An attempt to make sense of things in a random universe, one Friday at a time.

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Location: Philippines

Leaving my footsteps for you to find and follow, my love.

28 August 2009

What I like

Weekends on the beach.
Cold, rainy nights.
Taking long siestas.
Watching old movies.
A room in which I can make time stop.
Updike, Atwood, Garcia-Marquez.
Reading Proust all day.
Reading Agatha Christie all day.
Finishing writing a short story.
Finishing writing for a project.

My mother's garden.
Remembering the boys.
Being with other writers.
Apple computers.
Fresh laundry.
The letterpress.
Crossword puzzles.
Peanut butter sandwiches.
Bopis and steamed rice.

5 x 8 index cards.
Moleskines and fountain pens.
Onion skin paper.
Silver-colored paper clips.
Manual typewriters.
Ballads from the forties and fifties.
Skirts, pantyhose, and four-inch high heels.
Walking in stormy weathers wearing rain boots.
Summer afternoons.

Old sepia photographs.
Old, dusty villages.
Abandoned houses.
Intramuros and Quiapo.
Living in Metro Manila
Lying on the grass in UP Diliman.
Ghost stories and old wives' tales.
An old, comfortable chair.
Warm sweaters.
Crayola crayons.

The quiet, empty office on weekends.
A man strong enough to let me be myself.
Flowers for no reason.
Diamonds for no reason.
Love for all reasons.

[A similar post]

[Image credits: 1, 2, 3, 4]

26 August 2009

Okay, so I have given in

To this:

In time, when I have gotten used to the Twitter concept, I will learn how to stop referring to myself in the third person. In the meantime, you may follow Maryanne Moll on Twitter.

And as you might already know, I am on Facebook as well, although my profile view is temporarily limited to friends only. You can also make this blog one of your favorites on Technorati.

And that's it. Scroll down -- or up -- to return to regular programming.

21 August 2009

To that which makes me write

To me you are a wisp of sulfur – ephemeral, evanescent – that takes over my soul and renders it liquid. You make me simmer and leave me to evaporate, to be pure again.

There lies your power. If I fall with you a thousand times into magma, I rise a thousand times glacial water.

[Image credit]

19 August 2009


My blog has had the same repeating background pattern for over a year now, and I just thought I'd give it a new look. I wanted to go for dark vintage this time, for contrast.

Previously, it was this:

And this is the original repeating pattern, which I started out with in December 2005:

And because I am now posting more often, sometimes having one more post for the week on top of my regular Friday post, I have made the home page longer. The home page now shows the fifteen most recent posts, instead of the usual ten. The posts from 2009 onwards shall also have footnotes at the end that lead to similar and related posts and outside links. For some reason I prefer doing this over using tags. I also prefer the older template's linear archive format over the newer drop-down archives. I think the latter has way too many moving arrows.

Also, I have made the sidebar a little bit more relevant, and -- this must be my proudest blogging moment -- placed custom headers that I created from zero all by my little old self!

This is the old sidebar:

Here's the new one:

It took me hours how to figure everything out, since I have no formal training in either Photoshop or savings files for the web or working via html, and I had to deal with the sizing via trial and error, plus the choice of font was crucial, but it turned out okay. Hurray for me!

Note that I still pretty much have the 2005 format of this brown template, save for the repeating background and the sidebar layout and typography. The newer templates -- which will allow me to have the "Follow" link and the now-standard "Older Posts" and "Newer Posts" links, among other things -- still look a little to busy for me, so I'm sticking with this. Blogger bloggers who want to follow my blog can do so from their own dashboard. (Thanks to my four followers, so far.)

Just another moment in the life of a blog. Soon I might finally get to redo my entire template, not only to provide an easier way for my readers to browse through my archives but also to reflect the woman I have grown into: older, simpler, quieter, more robust, more refined, and hopefully, a better writer.

[A related post]

16 August 2009


After rains and summers and full moons and Christmases and tears and laughter and family and friends and work and words and books and worlds, my boughs hang heavy with bounty.

Today in my orchards there falls a wonderful deluge of love. Happy birthday to me!

[Similar posts: 1, 2, 3]

14 August 2009


Thank God it's Friday is a movie from 1978 that celebrates the disco scene. As can be expected of anything disco, it's glittery, colorful, crazy, and retro.

The movie also featured a very young Jeff Goldblum, an equally young Debra Winger, a vivacious Donna Summer, and her song "Last Dance," which won the Best Song award in the 1979 Academy Awards.

And in a totally abrupt and profoundly off-tangent switch of topic, let me say that because of the new auto-publish feature of Blogger, I can now have a new blog post at least every Friday, regardless of whether I or my MacBook Pro are online at that very moment, regardless of whether I or my MacBook Pro are asleep or reading or driving through traffic or indulging ourselves on a peanut butter sandwich eating binge, or up late watching old movies like, well, Thank God It's Friday.

So, thank god it's Friday! No, we are not going to disco, but we are going to celebrate the fact that this blog has been resuscitated, and that I am coughing up the water from out of my lungs after a rather strange drowning and I can stand up again, a little bit wobbly in the knees, but able to walk step by step by slow, little step. Hopefully, you will like it. Hopefully, you will think it's worth your time. Hopefully, I can bring something nice to your Fridays. And hopefully, this will continue for a long time to come, so that I can learn to swim in the ocean again without ever drowning.

A very belated blog post about a book launch

(Thankfully, I know my friends will understand.)

So I realized just an hour ago that I have never really blogged about my first-ever book launch. I can think up a few excuses – I have been very busy with other things, I felt insecure amid all the other good writers with me in that book launch, I have forgotten that I have a blog, I was offline for the longest time, I was sick, my Mac was out of space to even open a browser window, government work did not allow for blogging, my internet service provider is too inefficient, I ran out of fountain pen ink, I was trying to learn how to walk in high heels, I got a crew cut, I cracked a fingernail, I moved to Timbuktu where there was no internet service, my dog had a quarrel with the neighbor’s parakeet and the parakeet flew into my room through an open window and ate my homework …

Now that the (fake) excuses are over with, let me tell you that six months ago, in February of this year, Speculative Fiction Volume IV was launched at the Fully Booked flagship store in Bonifacio High Street. SpecFic4, as we lovingly call it, is the fourth volume of an annual anthology consistently being published by the husband-and-wife team of Dean and Nikki Alfar, both award-winning writers, and also top coordinators for the LitCritters, a reading group that meets every alternate Saturdays. (The LitCritters also has a Dumaguete chapter, headed by award-winning writer Ian Rosales Casocot.)

The anthology focuses on short stories under the speculative fiction genre, which is a loose – and, as Dean admitted, temporary – category that takes under its silvery wing science fiction stories, horror, fantasy, futuristic fiction, and other smaller sub-genre that cannot be technically classified under conventional realist fiction.

But the LitCritters never did let categories cramp their style. They just read and read and wrote and wrote, and they shared their thoughts during regular LitCritters get-togethers, to where everyone who has signed up in the Google group and read the story scheduled to be discussed for the week is welcome. The Speculative Fiction anthology is the fruit of these countless reading discussion get-togethers, where we get to meet writers we have read but have not met, read writers we have met but have not read, meet writers who are just starting out and writers who are well along their way, writers who are also editors and publishers, writers who love to read and write about dragons, writers who love Aimee Bender, and everyone else who the LitCritters just seem to attract into these afternoon get-togethers, to talk about stories of all kinds. It's no University of the Philippines, Diliman, but that, perhaps, is where the efficiency of the LitCritters gets its strength from. It's fun, it's funny, it's happy, it's uplifting, it's meaningful, it's natural. Isn't that how reading should be?

The LitCritters is a small group of really awesome people. My first experience at joining them was one particularly lonely Saturday afternoon in 2006 – which was really no different from all the other lonely afternoons I kept having that year – and at once I knew that this group can and will help me. With what particularly, I did not know yet. I was not even sure yet if I would still write, not sure if I still could, but I knew that there was still something in me that this group can (re-)ignite.

Right in the middle of a discussion about a story –- I think it was the one where the main character, an old potter, died and his body was cremated and his ashes were mixed into clay that were in turn made into pots and bought by people who lived in other countries and brought the pots with them to their homes, and placed them on porches, on windowsills, and the main character, Don Ysidro, was alive in those pots, exhilarated by all the sights and sounds of the civilization passing before him.

When I was asked to comment on the story, part of what I said was, “I am very much amused by this part that says that when an enemy of Don Ysidro asked Don Ysidro’s wife for the dying man’s red boots, the wife bent down to listen to what Don Ysidro would say, and Don Ysidro, who could speak with a very soft voice and only with great effort, said no, because the visitor was a thieving rascal, and the wife straightened up and said that Don Ysidro said the visitor could take the boots.” And then I paused, because I had a sudden flash of insight. “I’m amused because that is exactly how married people are.”

Of course everybody laughed at that. And that made me realize that maybe all was not lost. And when I laughed with them a split-second later, I knew I’d be okay.

And I got up from my depression -- aided by Dr. Zita Soriano and Zoloft -- dusted myself off, and went to work. The result was not exactly stellar, but good enough for a recovering writer. I was able to rework some older pieces in which I used to be stuck, and I was able to write a few new pieces as well. For SpecFic4, I gave my short story Breathing Space, which Nikki said has some elements of horror.

Here are all the stories in this volume:

A League of Champions by Ronald Cruz
A Retrospective on Diseases for Sale by Charles Tan
All We Need is Five Meals a Day by Jose Elvin Bueno
Beats by Kenneth Yu
Breaking the Spell by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz
Breathing Space by Maryanne Moll
Dino's Awesome Adventure by Carljoe Javier
Dreams of the Iron Giant by Joseph Nacino
First of the Gang to Die by Paolo Jose Cruz
From Abecediarya by Adam David
Haya Makes A HUG by Erica Gonzales
Hopscotch by Anne Lagamayo
Mang Marcing and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by Vincent Simbulan
Parallel by Eliza Victoria
Press Release by Leo Magno
Revenge of the Tiktaks by Noel Tio
Sky Blue by Celestine Trinidad
The Dance of the Storm by Isabel Yap
The Day That Frances, The Copywriter, Became God by Monique Francisco
The Maiden's Song by Kathleen Aton-Osias
The Paranoid Style by Sharmaine Galve
The Rooftops of Manila by Crystal Gail Shangkuan Koo
The Secret Origin of Spin-Man by Andrew Drilon
The Sewing Project by Apol Lejano-Massebieau

And the launch was crowded and a little noisy, but as can be expected from Dean and Nikki and the rest of the LitCritters, always fun, friendly, and relaxed.

No stiff speeches and stuffy readings of excerpts of one’s story, just an evening of catching up on each other and meeting new friends and writers. It was my very first time to attend a launch of a book that included me -- this, a decade after the release of my very first book, in 1999, which I never launched, and the subsequent release of my second book in 2003, which I also never launched -- but maybe it's just as well, because the LitCritters are wonderful people to share a milestone with.

To Dean and Nikki and the LitCritters, you will always have a soft spot in my heart. Thank you for letting me into your gatherings. Thank you for being my allies in reading and writing. Thank you for being my friends. Thank you for making me laugh, and for making me see that what can save me has been right under my nose all along. Thank you for for those magical Saturday afternoons where talked about stories we have read, about stories we are working on, and how, in the beauty and the madness of storytelling, the trick is to keep going, keep reading, keep writing, and keep believing that in the childlike sense of wonder created by reading and writing all sorts of stories, we find our truest selves.

[Related links: 1, 2]

07 August 2009

My typewriter

I’m trying not to get intimidated by the recent discovery that I use the same typewriter as William Faulkner used to have, which is an Olympia SM-1 dating back to the late forties. It looks like this. Mine is in a sexy cranberry color, while Faulkner’s, I assume, is black. (Although with writers, one never really knows, and there are no photos of his Olympia SM-1.)

Of course he was also known to use other typewriters, such as the Remington 12 – presumably as his desktop typewriter – and the Underwood Standard Portable – presumably as his portable. I, on the other hand, have noticed that I have twice in my life ended up with Olympias.

I began with my father’s Olympia Traveller Deluxe, which he had since he was in college, and which he used to type his papers, letters, and speeches, most notably his speech when he graduated with a business degree and high honors from the Ateneo de Naga in 1976. I found a photo of it online.

When I found that typewriter, I was seven years old, and just a few days I learned to use it like a pro. At first I used it in secret, only while my parents were away, and used to hide from our maids while I typed, turning up the volume of the cartoons I used to watch on the Betamax player to drown out the clackety-clackety sound of the gray-and-white Olympia portable. I wrote stories, I believe. Long, narrative stories with no dialogue and which had mostly descriptions of places and people, because I fell in love with how a single block of text looked like, in type, flowing out from the typebars operated by my small, frantic fingers.

Eventually my parents found me out, and they just shrugged their shoulders. I ended up being my mother’s official typist. During summer vacations when school would be out for over two months I would spend the mornings reading in bed, and the afternoons in the comprada with my mother, where she would make me type data into forms and envelopes for two to three hours a day.

I don’t know where that typewriter is now. Maybe it is still in the bodega behind my childhood home, which is now inhabited by a second cousin and his family. My Dad visited me recently, and I asked him about it. He still remembers it. He smiled and said, “It has a matching case.” But what I do like best about it is that its keys are not exactly square. I found that very stylish.

In 2000, when I was pregnant with Chandler, I walked into Save on Surplus in Naga City, looking for something which I have now forgotten, and I came across several typewriters displayed on a shelf along the furthest wall of the store. The Olympia SM-1 was displayed in the middle of the middle shelf. Even from about four feet away, I knew that typewriter was mine. After I typed, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” in the spare paper already inserted in its feed, I purchased it for 3,000 pesos.

The salesman took about ten minutes looking for its case in the storage room, and handed the black, battered thing to me. And then as if I had been doing it for a hundred years, I positioned the back of the typewriter to engage with the hook in the case, slowly lowered the typewriter to align with the four metal pits for the typewriter feet, and gently pushed the typewriter down. The locks snapped into place approvingly, like a salute. When I straightened up, I saw the salesman looking over my shoulder with an incredulous expression on his face.

The Olympia has been with me ever since. With it, I wrote on my long-running file of index cards, the first draft of my first (and only) screenplay for a class under Rene O. Villanueva, my novel-in-progress (which, alas, I am still working on), the first draft of “At Merienda,” many letters (which I mailed), countless lists and notes-to-self, and an estimated three reams of letter-sized onion skin paper’s worth of diary entries. I'm no William Faulker, but I sure know how to work a good typewriter.

I am still typing. (Turns out I am not intimidated by the William Faulkner factoid.) And although my Olympia SM-1 shall probably outlive me, as it has outlived its previous owner, in my hands it shall continue to see the most care and the most typewritten pages ever.

[Other related links: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]

05 August 2009

A small pause

Because today I suspend my personal blog policy never to comment about politics or current affairs in order to pay my last respects to a historic lady.