Marikit Mail
Dear gentlefolk,

There was always a need for it: words. Words to name things and words to describe things. When our writers’ group was formed last year—an answer to a collective #amquerying struggle—we wanted to find that word. A word that would trigger our unified cry for more Filipino books on the shelves. A word that will become a place where we’d convene—a home where we’d find our stories in one place.

Somewhere along the way, we found it

Long Beach City librarian and writer of mermaids Pamela Delupio was the one who coined it last October first. In celebration of Filipino American History Month, she posted an entire shelf filled with Filipino-authored books. “Let’s fill those shelves,” she told me in a tweet, and that line stuck. Our goal was cemented. Fil The Shelves became our cry.

Today, Fil The Shelves is on Twitter and Instagram, aiming to gather books made by Filipino-heritage authors (Fil-Am writer and currently at the helm of the program, Larissa D. Elliot, wrote this line).

As Filipino American History Month swings again this October, our writers group has gone out of our tiny chat and into the visible premises of Twitter. If you’d follow the hashtag #FilTheShelves, our Fil-Am family celebrates the occasion by giving away prizes from Filipino authors and illustrators. We’ve got something for readers and writers wherever you are in the world. And yes, there’s still time to join!

Follow this thread and learn more about FAHM and FilTheShelves.

There was always a need for it: words. Words that I learned to keep and words that I only mulled inside my head. I had a chance to join a writers’ chat by educator and writer Isa Garcia this last August. It was a small group of five, but it was a privilege to be in the same digital space as surfer and poet Camille Pilar, romanceclass author Ana Tejano, and publishing expert and SFF writer K Silangan.

There were questions, we had answers, and then we had more questions. One particular scene that stuck with me was when Isa asked, “What are your frustrations as a writer?” It stuck with me because, one, I didn’t get to answer at once. There was a strange pause for ten seconds—maybe more, with me squirming awkwardly at the screen, unable to think of something. Either there was none, or there were many. Turned out it was the latter when I finally blurted out, “Many Filipinos don’t know the opportunities waiting for them in publishing outside the country.”

And then, K asked, “How could we let them know?”

I asked myself that over and over again, even after the chat ended. There were programs for this. There were people holding panels for this. But a tiny rock rolled on my shoulder and weighed so heavy that I convinced myself that I should do something, too. I don’t have a lot. But if a budding writer dreaming to hold their book in their hands comes this way to ask where to begin, I have words.

And so, I wrote From Stories to Shelves, a tiny space filled with querying resources for those intending to get their stories traditionally published.

If you’re one of them—people with words to share—you can start here. I hope I can cheer for you all the way.
There was always a need for it: words. When I first wrote MARIKIT, I named her story many things: “The Girl Who Wore a Map to the Engkantos,” “My Mother Wove a Map,” “Engkantos, Book 1,” among other things. I was not exactly good at titles. I knew that in the end, my publisher—should anyone take it—would change it, anyway. And so, I put something as a placeholder: Marikit Wears the Map to the Engkantos.

It was a name that did its duty. Everyone who came across it raised their brows and said, “Huh?” “A map?” “How could that be?” For a good while, I held on to it, wore it like a nice coat that got me through the rainy days.

And then, the wonderful team at FSG BYR gave MARIKIT her official, beautiful name.

I learned about it late in August, early in the morning when it was still dark. Before the sun rose in our humid, monsoon-dripped sky, I blindly felt my phone across my bed—the first thing I’d do whenever I stirred awake from sleep. I opened my emails in the dark. Then, felt a huge jolt in my chest.

There it was. The title. A name bestowed. It was so beautiful one could probably find the line inside a poem. Or a song. A love letter. I’d gush about it if I wasn’t strangely intimidated, for did my story deserve such a lush, gorgeous name? I felt like Cinderella being granted a big, glittery ball gown when all I wanted was a little black dress for the party.

But they were words. Words that learn to occupy space and words that manifest themselves into reality. Words that stitch the gaps together and fill in the blanks. They were those words. Words that shine, words that flow and ebb, words that carry a name I’m proud to repeat.

These are the words that they told me:

My heart is swelling to introduce to you our magical, mythical book, in her final title: Marikit and the Ocean of Stars.

Marikit and the Ocean of Stars’ on-sale date is on October 18, 2022. This means that it’s exactly one year before my little girl with a map-dress makes magic! I can’t wait for her story to reach you, but until then, please stay with me on this journey, for it is long, and your company brings me so much joy.

All the stars,
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