by Manuela Timofte
"i love how stories unravel in my solo travels, the joy of it all collecting stories— from the life of the scooter driver to the lovestory of the woman who sells coconuts at Kuta Beach" Tea Solon - writing poetry in my mind while backriding on a scooter
Masticadores.- Why do you write?
This baffled me before but I later understood that I write out of necessity. Words wield magic. The need to write to form ideas, create pathways, and change the world one word at a time is inevitable and irrevocable for me.
M.- Since when do you write? Was there a specific moment that prompted you to start writing?
Growing up in an ancestral home that capsules museum-worthy belongings and educational materials like an encyclopedia, novels, books and all kinds of reading materials, films, and vinyl records, I always bathed in stories about my poet and scriptwriter grandfather; survivor stories straight from my grandmother’s mouth about how she and her sister survived World War II; and many other themes of life. Somewhere between piano lessons and volleyball practice, I found the joy of writing. The first poem I wrote was about the memories left by my grandfather. I was around 9 years old.
M.- In your workday, how much time do you spend writing? Do you have a ritual before facing the blank page?
The time allotted for writing varies each day. For the best part of my almost twenty years at work, the moment I woke up I was already answering emails, posting social media updates and messaging staff, and by the time I reached the office I was reading and writing research articles.
But since 2020 when I turned into a full-time family woman, my routine changed. I fundamentally conceive ideas in the morning when everything is quiet and the world is mine— be it sautéing myself in bed, taking a shower, growing seedlings in the garden, doing an early morning walk around the soccer field, boosting adventures in the kitchen, listening to my kind of music in the car — conception happens first before I turn to the blank page and write.
Roughly, I spent an average of three hours each day from conception to writing (or until I am content).
M.- Are you a compass or a map writer?
This is an interesting question. I am both. However, I find that being a compass is way more fun than being a map writer. During ideation, I channel things from everywhere and allow them to take me to where they are. But once I have explored and exhausted the idea to the brim and am done writing them down, the map writer kicks in the moment editing starts.
M.- What would you like to review about your literary work?
I am not sure I got the question right. But what I like to review in my work is the imagery and metaphor, if they are rich enough, if they capture what my intentions are, and if they generally go across the readers as intended.
M.- What do you think about new technologies as instruments for the writer? Do they help or hinder?
I am a big fan of new technologies. Smartphones for one allowed me to key in my thoughts even while I am walking. From pen to paper, typewriter, and desktop to laptop and smartphone— the tools are available anytime, anywhere so they help. Of course, the old school in me would sometimes seek the laid-back feeling of pen and paper. If my smartphone is drained of battery so that my S Pen can no longer serve me, the back of a coffee receipt still invites a scribble of potent metaphors.
M.- Publishing in digital, does it change your methods of inspiration or work?
The methods of inspiration are the same regardless of hardcopy or digital publication versions.
M.- Do you think that accessing the reader who reads on a tablet, computer, or mobile phone, in different spaces, for example, train, bus, metro, can help you be more read?
Yes, definitely. Publication, from newspapers to books, is slowly migrating to digital format. Both digital native and digital migrant consumers read varied online platforms today.
M.- Do you think that during The Pandemic, loneliness, and isolation influenced your network of contacts? Did the number of your readers increase?
An introvert, you can leave me in a nook with books, pen and paper, technology, and a decent internet connection plus mugs of hot beverage and I will flourish.
When the COVID lockdown in the Philippines happened, I was with my daughter and my maternal family in Manila while my son and my life partner were in Cebu. There was not much going out to do except the grocery at that time. Then I decided to start making it a point to write poetry every day. A lot of challenges ensued at the practice as I have not trained my mind to cull words creatively for quite a while, but I took it with a grain of salt and scribbled my thoughts about the simplest of things available in sights like the bed, the door, the window, or the movie.
The upside of the pandemic is that it gave me an exhale and a chance to rediscover what my non-negotiables are: family and health. With the rise of the coronavirus, I made a conscious effort to detach from everything outside of the home to shift focus on my family and self. I only ever resuscitated my WordPress in the second half of 2021. The number of readers grow each week since.
M.- Self-publishing or editorial? Do you think there are still misgivings in contemplating desktop publishing to publish work?
Both. They have their own merits. As for publication type, I vote for physical copy and digital.
M.- Do you think Masticadores’s bet in the search for that digital reader is correct? What’s your opinion about it?
I am unsure about my understanding of the question. However, Masticadores is on the right track at nurturing a digital ecosystem.
M.-Participation as a writer in Masticadores, is it positive? What has it given you?
Writing with Masticadores is a positive move. Masticadores creates pathways for me to reach readers and writers across the globe that I am unable to tap. I read multifarious Masticadores contents and follow Masticadores’ writers as well. Reading varied forms of good literature allows the comfort of growing and expanding the creative mind, and therefore, in one way or another, fosters the writer in me. The warm and lovely people I met through correspondence who are experts in their fields like Manuela Timofte, Gabriela Marie Milton, and Terveen Gill are a bastion of joy and encouragement.
M.- What would you say is your hallmark as a writer?
I have not placed thought into this, but now that it is being asked… the adjective is passionate.
M.-Tell us about your latest project. Are you working on a new one now?
Yes, I am. I have four projects right now that hit home and are all dear to my heart. I am working on 3 books of poetry and 1 research.
The first book is a collection of poetry and creative expressions from three generations of the Solon family. This project houses poems, paintings, photographs, and direct quotes from the direct bloodline who are living in the different parts of the Philippines, Canada, and the UK. Working on this project with my (late) sister and our nieces as the core group is fun! We calendar the book for publication this year.
The second book of poetry is with my (late) sister. This project is an emotionally challenging one and a slow burn, a phoenix dance. This one might take a while.
The last book of poetry is with my life partner. It is a collection of works in Cebuano and English written around 2012. This will come out before the year ends.
The fourth book and by far the most immense is research on my paternal grandfather’s life and body of works. Apart from the original poems and manuscripts I have kept that were handed down to me by my dad, I recently discovered that the Cebuano Studies Center at the University of San Carlos, my graduate school alma mater, managed to secure two original typewriter-written radio drama scripts of my grandfather. This project excites me!
Butung is Layp (Coconut is Life)
Poetry book anthology:
Dagat ug Kinabuhi: Translating Cebuano Poetry edited by Cindy Arranguez Velasquez of the University of San Carlos (2022)
KABISDAK: Waves of Cebuano Writings… Bisaya Literary Lighthouse managed by Micheal U. Obenieta