Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Yellow Paperclip Meets Alice and Joy

I spent a day in a room full of writers, aspiring writers, fellow lovers of children's books, publishers, teachers, psychologists, psychiatrists, moms, and new friends. It was the day of the writing workshop sponsored by The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators with globally-published author Alice McLerran.

I saw her as I entered; she was wearing a purple dress (and I was in a purple shirt!)... and I liked her already! Alice shared her stories with us as a writer, daughter and mother; a number of us also shared our stories during the group critique sessions. Now that was nerve-wracking! Whew! (That experience deserves its own blogpost. Abangan...) Until I can find the time to write lengthily on the writing workshop, I'll share some of the notes I scribbled as Alice talked about her life as a writer and shared some tips on the writing process (with additional and pahabol thought bubbles of mine in purple!).

Publishing is anytime you let go of a piece of writing. Publishing your work matters. The fun in writing is sharing it with others. (It took me a while to share my writing with others. It was great to know that other people enjoyed what I write... so it wasn't just Mom. Hee-hee.)

You're the same writer even after a "Whopeeee! I'm published!" moment. Things don't change drastically. (Exactly! I was suprised when I sat down next to Michele of CCP and she said with a laugh, "How intimidating! Of course someone with a book had to sit next to me!" Me, intimidating?! Not at all. It was nice to meet you, Michele!)

With picture books, you have to trust your illustrator to tell the other half of your story. And illustrators must know how to draw imagination. (And I love it how May Ann saw the world of my Yellow Paperclip so much better than I even imagined it myself!)

We write about what we know and care about. You have to care enough about your story. And care enough to share it with others. (Who would've thought others would find a paperclip just as fascinating?)

An idea is not the story. You still have to develop the story with a beginning, a middle and an end. Yes, it's hard work. (That a-ha moment still needs a lot of work, tears, patience and determination. "Dreams mean work," Paulo Coelho said. I believe him 100%.)

The most simple of plants (and stories!) draw their strength from a complex root system. (If only you knew the entire root system of the Yellow Paperclip...)

There's no one set of pictures for a story. (Alice's book The Mountain that Loved a Bird has been published in several countries, including Russia, Pakistan, China and the Philippines - in the native language and with locally-inspired illustrations. Amazing!)

Rewriting should be the fun and most pleasurable part of writing. (This should be my mantra... Really.)

Ideas come and go. Write them down as soon as possible. (Never leave home without that trusty notebook and pen!)

Creativity is not romantic. A lot of it happens in strange ways. But a lot of it is craft. It's practice. (Creativity is also a way of life. It's about being curious and silly and child-like.)

Trust your subconscious. (I should. I will.)

I bought a copy of The Mountain that Loved a Bird, a very moving story with beautiful new illustrations by Beaulah. I also gave Alice a copy of The Yellow Paperclip with Bright Purple Spots and she loved it! She said it wasn't lip service but she really enjoyed the story. I'm so happy! I hope we keep in touch.

Oh... and if you're wondering who Joy is, you'll have to read The Mountain that Loved a Bird! Send an email to or visit their site to get copies.

PS. I can't believe I didn't get to have my photo taken with Alice! Sayang. And it would have been so cool for this blogpost (especially since we were both in purple!). Beaulah or Nikki, I hope you can share some photos with me. Maraming salamat!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Painful Truth Behind My Purple Spots

I got the biggest Halloween trick yesterday, except it wasn't a prank... it's the painful truth behind the "purple spots" on my face. What does this have to do with paperclips? Well, I always knew my story was autobiographical but I don't know if many people know I associated the bright purple spots with my own face.

NO, it's not a delayed onset of puberty-pimples, it's not adult acne, it's not even allergies. It's a chronic inflamatory disorder called Rosacea. I spent the last day and a half reading up about it and I thought I'd share some of the info with you as I will be needing all the emotional support I can get. Here's a quick intro from one of the websites:

Rosacea (pronounced "roh-ZAY-sha") is a chronic and potentially life-disruptive disorder primarily of the facial skin, often characterized by flare-ups and remissions. Many have observed that it typically begins any time after age 30 as a redness on the cheeks, nose, chin or forehead that may come and go. In some cases, rosacea may also occur on the neck, chest, scalp or ears. Over time, the redness becomes ruddier and more persistent, and visible blood vessels may appear. Left untreated, bumps and pimples often develop, and in severe cases the nose may grow swollen and bumpy from excess tissue. While there is no cure for rosacea and the cause is unknown, medical therapy is available to control or reverse its signs and symptoms. Individuals who suspect they may have rosacea are urged to see a dermatologist or other knowledgeable physician for diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Apparently, Rosacea affects about 14 million Americans. The disorder is more likely among Caucasians (so, mestiza pala ako?!) and celebrities like Bill Clinton and Princess Diana had flare-ups too. I don't think it's very common here in the Philippines which is probably why my first trips to dermatologists as early as 2004 were frustrating as they couldn't give me any info. Luckily, I feel much better with a new dermatologist I'm seeing. She's truly an angel in disguise. (And get this! I found out on my second visit that her dad was the OB who delivered me! That can only be a good thing.) I am now on medication - oral antibiotics and a topical gel to relieve some of the pimples and redness. However, I was warned that there may be some "transient redness" when my skin reacts to the medication. True enough, I turned tomato-red yesterday. It's so frustrating.

Given that there's no cure, the best thing to do is manage my lifestyle and avoid specific triggers that aggravate my Rosacea. There's no known cause either. Each individual has unique triggers; the challenge is to identify them soon so I can avoid them completely. But it's not as easy as that. From a recent survey, these are the top triggers for flare-ups:
  1. Sun exposure - 81% (Eeep. Of course I just got back from Panglao.)
  2. Emotional stress - 79% (Hmmm. This will be hard to isolate.)
  3. Hot weather - 75% (I live in the Philippines!)
  4. Wind - 57% (I guess I can't drive at 130km/h on the Skyway with the windows down anymore.)
  5. Heavy exercise - 56% (No wonder I turn beet-red after my Elorde workout. Tai-chi, anyone?)
  6. Alcohol consumption - 52% (Cheers... you can have my San Mig Lite.)
  7. Cold weather - 46% (It feels like the North Pole in the office sometimes. So cold that I can't even type!)
  8. Spicy foods - 45% (Bicolano ang tatay ko. Patay.)
  9. Humidity - 44% (Once again, I live in the tropics!)
  10. Indoor heat - 41% (Apparently, even the heat in a crowded elevator!)
  11. Certain skin-care products - 41% (I think I had a flare-up from Cetaphil the other day.)
  12. Heated beverages - 36% (Gasp. No more coffee... Sob!)
  13. Certain cosmetics - 27% (Yes, even the hypoallergenic ones. Even Clinique and VMV.)
  14. Medications - 15% (Pimple creams are absolute no-nos. Ibuprofen can also be a trigger.)
  15. Medical conditions - 15% (Even a cough could trigger a flare-up.)
  16. Certain fruits - 13% (I have a feeling I overdosed on Florida's Natural...)
  17. Marinated meats - 10% (No more corned beef. No more longganisa. Well, less carcinogens for me!)
  18. Certain vegetables - 9% (Sana ampalaya ang trigger ko... Hee-hee.)
  19. Dairy products - 8% (Please... let it NOT be cheese.)
  20. Other factors - 24% (This is my favorite... I wonder what in the world it could be?!)
I am now subjected to a super-bland diet and have to drink 10-15 glasses of cold water a day to keep me cool and hydrated. I can't even take hot beverages - so goodbye coffee, tea and hot chocolate... unless of course I opt to drink it at room temperature, and only when I can isolate that caffeine is NOT a trigger in itself. Other websites have compiled a long laundry list of triggers that other Rosacea patients have reported and you'll be amazed at the variety of triggers. Problem is, there aren't any tests for it. I have to keep a log of everything I do and eat, how I'm feeling, what the weather was like, etc. Notice too how emotional stress is high on the list... and it could even mean non-work or 'happy' stress like excitement or excessive laughter. Argh. Again, how frustrating.

I just wanted to share the news with you so you know what I'm going through. It's not easy and it will not be easy the next coming weeks/months. So as early as now, I'm apologizing if I will be cranky! Or if I choose to hibernate and not go out on gimmicks if it's a bad flare-up day. It sucks to look in the mirror every morning and always have to think: is today a bad flare-up day or not? I'm scheduled to see my derma in two weeks' time; hopefully the medications would have taken some effect by then. I sure hope so.

So that's my Halloween trick this year. If anything, I'll have to come up with something good from all this... like maybe write a story about a little girl who gets red spots?