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Archive for the ‘Projects’

We spoke on Great Women in Literature at the Thomson Reuters LitFlix Club

March 21, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Projects No Comments →

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As part of its Women’s Month celebration, the LitFlix book and film enthusiasts club of Thomson Reuters, the news and information services company, invited us to give a talk on Great Women Characters in Literature last March 11 at their head office in Bonifacio Global City. There was quite a large audience for the talk; more importantly, they were really into the topic and asked interesting questions. (We have a horror of looking out into the audience and realizing that they are having out-of-body experiences. This happens in schools where students are required to listen to us.)

Among the literary characters who wound up in the discussion were Elizabeth Bennet, Jane Eyre, Athena of the Greek myths, Buffy Summers, the mythological sources of Katniss, Nancy Drew, the women of Game of Thrones, the protagonists of the rebooted fairy tales in Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, and Ursula Todd of Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life.

ThomsonReuters_Ogilvy with JZ

After the talk and Q&A we had a book-signing. Thanks to Marla Garin-Alvarez, the LitFlix Club, and Ogilvy and Mather for setting up the session. If you’d like us to give a talk to your club or organization, email saffron.safin@gmail.com.

Our first workshop series is over. Now finish your novels, and they’d better be brilliant.

March 10, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Projects 7 Comments →

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On Saturday we had the last session of Write Here, Write Now, our practical writing workshop. The workshop consisted of 16 hours of discussions spread out over four weekends, with the objective of finishing publishable manuscripts by June. All the participants are working on novels or story cycles.

Twenty-one applicants were accepted to the workshop. One dropped out before the first session, citing personal commitments. One vanished from the face of the earth. One showed up at the first session then never appeared again. We recommend they enter witness protection programs.

One fell ill halfway through the workshop, but is reportedly recovering; you may still send us your manuscript. Another had a spouse who fell ill; send us your manuscript. One could not think of something to write, opted to work on a translation, then flaked out. One was off to a very good start, but may have been abducted by elementals because we have not heard from him. One had a death in the family and was unable to attend the final session.

Fourteen turned up on the last day. Of these, two had submitted their complete first drafts on schedule: Sharon Matienzo and Allan Carreon. Congratulations! We will review the manuscripts with our newly-appointed first reader, Deo, and send you notes in a couple of weeks. Brownie points to Evan Tan and Patrick Limcaco, who met their weekly deadlines. We expect at least eight completed manuscripts by June.

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These are (L-R) Reginald Tolentino, Ryan Rivera, and Momel Tullao. Ryan is working on a philosophical novel which we look forward to reading. Momel is getting yet another tattoo. After some false starts and a period of grieving (his cat Prince died), he has gotten to work on a series of stories set in the inner city full of weirdos and perverts. We can’t wait. Other writers take years to find their voice; Momel has a distinctive voice in search of the right subject.

We have advised Reginald to drop his current project, which involves Iron Men wielding Mjolnirs, and get to know the labyrinths of Manila instead, beginning with Quiapo. His assignment is to figure out how to go to Quiapo using the public transport system (leaving his iPhone at home) and write a detailed report on the merchandise that is sold in and around Quiapo Church.

“Kids,” we told Reginald and Ryan, “Until you can get why the name Cristina Moran is funny, you do not understand Pinoy humor.”

“Why? Why?” Reginald asked.

“Clue. What is ‘semen’ in Tagalog?”

“I know!” he said brightly. “Mandaragat!”

“No, the bodily fluid, and conjugation is involved.”

Ryan’s systems lit up. “Oh. Okay, you have to find an analog of the sentence structure. For instance, to be urinated upon…”

They were still discussing this when we left to go to Ricky’s gallery opening.

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(L-R) Lloyd Vergara, Mike Co and PJ Caña. Lloyd is stuck in chapter 1, as is Jaime, who could not join us at dinner. Mike’s novel was speeding along until our discussion of allowing randomness into the writing process caused his tightly-structured plot to branch out in other directions. This is a good thing. We expect his Metroplex Manila in June. PJ is working on a novel about friendship and betrayal that he must finish soon, because he has an idea for a second novel that sounds like bestseller material.

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(L-R) Patrick Limcaco, Deo Giga and Sharon Matienzo. Sharon has finished her bildungsroman about the events in a small town. To decompress, she is working on a ghost story inspired by a sighting, corroborated by her fellow mountaineers, of Mariang Makiling. Patrick is moving to Bangkok, where he will probably have more time to flesh out his protagonist, the aspiring ‘genius’ Jestoni Jones.

Deo is stuck in the first chapter of his historical serial killer thriller. Given his vast reading list, literary tastes and general erudition, we think he might make a great editor. At this time the world probably needs more sharp editors than it does writers.

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(L-R) Evan Tan, Allan Carreon, and Angus Miranda. Angus has planned an ambitious novel about the persistence and inconstancy of memory; it is so ambitious, he has stumped himself. With adjustments, it should be done in a few months.

Allan has finished his first draft of the first book in a novel cycle about aswang (Think Anne Rice). The weekly deadline really worked for him, and he reports that he got more writing done while he was working than after he left his job.

Evan has patiently endured our Sam Milby lookalike jokes (PJ: I don’t see the resemblance). His novel, a supernatural murder mystery, has grown in scope in the course of our discussions, and will now cover the mythical history of the Philippines. We joined the group for dinner, and on our way to the restaurant, who should we spot but the actual Sam Milby. Evan had wisely walked on, preventing us from testing whether the fabric of reality would split if they met. (But which one is the antimatter?)

If your company/group is interested in organizing a writing workshop, email us at saffron.safin@gmail.com.

The Write Here, Write Now practical writing workshop was supported by the Ayala Foundation, Ayala Museum, and Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala.

Watch the scene we shot at Solidaridad bookshop with our readers

February 17, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies, Projects 1 Comment →


We shot this off a laptop so the sound is muffled. In this scene: Tesa Celdran, Ronnie Liang, Federico Olbes, and our band of extras.

Last year, filmmaker Elwood Perez (Lipad, Darna, Lipad; Disgrasyada; Diborsyada; Waikiki) asked us to write a movie.

“But we’ve never written a movie from scratch,” we said. “It will be terrible for sure.”

“Only you can write this movie!” Elwood declared.

“What’s it about?”

“Oh you know, East is East and West is West…the different types of gays in Manila…and the lead is Ronnie Liang. And Carlos Celdran must be in it, as himself.”

“Yes, but what’s it about?”

“Bahala ka na diyan,” he said, airily. “Daahling,” he added, like Tennessee Williams by way of Rita Gomez, “I’ll be busy all of next week, so just text.”

“But…but…but…”

The following week.

“Where were you?” we asked Elwood.

“Oh, my partner sold his car and I shot an indie movie,” Elwood said, as if this were something most people did anyway.

“In one week?”

“Yes, and I’ve edited it. The title is Otso. What do you think?”

We were floored by Otso and started working on a synopsis for the next movie. After many lunches and coffees, we had a sequence guide.

“Sige, isulat mo na yan,” Elwood said. “Make it sound like you.”

“Who’d want to watch that?”

“Hahaha, ikaw talaga. Can you add vampires?”

“Vampires??”

Weeks passed. We added vampires.

Elwood skimmed through the sequences. “Puede na ito. Write the screenplay na.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to add anything? Werewolves? Cause once we start writing, we’re not changing the plot.”

“Gawin mo na.”

That night, at 3am, Elwood sent us 10 text messages describing additional characters and changes to the storyline. Ordinarily we hate late revisions, but Elwood’s ideas were so outré, we had to use them. The barrage of text messages continued for weeks. The writing was slow at first, but once we realized that making sense of the whole shebang was not our problem and that the director would throw out most of the script anyway, we finished it in a few days.

“Ang mahal naman ng screenplay mo,” Elwood said. “This is a no-budget movie.”

“You said you wanted parties.”

Elwood’s solution was to call a friend. “Daahling, are you having a party next week? Can I shoot there?”

Elwood started shooting the movie. Next thing we know, the title had been changed from Object of Desire to Esoterica Manila. In January he showed us the trailer.

“I didn’t know Jon Hall was in the movie,” we said.

“That’s footage I shot a long time ago and never used,” Elwood explained. “It works.”

“What are all those socialites doing there?”

“Nag-shoot ako at a cocktail party.”

“Umm…do they know they’re in the movie?”

“They do now.”

Elwood wanted a scene in a bookshop.

“Our hero has a thirst for culture. Literature. Art,” he reminded us.

“We could ask Solidaridad to let us shoot there.”

“Perfect. We’ll need extras.”

So we put out a call for extras, and some readers gamely turned up. This being a no-budget movie, the crew consisted of Elwood, DOP Jopa, and Elwood’s driver Gilbert holding a microphone. Elwood blocked the scene.

“Alright,” he told us, “Turn this way, hold up the book, and sign it at this angle.”

“In mid-air? Isn’t that unnatural?”

“Basta, ako ang direktor!” he declared, turning to our band of intrepid extras. “Hijo, masyado kang matangkad, masisira ang composition. Doon ka sa likod. Okay, when you give her your book to sign, tilt it so we can see the cover, and then hand it to her, slowly.”

“He has to do his own slow-motion?” we laughed.

“Quiet. You there, turn right, crane your neck, that’s your angle. Hold that pose. Dapat maganda kayong lahat, lalo na’t walang bayad ito. Don’t look at the camera. Feel beautiful! Feel gorgeous! Okay, roll!”

Our shoot went quickly. We improvised our lines.

Last week Elwood sent us the rough edit for subtitling in English.

“Uh…Elwood? We don’t recall having written a gay rape scene.”

“No, that’s a movie they’re watching.”

“Did we have transgender characters?”

“Yes, isn’t she gorgeous? I couldn’t get a big star—no budget, remember—so I added her. So much more interesting.”

“There’s full frontal nudity.”

“Ang bongga, diba? That’s why I call it Esoterica. It’s not for everyone.”

“Why are those guys speaking in French?”

“Because they can! So our movie is in Tagalog, English, French and Spanish. Very cosmopolitan ang dating.”

We’re pretty sure we didn’t write it, but we can’t wait to see it. Here’s the scene we shot at Solidaridad with our reader-volunteers. Thank you for showing up! (Sinabi nang act natural, eh.)

Workshop snippets: Novels-in-progress

January 27, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies, Projects 2 Comments →

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Aaron Eckhart in Possession, Neil LaBute’s adaptation of A.S. Byatt’s marvelous literary mystery thriller. Critics tore into LaBute’s film for making changes to the book, notably turning the obscure English scholar into a ruggedly handsome American scholar. We love the movie, especially for its many scenes of Aaron Eckhart reading books and writing notes.

* * * * *

Write Here, Write Now, our Practical Writing Workshop, had its second session last Saturday at the Ayala Museum. We looked at the work the participants have done so far. Here’s a sampler.

Ryan Rivera ponders the minutiae of daily life.
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Noel Pascual’s protagonist has been making film transfers from U-Matic cassettes to DVD for so long, it’s messing with his thought processes.
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aaron reading

Momel Tullao was going to write a collection of trenchant observations of urban daily life but we said, Momelia, your forte is kink. Do that.
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A passage from Mike Co’s science-fiction novel in which Filipinos have achieved world domination.
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aaron writing

Angus Miranda is writing a novel about family and the faithlessness of memory.
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This is the first edition of Write Here, Write Now. The class was selected from a pool of applicants last year. Participants have to submit chapters every week. By March when the Workshop ends, the participants should be well on their way to finishing their books, which are due six months later.

The second edition of Write Here, Write Now will be announced mid-year.

In October we will conduct a writing workshop open to all interested participants (a fee will be charged), also at the Ayala Museum.

Write Here, Write Now is made possible by a grant from the Ayala Foundation, Inc.

Don’t Be A Writer: We’re doing a series of talks at Ayala Museum in 2014.

December 03, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Announcements, Books, Projects, Television 11 Comments →

Don't be a writer

In 2014 we’re giving a series of talks at the Ayala Museum. The talks will be held on three Saturday afternoons at 3pm and are open to the public. Admission is Php350 (to be confirmed); the price includes an exclusive e-book (with a print on demand option). Each talk will be followed by an open forum, merienda, and book-signing. Obviously we can’t sign e-books so we’ll put the download code on a specially-designed card or notebook.

7 June 2014: Don’t Be A Writer. The hazards of the writing life, the perils of the profession, things we wish we’d known before we decided that our primary occupation would be ‘writer’. The writing process, our favorite assignments and interviews, strange side projects, how to beat a deadline.

1125-george-on-set-tmz-wm-3George R.R. Martin visited Middle Earth.

5 July 2014: Game of Thrones, History and Fantasy. By July season 4 of the TV series will have aired, and we’ll need to huddle around the books and process what we just saw. We’ll cover the books and the TV series, historical inspirations for Westeros, fantasy epics—The Lord of the Rings and The Once and Future King, medieval epics—Le Morte d’Arthur, the Nibelungenlied, mythological epics—the Iliad, the Odyssey, and just geek out, generally.

2 August 2014: We don’t have a topic yet. Any suggestions? Movies, tennis, cats? What specifically about movies, tennis, cats? What would you like us to talk about? Post suggestions in Comments; if we pick yours, you can come to the talk as our guest.

Update: The Ayala Museum took a poll, and the winning topic iiiiissssss…World Domination. The talk will cover world domination theory, ongoing campaigns, and organizing the conquest.

Tickets will be available at the Ayala Museum next year. We’ll alert you as soon as they go on sale.

Scenes from Saturday’s Nerd-Con

November 25, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Cats, Projects 3 Comments →

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I am Drogon! And I am burdened with glorious purpose.

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You may kneel and kiss my…

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Stay here with Shai Hulud, Mickey Rourke, while I secure the perimeter.

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All clear. Soon these seats will be crawling with humans.

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Hearken to them. Sound the alarm, we are at NERDCON 3.

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Circling the book table. Photo by Juan.

We had a blast at our Meet and Greet-Book Swap-Merienda last Saturday at the 7th floor events space of the WSI Corporate Center. We were so busy yakking with our guests, caffeinating, and making sure Drogon didn’t sneak off in someone’s bag that we didn’t have time to take pictures. If you were there, please email your photos to saffron.safin@gmail.com and we will post them later.

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Drogon and his human, photo by allancarreon

Thanks to WSI for our excellent venue and facilities. (They have spaces for seminars, parties, wedding receptions, family reunions, clandestine superhero conventions and so on. For rental inquiries, contact Bon Perez, (02)8585405.) Thanks to J.Co for the coffee and doughnuts, and to our readers for bringing their books to the Book Swap. Drogon would like to thank everyone who brought kibble and treats–he is now contemplating a career in cuteness-based extortion.

Get ready for a lot of photos of readers posing with Drogon.