1. What type of writing do you do?
I write feature articles, profiles, and news bits on a food website called Pepper.ph. But even before Pepper, I got started with the features and news I wrote for the university school paper and then managed/edited/wrote the content for a few licensed magazines. I write nonfiction, I guess, for a living and it’s also what teaches me how to live (NUX). It serves the practical purpose of paying the bills, but at the same time it’s the kind of writing I said I’d do after graduating with a degree in Chemistry. I’m what the newsroom writers like to call “those lifestyle ‘journalists.’ ” 😉
Recently I’ve written working drafts of two family “memoirs” for my creative nonfiction classes and three working short story drafts for two fiction classes I took last school year. Yeah, I also churn out drafts for an MA in Creative Writing, which I hope to finish before I turn 30.
2. What genres and/or topics do you write about?
Food, travel, journeys, conversations, family/ies, relationships, old houses, love, loss, people, pop culture, feminism, gay rights advocacy.
As for genres? Whatever would best tell the story, I guess. Like I said, nonfiction is what got me started on this writing journey. I graduated college determined to make a living as a writer. As for fiction, I am still exploring the form for its narrative devices. As I tell my friend, the one genre I won’t touch is poetry 😛
3. How long have you been writing?
Since I’ve been scribbling unedited, unfiltered thoughts on my diaries in grade school, I guess. But college gave me the excuse to be published in a monthly newspaper, so that counts as the real beginning of “edited” and more well-thought out writing.
4. Are you published?
Yes, you can see all my edits and by-lined work in a few issues of local travel, food, and photography magazines. Like I said in question one, I work/write full time for pepper.ph, so I get published online too. As for being published for actual writing (ie writing for myself/personal projects), I’ll give it 10 years?
5. What was the first story you ever wrote?
I can’t recall the title of the first story, but I printed a bunch of short stories back in grade school. They were Christmas themed or parable-themed, I think. Anyway I printed them, punched two holes and bound them with string and covered the back and front with art paper. I gave my mother my self-published “book” for Christmas.
6. Why do you write?
Because I can’t imagine not writing. Writing helps me make sense of the world. And if in the act of writing, the subject(s) don’t quite make sense, then I know it’s time to step back and live a little before I can return to that piece.
7. How do you find time to write?
It’s a habit formed, I guess, from having to submit articles monthly since college and eventually making it my living. The challenge is in finding time to write each piece well. I prefer writing in bits, especially when I am working on several articles/projects at the same time. I schedule how much will be written and revised within the span of a week.
I prefer to write my personal/MA-related stuff on the weekends, as the 24-hour long days allow me to stare at the screen or catch up on my reading.
8. When and where are the best times to write?
When? When you start writing. Once I start writing about something or someone, I am compelled to finish it or at least get to the middle.
Where? Wherever there is the likelihood that I will not run into someone I’ll end up conversing with for hours. I love people, but writing is lonely work and it only gets done when you’ve processed it all on your own. My go to places are: a. my condo when the rest of the family isn’t around b. the dining room at our house so I can be near my dog c. Starbucks Torre Lorenzo thanks to the lack of Internet.
9. Favorite food/drinks while writing?
Iced french pressed Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk or milk. Cafe Americano, hot or iced.
10. Your writing playlist.
Silence. Or the buzz of a studying crowd in a coffee shop.
11. What do family/friends/loved ones think of you writing?
My family has been supportive, primarily through my parents funding my MA tuition :)) My friends are equally supportive, and are unafraid to tell me when I could’ve done better. I’ve also met a few other writers both in the program and from work that make the journey a little less lonely.
12. Part of writing you enjoy the most?
Hitting send to my editor(s) and printing the manuscript out for submission.
13. Parts of writing you finding challenging?
Choosing the right words. Pacing the story. Fleshing out the character(s). Timing the dialogue. Not rushing a scene. Stopping myself from lingering too long in a scene. Editing, revising, scene establishment. Revising all over again after the nth draft.
Every damn step.
14. What do you use to write with and on?
Microsoft Word with the track changes option turned ON.
Ever Note for gathering information and research.
Yellowpad paper for when I am struggling with a lead in, the beginning of a story/scene, and revising major chunks of a piece.
Post-it’s for arranging scenes. A pink notebook with no lines and a black ballpen or a Gtech pen.
15. How do you overcome writer’s block?
I take a break. I read whatever novel I’m finishing, watch my favorite TV shows, see friends, talk to my dog.
16. How do you motivate yourself to write?
I read the news and features on the New York Times. the New Yorker, or NY Mag. I watch brilliant shows like Game of Thrones and analyze the endings of well-written series like How I Met Your Mother. I remind myself that I have to write a book to finish my MA degree. I tell myself that those three stories still need a lot of work. I write to live and to make a living.
17. Authors who inspire you as a writer?
Jane Austen, simply because she was the first to inspire me to become an independent woman writer. MFK Fisher, because she not only speaks multitudes with sensory language but also acts as my life peg. Jeanette Winterson; anyone who has read her knows I need not explain! Jonathan Franzen for the sheer force of his characters and his ability to keep one from turning to the next page. John McPhee, Mindy Kaling (yes, that is a legit inclusion), Stephen King, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (every girl needs her modern day heroes), I’ll cut this list short because I’m a writer; I’m not going to run out of writers to read from 🙂
18. Books that inspire you as a writer?
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. Food, drugs, sex, a little rock and roll in the writing. Any Lonely Planet collection of travels and places to go to. Getting my feet out there and tasting the world are what fuel my writing 😉
19. Best advice you’ve gotten as a writer?
“You lose nothing as a writer,” said my Professor, Sir Butch Dalisay, on just getting out there and experiencing the world. There is no such thing as a lack of writing material–only a lack of the writer’s will to use details, conversations, and subjects as part of some story.
20. Writing goals this year?
Write some more to find some semblance of a voice. Edit those unfinished stories. Update this blog more often. Improve with each article sent for work.