Saturday, October 12, 2013

Interview of Cecilia Manguerra Brainard about Creative Writing Plus Random Cecilia pictures

Good morning, dear Readers,
I found this set of questions and answers for an interview I did last May. I can't find the name of the person who interviewed me, but here are the questions and my answers. It's about Creative Writing.

I've included some recent pictures taken in Brazil and in Cambra, just for fun -- they really don't have anything to do with writing per se, so don't look for a connection.

Have a great weekend,

1.      How do you find inspiration?
Most of my writings have been inspired by what I call my Filipino experience, referring to the time I lived in the Philippines, from birth until the time I left for America.  I grew up in Cebu and wanted to write about some of the personalities I knew there.  I also wanted to write about interesting moments of my life, such as the time my father died. There were stories about people in Cebu as well, teenagers I grew up with, or people who were different and whom we saw, for instance, there was a woman whom we called a witch, or a woman who was said to have horns on her head.

My novel, When the Rainbow GoddessWept, is about a coming of age of a young girl named Yvonne during World War II in the Philippines. The novel is a work of fiction, but the stories that my parents told me about World War II inspired me to write this story, and some of their experiences are recorded in the novel.

I’ve also written about my Filipino American experience, referring to the time I have spent in America.
Some of these writings are non-fiction, meaning the writings try to be factual; others are fictional, meaning I’ve used the inspiration but have changed information so it’s basically just made-up.

More re inspiration: Sometimes, I feel compelled to write about memories, about interesting people I’ve met or known, about places I’ve been to, about an interesting moment that I find myself in.

2.      How do you discipline yourself to write?
-          If you ever get ‘writers’ block’ how do you overcome it?
I have writer friends who write daily, from say 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.  I am not disciplined that way, but I produce if I have a deadline, and so I usually put myself in a workshop situation.
Writers’ block usually happens when one has an over-active left brain, (the logical side of your mind). It is the side that criticizes, is logical, does math, and so on. The creative side comes from the right side of your brain.  When I find myself “blocked” I have to silence my critical side and allow my creative side to flow. 

There are many exercises, but for example I will use prompts. I have learned not to correct my work when writing, but just write and write, and later I will take a look and make the corrections.
I now keep a Writers notebook in which I write about the progress of my novel. If I have questions, I write them in that notebook, if I have any ideas, I jot them down. It’s a catchall for ideas, and it helps me get new ideas and prevents me from being blocked because I’m allowing my ideas to flow.
Once I was “blocked” and I couldn’t write fiction, but surprisingly I wrote a few poems. It was as if the creative urge had to find an outlet to express itself.

3.      How do you take a piece from idea to fuition?
The first thing I try to do is to write as freely as I can about this idea. This draft is not beautiful; it is clumsy and full of mistakes, but I just get the idea out.
When I have this clumsy first draft, I look at it with a critical eye and try to see what I’m really trying to say, what my story is.

Then I rewrite, and rewrite.

At some point, especially if it’s a fairly long piece, I show it to someone I trust to get feedback.
I rewrite some more, and keep doing this until I feel it’s done, or others tell me it’s done.
Very rarely does a work come out perfect with the first writing.

4.      What techniques do you use?
At this point, I have learned to use what I call fundamentals in creative writing, meaning I’m writing in scenes and I use dialogue. I know how to use point of view.  If I’m writing fiction, I make sure my work has strong characters, or at least a strong point of view character. I make sure this character develops or changes as the story progresses. I make sure there is tension or conflict to make the story interesting.
Practically speaking, I use prompts to get started; I write in journals to loosen up and to catch ideas; I am working on a novel now, I flesh out my characters, and I write in my “notebook” – I allow my characters to have a voice and so I do monologues and let them talk.

5.      What authors do you love and why?
Most of the authors I like write character-driven stories, versus plot-driven stories. For instance, I like Graham Green, author of The Power and the Glory, and many other novels;
I enjoyed the Latin American writers: Gabriel Garcia Marquez (100 years of Solitude, Love in Time of Cholera), Isabel Allende, and the short story Mexican writer Juan Rulfo;
I have learned about Voice from our own Cebuana writers Lina Espina Moore and Estrella Alfon, and also from Filipino writers Carlos Bulosan and F. Sionil Jose.
Recently I’ve enjoyed some of the novels of Carlos Ruiz Zafon, in particular The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game.

6.      How do you handle criticism/failures in your writing career?
Criticism and  Praise can distract the writer from writing. Both can be destructive to writers. I have learned to ignore both praise and criticism and to do my own thing, whether it’s writing fiction, non-fiction or editing works.

Unlike other art forms (such as acting, or dance) writing is a private matter ultimately, it’s between me, my imagination and my computer, and so I have to get into that private world in my imagination where my characters live and I write about them.  Every project is a new challenge, and so allowing the success or failures of your past works to affect you slows you down. You just have to look at what you are trying to do and do your best, and hope your readers get it.

Read also
 Allen Gaborro's Review of Vigan and Other Stories
The Old Mansion Near the Plaza 
Talking about the woman in Cholon
Flip Gothic
Manila Without Verna
Winning Hearts and Minds  
The Black Man in the Forest
The Old Mansion near the Plaza 
An Interview by Luis Diores of Cecilia Manguerra Brainard
Oscar V. Campomanes' Cecilia Manguerra Brainard Scenographer

Read also
 The Importance of Keeping a Journal and My Pink Lock and Key Diary
The Importance of Sensual Writing 
Vintage pictures that help me write my novel - Paris, Barcelona, Ubec
How to Write a Novel #1
How to Write a Novel #2

 tags: fiction, Philippine literature, short story, flash fiction, novel, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Ubec, Cebu, author, writer, Filipino, novelist

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