Tuesday, April 29, 2014

How to Win the Palanca Without Even Writing Part V

So let's say you have read this column for the past weeks or so and heeded my advices (which you should). Let us then make a list of what we just discussed, and what you have right now are:
1) the guidelines for the latest Palanca contest (Yes, they have opened up)
2) A great pen name. You should thought of this a long time ago.  
3) A computer with typewriter fonts. A nice copier.
4) Great Morocco folders dipped in holy water
5) FB profile of The One aka the one who picks the judges
6) List of possible judges under your genre. Under this, we should have friended them on FB so we would know their activities. Like I said, if they went to a fancy restaurant and two others also Instagrammed about it at the same time. You can be pretty sure, they are the judges. Sometimes for convenience and networking throughout the judging, they would friend each other so just do your FB triangulation. Just hope they like to tag each other.
7) Gift certificates in case their birthdays fall from May to August. Or what the heck, just give something.
8) A severed horse head for each on August 31 in case you lose. Put it on their beds early in the morning.
9) Round trip ticket to Manila including taxi fare to CPJ Building
10) Alibi for the time you were writing so no one knew you joined. Also a secretive lawyer. Better a lawyer-priest who will notarize that you are the one who wrote etc etc.
The hard part is the waiting from deadline to September 1 when they wine and dine the winners. You must do your Visita Iglesia. Snoop around writer friends. Troll the FB of such writers like IC, RT, TA, ML and the rest of those Manila (read: available) pen pushers (yuck). They usually will tell who joined or who might be the judges if they are not.
Troll them about your suspected rivals who posted this poem or snippets of essay in their blogs two years ago and isn't that illegal? Stir the teapot.
By August, start panicking. Storm the heavens. Raise hell. By August 15, try to accept the fact that those are only three writers judging out of 1,500 so no big deal. By August 17, restart panicking. By August 20, open and reopen your email every 5 minutes. No notice? Join the Nigerian scammers. Join Anonymous and hack the Palanca website (which hackers often do, those frustrated writers). By August 27, start bingeing on GSM and Tanduay which the Palancas own anyway. Wake up by August 30. Still no notice. Do your last prayers. Beg for an invite from a writer. If you do make it to the party, drink and start heckling with the best. Enjoy the night. There's always next year. 

How to Win the Palanca Without Even Writing Part IV

Oh boy, I tried to open the Palanca website and it's under maintenance. I tried to Google other sites and there seems to be no back-up for this. Could this be the end of Palanca? Hope not.
Well let's pretend that after press time, the site is back and we are off again to our dreams. So why is the website important. Because in there is the guideline. It tells you what categories are open and what are the mechanics for each. It is usually a two-page guide, written in 8.5 points so that YOU, the writer, is guaranteed to miss the salient points. As all the points there are important, so important that it will guide you to the rest of your life as writer. Or waiter. Or whiter.
I Googled an article about how to win the Palanca and I got this stuff like "Write because you want to share something that may connect with other people." My friend Wendell Capili wrote that? How saccharine. But oh so true if you deconstruct it differently.
To whom would you "connect." The reader? The young student, the old librarian, the lover? No, Wendell meant the "judges." Write for the judges. What do they want? Do your own SWS.
Of course, he added, "If you keep on writing the best way you can, recognition will come later." Oh sly Wendell. Don't believe that.
The most important thing is to study the two-page mechanics. In this age of 200 automatic fonts in your computer, when it say 10 pts Courier, better believe it.
Unless you are still using typewriter. Oh man, the teary-eyed drooling charm of typewriters. When I judged the poetry in Filipino a few years ago, I received more than a hundred manuscripts and 15 of them are typewritten. I ended up compiling these typewritten manuscripts and read first their poems.
I remembered those writers who wrote only on typewriters and I found it nostalgic and truly courageous in this times (that story of Ricky Lee borrowing a typewriter of a government office at night came to mind).
The sad part was only one made it in the second round. Why? Because they Xeroxed their other copies (or the copies I got) and I thought they spent 15 centavos per page on the photocopying.
Their poems may be good but I savor my vision first. I don't want to be squinting reading them so there, Payatasville.
If it says, only standard-sized coupon bond,then abide by it. If it says, you can photocopy then do so but get the best photocopier there is. If not, email the whole thing and let Palanca pay for the printing, At least they are very legible, if I may judge the ones I got.
If it says, Courier, do it. Don't make it New Times Roman. Definitely not Comic Sans. Try the typewriter fonts. But smudge them and Liquid Paper if possible for that real typewritten look. Maybe you might hit the right judge.
If it says, double spaced, please follow suit. If it says, one inch margin on all sides, do it. I knew manuscripts which were disqualified because of this I know one writer last year who placed third because she used 1 1/2 spaced instead of 2. One drama critic was so  strict on spacing because that's how it is. I heard poetry judges are the most lenient but don't tempt them. Our point is, if you give them a chance to disqualify you they will. Judging a hundred manuscripts is no joke. Abide by them.
Now there's no rule against folders to protect your manuscripts. So that's where you woo them. Use Morocco folders. Or the most expensive leather folders using dugong skin or ostrich. At least when you lose, you would know that some writer is using your folder.

How to Win the Palanca Without Even Writing Part III

The most powerful person during the Palanca judging is among my 5,000 friends in Facebook. Look at all the profiles in my account and look for him/her. He/She had been with the Palanca Foundation for decades and one of his/her job is to look for judges for every genre.
There has to be three judges per category and one of them is the head judge. If one is not available, then he/she has to find a replacement. More often than not, he/she (OK, she's a she) would have to get from past winners in that category or if not, experts in that category.
She said she does it by random but then especially in the 1980s and 1990s in the Filipino category, it was said that she would get three poets from the LIRA and the next year from the GAT (Galian sa Arte at Tula). The LIRA was the Almario group while the GAT was the more radical ones.  I think I won during the GAT year.
Anyway you have to be aware of this. Google or research the possible judges by looking at the winners and the judges. There can be no repeat judges or at least within three to four  years.
If you are chummy chummy with many writers, ask around. The most powerful Palanca person loves to get winners who are easily available (meaning not National Artists, dean or those in Fulbright scholarships) and inexpensive (nakukuha sa pakain sa mahal na restaurants though). So don't expect Krip Yuson, Cirilo Bautista or those in the pantheon of the gods anymore although I still see grizzled veterans. If they are out-of-towners, remember that Palanca will not shoulder air fares for the judging so don't expect many from the islands although many are willing to sacrifice their own money.
My friend's father used to judge in the Filipino essay. On his birthday, which happens during the judging period (June to August), he received cakes from unnamed people.
Because we are living in the Facebook period, don't expect to be superlavish on your writer "friends"  especially the potential jurors. Like all their comments. Give them cakes and presents during their FB.  Give them life for their Candy Crush or chips for their poker. These are free but a nice gesture.   
Do some lurking especially during the judging period. Look at their pictures. if they are in a restaurant, who are with them? Fellow writers in a certain genre? They just might be the judges.  Look at their FB pages. Friend them. Praise them. Flatter them. After the end of August and you don't hear anything fromPalanca, unfriend these ungrateful rascals. Then troll them.
You got that covered? Now for the category. Let's say you are not a regional writer (Kinaray-a, Ilocano or Cebuano). Then you are stuck with the PENS (poetry, play, essay, novel, short story).
If you still have no first chapters for a novel, then forget that category. Anyway, they have that category every other year, so you can prepare for next year.
Poetry needs ten poems (used to be twelve) so if you don't have three or four this late stage of preparation, you might not just make it. So scratch poetry.
You have essay or short story to choose from. The time of preparation is just right. Is your story about yourself? Chances are, such very personal essays don't usually cut it unless you are writing for Kabataan Essay.
You just accepted Jesus as your personal savior and want the whole world to know? There usually are ten such stories every year so leave that to you next testimonial.
Your essay is about PNoy or other sinners, I mean, politicians and other important people? Remember an essay in the Palanca will be anthologized and the judges knew that. If your essay sounds like a newspaper article, then leave it in the newspaper. Essays for the Palanca must be timely yet timeless.
Also try to quote heavy writers. Forget Rizal and the hope of the fatherland thing. Pairing them means, "Hello, trashcan." Cliches can make it for one judge but all three? I don't think so. If you need to quote, use these names: Zizek, Walter Benjamin, Foucault, Said, San Juan, Patrick Flores, Neil Garcia, etc. You get the drift? Obama, Kris (unless funny), PNoy, De Quiros will not do.
Make it personal but scholarly. Creative nonfiction is the norm nowadays in the essay category. Think Sebald, Woolf, Hampl. Ramble. Quote. Anecdote. Shuffle. 

How to Win the Palanca Without Even Writing Part II

So you want to WIN the Palanca and not just be one of the more than 1,000 Filipinos and Fil-Ams who join the contest every year? Let us say there would be winners in all 20 or so categories of the Palanca, that means 60 winners out of the 1,000 entries or a winning chance of six percent. Bar examinees have three to four times more chances than a Palanca winner. And it is a rare year when all 60 winner slots are filled in. Theater judges are notorious on this; sometimes there is only one third place winner and none in the 1st and 2nd. Or only a 2nd place winner. Or no winners at all. Sometimes, however, the poetry judges would have two 3rd place winners. Rarer still are two 1st place winners in one category.
So that is your chance: six percent or less.
But wait, most of the entries fall on only eight of the 20 categories. These are poetry, short stories and essay in English and Filipino and the Kabataan essay. It is safe to say that these categories get 75 to 85 percent of all the 1,000+ entries.
When I judged for the Tula category, I brought home about 120 manuscripts. That meant reading 1,200 poems!
So if your objective is to WIN the Palanca. Try to avoid these categories.
If you are still in your teens, your best chance, unless you are a prodigy, is to join the Kabataan essay.
If you can write in Cebuano or Hiligaynon, join the short story in Cebuano or Hiligaynon categories. But your best bet is the short story in Iluko since you are from here. I heard that they receive only ten to 20 entries a year.
If you are dramatically inclined, join the Dulang May Isang Yugto (One-act Play in Filipino), Dulang Ganap ang Haba (Full-length Play in Filipino) and the Dulang Pampelikula (Screenplay in Filipino).
But your best bets are the One-Act Play and Three-Act Play in English. Only a few join these categories which are going the way of Wilfredo Guerrero.
Newer categories are the Children Literature category like the Short Story and Poetry (English and Filipino) for Children. I knew some people who ventured in Poetry for Children after difficulty placing in Poetry apparently for Adults. Since the judges in these children categories are adults, I think the children writers would have a slim chance here as well.
So without lifting a pen, winning the Palanca is greater if you join Short Story in Iluko, Three Act Play in English and Poetry for Children in English.
OK OK, you don’t want to compromise. You are, after all, a writer. You want to join the poetry, short story or essay, come rain or come shine. Good luck then and wait for my next installment. 

How to Win the Palanca Without Even Writing Part I

I will be doing a weekly column on this (in this column every other week and in the centerfold in the rest). My late friend Butch Guerrero and me were about to be hired as country publishers for a big publisher in India until talks got around money. Anyway, one of the book ideas we peddled was "How to Win in the Palanca" to be written by two of our friends. Since our career as publishers was scuttled, I decided to stay with this for the time being.
The Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature is the country's version of the Pulitzer Prize, according to one broadsheet. True or not, it is the longest-running literary awards, having been established in 1950.  
So before we start, answer this: Are you in this for the money? If you answer, Yes. Go back to your line at the lotto. First prize in Palanca can get you to start a house BUT that was in 1950. The prize money has remained almost the same as it was more than half a century ago so don't bother with the money. You will be spending more for your preparation. Hope that scared half of my readers.
If you are still with me, that's good. Our emphasis is to win and not just to participate.  
The deadline for this year would be on the end of April. More specifically at 11:59 PM of April 30. The CPJ Building or wherever it is now would be filled with established and unknown writers personally submitting their manuscripts at 11:59 PM or even on the 59th second. There is a superstition that the last to submit usually places so timing is everything. Then the writers go back to their drinking.
Those in the provinces or abroad would have to submit their earlier. Now they submit it through email but back then, you have to send through registered mail or courier. Despite this convenience, I still know some writers abroad who would email their works to a trusted accomplice who would them print the manuscripts and rush them at 11:59 PM of the deadline day. Because of that superstition.
Back then, the deadline was in May 31 which was better because this was a month after the UP and the Silliman Workshops so the works had been workshopped before they are sent. The teachers also would have that time to work on their manuscripts. There is this oft-repeated story of a poet who wrote his epic poem in Dumaguete with the May 31 deadline in mind. Sending his work on time, he took the next trip to nervous breakdown land.Palanca decided to turn back the clock to April 30 there were more submissions but it wasn't the same for some.  
A writer in search of Palanca should red-letter April 30 in their Starbucks planner. And they should plan their lives accordingly to that deadline. If they lose this year, they should red letter  it in their Starbucks 2015 planner. and in the 2016 planner until it is tattooed on your mind.
I heard of some older writers who would suddenly be anxious by April and then start writing their manuscripts in time for the May 31 deadline until they were reminded by their sons and apos that the deadline has been moved to April 30. But creativity has its own deadline that reason cannot comprehend.
So you are luckier because you have yet to acquire the Palanca Deadline habit.
Starting today is just about right. You have two months to work on. Some people would take their leave on the second month and we would know among us who is preparing for Palanca when they are subdued in their drinking. Or holding a notebook or even writing on napkins. Now they must be typing on their iPads. So if you have writer friends who act like they are having a secret love affair from March to April, they are preparing for Panagbenga. If they act like they were jilted come late August, you are sure of that.
Because Palanca is a difficult lover,  frustrating, fickle, foolish but definitely worth the affair. Now if you only know where to begin.  (next column: Setting your sight)
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