May 31, 2020

Always in My Heart...

After a turbulent start to 2020, this month, my beloved Mom, who instilled in me a love of reading which led to a passion for creative writing, transitioned from her physical presence on Earth to a spiritual presence in Heaven where she now watches over me and my family. I've been filling my days with writing a new novel, revising and editing two novels--one I hope to publish this year. I'm including this letter which I posted on Instagram on Mother's Day. Hug your Moms and tell them you love them while you still can!

Dear Mama,
Even though it’s only been 2 days since you left us so prematurely and so suddenly, we know for sure that we can never ever get used to not having you around. There’s a void that can never be filled. We will always remember and thank you for all the ways you showed us your love: through your cooking, through encouraging us to follow our dreams, through teaching us to love each other, and to be kind to others. In the words of Frederick, one of my writing students who recently sent his condolences: “What does one say to a dear friend that has lost their Mother? I was at a loss of to write about your loss. I can't imagine the feeling. I don't want to imagine it. Losing a Mother has to be different than any other family member. Mom was the most important thing in a child's life. And no matter how old we get they will always be Mom and we will always be her child.” ***
I want to thank you for introducing me to a love of reading which led to a lifelong passion for writing. I always tell people ‘my Mom knows how to speak 4 languages: Tagalog, English, a proficiency in Spanish, and definitely, a fluency in the language of LOVE!’
It was truly my honor to take care of you the past month, during which time you imparted to me some inspirational words of healing: *When you said, “I wouldn’t be here without you,” and you meant that you wouldn’t be able to manage without my help, to which I responded with, “But Mama, remember, I WOULDN’T be here without you.”
*When I asked you to forgive me for all the times I gave you a hard time growing up,” you replied with, “There’s nothing to forgive.”
*When you said, “Thank you,” after the times I gave you your medicine or fed you your meals when you were bedbound, to that I replied, “No, Mama, THANK YOU for being the Best Mom Ever, for doing the best you could do for us, for giving birth to us, for being patient with us, and for loving us unconditionally. You will always live in our hearts and we will love you forever. 😢 ❤🙏🏽🌹

December 25, 2019

This lady waits no more...

After two years of revising and editing, this "Little Lady" of a novella has finally made her debut into the world this holiday season! A spinoff novella anchored in the Pretty Princess Universe, this truly was a labor of love that was conceived during NaNoWriMo 2017. While it only took me three weeks to write this novella that November, it took about another year and a half to revise and edit. A huge part of the reason was that I had enjoyed writing the story and had connected to the characters. And since this is a holiday-themed novella, I had truly immersed myself in the holiday season all year long for nearly two years!

On an even more personal note, I've recently been "plagued" by what I deem to be the most physical challenge regarding my health to date; I won't go into any details except to say that I can't recall ever feeling so daunted in my entire life. But by the same token, I've tried to embrace this experience as one of faith, hope and trust...that all will be well. That this is yet another "bump" in the road of life that's inviting me to become more of who I am...a better, more spiritual, more loving person, daughter, sister, friend, writer, creative writing teacher, Yoga and Pilates instructor, and of course, Kitty and Doggie Auntie and animal advocate. The "World Premiere" of my latest book, A Lady in Waiting, only fuels my passion to want to write and publish more books  as I help others to achieve their own literary dreams; to continue to help my loved ones and others heal as I continue to heal myself.

I'm forever grateful to my loved ones, my family and friends, and all the beautiful furry, finned and feathered creatures and wonders of the natural world who have helped me make this dream of putting a book out into the world possible!

So it is in this Spirit of Gratitude, Comfort and Joy, that Faith, Hope and Love will prevail! Wishing you and all your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and a Joyously Healing Happy New Year!

June 21, 2019

Paying Homage...

Happy Summer Solstice and Happy International Yoga Day!

During the writers' retreat in Paris this past Spring, I thought about the old adage of "Teach what you wish to learn."

Well, as my lesson plan was chock full of writing prompts that encouraged participants to observe and write using all the senses, I invited myself to do the same. And there's no better place in the world than Paris for a writer to do just that! I'm sure that there are several other places elsewhere in the world where one can experience a sensory feast, but for me, Paris eternally holds a special place in my heart as far as heightening the senses is concerned.

That said, once I was able to take a break from teaching at the writers' retreat, I became a flaneur and strolled along the Seine and the fact that the rain was relentlessly pouring that day made the experience all the more sensual! Most poignant, however, was paying homage to the dear Cathedral de Notre Dame whose towers I had planned to climb up to so I can get up close and personal with the gargoyles and where I could light a candle and meditate. Alas, that was not to be as our Dear Lady had partially been consumed by fire but thankfully survived. Notre Dame is a symbol of resilience and when I walked around her, my clothes drenched from that rainy day, it was as though she and I were being cleansed. And as talks about the beloved cathedral being rebuilt were in the air, I couldn't help but feel that photographing her in that post-fire state was sacrilegious. Yet, my love for what Cathedral de Notre Dame symbolizes, her resilience and strength after surviving centuries of war and occupation, represented what I honor most about my time in Paris: that despite everything, we must persevere. Bruised, battered and burned, Cathedral de Notre Dame may look embattled but Our Lady still has a lot of fight left in her. And as I sniffed the scent of the rain that day as I paid tribute to Notre Dame, vowing I will one day return to see her again, I renewed my own vow to stay true to my writing passion no matter what obstacles may seem to linger on my path.

And guided by the spirit and strength of Notre Dame, onward we go...

May 31, 2019

Paris Writers' Retreat 2019

Finally, after years of waiting to return to my Creative "home," I finally got the chance to go back this Spring not just to write but also to teach novel writing at my first ever Paris Writers' Retreat!

This is a first of a series of blog posts from the trip which will focus on my own personal adventures and experiences. But first, some history on why Paris has been my Creative Haven all this time. I first visited Paris after a summer studying abroad in Madrid years ago. I had always dreamed of visiting Paris with a special romantic someone but I quickly realized when I was there for the first time, that I didn't need to have a romantic partner to enjoy Paris---the City of Light had put a spell on me with its own brand of magic! I was a stressed-out, burned-out fledgling journalist when I took a sabbatical that year. But by the time I reached Paris, I immediately felt like I had come home! Back home to my creative writing self! Since I had been so mired in my journalism career, I had put my creative dreams aside. But long solo walks around La Tour Eiffel, around the Left Bank, La Sorbonne, and La Marais, proved that the literary ghosts of the past had haunted me, had guided me back to my creative writing self---my authentic self. When I left to go back home to the Bay Area, I had left a huge part of my heart behind. I couldn't wait to go back. 

So it was quite serendipitous when immediately upon my return home, I chanced upon a business card for French language lessons at a local French bistro and quickly signed up. Through Sara Villat and her French with Class, I was back in Paris within a year for a French class field trip. To my delight, I found that the magic of Paris continued to refresh my creative juices as I found myself writing, with pen and tiny notebook in hand, at places such as inside the sanctuary of Saint-Chappelle, surrounded by glorious stained-glass windows, and high up the towers of the Cathedrale de Notre Dame, with the precious gargoyles keeping me company! These first two trips to Paris resulted in the creation of my novels Not Just Another Pretty Face and Pretty as a Picture where Paris is very much a main character!

With my return to my Creative Homeland this Spring, I can say that it was well worth the long wait. I can't believe it took me so long to revisit Paris and now I can't wait to return for more of that Parisian literary magic!

And so with every blog post in my Literary Paris series, I shall continue to revisit Paris as I share my photos, experiences along with some literary musings. For more photos of the Paris trip, please visit me on Instagram @literaryyogini

à bientôt! 

November 22, 2018

Welcome to the World New Book Baby Girl and Happy Thanksgiving!

So much to be grateful for this year...This book was my thesis in completion of my MFA in Creative Writing. While it's been said that writing is a solitary endeavor, editing and publishing a book, in my case, had been the result of a collaborative effort involving the assistance of many wonderful people.

Many thanks to my Thesis Advisers and professors in the MFA Fiction program at Mills College: authors Cristina Garcia, Yiyun Li and YA author Kathryn Reiss who took time to read and critique the entire manuscript in its early stages. I would also like to extend my gratitude to my writing peers in the YA Fiction workshops who critiqued my work.

I am grateful to the book's "Godmother," cover designer and publisher, my dear friend, Ana Galvan, for her meticulous work and attention to detail. Immense gratitude goes to Julie Abitbol, a true artist who listened carefully to my ideas, took time to absorb the story and then used her vivid imagination to create the artwork that graces the book's front cover.

Much appreciation goes to my editing team: Susan Medina and Judy Swager for copyediting and proofreading; and to Nemia Carpio, my longtime friend since my two-year high school stint in the Philippines, for editing the Tagalog sentences and phrases.

And of course my love and gratitude to my family and friends for their love and support and to my students for their continued commitment to the written word. Much love and thanks to my furry nephew and nieces, especially to Lilly, the Feline Editor, for continually inspiring me.

August 30, 2018

Happy 1st Birthday Book Baby!

Today, my first book of short stories, Soulstice: Living and Loving On and Off the Yoga Mat, and I share the same birthday! A year ago today, I had the honor of sharing this collection of stories that had been a labor of love for over 4 years!

I'm also happy to announce that I'm putting the "finishing touches" on my YA novel and as soon as that's done, my Christmas novella will be right on its heels as I'll be on the home stretch of editing that and hopefully (crossing my fingers!) will have it ready in time for the holidays this year!

Thank you all for your love and encouragement throughout this amazing and inspiring literary journey: to my family, my friends, my students and all the beautiful animals who continue to inspire me everyday! My gratitude for your unconditional love and support all these years! Here's to welcoming more literary blessings in the months and years to come!

August 3, 2018

Celebrating Indie Author's Birthday

Happy Birthday to author and good friend, Ana Galvan (Check her out on Instagram  @anagalvan_writes) who’s holding her newest book baby— The Other Side of the Sky, a very compelling sci-fi read with strong female characters!  

To celebrate her special day, Ana shares her passion for reading and writing with us!

*What books are on your nightstand?
The books have spilled onto the floor but on the nightstand per se I have Portnoy’s Complaint by Phillip Roth because everybody said how nasty it was, The Mysteries of Udolpho, because it's the beginning of the Gothic novel, La Isla Bajo el Mar, because I always have a book in Spanish and I found it at the San Pablo Library bookstore and finally The Ensemble, because it was on my Amazon list and I found it for free at the Contra Costa County library.

*What’s your favorite book of all time?
Anna Karenina or The Goldfinch

*Which books got you hooked on reading? On Writing?
On reading I would have to say the Spanish classics: The Poem of the Cid, Life and Adventures of Lazarillo de Tormes, and whatever was assigned in school. In the summer I would read more classics but also titles I heard my classmates talking about that were more age oriented. On writing it wasn’t really a book, it was more a need to cleanse myself from a bad marriage, that’s what inspired The Contents of Desire, then I was hooked on writing.

*Who’s your favorite fictional character?
Rebecca in the book of the same name. I find this character intriguing, unconventional and daring.

*In your opinion, what qualities make a great novel?
Characters you love or hate. Characters
make you care what happens next.

*What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?
If you knew me, you wouldn’t be surprised by any of the books on my shelves.

*If you were to write a memoir, what aspect of your life would you focus on?
The adventure of migrating to the US

*Who’s your favorite historical character?
Marie Curie, could be Cleopatra or Queen Isabel of Spain (although she was too religious for my taste)

*Who’s your favorite childhood literary character or hero?
Heidi, but I have to confess I didn’t read the books. I watched the cartoons.

*What book have you read again and again and why?
The Time in Between in Spanish and English. I love the Spanish version and I wondered about the translation into Spanish. As it turns out I loved it as well. Translation is an art.

*What’s the best book you ever received as a gift?
Don Quijote de la Mancha

*What’s the best book you have ever given as a gift?
The Story of O. It was fun to give.

*Which is a book you’ve read that you wished you had written?
Call Me by Your Name

*If you could meet any writer, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Hemingway, because I am convinced he met my grandfather in Spain while he was reporting on the (Spanish) Civil War and my grandfather worked at the famous bar Chicote. I usually don’t want to meet authors. It kills the magic.