I got the surprise e-mail from my publisher, Anvil, that All My Lonely Islands was named finalist for the the 2017 Madrigal-Gonzalez Best First Book Award hosted by the University of the Philippines’ creative writing center, Likhaan. To learn that the great Gemino Abad was the chair of the panel of judges was already a reward in itself. I used to read his works for my MFA, didn’t think our paths would ever cross.
AMLI is really just living its own life now; I don’t think it really even needs me at this point. It has gotten away from me, farther than I thought it would ever go. It’s ridiculous how it all started as a sentence on a blinking Microsoft Word document. Just shows how far words can go. I consider all the recognition as a bonus. Don’t roll your eyes, it’s true. I wrote this novel because I was destined to write it, because it was my story to tell. I didn’t need any other motivation but just that desire to confront myself and my past, and hopefully find a way to move on. It amazes me still when readers message me to tell me that they can relate with Crisanta. The power of fiction to dig up the truth through a made-up character. By now, that story is no longer mine. It’s everyone’s story now; everyone who picks the book up and spends their precious hours on it. The mere thought humbles me.
I don’t know when I’ll ever write the elusive second novel. Sometimes, I feel that I really don’t even have to. Sometimes, all you really need to write is one story and then that story just rewrites itself into many lives, taking the wheel from you. I don’t begrudge it its freedom.