Thursday, May 31, 2007

Under Forties' Anthology

Amir Muhammad posted this on the Malaysian writers e-group on behalf of his friend Mervin Espina, so I'm helping to pass it on:
Call for entries: South-East Asian creative writing anthology for young writers

Publisher: University of Santo Tomas (UST) Publishing House, The Philippines.

Works Needed: Open to South-East Asian writers and translators below 40. Poetry, prose (fiction, travelogues, essays, blogs, etc), 1-act plays, short screen/teleplays, comics (not over 30 pages long), and everything in between--literary experiments as well as genre works (horror, sci-fi, fantasy, etc, or combinations thereof). Past published works are also welcome. Shorter works will have their originals as well as their English translation printed. No overriding theme(s) as yet. As the first installment of a hopefully ongoing series, the main focus now is establishing sustainable networks among writers and translators in the region.

Deadline: 1 August 1, 2007. Going to press by December or the first quarter of 2008.

Editor: Mervin Espina (The Philippines). There might also be a co-editor from a different South-East Asian country.

Editor's Biodata: Mervin Espina spent his childhood shuttling between the southern suburbs of Metro Manila and Brunei Darussalam. At age 4, his life's ambition was to become a garbage collector. To his parent's relief he studied philosophy, literature, and Spanish at the University of Santo Tomas and the University of the Philippines. When he turned 18, he got a break freelancing as a writer and photographer for Philippine dailies and magazines, eventually gravitating to more music and film-related activities. He's been actively documenting and participating in the Philippine indie film scene and has done production and translation work for numerous projects, like The Family That Eats Soil (2004) and The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros (2005). He also helps program and organize film screenings and festivals in the Philippines and abroad. As for dreams of being a garbage collector—one needs only to look at his room. He's a vegetarian and has two silver goldfish.

Editor's contact: / skype: merv.espina.


Amir said...

Thanks Sharon!

1. There's no title for this book yet. I suggested something with "guava" in it, as the fruit can be found in these parts and the Malay word is slang for someone young and juicy. Oh behave!

2. As for payment: There will be no cash, but each writer will get 5-10 copies of the book.

3. Also in the works is a blog featuring extracts from selected entries, with many of the writers being translated into English for the first time.

4. Other than these suggestions, which came out of a feverish email correspondence, I have nothing really to do with this anthology. If you have further questions you can ask Mervin lah.

Anonymous said...

1. How 'bout "Voluntary Exploitation : A Case Study" ?

2. I'll try not to spend it in one place. I hope it makes millions for the publisher.

3. Good publicity for the book.

4. Put in a good word for the communists, maybe you can get this one banned as well. That should get him more sales.

- Anonymous, 2007 Poetry Ambassador Associate, ILP :P

ris said...

I wonder if the Anon above is the same one Sharon knows about...?

Either way get a life.

If you don't want to contribute, don't. If you want to put a case for royalties (to be shared among maybe dozens? writers) instead of instant copies, then do so. Got any other bright ideas??

bibliobibuli said...

ris - think so. the sour one.

bibliobibuli said...

amir - wasn't sure if i got the title of the anthology right as on the yahoo post the words got cut off and it said "for yo"

it could have been "for yobos"!

Amir said...

Yes Sharon, "young writers" should be fine. I think my post said "young 'uns." But the actual title for the book has not been decided yet. Not even sure if my "guava" suggestion will be taken up.

As for Anonymous' beef: I've found that good writers are the ones who occasionally write for free if it's for a cause or context they believe in. In this region alone, Goenawan and Alfian come to mind. Although my accomplishments do not match theirs, some of my own writing that I am most happy with were the ones I didn't get paid for.

Those who are the most picky about money above all else are, ironically enough, the ones whose writing careers, such as they were, tapered off in bitterness quite early on. (Although some then make a comfy living in Advertising, which they moan about at length).

Since I make a living partly through writing I would of course like to see more cash being distributed, especially to me. But a creative writing anthology featuring youngish writers who are (most likely) not yet famous outside their own home turf, and published by a university press whose back catalogue includes hardly commercially sizzling material like "Fundamentals of Sonography and Ultrasound in Tropical Diseases" probably would not be the right tree to bark up.

What's of greater concern to me is that the book be available to Joe Public in the countries involved. University presses (except for the big ones) aren't always the savviest when it comes to such matters.

Of secondary concern would be if, in these Joy-less times, some writers would think it a mortal sin to be published by a Catholic university!

Anonymous said...

Ris : that would be boring and not fun. I think all writers unconsciously try to provoke a reaction, because who reads dull blog prose :P I still remember when Amir called his column "Perforated Sheets".. I still remember it after all these years, but I don't remember any of the columns I read yesterday.

Still Amir, it does smell very slighty of exploitation doesn't it, young people, engaged in a venture which the University will no doubt be making a profit from, of which they will have no share whatsoever.

It just feels wrong, like ILP charging for the awards they give you. Nothing technically wrong with that, but still..

It's true that people occasionally write for free. I'm sure they'd be incensed though, if someone then tried to publish and sell what they volunteered for free.

See that's the difference, if you write for free, then it should be free. People should not try to make a profit out of something they asked you to give away for nothing.

It's true.. free writing is the best because there's no monetary pressure attached to it, so the writer must truly believe in the cause he's writing about. But then you don't expect someone to sell it, do you ? it's unethical if you ask me, to attempt to sell something someone donated to you.

Imagine the hubris then, of someone who can ask you to donate something to him so that he can sell it.

Also, people write for free to promote a cause, that's true, and some of the world's best writing have come from it, but what cause the University promoting ?

Amir said...

My writing has appeared for free in publications like Aliran and Harakah. No big deal. It's my chance to get into secular and religious heaven simultaneously. Needless to say both publications were then sold to the public.

If you think a regional creative anthology will make a great profit, you obviously don't work in publishing. For example, not a single Silverfish New Writing anthology has sold more than 3,000 copies, and the oldest has been in print for six years!

Publishers normally give a royalty rate of 10%. Let's say this book has 50 writers; not such a huge number, since it means an average of 5 per South-East Asian nation. (And yes, entries are starting to come in from Myanmar and East Timor too). This means that each writer gets a royalty rate of 0.2%. Let's say this book sells for US$10. If (and this is a big fat IF) the book sells 5,000 copies, each writer then gets the princely sum of US$100.

This is exactly how much the ten complimentary copies of the book would have cost.

The books you will get instantly and can give away to friends and potential lovers. The cash, you will need to wait for a few years.

True, some publishers have a royalty rate of as high as 15%. But a publisher who has to deal with the administrative cost of issuing regular royalty cheques to 50 writers probably won't be so generous.

In my other life I also make movies. Most festivals that screen them need to pay me a screening fee. But I make an exception for small and/or regional festivals, even those that charge tickets. Because I want my neighbours to know what I am doing, and I want to know what they are doing. And this, I trust, is what this anthology from this Catholic university strives to do.

Otherwise, Jesus would be mighty pissed off.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: Why don't you just come out from your hiding and say those things in person, COWARD!!
OF course it would be bloody easy for you to be presumptuous and make irresponsible comments like that (which I am sure you relish in spewing out of your demented, gutless system). Personal vendetta? Methinks so.

Shahril Nizam

Amir said...

Oh, a crucial point I forgot to mention (silly me) is that the writers in this anthology retain copyright to their works.

They can sell it to others.

And they can use writings they've already been paid for.

bibliobibuli said...

when i interviewed hari kunzru he said that writers should give their writing away for free to make a name for themselves. he has put much of his short fiction and many of his articles on his website for free. some of those stories were later published by penguin.

Amir said...

There are, of course, times when I expect money.

Last year, BMW's people came grovelling to me to become one of the judges in their short film competition. I turned them down because there was no pay. When the piteous voice said, "Think of it as charity work" I replied, "I do charity work for charities or if it will get me into secular or religious heaven. From BMW I expect cash."

So they had to resort to some people who were less famous than me, the poor things!

Anonymous said...

See, this is why I keep my identity safe from people who seem somewhat scary online. It's weird how someone's opinions can make someone else want to say scary things, but it's happened to me too many times already. As for my identity, it's not secret. A subpoena will reveal it soon enough, if it ever comes to that. And my posting my name means nothing. So you're Shahril Nizam, but which Shahril Nizam are you ? and how do I know that's your real name ? you might as well be as anonymous as me for all that your name can prove.

An yes Amir, I don't suppose there's anything wrong in writing for charity, but I think most people do it for only very special cases, for causes that are very dear to their hearts. Or maybe if it's kinda fun LOL :D

It's like, you read something, and you think, this is all bull, I have to do something about it. Then you write, and you do it for free of course. You do it because someone's got to know, you have to make a stand, tell the world this is what you believe in, free speech, liberty, independence and all that.

I've had people use "think of it as charity work" to many times. I've volunteered my services before, and then I get "no, don't say this don't say that" or then they don't even use it because of whatever. Once I had a charity ask me to install illegal copies of software on their PCs.. "we're a charity, we can't afford.."

I am just tired of all this.

US$100 (Rm320 at last count) is my entire expense account for one month. I'm just guessing here, but don't you think people would rather have the money ? I mean if they cost the same, I think they'd rather have the money.

PS. I'm not sure who owns copyright for all these posts, but I believe Malaysian law, if it's not commissioned, copyright rests with the author. If you can use any of these posts as a literary experiment in audience reaction, feel free :) In fact, I might be compelled to compile all my posts in various places (together with their reactions) and send them in.

Poor Bib is being martyred a bit because of her beliefs (sorry, but you know me, and you know why I feel compelled to post every time I see something I disagree with) but think of it this way, it's free money for you, and you really can't argue with free money, because in the end, rich is always better, isn't it ? If I was me I'd censor myself, but then I can't because I don't believe in censorship. The resultant paradox might result in my not having existed at all.

PPS. World domination is cool. When you become paramount world leader, don't forget who your friends are (I'd very much like to become Minister of I mean Information, thank you very much.) :)

PPPS. If I keep this up we will soon be #1. Count on it. I'l be working on my acceptance speech :D

Mervin Espina said...

This is good stuff. Do keep it up. We can even publish this.


Anonymous said...

I know it is, Marvin, and you're welcome. It IS nice to be appreciated. Actually I think you can legally rip off most blogs wholesale, it's been done before I believe.

Anonymous said...

"And they can use writings they've already been paid for."

If it was commissioned, they can't legally do it because they no longer own it.

bibliobibuli said...

mervin - thanks for dropping by. please let us know how things go and if you need a blogvertisement, let me know

anon - not being "martyred" ... and okay will keep you in mind for minister of info but can't imagine you in parliamentary debate!!

i guess that the only thing about putting a name to your post is that we know which anonymous you are. i know because i know what reactions to expect from you on what topics. and i know from your writing style.

but why won't you even take a nickname here, as you used to when you called yourself "porty"? and as you do on a certain e-group where you post all the time. i would very much prefer it. is it so hard just to own your anonymity??

i take your point about payment, but it is v. difficult sometimes.

okay, advise me on this. bernice and i are talking about publishing some of the stuff read out at "readings". to put the book together we would have to invest out own money - and i'd like to produce a book that looked really nice with photos and arty layout. how many copies would we sell? if we cleared 1,000 i'd be very happy.

we might cover out investment and the profits wouldn't be huge. shared between all those writers? as amir said each would only get a tiny amount. is a tiny amount worth having over copies (which anyway they would be free to sell). might that profit (if any) not be best spent on producing the next edition and the next, or on doing something for the writing community?

yet such a publication would be enormously useful. writers (many previously unpublished) would get their work out to a wider audience. new writers would be encouraged. all writers would have another entry in their writer cv's. are these things not of great benefit - more so than the small amount of money that could be paid?

of course, one would hope that it would be a small step for writers in their journey towards earning decent money for their writing.

Amir said...

Writers can earn more by getting free copies (or even buying back from the publisher at cost) and then selling to friends and acquaintances. Quite a few Malay-language writers do this when they have collectives that publish books.

Waiting for royalties *when you are in a multi-writer book* takes too long and will not be lucrative at all. Of course if you're published by Penguin then you can let them do all the work. But if you're not, chances are you need to be 'proactive' (dread word!).

It is a bit shameless, but hey, even Tsai Ming-Liang sells tickets to his films on the streets of Taipei and most recently KL, so who are you compared to a Golden Lion (Venice Film Fest) winner?

The added attraction is that you know that your friends and acquaintances actually have copies of your books instead of their just saying they 'will buy it someday when got time to go to bookshop,' the lazy cheapskates.

And as for copyright, you just need to inform the editor in writing that you intend to use the work elsewhere. I have never once experienced an editor saying No but some will ask for a certain grace period. That is how books of previously published material, like "I Am Muslim" and "Confessions of an Old Boy" get published.

I would definitely be published by Sharon & Bernice for free. But alas, "masyair to nehi" (I am not a poet).


bibliobibuli said...

don't need to be a poet amir. it would include creative non-fiction too i think. (all this is a twinkle in the eye, y'unnerstan?)

Anonymous said...

Anon, what an irksome little troll you are. But just go right ahead if it so pleases you. I suppose stirring up shit would add some spark to your seemingly sardonic existence. :-)

Yes, Shahril Nizam is and will always be my real name - and I am not the least bit scary, In fact, it is anonymous trolls like you who I find scary (and tragic, immature, callous, irresponsible, curmudgeonly etc.) .

merv said...

As Amir and the others have mentioned above, honoraria is just not feasible at this stage. The best way to pay writers in an endeavor like this is not through actual sales (which hardly amount to anything), but through an outside grant. There's a better possibility of securing a grant after the actual manuscript has been secured. But I can't guarantee that right now.

And I doubt the UST Press would be making a killing. Seriously, which Southeast Asian university press actually makes a "killing"? It's hard enough to get people to read "local" books than for them to actually BUY them.

But profit is completely besides the point. One of the long-term goals of this project is to revive the networks established by post-war journals like "Comment" (50-60s) and "Solidarity" (60s-70s). They were journals of current affairs, ideas, and arts that provided a regular platform of exchange in the region. In his pre-PM days, even Mahathir wrote for Solidarity.

Anonymous said...

"Writers can earn more by getting free copies (or even buying back from the publisher at cost) and then selling to friends and acquaintances."

This is why I'm not rich. The very idea of selling your own book, it's like writing your own review IMHO. To put your friends or family in this sort of quandary, it's not something I'd do voluntarily. I'd never sell anything to friends or family.

"so who are you compared to a Golden Lion (Venice Film Fest) winner?"

I am me, unless you think that someone who wins an award has more rights than someone who doesn't.

Shahril -- I've read your blog, you think everyone who beats around the bush is satan personified. Not that that's a bad thing, it's a very honest blog that I have to read more often. You DO have very scary thoughts, but then again they're very honest and reliable. Why don't you have your picture on your blog, so potential employers can positively identify you ? unless you're famous like Amir, a name isn't much to go on as far as identity is concerned.

Merv, the networks do exist, except online rather than offline. Not sure about Filipinos, but Malaysians are suckers for free stuff. If you want more Malaysians to read, give away free books :D

Bib, I may be wrong, but coffee-table stuff only appeals to people who believe themselves a certain class or standard. If you can identify with them, you can maximise the potential of the volume. Anyway you probably won't sell much anywhere because poetry simply doesn't sell.

As for why the nick is "Anonymous", don't you find that people pre-judge you but who they think you are ? if I call myself "whatever", the moment you see "whatever" they expect the type of post they think I always write. I don't like to use a nick because of that, so that any post I write will be judged solely by it's own merits and not by who I am.

vadis said...

Hmm, blogs, huh? How about my novel-blog here, Maybe, and just maybe there's something in it that will be fit in the anthology...