Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Workshops’

I’m giving a Free Workshop on The Craft and Practice of Writing on Thursday, 18 February at 630pm. Book your seats Now.

February 15, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Announcements, Books, Workshops 38 Comments →

drogon fang

Wait, weren’t you supposed to do your first workshop for the year at Ayala Museum on Thursday?

It’s been cancelled.

I got an email at 8am saying, “Due to low turnout of participants, we have to cancel the workshop for Movie Reviews.”

Oh, really? The day after my second announcement appeared in the Philippine Star? With four days to go, when historically participants wait until the very last minute to register and pay the fee? The first workshop of the year, without which the series straggles along like a headless corpse?

“We will push further with the rest of the workshops,” the email went on to say, whatever that means.

What for? Just cancel the entire series for the year.

Then I had a brainwave: I’m going to do workshops and organize them myself. And since I’m free on Thursday anyway, I’m going to give a FREE WORKSHOP, how about that? Yes, the first taste is free. I think I’ll call my workshop You Do Not Cancel My Motherfucking Workshop. Naah, I’ll call it THE CRAFT AND PRACTICE OF WRITING. For anyone who has ever contemplated the writing life.

Thursday, 18 February, 1830 at the office of BBDO-Guerrero, Frabelle Building (the one with Wildflour on the ground floor), Rada Street (up the street from Union Church), Legazpi Village, Makati.

You need to register by posting a comment here, or sending an email to Quick, quick, quick, I need to know how many people will turn up.

The more I think about it, the more I like this idea. Why do people piss me off? Don’t they know I live for conflict? Oh right, I’ve been quiet and polite for a long time. Screw that. I’m taking the swords out of the lockbox. See you on Thursday. Tell your friends. Tell everybody. Tweet and repost this.

Update: Here’s our low turnout count as of 1100 of Thursday the 18th.

Registered on Comments section: brewhuh23, Momelia, balqis, santi01 + 1, cookie, Jules, unlimitedgrubgrabs (If you are a spammer, your ass is dead), leiastrud, themark, Leoj, paulaxgianna + 1, tsitai + 1, Ronigurl, kittyb73, gerezimdelapena, Angus, egfallorina, jichuacuco.

Overseas, will attend via video link: spooky, primavera579, alpha12, toyomansi, Cacs, Miray, traceea. To avoid bandwidth issues we are no longer accepting participants via Skype. The address will be emailed to you.

Registered by email: Christian, Carla, Glaiza, Florence + 1, Pb + 1, Murshamir, Erlyn, Dylan, Kate, Fidel, Shala, Jove, Niccolo, Mikhaela, Judith, Irish, Nelson, Kate, Leonora, Johanna, Joanne, Wenz, Dolarica, Marvin, Ancel, Jessica, Joyce, Roch, Rizza, Glaiza Mae, Lucille, Fatima, Roxanne, Albert, Tim, Jeffrey + 1, L.A., Gielizza, John Paul, Anna, Aldrin, David, Grace Anne, Antoniette, Martika, Joe, Anna, Dan, Nissa, Jenica, Rizza, Polly, Chuckie, Marisol, John Michael, Hanniel, Monique, Patricia, Mikaela, Nora, Melissa, Pia, Cherry, Barbie, Bianca, Jhantzen, Angelico, Phia + 1, Jayne, Roselle, Maika, Amy, Janina, Patricia, Kalel, Zoe, Pia, Jannah, Mary Grace, Katherine, Camille, Lynn, Rosette, Chuck, Denison, Hans, Jerome, Agel, Bong, Paula, Michaelo, Christine, Patricia, Janus, Jamaica, Mafe, Jannica, Elai, Lei, Dinnah, Kate, Sharmaine, Mikee, Kim, Emman, Aldrine, Mari, Chenie, Romina, Jules, Christine Ingrid, Lyka, Chrixy, Rosette, Ronalyn, Zonel, Franco, Joy, Tami, Sandino, Aytch, Judy.

15 from BBDO Guerrero
2 from Campaigns & Grey

We are no longer accepting participants, so stop grovelling. We expect that not everyone who registered will show up. If you registered, you had better make sure you appear or you will be barred from any future workshops. You think I’m kidding? This is serious shit.

The venue is

7th floor, WSI (Wordtext Systems) Corporate Center
1005 Metropolitan Avenue (beside Ecoville, near the Makati Fire Station)
Makati 1205

This is a map to WSI.


Ask me again where the venue is and YOU’RE OUT OF HERE.

Do not ask me when the next free workshop is. WHAT ARE YOU, CHEAP?

Participants, “Be there by 630” means “BE THERE BEFORE 630.” Of course there’s traffic. DEAL WITH IT.

Do not be late. THE GATES CLOSE AT 630.

And if you have to ask if you can take selfies with me, YOU HAVE NEVER READ MY WORK, GET OUT.

If any of this causes you distress, forget about writing altogether because YOU DO NOT HAVE THE SPINE TO BE A WRITER.

From the Workshop: Tales of the Horrible Bunny

September 15, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Workshops 1 Comment →


In our ongoing Writing Boot Camp that ends on Thursday, we give the participants a writing exercise and they have five or ten minutes to complete the assignment. Last week, we read a macabre fairy tale by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, then showed them this freaky wooden rabbit and asked them to write a story about it. They had 10 minutes to finish it. Here are some of the results.

These submissions have been edited for grammar and syntax.

The next workshop, Advanced Short Story Writing, will start on 15 October 2015. The objective is to complete a short story in three weeks. For more information or to make a reservation, email Marj Villaflores,



By Emily

It is pitch black, but I lie awake waiting. It sneaks into my room and slowly climbs onto my bed. I draw the covers up over my head and squeeze my eyes shut. I have always been terrified of the dark, afraid of things I cannot see. He has been visiting me for a year now, but I have always been too frightened to look out from the safety of my blankets. Tonight is the night I have decided to be brave enough to look and face my demons. I hope it’s not a clown. I hate clowns. I pray it’s not a horror mask or the devil. I am shaking as I start to move the covers away from my face, my teeth are chattering so loudly I can barely hear the creature stirring on my bed. Slowly I move the blanket away from my face but I still have my eyes squeezed tightly shut. I chide myself into slowly opening my eyes and even in the dark I can see him clear as day, a small grey rabbit with a maniacal grin, almost a death mask, staring back at me. I gasp. His grin is macabre but his eyes are kind, almost pleading. He looks more frightened of me than I am of him. We stare at each other for a long time until I open my covers and he climbs in and curls up next to me. We fall asleep together, cuddling. When I awaken in the morning he is gone, as I knew he would be. I wonder when this nightmare, the same one I have every night, will go away or if I will forever be haunted by my childhood losses.

By Bea

When the toy-maker Gügenmeyer set out to create his masterpiece, he built a marionette that was unlike his previous creations. This wooden rabbit of grey and white, its most memorable feature a sinister smile, would embody the perfect balance of innocence and violence. It would serve to taint impressionable children’s dreams and fuel their nightmares.

Following Gügenmeyer’s death, this toy was passed down to many generations, its origins fading rapidly in people’s memories. To this day no one knows that the toy-maker had built it with far more sinister intentions.

It’s barely a wonder that no one knows where this rabbit came from. Those who do have disappeared from the face of the earth. Others are still attempting to jot down their memories before it’s too late.

In fact, even as I write this, I can feel my memory slipping…

By Erica

After years of not dating, I thought of buying a wooden bunny at the sex shop so I could have a regular twilight friend. It only had bunny ears, head and torso, and so it was quite compact. You know how, the more orgasms you have, the more you want them? I started carrying it everywhere and using it every time I had a break. I felt guilty at being so sexually obsessed that I decided to visit my friend who’s a priest now. I told him about the bunny, and I asked him, “What’s next?” He told me to stop carrying the bunny everywhere, which just made me very sick. To make sure I would not use it again, I attached arms and legs to it and gave it to my mom. Quite safe, I supposed. I am pretty sure I cleaned it thoroughly, but I don’t know why it smells of chocolate fudge now and even has some residue. I sniffed it again. The chocolate fudge top note had faded and was replaced a familiar scent. It took me back to those days when I was very much alive.

By Ross

Ines was known as the best seamstress in her town. She was the Captain’s most trusted and longest-serving dressmaker.

The town Captain asked Ines to come to his house at least once a month for a new order—a polo barong, slacks, a semi-casual ensemble, and sometimes even handkerchiefs that were given to the devotees of their parish.

It was an open secret among townspeople that the Captain and Ines were having an affair. Every time Ines walked out of the Captain’s house, people stared at her with judgement. This affair went on for more than a year. It stopped when Ines revealed to the Captain that she was pregnant.

The Captain, anxious about the potential scandal and its effects on his reelection bid, forcefully convinced Ines to discontinue the pregnancy. Ines was assisted by the Captain’s men to the ‘clinic’ where the ‘medical check-up’ was done. A week later, Ines went back to her house in a debilitated state. She did not have the energy to socialize with her closest kin.

Ines locked herself in the sewing room and no one could talk to her for months. Her isolation forced customers to place orders with lesser known seamstresses in and around town. Election time came and the votes were tallied. The Captain was reelected as the town leader for another three years, an announcement which only a few considered news.

Ines found out about it through the streamers on electric posts which were hanged before the party. At that moment, Ines decided she had to share in the celebration, but in her own special way. Feeling the energy she never thought she could regain, Ines turned on her sewing machine, sat on her chair, and reached for needle and thread.

She stitched a huge amount of rags and ended up with a doll that looked like a bunny. The difference was that this bunny had a sinister smile and plenty of loose stitches in its arms, legs, and mouth. There was no room for improvement, Ines thought. The bunny was as perfect as any memorable present should be.

The night that everyone gathered in the town hall for the Captain’s oath-taking, Ines walked straight to the Captain’s house hugging the bunny.

She hanged the bunny on the gate and tied on a sash that said, “Congratulations, Captain.” She did not care whether people found out about what she did. She raised her head to see the Captain through the cheering crowd, and smiled. “I knew the Captain would love it,” she thought as she walked away.

By Anne

Once there was a cobbler’s son who received a pair of shiny black shoes every year from his father on his birthday. When the little boy was younger, he would jump out of bed and squeal with excitement every time he saw the pair of shoes. Over time, the cobbler’s son got tired of the shoes and wished for something he found more fun.

“Father, I wish I could have a new toy on my birthday. My shoes still fit well,” the little boy said, hoping against hope that he won’t get yet another pair of shoes on his special day.

“Shoes will take you places while toys will just fade and get broken,” the cobbler answered.

“But father, I want a toy!” the little boy said as he sat sat on the floor, watching his father sweeping off the dust.

“Henry, good little boys who know how to wait get their wishes.”

Hurt, the cobbler’s son stormed out of the store. He walked and walked and walked until the soles of his precious black shoes were already laughing at him. The cobbler’s son bowed down to check on his poor shoes and alas, what he found lying on the street was a wrecked wooden toy bunny. Its legs dangled dangerously onto its body, as if one touch would completely ruin it.

The wooden bunny was the same shade of dark blue as the shirt the cobbler’s son was wearing that day. The little boy stared at the toy bunny and noticed that its funny wide eyes were staring back at him as if it was reading his young mind. The blue bunny was sporting a grin so grim that it made the cobbler’s son shudder a bit.

The cobbler’s son tried to touch the toy bunny’s skeleton-like toes but he felt his head spinning around and around and around as if he was being sucked by a whirlpool. When the spinning stopped, the blue bunny was gone.

The little boy tried to run but his legs were wobbly, like shattered pieces sewn back together. He tried to shout but his mouth and teeth had formed a permanent menacing grin that made it impossible for him to utter a single syllable. He saw his black shoes in the middle of the road. He began to wonder if he had ever taken the shoes off. When he looked down, he saw that his toes had become as hard as wood and as blue as his shirt.
And he had no shoes.

From the Workshop: Almost Forty

August 19, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Re-lay-shun-ships, Workshops 1 Comment →

We give writing workshops at the Ayala Museum. The workshops consist of three two-hour sessions of lectures, exercises, and group discussions held over three weeks. The next workshop, Writing Boot Camp, will start on 3 September 2015. For more information or to make a reservation, email Marj Villaflores,

This month we are featuring, with their permission, essays by the participants in July’s Personal Essay workshop. The submissions were half-standup comedy, half-trauma ward. We encouraged everyone to get over their fear of exposure, embarrassment and “What will people think?” Here are some of the results.

* * * * *

Still from Napoleon Dynamite. When we googled movies about online dating to illustrate this essay, we discovered that there are no great movies about online dating. Because people looking at screens is not exciting. Black Hat almost did it, but only because it starred Chris Hemsworth.

Almost Forty
By Mia V. Estolano

Almost 40. If I were to live until age 70, I would have lived half my life already –no husband, no kids, no house, no boyfriend, no boyfriend…yet. A pasted-on smile is my usual answer to relatives or friends who ask the squirm-inducing question. I love my work. I love to travel. Oftentimes, the person who asks the question lets go. At times, they prod more. I don’t mind answering. It can get annoying, especially when they seem to think there’s something wrong with me, or worse, that I am a sad person.

But I am happy. I love men. And I’ve tried dating, just not the usual route. I tried to get dates online. It’s quicker and cuts the preliminaries of dating. At least that’s what my cousin told me. We are similar, only she lives in the US where online dating is very common. She said that I should try it.

So I did.


Writing Boot Camp starts on September 3

August 14, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Announcements, Workshops 1 Comment →


From The Workshop: The Rock Bottom Story

August 06, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Drink, Workshops 1 Comment →

We give writing workshops at the Ayala Museum. The workshops consist of three two-hour sessions of lectures, exercises, and group discussions held over three weeks. The most recent workshop, on The Personal Essay, concluded last week. The next one, Writing Boot Camp, will start on 3 September 2015. For more information or to make a reservation, email Marj Villaflores,

This month we are featuring, with their permission, essays by the participants. The last batch was half-standup comedy, half-trauma ward. We encouraged everyone to get over their fear of exposure, embarrassment and “What will people think?” Here are some of the results.

* * * * *

Christmas Morning in Lincoln Heights Jail Drunk Tank, 1952

The Rock Bottom Story
by Cristina de la Paz

I’ve been trying to write a book for some time. I’d like to call it an autobiography of sorts. It doesn’t have quite the right beginning since I can’t really tell where everything starts. I could just start from the middle but where is the middle? As for the end. . .there are many ends, I just don’t know when and where to stop.

This is my story. Not a chronological series of events from the day I was born to the day I die, but a collection of moments in between that would make for a really good story. The kind of story that folks would think was based on a movie and not the other way around, like a life-imitating-art kind of scenario. I heard stories like those where I ended up, and I thought the same exact thing: “Boy, that sure sounds like a plot for a movie.” But then I get to my story and all film comparisons go flying out the window.

I’ve been trying to tell a story about how my life turned to absolute hell. That moment where I crashed, burned, hit rock bottom and dragged myself, bloodied and torn through a wasteland of drama and disillusion. Where does one start with such a tale? The beginning is a blur, the middle a sea of confusion and the end—well, the end is where I am.

So I guess I start at the end.

I have been off booze and drugs for a year and a few months. It would have been three years and a few months had it not been for an errant Negroni during a trip to the US, but that’s a moot point. Really. I had gone a long way to get to that point in California and, after I finished that drink I realized I made a mistake and swore it won’t ever happen again, and it hasn’t.

From The Workshop: Nerves of Steal

August 04, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Workshops 3 Comments →

We give writing workshops at the Ayala Museum. The workshops consist of three two-hour sessions of lectures, exercises, and group discussions held over three weeks. Our participants are mostly working people, so the sessions are held in the evenings, after office hours, with coffee and refreshments. We focus on the practical aspects of writing, like How to stop planning to write something and actually do it, and Good luck waiting for that thunderbolt of inspiration, say Hi to Thor when it happens.

The most recent workshop, on The Personal Essay, concluded last week. The next one, Writing Boot Camp, will start on 3 September 2015. For more information or to make a reservation, email Marj Villaflores,

This month we will feature, with their permission, essays by the participants. The last batch was half-standup comedy, half-trauma ward. Some of the authors preferred to use aliases. Everyone actually wrote something.

* * * * *

Muppet mugshots from Conan

Nerves of Steal
by Peter Imbong

Everyone has a childhood memory of shoplifting—mine was just slightly extended.

Back in grade school, I would pocket erasers from the bookstore in front of my school. This would happen several times a month since the bookstore was my mom’s designated pick-up spot. The erasers weren’t the cheap rubber kind, mind you. These were artist’s erasers, the kind one could mold like putty. I barely used them, but together with my pencil case that had several cylindrical pencil holders that resembled rocket launchers, I loved showing them off to my classmates proud of their 164-piece Crayola collection.

There are many reasons, people say, why a child would steal: a lack of understanding of the value of money, no self-control, peer pressure, a call for attention, or just plain hardship. While my eraser stint was probably born of a longing to look cool, I soon found out that I was simply cheap.

One weekend in high school, I found myself roaming the department store of a run-down commercial complex located near our house, in what others would already consider a province. Called Le Grand Mall, its name belied its true identity. You could tell it was ancient because it still had an underwhelming fountain as its centerpiece, and they had a food court located in the basement that smelled of used cooking oil and feet.

I had brought enough money for a movie and a snack, but decided not to go to the movies because the only halfway interesting film showing starred Nicolas Cage. So I began to roam their half-decent department store in the hopes of finding something interesting.

In the music section, I found 2 CDs I wanted to get. As I didn’t have enough money to get both, I decided to buy one and simply slip the other one into my shopping bag. I thought I had mastered this move from my years of eraser swiping. However, it turns out, compact disks are bigger than erasers.