On an award and why I write. @glimmertrain <3

It’s with honor and pleasure that I finally announce this publicly: I won First Place ($2500) in Glimmer Train’s March Fiction Open! Most of you already know this (so sorry for being redundant). ❤

I am terrified of beginnings, like all emerging writers are. I have no answers to overcome this fear other than this: just write, and keep writing. I would recommend finding a writing community, attend conferences that will support and love you, and to simply read great books. There are not enough books to ever fill the void within, so you must read in order to write. Learn the rules to break them. Find your own writing process. And more than anything else: take your time. Be patient. There is no rush to be a writer.

Beyond this self-doubt, I understand that for some writers (who are just like me), there lies another one: as a writer, as a woman, as a person of color, as someone who is everything in-between, I have been taught that anything I say or think is irrelevant. Beginnings are scary because I constantly tread between beginnings. I’m a Navy wife. I’m 25. I’m young. And I have to remind myself that if I don’t believe in what I say, in my writing, then no one else will.”

Read my craft essay at: http://www.glimmertrain.com/b77sipin.html

I’m more than honored to receive First Place. It’s been a long, long battle, and I’ve fought tooth and nail for this story. But as I welcome the flooding–the tensed warm greetings, the sideway glances, the questions, the genuine congrats from dear friends, and the hurtful silence from my family–I have to ask myself, after my first ‘success’ in the writing world (if you see this small win as a step forward):

Why do I write?

Do I write to be seen? Have I always written to be seen? If I write to be seen, what is at stake when I write? When I become more visible? If my writing is an extension of this constantly changing “I,” who is affected by that “I?” Me? My family? Our history? Our secrets? What happens when they are exhumed; what happens when I exhume them?

Barbara Jane Reyes lays it down in a more eloquent way: “What’s at Stake: That Damn Question Again.”

Sometimes I think I must be invisible — I have lost count of how many times strangers in public spaces walk into me as if I am not there, as if I do not require space, as if the assumption is that I am the one who will always have to give way. […] Which brings me to this question: How does a prospective author prepare herself for authorhood or authordom? And here, I do not mean the manuscript work of editing and revision, nor the submissions hustle. How does a prospective author emotionally prepare herself for the unmitigated meanness and hostility that people unleash upon those in public space, especially when a prospective author’s writing can be so personal and confessional, especially when she’s drawn from her own intimacies?”

This is why I very angrily elbowed that white guy at AWP Boston. Not a good excuse. But maybe this answers my own “What is at stake?” question. The visibility of the autobiographical “I” is disconcerting. But when one becomes more visible and it is obvious her colleagues pull away from her, what does that mean? Or do? If she becomes even more so, what has she already pushed away from as a writer of accidental literacy? Her family? What has already been put at stake for the sake of writing?

These are my answers. And I know they will change as I change.

I write to stand ground. I write to fight against forgetting. I write to tell stories that haunt me, whether it’s the autobiographical “I” fictionalized or the old Pinay at the commissary. Whether I am pushed further away is happenstance. I write knowing that whenever I do stand up and say, “I belong here, too,” I am dismantling something beyond me. As James Baldwin said:

When you try to stand up and look the world in the face like you had a right to be here, without knowing this, you have attacked the entire power structure of the Western world.”

I write not just to be seen, but to be heard. I write to communicate, to say I have a place in this world, too. I write because I am not an island. I write because I am strong.

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8 thoughts on “On an award and why I write. @glimmertrain <3

    1. Loved your essay, Joe! Especially what you said re: music/multi-layered voices, polyphonic stories, and James Baldwin. Thanks for commenting. Let’s connect more! I’m looking forward to reading yours.

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