Thursday, November 30, 2017

Interview of Cecilia Brainard by Leila Magtules #DLSU #Philippines #literature

When I have the time I do my best to help students and teachers. Recently some senior high school students from De La Salle University Integrated School interviewed me for a research project.  

Today I'm sharing the interview by Leila Magtules, whose adviser is Mr. Engelbert C. Talunton.

The photo shows l-r: Samantha Parker, Leila Magtules, and Jihan Ferrer

 ~ Cecilia Brainard

Title of Research: The life of an Artist through a literary creative output
Researcher: Leila Mae L. Magtules
Institution: De La Salle University Integrated School

Informant: Cecilia Manguerra Brainard
Background of the informant: Bio: Cecilia Manguerra Brainard is the author and editor of 20 books. Please visit her website at http://www.ceciliabrainard for her bio.


I. Basic Information
1.   What is writing to you?

cb: Writing to me is an opportunity to give form to the stories or questions that are in my head. On a wider scale it is the opportunity for Filipinos to document their own stories.
1.1.      How has it affected your life?
cb: Writing has been a life-long activity, starting from the time I was 9 and I wrote letters to my dead father. I also wrote in a lock-and-key diary.

a.         In what instances in your everyday life show how art has affected you?
cb: Writing and reading are activities that I do daily and these occupy a big part of my life.
1.2.      Can you imagine your life without writing?
cb: When I was young I wanted to be film maker, and I had also enjoyed theater, but I learned that writing (and the related activities of editing and publishing) suit my personality better, so no, I can’t really imagine my life without writing.

2.   How long have you been an artist?
cb: I’ve been writing since I was 9 or 10, but my first published short story collection, Woman with Horns and Other Stories, came out in 1987. For over 30 years, I’ve been writing short stories and novels, and personal essays. I’ve also been editing books and recently started publishing other people’s literary works.

2.1.      Why do consider yourself an artist?
cb: My efforts have to do with creating stories and books. Artists are involved in creating works.
a.       Is being an artist something you declare yourself or does it have a basis?
cb: A writer or an artist has to embrace being such and so at some point early on, I had to say, “I am a writer.” Getting my works published and receiving some awards have validated my literary efforts.

                  a.1.     If it has a basis, what is yours?
cb: I am not sure what this question means, but I think the above sentence answers this.

3. Is this profession also your passion?
cb: Yes, writing (and dabbling in related work like editing and publishing) is a passion.

a.         Do you still (paint,dance, write, etc) simply for the sake of your artistic belief?
cb: I continue to write and just had my third novel, The Newspaper Widow, published by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House (2017). I also maintain a blog.  My Philippine American Literary House just published books by fictionists Linda Ty-Casper and Veronica Montes.
My efforts are not just for the sake of my artistic belief but for broader reasons. For instance, as a Filipino writer in America, I realize it’s difficult for Filipino Americans to get their works published. This is why I run my publishing house, Philippine American Literary House (PALH) to help get fine works by Filipino American writers published.

II. History
1.   How did you get into writing?
1.1. When did it start for you?

cb: Even as a girl, I loved reading and discovered I also loved writing. I was maybe ten years old when I wrote letters to my dead father, and then I started diary-writing. Later on, I wrote short stories, personal essays, then novels.

a.       Was it introduced to you by someone you knew?
cb: The love for reading was introduced at home. My father used to bring us every weekend to buy magazines and books, so reading was a part of our lives. The nuns at school also reinforced the reading and writing.
b.      Can you share your experiences of when you first got into it?
cb: After my father died when I was nine, I felt the need to update him of my life and so I started writing letters to him.
1.2. What made you decide to pursue it as a profession?
a.       Did you have a mentor or an inspirational figure that helped you decide?
cb: I kept a journal and my husband used to see me scribbling away most nights.  One Christmas, he bought me an electric typewriter. This was before computers were around. This encouraged me to take writing more seriously and submit my work for publication.
Later on, the noted Filipino novelists Lina Espina Moore and Bienvenido N. Santos mentored me.
b.      Did a particular experience that help you decide?
cb: There was no specific experience that helped me decide as the writing had started early on and just flowed through my life, developing and growing along the way.

III. Development
1.   What are the positive and negative experiences you’ve had in pursuing your craft?
1.1. How did it affect you as a person?

cb: Writing has taught me to be courageous and not give up. At the same time, it has taught me to be humble.  All these stem from the difficulties of getting one’s work published and dealing with rejections of one’s work.
1.3.      How did it affect you as an artist?
cb: As a writer, I’ve learned to be careful with my work and do my best to produce the best writing before sending it out for publication.
1.4.      Can you share some of these experiences?
cb: Writing literary a novel, for instance, is very difficult. It can take years to complete one’s work.  It’s easy to get discouraged and give up. It’s easy to be sloppy and not pursue “perfection” in one’s work. All of these I’ve had to do for all three novels of mine. I’ve had to keep at it, even when discouraged. And when I finished the drafts, I’ve had to get them critiqued and I’ve had to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite.  I’ve had to submit the works to agents and publishers and deal with many rejections before finally getting them published. That’s just how it is, to be a writer. And I’ve had to be both hard-headed about getting my works finished and published, but at the same time, I’ve been humbled by the rejections. At the same time, I have to move on with my next writing project.
2.   What epiphanies/realizations have you gained from pursuing your art form?
1.1. Do you still carry these values in your current life?

cb: I have learned very much about writing and art in general. One thing I’ve realized is that, while art/writing are important, society does not value these too highly. There are more people who will go to a pop concert than to a literary reading, for instance. There are more people who will read commercial romances than literary works. And yet, it is very important for a society to have their own writers and artists, otherwise who will document our stories? 
So yes, I carry these values I’ve picked up from my writing.

-          Brief recap of the interview
-          Express gratitude for their participation

-          END OF INTERVIEW –

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Tags: Philippine, Philippines, Cebu, Cebuano, literature, authors, novels, books, writers, fiction, education, university, English

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