The Beauty of the Short Story
July 22, 2019
At this point in my writing career, I feel that I’m not a novice anymore. I would still attend entry level classes and novice level workshops and would come up empty both creatively and professionally. I’ve published a novella with a first-time publisher (ACWW) and some of my short stories have been featured in their literary magazine (Ricepaper Magazine). However, I have a hard time breaking into established publications because of my lack of credentials (I don’t have a MFA) due to the fact that I transitioned from an unsuccessful screenwriting career. Furthermore, having emigrated from the Philippines when I was twenty five years old, I feel that I’m in a constant state of catching up. I feel that having an established literary mentor would point me towards the right direction of honing my current style (and content) to what publications would find appropriate to publish as well as learning how to pitch to literary agents and publishers alike.
When I made the transition from writing for TV and film to prose between 2014 to 2017, I went back to my favorite medium – The Short Story. In 2017, I pitched a political thriller manuscript to Asian Canadian Writer’s Workshop but they were more interested in the short stories featuring the misadventures of Harry Salcedo, a Filipino-Canadian immigrant. This led to my first novella, The Seven Muses of Harry Salcedo, but I felt that the story could’ve been told better as a short story anthology. I continued to write more short stories until “Elevator Lady” became longlisted for the CBC Short Story Prize. It gave me an idea to collect all of my short stories into an anthology– Terminal Cities— it is composed of twenty four stories, some interlinked and others self-contained.
I feel I’m a lifelong pantser: I would write the whole piece, without outlining, and allow myself to let the story take me to different places (thus the obsession with the short story medium). However, when faced with deadlines, I would outline my story profusely. I would still find myself being swayed by distractions, but I would sit myself down every morning to outline what I have and see if I’m on the right path. After my first novella, I feel I’ve developed the maturity to tell my characters to stick to their path, at least until I’ve submitted. Then I let them play around again…
When I read Murakami Haruki’s After Dark, I felt that he wrote my life in 2004 but in the form of an insomniac woman in the seedy side of Tokyo (while I, an insomniac Filipino man in the seedy side of Manila). I feel that he already wrote my life in countless books, I think the question now is who would edit that collection to create the perfect Vincent Ternida memoir.
If I ruled the world at its current state now, I would like for everyone to contribute to moving society forward in terms of an efficient and functional day task (agriculture, engineering, education, etc.) that wouldn’t take up a lot of time (say on a task or on a per project basis), which would give us time to pursue our interests. There will be a focus on resource sustainability and individual wellness.
There will be an equal exchange of giving and receiving– including and especially the ruler. Writers, artists, educators will be seen equal to athletes, movie stars, and CEOs– there will be a focus more on enriching each other’s lives rather than the empty pursuit of material goods and status.
Without being delusional or unfairly pessimistic, I would probably feel like in ten years, I would fall into a middle of the path author. I’d have probably three to four published works, including a full fledged novel, an anthology of short stories, and a memoir. I would probably have been long listed or short listed in various competitions, but I doubt I would win any. I would still have a day job but I would still be writing and travelling. I would probably attempt to pursue film as a passion again, this time not as a means of income but more for art.