel, Phares – Victor Fernando R. Ocampo
Night Predators – Joseph Montecillo
Oblation – Richard Cornelio
Santos de Sampaguita – Alyssa Wong
Soulless – EK Gonzales
The Dollmaker – Joel Pablo Salud
The Last God of Cavite – Andrew Drilon
The Owl and the Hoopoe – Renz Torres
The Run to Grand Maharlika Station – Vincent Michael Simbulan
The Target – Eliza Victoria
Thunderstorm – Cyan Abad-Jugo
When the Gods Left – Kate Osias

3. Another story of mine, called “At the Diazes'”, also from this set of interconnected stories, has been accepted for publication, but I’ve yet to hear more about that, so let me get back to you.

4. Southern Pacific Review has nominated my poem “Stargazing” for Best of the Net 2015. Thank you! Click on the link to read the nominated poem.

5. Read my stories “The Missing”, “Maybe Another Song at Dusk”, “The Handmade House”, and “Voyage to Bathala” in one volume. Voyage to Bathala and Other Stories is part of the Encounters series published by et al and edited by Dean Alfar and Sarge Lacuesta.


6. I will be attending the second day of the Philippine Literary Festival 2015 to sign books and maaaybe give a sneak peek of the comic book Mervin Malonzo and I are working on. Come visit!

Admission to the PLF at the Raffles Hotel in Makati from August 28 to 30 is free of charge, but seats are limited. Thank you to Nikko over on Facebook for this image.


7. I served as panelist in last year’s Silliman University National Writers Workshop, and it was such a fun (grueling) experience. They are now accepting manuscripts. Read more here.

The Silliman University National Writers Workshop is now accepting applications for the55th National Writers Workshop to be held 9—27 May 2016 at the Silliman University Rose Lamb Sobrepeña Writers Village.

This Writers Workshop is offering twelve fellowships to promising writers in the Philippines who want to have a chance to hone their craft and refine their style. Fellows will be provided housing, a modest stipend, and a subsidy to partially defray costs of their transportation.

To be considered, applicants should submit manuscripts in English on or before 30 September 2015.

8. The Filipino Readercon team is up and about and organizing the Readers’ Choice Awards, with a slight change in rules this year. Watch out for that.


9. Alternative Alamat editor Paolo Chikiamco shared this fan art with me. “Tala’s Spectacles” and “Alunsina’s Mask”, based on characters that appeared in my stories in that volume (“Ana’s Little Pawnshop on Makiling St.” and “Remembrance”). “Ana’s Little Pawnshop” also appears in my short story collection, A Bottle of Storm Clouds (a phrase lifted from the story). Art by michstar090. Maraming salamat!

Image link:
Image link:
Image link:

10. Subaybayan ang hashtag na #BuwanNgMgaAkdangPinoy sa Twitter o Facebook, kaakibat ng pagdiriwang ng Buwan ng Wika ngayong Agosto.

Heto ang mga itinatampok kong akda para sa photo-op na ito (iilan lamang sa mga nahila galing sa lalagyan ng mga aklat):


stories from the filipino readercon 2014 / day 3 of the 5th PILFBIS

This year, the 4th Filipino Reader Conference coincided with the last day of the 5th Philippine International Literary Festival and Book Industry Summit (PILFBIS). I was fortunate enough to get a leave from the day job to attend several panels. (And even facilitate one!)

I had to leave early though to avoid the afternoon payday rush hour, and unfortunately missed the Filipino Readers Choice Awards. But let me share with you some photos.

The concurrent events were held at Hall B of the Bayanihan Center, venue of the Komikon.



I arrived bright and early, even before the plenary speech by Camille dela Rosa of the National Book Development Board (NBDB).


Visprint booth.




I headed straight to Visprint to grab all the new books that I could and have them signed. Caught Tepai Pascual sitting at the Meganon booth.


Paolo Chikiamco of Mythspace and Rocket Kapre opening the event.


Camille giving the plenary speech.



I stayed put in Hall B to attend the panel “From Reader to Writer”, facilitated by Mina Esguerra. (List of panels here, for reference.) Delighted that the writers wanted to explore mystery/crime and sci-fi in their next writing projects.


Program break, so I sat down for anyone interested to have their books signed.


Next up: a panel on diverse reading facilitated by Dean Alfar.



Still in Hall B, the Visprint book launches. You should have heard Manix Abrera’s hilarious introductions. (On Mervin: “Nung nakita ko yung art niya parang ayoko na mag-drowing.” On Tepai: “Ang yabang e, parang gusto lang sabihin sa akin, ‘Mas magaling ako sa’yo.'”)


After lunch and more book signing duties, I headed to Conference Room F for the Authors as Readers panel, featuring Edgar Calabia Samar and Rin Chupeco, where they shared their favorite books and authors.

Loved the small room and the cozy atmosphere. I hoped I did an adequate job as facilitator! I thought the panel was fun, and I would have loved another hour with these writers and the audience.


I also attended the panel, “Non-required Reading: The Rise of the Book Clubs”, facilitated by Gabi Francisco, whom I have mistaken for her twin sister, Tata. (Tata was a classmate of mine in a Creative Writing class back in UP. Both of them are now teachers at Regina Maria Montessori.) I’m so sorry, Gabi!

My loot.






Not from the event, but gifts from Charles Tan. Thank you!


My thanks as always to Ms. Nida and Visprint, Honey and the Readercon team, and Camille and Ciela of the NBDB. My deepest gratitude to the readers who bought our books and dropped by to say hi.

That was a Friday well spent.

‘dwellers’ is the filipino group’s book of the month

I just found out (through Goodreads) that my novel Dwellers is The Filipino Group’s Book of the Month for November! They will be discussing the book at one of the Filipino ReaderCon book discussions happening on Nov. 15.

Enjoy reading, guys!


see you at the 4th filipino readercon!

On Nov. 14, Friday, I will be facilitating an Authors as Readers panel at the 4th Filipino ReaderCon. Featured on the panel are writers Katrina Stuart Santiago (Of Love and Other Lemons), Rin Chupeco (The Girl from the Well), and Edgar Calabia Samar (Si Janus Silang at ang Tyanak ng Tabon).

I was on last year’s panel with Gerry Alanguilan and had a lot of fun, so I’m excited to sit as facilitator this year.

Click here for more info about the panels and activities on that day.

The ReaderCon this year will be held in partnership with the National Book Development Board, which is presenting the 5th Philippine International Literary Festival and Book Industry Summit (PILF-BIS) from November 12 to 14 at the Bayanihan Center, Pioneer Street, Pasig City.

Topics on the sustainability of the book industry amidst ASEAN integration and globalization, plus other pressing issues will be the focus of the discussions.

On November 12, publishing and business experts will talk about issues on sustainability, publishing and distribution models, and the state of the book publishing industry. On November 13, writers and creators will examine issues on copyright, creative content, and the artistic and financial gains of creative work. The sessions on November 14 are in partnership with Filipino Readercon so participants may expect sessions on the interconnectedness of reading, writing, and publishing.

The PILFBIS will also host Aklatan: The All-Filipino Book Fair where participants may purchase the latest titles from their favorite Filipino writers.

Participation fee is P150.00 per day. Participation is free for students and teachers upon presentation of a valid ID.

The PILFBIS kicked off with a press conference this morning, held at Uno Morato.

Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend the whole conference, but I’ll see you at the ReaderCon, okay?

2013 filipino readercon + game on! + dr. who philippines party

Okay, let’s do this in chronological order because I am so behind in my blogging duties. Sorry about that! (To the three of you who care!)

Continue reading 2013 filipino readercon + game on! + dr. who philippines party