Monthly Archives: February 2010

Mrs. Gone

In the hallways and the corridors of that building that still stands,
I remember you in the silence and in the emptiness it has.
We used to take advantage of those long and quiet hours,
violating the peace with voices that weren’t truly ours.

And the people, they’d enter and exit that forbidden door,
that transition near the place where we always used to talk,
on that bench where we first met and last saw one another,
we said goodbye in a very subtle manner.

There’s no reason for me to remember you now,
as I sit on the bench, my face set to its usual frown.
My mind, it has always wandered into things out of reach,
into thoughts from the darker recesses you had often tried to keep up with.

The building’s dilapidated,
broken, nearly collapsed.
But my memory seems to be rebuilding itself,
vivid for as long as it lasts.

You made beautiful a language that I hardly knew,
didn’t give up on me,
and though that’s not how you made it appear.
I too hid something from you: my fear.

I am sitting next to that forbidden door,
wondering if I should enter.
Though I can no longer call you from there,
there’s something I have to inquire.

We’ve progressed in a span of four years,
mainly by talking on that bench.
But our time has long been up,
only this time it’s forever.

You’re the true Patroness of Truth,
and in truth I hold you dear.
And even though it does not show,
your influence has gone too deep.

I do not want to find you,
For loss is what I fear.
And even though we lose to find,
you’ll only move me to tears.

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Criticism

The thing with criticism is that it isn’t always a bad thing. There’s the type of constructive criticism that gives you advice on how to improve your work, then there’s the type of useless criticism that gives you advice on how to change your style of writing altogether. The latter’s just a waste of time. NEVER change your style of writing. The style is what individualizes you. It’s what makes your work yours. When you change your style of writing, you run the risk–one that would be really stupid to take–of losing something that could have made you stand out.

Do not let a single person’s negative criticism bring you down. A single person’s opinion is not the rest of the world’s opinion. There have been a lot of now famous authors whose works were rejected by publishers. There’s Stephen King, who received more than one rejection for “Carrie.” According to one of the publishers who did not accept what Stephen King had to give, “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.” That publisher must have experienced a great deal of regret when Stephen King’s book did sell…over a million copies. J.K. Rowling, too, had her share of rejections. Bloomsbury only accepted her manuscript because of the CEO’s eight-year old daughter.

Thing is, the negative criticisms shouldn’t matter. Just because a dozen people don’t like your work doesn’t mean you’re not a talented writer. That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with your style. It just means that they don’t like your work. Simple as that. Criticisms that were made to bring you down are only opinions of people who don’t truly have the power to say that the whole world will hate your story. They’re entitled to their opinions, and you’re entitled to reject them as they’ve rejected you. They do not rule you, nor should you let them.

You can forget all the 320 words I’ve typed down before this, but pay attention to what I will type next:

Remember the positive criticisms, for they will make you smile when you begin to doubt your skill. Ignore the negative criticisms, for they are not worth the depression.

Fight for your story, especially when no one else is there by you to fight for it. When people see how much determination you put in making them see what you see in your story, they will move over to your side. If they see something worth fighting for, they will fight for it.

Go out there and make them see why your work, your style, is worth fighting for.

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To Be Figured Out

Sometimes I wonder why I do not want to be figured out. I take pride in knowing that those close to me don’t know me, or are confused by the things I say and do. I am amused when people think they know me when they really don’t–the pain comes far later. What’s to figure out in a person anyway? Why try figuring a person out? What does one get when figuring someone out? Is there power involved? Does one have the upper hand when one knows you all too well? Why am I not at ease when I think a person’s coming too close to having me solved?

Mental Image: Someone’s trying to solve an intensely difficult equation on the board. Let’s call that person Cody (or some other unisex name). So Cody takes time and effort in solving that solution. Cody focuses on it, gives it all the attention. Then Cody figures it out, smiles, presents the answer to the class…grabs the eraser, erases the equation and the solution, goes back to his/her seat. Back to normal life.

Go figure.

We can only let so little out.

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Review by Dr. Paul Dumol, Professor, University of Asia and The Pacific

Keeping Her in the Light (Eternal Press at Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada) is Nicole Fuentes’s first novella. It is pulp fiction without the sex, and at the same time a little more than. It should be judged on its own merits, but I will not do that and call attention instead to the writer’s age—sixteen. She is in fact a high school senior and resides in Metro Manila. Miss Fuentes has a precocious sense of storytelling. She demonstrates early mastery of the intricate skills of writing thrillers: her first work is a page-turner. There is violence in spades. But her main character is sensitive and intelligent and is thankfully not propelled by pop psychology. There are parts that are almost philosophical. We await Miss Fuentes’s blossoming.

pauldumol@gmail.com

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What is Stockholm Syndrome Anyway?

Stockholm Syndrome. A baffling thing it is. As this was what had led me to write “Keeping Her in the Light”, I owe a lot to such a concept. This syndrome can clearly be seen in kidnapping situations, when the captive develops a certain sympathy towards his/her captor. This can also be seen in abusive relationships, when the one being abused won’t leave the abuser. Strangely, Stockholm Syndrome acts as a defense mechanism. The captive thinks that if she forms a relationship with her captor, he won’t hurt her. This article I encountered a year ago explained Stockholm Syndrome quite clearly.

I learned two things today that I think might be able to explain how such a syndrome begins. Some criminals (serial killers, kidnappers, rapists, molesters) threaten their victims by threatening to kill their loved ones. It’s amazing how that shuts them up in an instant. It’s amazing how people are willing to sacrifice themselves for others. Victims, on the other hand, tend to have a “fight or flight” reaction. But both reactions reside in the mind. They take place in the mind. One victim may THINK of stabbing, killing, hitting, or hurting the criminal, while another may think of something else, like the victim isn’t IN the scenario (withdrawal). In my opinion, both reactions are flight reactions, because you retreat from what the criminal is doing to you as you lose contact with your physical self to get in touch with your mental one. You retreat…you flee (flight) inside your head, even if you’re thinking of FIGHTING back. Also, it’s when you’re in a state of turmoil, emergency, or danger that you sort of long for human contact, gentleness, or kindness in such a way that even the littlest of things seem big. So if your captor gives you a glass of water, you wrongly label him as kind, almost forgetting all he has done to you. You long and crave for such kindness that you misinterpret the little things as such. That’s possibly how Stockholm Syndrome develops. You long, you hope, you crave, you give in.

Okay, maybe that’s more than two lessons…

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Freedom

She knew, more than anyone else, how making a living had, over the years, equated itself to being her life. She knew how it had made her, and she knew how it had broken her. Yet, she still constantly gave herself away to the thing that had caused her pain. She thought that the saying “no pain, no gain” was applicable to her situation. Truth was, she had the pain, but never the gain. Money, to her, was no longer a gain. It had become a curse, reminding her of what she had lost—of what could have been. She had always wanted to be free, to roam around the world, to see things other women have never seen. Her longing for that piece of freedom grew and, in time, she had captured it and forced it into a cage for her own use. But she had run out of places to run to. Cities and countries, she realized, all looked the same without the familiar faces. When she had gone home, there were no familiar faces to greet her. So she had turned back to the one stability she had clung to out of fear: her job, her living.

The red-headed pilot wondered whether life gives one a job, or if a job gives one a life, as she flew the plane, the ocean below her, the clouds, above. To say she was daydreaming as she stared into the sky would be incorrect, for daydreams come from the make-believe. She took nothing from the make-believe—she wanted something real. Instead she weaved together old threads of past memories, a small smile finding its way on her face. Minutes later, that sweet smile would pass as her mind averts from the memories of her past to the realities of her future, and how she’d come home to the company of solitude once more.

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