Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Workshops’

Start and finish writing a short story in two weekends in our Writing Boot Camp.

September 26, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Announcements, Workshops No Comments →


Poster by Anne Tamondong

Both sessions will be facilitated by Jessica Zafra.
The venue is WSI Corporate Centre on Metropolitan Avenue corner Kakarong Street, Makati (behind the Makati Fire Station).
For details and to book a place, email

Letter from a Reader: How do you start getting published?

September 19, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Workshops 4 Comments →


Hello Ms. Zafra!

Im Mao and I read some of your of your essays from the twisted series. A friend of mine recommended you to me and I thought you were amazing. I don’t really have any concerns, I just really wanted to tell you how great your writing was. I loved how you saw mundane things, how you turned them into experiences worth noting, and existential crisis worth scrutinizing. They were great!

I write a bit and, I was wondering (looks like I have a question, after all. Sorry for the white lie earlier) how you started getting your work published? I’m wondering because I’d like to do it as well. I’m aware that my ideas are nothing special but that’s only because I’m used to them- maybe my random mussing could be a good reference for others. I really just want to get ideas out there. Ideas get people talking and the more ideas we have, the more we help fight ignorance. I don’t know, I just really want to create something. Maybe something that tells me that I’m here, like I’m present.

Lately I’ve been feeling like a wanderer. I do things and become tired and although I get office tasks accomplished, I don’t feel productive. A friend told me I was dead inside because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I think I do, but I’m afraid it won’t reap anything good. What I want is to create something and have it out there. Something to prove my existence. Not to others, to myself. I feel like everything I said is a contradiction but I just wanted to get it out there and I really want your advice on this. Ir any words at all. I’m sorry for the bother,

PS You’re amazing and awesome. I’m happy you’re alive approximately the same time as me. I’m happy we share a lifetime


Dear Mao,

Thank you for your letter. It is always good to get feedback directly from the readers. I appreciate your enthusiasm, but I would caution you against admiring anyone too much. At some point they will let you down. It is not necessarily because they’re terrible people, but because we are all complex beings with our own personalities and inevitably we will disagree.

Fiction-Writing Workshop, Wednesday, 11 May 2016, 2-5pm in Makati. Book your places now.

April 29, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Workshops 1 Comment →

flyer - p1

Fiction-Writing Workshop
Wednesday, 11 May 2016
2-5 pm at WSI Corporate Center, Metropolitan Avenue, Makati
Only 12 participants will be accepted, so book your places now.
For inquiries, fees, etc, email

We held our Free Workshop last night. It was a blast and nobody was killed.

February 19, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Announcements, Workshops Comments Off on We held our Free Workshop last night. It was a blast and nobody was killed.

Yikes, I look demented.

Ninety-five people attended last night’s almost-instant Free Workshop at the WSI Corporate Center. I had a blast, and I especially enjoyed listening to the participants’ story ideas and pointing out the approaches and directions they can take.

Many thanks to our friend Juan for letting us use the WSI conference hall, Victor Yang and the techs at WSI for setting up the facilities including the video conference and audio recording perfectly, and our original workshop elves Roni, Angus, Deo, Momelia and Bubbles for manning the registration desk.

You and your group of up to 20 (even 30) people can book your own workshop on any of these subjects:

The Essay
The Short Story
The Personal Essay (Memoirs)
The Novel
Writing for Beginners
Movie Reviews
Travel Essays
Interviews and Personality Profiles
Feature Articles
Writing Refresher Course
Starting A Book Club

Each workshop is tailored to your requirements, and can take from one to four two-hour sessions.

Workshops can be held at your office or a venue of your choice. If you do not have a venue in mind, we can book a conference room in Makati for you.

For inquiries, or to book a workshop for your group, email

* * * * *
About the teacher

Jessica Zafra is a columnist at the Philippine Star, BusinessWorld, and InterAksyon. She has written two collections of short stories and a dozen Twisted collections of essays on film, literature, travel, rock music, popular culture and politics. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Newsweek, the Hong Kong Standard, and The National. She was editor-in-chief of Flip: The Official Guide to World Domination, and the annual literary journal Manila Envelope.

Outside of publishing, Jessica has hosted talk shows on the FM stations NU-107 and K-Lite, and the TV show Points of View. She is an executive producer on the film Norte by Lav Diaz and screenwriter of Esoterika: Manila by Elwood Perez. Her new TV show will premiere this year. Visit her website,

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.