An Interview with Emily P.
How easy do/did you find it to publish
I've just begun to see my poetry and spoken
word pieces published in different anthologies, journals, and
'zines, mostly because I've only been submitting my work in the past
Ten years ago, when I was a creative writing
major in Washington, there weren't as many Asian American or
Filipino American publications as there are today. Back then, you
certainly didn't see as many calls for submissions that are geared
towards our communities as you do today. Getting published in
"mainstream" publications is another story.
To what extent do you think your
experience in publishing pertains directly to your being
My experience in publishing pertains
precisely to me being Pinay; everything does!
Have you, as a Filipina, had any obstacles
in becoming a writer? I.e., how has being Filipina affected your
ability to "break into the business"?
Probably the biggest obstacles for me in
becoming a writer were/are 1) racism 2) my family, and 3)
In college, we were placed in these writing
groups, where you workshopped your classmates' short stories. That
was probably one of the most eye-opening experiences for me, since I
was almost always the only person of color in those English classes
and definitely the only Filipina American. That's how I came up with
"Notes From A University Writing Group (Or, From the Woman Who Told
Me To Write White)" that is published in Flippin': Filipinos on
America. It's my shortest poem that isn't really a "poem";
it's the actual notes--word for word--that I took one rainy
afternoon after five white classmates mangled a piece that I had
written about a Filipino American family. One classmate said
that I should actually remove ALL of the Tagalog and cultural
references! I thought to myself, "Now how in the hell can I do
that? There would be no words left!" That experience stays
with me every day that I write, every day that I place my own
students in writing groups, and every day that I submit a piece; I
wonder, will these readers be more aware, more culturally sensitive
than my former classmates? Geez, let's hope so.
My mother and father wanted me to become an
engineer. I actually studied and interned as one too, and of course,
I hated it. When I finally told them that I wanted to go in to
writing and Asian American Studies, they didn't even know what that
was; they just shook their heads and tried to talk me out of it. In
addition, my parents are also at the core of most of my writing,
whether it's creative or academic. I used to worry that they would
disapprove of me showing the world their craziness, their traumas,
their lives, fictionalized or not. Until one day, a few years ago, I
flew home to Seattle for a poetry reading, the first one that my
parents had ever attended, and they applauded. Loudly. They finally
understood. These types of silly fears prevented me from writing;
sometimes they still do. I just keep telling myself that
writing--and sharing one's writing--is about overcoming those fears,
overcoming those obstacles.
(The other challenges for any writer are, of
course, networking and getting a publishing contract. I
haven't done that yet, so I can't say I've "broken in to the
business," as you say.)
How do you see Filipina writers in
relation to the canon?
The canon? Which one?
Do you see any changes for Filipina
artists in the horizon?
I see lots of changes and hope for Filipina
artists in the future. For example, writers Virginia Cerenio and
Marianne Villanueva are putting together a Filipina Women's
Anthology. Some fellow spoken word/poetry pals and I are
submitting a collaborative piece, written by what I like to call our
up and coming "Pinay MAFIA*" (*Mad-Ass Filipinas Infiltrating
Amerikkka). We don't know if the piece will be accepted, but
the real message is that many of us Pinay poets in Los Angeles, San
Francisco, and Seattle, are working together, writing together, and
performing together in new and different venues: schools, museums,
theaters, festivals, bookstores, coffee houses, community centers,
and even cyberspace. And that's