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Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994
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My story collection has been nominated for a National Book Award

September 08, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books

The Stories So Far has been nominated in the Best Book of Short Fiction in English category. Thank you, National Book Development Board and Manila Critics Circle.

The full list of nominees is here.

The Stories So Far was published in paperback by Anvil last year. The paperback edition might still be available in National Bookstores.

TSSF was originally published in hardcover by the Library of Babel in 2014. Great big thanks to the people who made the publication of The Stories So Far possible. Jay Lozada did the cover design (Ricky Villabona did the cover of Geeks Vs Jocks). Ige Ramos did the book design. Tina Cuyugan did the editing. Juan Chua published the whole shebang. Karina Bolasco adopted the books for Anvil. And my cats stared at me until I wrote enough short stories for a second fiction book.

Another book I produced was nominated in the Best Book on Professions category. The Management Association of the Philippines commissioned me to write and Ige to design Winning: Management Lessons Outside the Classroom. Winning was published by Anvil and is available at National Bookstores.


Jacob Totoro “Tormund” Howlett overreacts to the nomination.

We have hardcover copies of The Stories So Far and Geeks Vs Jocks (essays on sports, politics, film), Php199 each. To order signed copies, please email saffron.safin@gmail.com.

Let’s talk about socks

September 23, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Clothing


My favorite shoes with my favorite socks

I’m going on several trips in the next month and doing a lot of walking, so before I left Manila I went to Marks and Spencer and bought a pack of socks. You’d think socks would be easier to find than shoes. Nope. In the last three years I’ve bought dozens of socks that turned out to be useless. Crew socks (mid-calf) and boot socks are easy. Happy Socks and Proppy do them well. But ankle socks, including the ones that claim to be no-show, cause problems—they slip down and disappear into my shoes. I’m talking about you, Old Navy, Calzedonia, and now Marks and Spencer ankle socks. If there’s anything that causes me to revert into an eight-year-old, it’s socks that get eaten by shoes.

Yesterday I had barely walked a block when my socks retreated to my arches and my ankles were chafed by the backs of my shoes. Blasted socks. Fortunately there are convenience stores on every street corner in Yokohama so I ducked into one and bought a pair of men’s socks. Which held up perfectly, and saved my feet from bleeding.

Could somebody tell me where to get good ankle socks?

An introduction to Steely Dan, my favorite cerebral-ironic jazz-rock nerd grouch band

September 20, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Music

When I was 14 I got a Walkman, and from that moment on I was free to choose my own mental soundtrack. I never had to hear Air Supply or David Pomeranz again, unless my batteries died or I caught a stray high note while changing cassettes. The most pleasurable and most agonizing choice of the day was which four albums to take to school with me.

One of the first albums I bought with my own money was Gaucho by Steely Dan. I would never have heard of Steely Dan if “Hey, Nineteen” had not briefly cracked the the Top 40 chart. Obviously I did not relate to the band’s experience—I had no memory of 1967 and was not a dandy ogling teenage girls who did not know who Aretha Franklin was. (I had a vague idea who Aretha was.) I liked the funny-sarcastic lyrics, the sound (beloved of audiophiles), the way their songs had narrators, and the weirdly moving vocal harmonies. So I looked up their previous albums. Aja remains my favorite. I remember listening to “Home At Last” and sitting bolt upright as I realized it was the Odyssey. Luckily I always sat in the back during Physics lab.

Walter Becker died on September 3. I’m hoping Donald Fagen resumes his tour. But damnit, I’ll never see the whole Steely Dan perform live. And another thing has occurred to me: Do younger musicians, people 30 and below, listen to Steely Dan and play their songs? They should.

So if you have a band and you play Steely Dan, let me know. I’ll come to your gig, bring music nerd friends, write about you. We can talk about what the songs mean.

If you have no idea what Steely Dan is, here’s a basic playlist.

* * *

Goddamnit Donald Fagen was supposed to headline the Blue Note Jazz Festival in Yokohama this weekend and I’m in Yokohama and the festival has been cancelled!!!

I hereby make a vow to see Donald Fagen in concert as soon as possible.

Weekend in Cebu: LitFest, Writing Boot Camp, fabrics and accessories

September 17, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Design, Food, Places, Projects


I left the house under the guilt-inducing gaze of Drogon, who disapproves of any activities that do not involve him.

I was in Cebu from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning for two events organized by Hendri Go, who runs the Cebu Literary Festival. I like Cebu: One can still breathe, even if the traffic is getting heavy; there are enthusiastic creative enterprises like Happy Garaje the design studio and Anthill the fabric gallery; there are intense chocolate creations at The Chocolate Chamber and that cake at the coffee shop of Big Hotel; and the major malls have wider, taller spaces than the ones in Manila. Also, Avatar earrings and accessories and Sunburst fried chicken.

After a quick lunch and chocolate fix, I did a reading and Q&A at one of the Cebu LitFest venues, a rooftop amphitheatre at SM Seaside. Near the amphitheatre is a cafe staffed by fluffy, lazy cats.

I slept like a baby at the Marco Polo Plaza, where the lovely staff sent up midnight snacks: ensaymada and tea on the first night, chocolate chip cookies and a glass of milk on the second.

Before boot camp the next day I visited Anthill, a gallery and training center for producers of indigenous handwoven fabrics and accessories. I bought a reversible shawl that can be worn sixteen ways, which means I only have to bring a bunch of black T-shirts and jeans when I go to Tokyo this week.

Writing Boot Camp was held at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in the I.T. Park in Lahug. I talked about building the habit of writing, gave writing exercises, and interviewed each participant about what was keeping her/him from writing. Then we talked about the writing projects they will undertake, the first five pages of which are due on Saturday, 30 September.

En route to the airport I stopped by the Avatar showroom, where I stuck to my resolve to buy only two or three items. Lately I’ve felt that my things are closing in on me like the trash compactor in Star Wars, so I limit my purchases to stuff I need or really like. Hence, the slightly weird.

Thank you, Cebu! I’ll be back.

Answer our questionnaire about your favorite books

September 14, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books


Saffy and Drogon guard the books.

1. What was the first book you read repeatedly?
2. What book have you reread the most?
3. What book do you wish you had written?
4. Do you have a book fetish?
5. What book do you wish would be made into a movie?
6. What book/s do you reread when you are glum?
7. What book beloved by many have you never read?
8. What is your favorite trashy book?
9. What book/s have you attempted many times and abandoned, but still resolve to read someday?

* * * * *

I’ll start.

What was the first book you read repeatedly?

An anthology of fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and Andrew Lang. I would reread it under the blanket with a flashlight. I especially liked The Little Mermaid because it was so sad. With each step she felt like she was treading on knives! She cast herself into the sea and turned into sea-foam, for a wussy prince! Yes, at 7 I could recognize a wuss. I’ve never seen the Disney version. It would probably make me angry.

Read the rest of this entry →

The Dream of the Brown Dog (and how to remember your dreams)

September 11, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Psychology


The Key to Dreams by Rene Magritte

I had this dream a few days ago. (I’d woken up at 8am and gone back to sleep.)

We were filming the travel show in Texas, right after Hurricane Harvey struck. The high-rise office building we were in was flooded up to the second floor. We did not mind the conditions, being used to typhoons and monsoons. I had a dog with me, a brown askal which ran off to play with the other dogs taking refuge in the upper floors. The dog did not respond when I called him, so I figured I’d pick him up when we finished filming.

On our way out I tried to get the dog, but a security guard barred me from looking for him. I started arguing with the guard. I told him I could not possibly leave my dog, and he said I had to leave the building. I was getting very upset.

You know that scene towards the end of The Usual Suspects, after the detective has let Verbal Kint go? The detective sits in his office drinking coffee and looking at the pictures tacked on the walls, and he suddenly realizes where Verbal got his stories. That’s what happened in my dream.

I was yelling at the guard when a series of thoughts popped into my head.

How did I transport my dog from Manila to Texas?

Didn’t my dog have to be quarantined?

What was the name of my dog?

Wait. I don’t have a dog.

Then I woke up.

Read How to Remember Your Dreams