Hi friends! I’m really excited to welcome Georgette Gonzales to A Little Bit Tart, A Little Bit Sweet! She was kind enough to respond to my call on twitter (and hat tip thanks to Chachic too!) to guest for APAHM! She really does the introducing in her post, so read on!
When Creativity Blooms Late In Life
Many, if not most, of what I read in writers’ interviews detailing their backgrounds and writing journeys tell of a kid with a vivid imagination, writing stories down in a notebook, keeping their work underneath all other school stuff (because it’s their deep, dark secret) or sometimes sharing the precious words with a few trusted family members and friends. Often, those who would read their work ask for more, so they continue to craft and create, write and compile, amassing notebook upon notebook of maybe fantastic and not-so-fantastic tales that later may be turned into bestsellers. At any rate, the voices in their heads would not stop until the stories were written so might as well indulge their yet-to-be-identified-as fans (and imaginary friends), right?
I, unfortunately, do not have this kind of back story. I didn’t even know I could write until I was…shall we say, forced into it because of my job.
Wait, just to clarify, I don’t mean I couldn’t write, because I could. But not really (am I confusing you? I hope not but do read on because I promise this gets clearer). In elementary and high school, part of our classroom requirement was to write theme papers both for our classes in English and Filipino, to test how well we learned our lessons.
In that respect, I could say wrote well. I had almost perfected my subject-verb agreements, my tenses, my sentence structures. But that was it. Like I’ve always mentioned when asked, my compositions were a study in grammar, vocabulary, and correct spelling. Storytelling was not a ~thing in anything I wrote.
But I did (do) have quite a vast and vivid imagination, make no mistake about that. That artistic side of me manifested in my delight in play-acting. At home, my brother and I created miniature worlds with his fleet of Matchbox cars, trucks, boats, tanks. Sometimes, he and I were parents to my dolls (we weren’t husband and wife, nope. He had his imaginary spouse and so did I). When my cousins came over for an afternoon, we would bring out my toy ceramic tea set and pretend we were waitresses at a restaurant. Or heads of state discussing the fates of our nations over tiny sandwiches and orange juice-pretending-to-be-tea. Sometimes, we’d be outside climbing the guava tree (which was our mountain home) and making believe we were Amazon warriors watching over our “kingdom.”
I think what I could consider as my first real attempt at creative writing were letters some high school friends and I exchanged frequently. We fantasized about being in a relationship with our celebrity crushes and we’d write to each other and tell stories about our lives as “celebrity wives.” Those were fun times especially as we tried to outdo each other’s experiences and escapades as our uh…alter egos.
And then college and life happened, and we all outgrew our crushes and the already seemingly childish means of making our dreams come true. Until 1996 when–no, I didn’t get to marry my high school celebrity crush but I wish, though–I got employed at my first job ever.
See,I only wanted to audition for a local production of Grease (I didn’t make it) but I found myself taking on the role of public relations secretary for the production company instead. During my interview, I was asked if I could write and I (lied through my teeth and) said yes. Although I could only mention my college thesis as a sample (I didn’t need to present it to them), I guess they believed that I could be trained to write.
And train me, my bosses did. As the PR secretary, I initially just kept files for the department, ran errands, printed documents, faxed letters, transcribed interviews. Later on, I was given an opportunity to write a feature article based on the interviews and while my first attempt was just a tad better than passable, consistent practice and the guidance of my supervisors-now-mentors helped me improve not only as a writer, but a PR practitioner.
It was at this job that I met the woman who would be my best friend, Queng. She’s a writer, and her poetry showed me how simple words, when strung artfully together, could be truly beautiful. She became my muse, somehow, because her writing inspired me to explore that artistic side of me. It was also she, when we were already working for a different company several years and poetry sessions later, who pushed us both into trying to write romance in Filipino.
“We’re both writers,” she said. “How hard could it be?”
It was hard, but we persevered. Had to. Needed to. Because more than the artistic fulfillment we were bound to get from the venture, we needed something to earn from that would not take us away from our day job.
Yes. Money was why and how I became a novelist.
June 2003, we submitted our first manuscript to the publisher and by November of the same year, we were…I was a published author–Edith Joaquin of My Special Valentine (published by Bookware Publishing Corp.). The feeling was…different. I was elated. I had money, and my name was on the cover of a book. A legitimately published print book.
31 Filipino romance titles gone by and while I admit I am still after the monetary remuneration, I will also say there is now a responsibility to satisfy the readers by providing them with quality stories. There is now a responsibility to fulfill my artistic inclination.
But what about non-Filipino (Tagalog) readers, another friend, Reev would ask somewhere close to a decade ago now. He badgered me about writing in English and self-publishing on Amazon because there was a bigger market out there and I’m missing out on them. Too true. I could not say yes outright, though as I wasn’t sure I’d have time to be both Edith Joaquin and the author who writes in English (who ended up using her real name). I wanted and needed to make sure there was enough for readers to expect to read from both.
Then I thought, what the heck, right? If things work out, well and good. If not, then maybe self-publishing English novellas on Amazon is not for me.
Turns out, it IS for me. Because I was steered by circumstances to a community of writers and readers of romance written in English by Filipinos. I became part of the group, joined workshops, wrote in English, and without need for further prodding from Reev, I managed to get a couple of titles out there, written and published under my own name. On Amazon.
There was nothing artistically inspirational in the way I discovered and got into writing. I mean, come on, the need for extra income could be an inspiration in itself but I see nothing artistic about it. But having taken that first step, no matter how late in life it happened (I published my first novella at age 31), still gave me a chance to bloom as an author.
And believe me, this bud isn’t in full bloom just yet. Wait for it. Wait for me.
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Lovely! I really enjoyed learning about how you became a writer. Thank you so much, Georgette!
So, if you’re an author – how did you start? Readers – what do you think of “the journey?”