Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Review: I Am An Emotional Creature

The Secret Life of Girls Around the World

by Eve Ensler
a review 

In this provocative and poignant compilation of imaginary stories and monologues, internationally bestselling author/playwright Eve Ensler (of The Vagina Monologues fame) provided a literary subwoofer for every girl’s muted voice and timid stance in a world where they are forced to remain true to themselves or to conform to society’s expectations in an attempt to please.

I Am An Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls around the World is a must-read for all teenage girls, especially those that can feel the extremely suffocating pressure of the society where they belong. Page by page, Ensler treats the readers to a globetrotting not for the eyes but for the heart—from New York to Tehran, from China to Palestine, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Cairo, and many more. With an accepting mind and a few hours of reading time as your passport, you’ll definitely enjoy "travelling" in this collection. The book serves as a conduit for each girl’s kept emotions, in effect encouraging the female readers to speak up and fight back whenever they need to.

Every voice is unique: in A Teenage Girl’s Guide to Surviving Sex Slavery, a young sex slave in Congo shares how she attempts to brave her way to freedom from her soldier rapist; in hunger blog, an anorexic posts entries regarding her experience in avoiding to gain weight; in Free Barbie, a teenage Chinese worker in an abusive factory communicates through “head send” to Barbie heads, filling them with her screaming subconscious about being free;  in I Have 35 Minutes Before He Comes Looking for Me, a girl of about fifteen tells her story as victim of sex trafficking. There are many other stories that are able to pull my heartstrings, like the one featuring an African girl refusing a genital mutilation, or that of a lesbian who refuses to be labeled. There are survey facts and trivia too, along with poetries and short dialogues. All of them will attempt to reach into the readers and trigger the emotional creature in them--as it did with me. :)

Tales of wanting to be famous or pretty, of wanting to fit in, and of wanting to be safe while expressing themselves freely…each story is a gem, and this is a treasure box that can inspire millions of girls and turn them into hordes of brave, strong women.  Ensler said that this book is a “call to question rather than to please…this book is a call to listen to the voice inside you that might want something different, that hears, that knows, the only way you can hear and know.” You’re going to realize how right her words are when you finish reading the book.

I don’t usually read books like this, but I actually liked it. Emotional Creature may be intended for the girls, but parents can read it too, as well as boys that are curious about what’s going on in a girl’s head and what the circumstances--unusual or ordinary--are surrounding a female life. All in all, a great read. Thumb up!

(thanks i-am-an-emotional-creature  for lending me a copy!)

Review: Zombies vs. Unicorns anthology

It all started with a young adult writer’s blog post in February 2007.  After a comment and a contradicting blog post by another author, the subject sparked a huge debate in the YA lit world, then ignited into one of the greatest geek war of all time: which is made for better fiction, zombies or unicorns?

 In an attempt to bring an end to this epic literary bloodsport, authors Holly Black (of the Spiderwick Chronicles fame) and Justine Larbalestier (of the Magic and Madness trilogy) compiled stories that defend both camps—amazing stories thrown into the arena by internationally renowned YA authors. Black and Larbalestier serve these in a silver tray that is the Zombies vs. Unicorns anthology and let the readers decide which team should be declared the winner.

Like all other short story collections, ZvU is a mixed bag. There are a few duds, but popping it open is such a fun experience. In this anthology I saw plot twists that most novels could barely pull off, characters that I love instantly by just the tone of their voice and small actions, places that fascinated me immediately unlike the lackluster settings in tomes that took me twenty chapters before I can appreciate them.
Here is a list of the stories in the collection (just click on the titles and you’ll be redirected to the reviews of each story):
  1. The Highest Justice by Garth Nix*
  2. Love Will Tear Us Apart by Alaya Dawn Johnson*
  3. Purity Test by Naomi Novik
  4. Bougainvillea by Carrie Ryan*
  5. A Thousand Flowers by Margo Lanagan
  6. The Children of the Revolution by Maureen Johnson*
  7. The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn by Diana Peterfreund*
  8. Innoculata by Scott Westerfeld*
  9. Princess Prettypants by Meg Cabot
  10. Cold Hands by Cassandra Clare*
  11. The Third Virgin by Kathleen Duey
  12. Prom Night by Libba Bray*
Now tell me that’s not a star-studded roster. :P  My favorite zombie story is Love Will Tear Us Apart, which I loved unreservedly because I’m such a sucker for fictions with rock music and poetry references (Joy Division and Robert Frost? You gotta love the author!). The story is sickeningly charming and awesome too, though this won’t be much of a keeper for anyone uncomfortable with too many f-bombs in a single page. My favorite unicorn story is The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn, because the story kicks butt and it has a one of a kind three-dimensional heroine. Also, I love the idea of King David’s descendants becoming the most likely trainers for unicorns.

I commend the authors who submitted “open-minded” stories; it’s nice to think that the YA world is slowly being more accepting of LGBTQ themes. Love Will Tear Us Apart and Prom Night both have gay characters while Inoculata has lesbian heroines. It would be inappropriate to say that there is a homosexual utopia in a crumbling, zombie-ridden apocalyptic world, but that’s what it seems to me. It’s wonderful how different authors came up with a little common denominator.

Hands down, this is definitely one of my favorite anthologies. Admittedly I like novels more than short stories, with all the obvious reasons: a novel gives you ticket for a longer stay in an amazing setting and more time to spend with the characters involved. You grow and love everything in the paper-bounded world in your hands one page at a time. With short stories, this is rarely achieved—ten pages are often not enough to arrest the full attention of a reader. But being a senior college student who wishes there are more than 24 hours in a day, an anthology is some kind of a blessing, as they contain miniature worlds that I can finish traveling in just a few hours. And if the anthology in your hand has a caliber tantamount to that of Zombies vs. Unicorns, I assure you that all the time you spent reading it will not be wasted.

The winner for me? Not team zombie or team unicorn.

The winner is the reader.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Thesis: It's all over!

Pockets turned inside out and purses drained. Heaps upon heaps of revised thesis sitting at home. Sleepless nights. All of these little problems that have bothering us during the thesis days were suddenly wiped out when Sir Dan, one of the panelists for our thesis defense yesterday, told us:

“I want to congratulate you. So far, this is the best thesis I’ve seen.”

No one knows how happy—ecstatic even—Debbie and I were when those words came out his mouth after our thesis presentation.

The biggest irony that happened in our thesis days is when we had problems finding a panelist—the expenses only ranking as the second. We’ve tried contacting lots of other professors, but they’ve all turned down. The night before the defense day, I learned that Sir Dan was back from his vacation in Thailand, so I texted (and attempted to call) him immediately. He answered at around eleven thirty that night, and his answer? “Sorry. Too late notice.”

By some miracle we managed to convince him, though we have to reschedule our defense. We gave him our manuscript three hours before the defense.

Malutong ‘to,” he told us as he was about to enter the room and sit as a panelist, referring to our bulky thesis. “Your study. I like it.”

That statement elicited a sigh from us. For the record, the first time I saw Debbie so nervous was a few minutes before the defense, and she smiled excitedly/tensely (I can’t really tell) at me when Sir Dan told us that. We always give each other a “come on we can do it” glances, and as far as I could tell it was a tad effective.

Sir Dan bombarded us with questions—even before we show our presentation. I never thought he knew so much about newspapers—from all the technical parts and elements of a broadsheet to the latest trends in the print industry. We tried to answer each query with the best of our knowledge. We even got into a mini-argument of some sort. The convo went along these lines:

Sir Dan: How about the headlines? Have you considered unconventional headlining? 
Me: Not unconventional headlining sir, but we considered headline as a part of the overall makeup of the newspaper, hence contributing to visual appeal. 
Sir Dan: So you’re saying headline is “visual”? 
Me: As a pertinent factor to our study, yes, but we consider it as the newspaper element that lies between the visual and the content field. We are talking about visual journalism here, anyway. What I mean is, when you see the front page for the first time, it’s not just the photos or the graphics that catch your attention—you see the headline, too. It magnetizes your eyes, your attention, sir, because of its large, bold font. After your attention was arrested by the headline, you read it and you begin to focus on the content. 
Sir: Ah, so you’re saying it contributes visually and content-wise? 
Me: Yes, sir. 
Sir: *smiles incomprehensibly* 
Me: *smiles back sheepishly* 
Sir: Okay, grade-an ko sarili ko ah. 
Everyone: *laughs*

All in all, it was a success: high pass. By the end of the day, everyone was celebrating—me, Debbie, Mamu, Row, Jedi, Elai. By the end of the day, we knew that all the fourth year journalism students will graduate, and that’s all that matters. We will march…together. :)

Thank you God.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Imaginaccion XIII: The Conception of Existentia

All my life, I've been dreaming to produce my own book. Write my own novel or a compendium of poems and short stories, something like that. Just to be able to hold a thin pile of softbound paper of literary gems in my hands that I could call my own--that would be a dream come true.

This dream has been my guide when I applied to the Lyceum Independent Sentinel. I was choosing between the Features section and the Literary section, trying to gauge the things I can get while I give my full service. Being a Features Ed would be alright, but I know that if I become a Literary Editor, I will be the one to handle the conception of the annual literary folio of Lyceum--the Imaginaccion.

A voice in my head said,"Hey, that can be yours. It wouldn't matter if your first printed baby would be a synergy of literary minds from your school, right? As long as you're the mom...heck, it wouldn't matter who the dads would be." I chuckled at the thought (that obviously sounded a tad wrong, haha) and said, "Yeah, why not". So here I am, the Editor-in-Chief of the thirteenth Imaginaccion.

Here I will share to you what it took us--I and the literary team--to produce Existentia: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Seven Heavenly Virtues.


First, we have to come up with the theme. Initially, I wanted to have a circus- or carnival-themed Imagi, something colorful and lively. The Sentinel EIC, Kat Manapat, told me that it's okay and the topic suits my personality (haha), but she said I have to come up with sub-topics, like what she did in Equipoise. Chopping the circus theme didn't feel right--would I think of the acts--chapter one as Knife Throwing and chapter two as Juggling? Or the people who run the circus--chapter one as Ring Master and chapter two as Tightrope Walker? It felt wrong, so I tried to think of something else to propose. I included the Fates (Birth, Living, Death), Music (sounds and lyrics, or something like that) and Heaven and Hell. After all the discussions and suggestions, we end up choosing the Seven Deadly Sins and the Seven Heavenly Virtues and their never-ending existence in the human soul. And thus, the idea of Existentia was born.


I can't produce the book on my own, obviously, so the Imagi team was formed. By default, the assistant literary editor, Raisa Dela Cruz, would be the Associate Editor. I chose Kat Manapat as the Managing Editor (but due to some complications she became the Lit Ed); Marc Abila and Kenneth Cabusay as the Literary Editors (...and again due to some complications they became the Managing Eds); Debbie Nunez and Armon Clavecillas as the creative consultants; Jerick Sanchez as chief photographer; Janine Astete as Chief Illustrator; Krizia Nhel Gayo as the Production Manager; and JM Manaloto as the Promotions Manager.



We started moving as early as October, sending out letters to judges, conceptualizing the book launching, emailing potential sponsors, holding photo shoots for the editorial board, making AVPs, etc. Stressful, yes, but we're doing our best for this year's Imagi to be successful.


I've been to a couple of Imagi's before, but the 2010 competition was the first where I was the one giving the contest. It was all different, yet all the same. While the contest was ongoing, I felt a common denominator with all the people in the competition venue: we're just students who want to express ourselves through literary pieces. I was different because of one little thing: I was sitting behind an editor's desk.

Anyway, the days of the competition were also the peak of my asthma attacks that December, so it was a bit hard to go and move around to finish everything for the competition. Still, with the help of the Team, I was able to finish my tasks. :)


Not everything went smoothly, though. The Lyceum Independent Sentinel faced some budget problems halfway through the conception of the book, and we need to cut down the budget for it. The grand book launching idea was scrapped; everyone agreed on just putting up a booth or preparing a soft launching for it. We're okay with it, but we tried pushing to maintain the alloted money for the book.

Also, we were having publisher dilemma at that time. We can't get a quotation for the folio, which we need badly and immediately so we could already send a budget request...but everything was just so slow. After a couple of more tries and several times of getting unfavorable responses, we gave up and looked for other publishers. That's where Mr. Eros Atalia and the Think N' Print Publishing House came in.


Everyone was required to move, because every minute was precious. We penned our poems and stories (I drew the illustrations for my pieces too), rejected, approved, and edited entries and contributions. It wasn't as easy as it sounds; we need to work like machines, and we were having problems about who to layout the book. Debbie was a little reluctant at first, but she accepted the job anyway (hello? additional salary? haha!)

One of our most memorable experiences in making the book was our overnight session at Sir Atalia's publishing house in Cavite. We proofread the whole night (I think I was the only one who didn't sleep; everybody else was able to get some naps) and helped lay out the whole book until the last minute of our stay at Think N' Print. We sometimes inserted lots of "chikahan" and munched on the available snacks there to drive the stress away. It was hard, but we made it a point to always remind ourselves that it's going to be worth it in the end.

I was thankful that Debbie's the graphics and layout artist. She knew what she wanted, and it always turned out that what she wanted was the best for the book. If she was just a regular layout editor, she'd just make the simplest and plainest layout for the folio--but Debbie is Debbie, and that meant defying what's normal and standing out because of stark unconventionality in a the best possible way. If you see the book, you'll get what I mean.


Imaginaccion XIII was born on February 21, 2011. Mr. Atalia delivered 1,200 copies to our school early  Monday morning; Debbie and I were there to get the check from the cashier and pay Mr. Atalia. There was a little discussion about the final product when we finally got out hands on it, especially about the printing quality, which was not what we were expecting... Be that as it may, we went on to continue the book launching. By 11:30AM of that day, the whole school was able to see the folio.



There were still a lot of responsibilities to fulfill even after the release of the folio, but everybody's relieved that the production was all done. There were lots of lessons learned, great moments experienced--and okay, let's all be honest--salary! Haha. I loved the book unreservedly despite its not-so-okay printing, and I will treasure it as the first published book that I could call our own. Whether you view it as a craft of a literary harem (lol) or as just a compendium of artistic minds on paper, it will always be a proof that Lyceum has a lot of creative minds that are worthy of being read.

Cheers! :)