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The 2019 Philippine Readers And Writers Festival Is Here!

Panels and authors and books, oh my!

Lovers of literature are delighted by the simplest things, it seems: the smell of a new book, the nondescript music that wafts in the air of a bookstore, re-reading a novel while sipping your drink of choice, inscriptions lovingly written in the book’s title page. But there may just be no greater feeling than having your favorite book signed by your favorite author—except, perhaps, getting to talk about books with writers that you love. 

This weekend, book lovers will get to do just that as the Philippine Readers and Writers Festival heads into town for its sixth consecutive year. The festival brings together a multitude of award-winning writers alongside internationally celebrated authors in a series of book signings, discussions, and panels, covering everything from writing relevant content for millennials to why parents should homeschool their kids.

This year, the festival is aptly titled “Borderless,” as it aims to bring stories from Asia to the world—which means a lot of Filipino titles will be in the spotlight, as well as international bestselling authors hailing from the Asian region. (Any Gina Apostol fans out there?) Even more exciting, up and coming writers from ABS-CBN Books will be speakers in various panels throughout the festival—Angela Soyen Enconado, Joena San Diego, Terry Samala de Guzman, Edric and Joy Mendoza, Francis J. Kong, Ardy Roberto, and Neil Jed Castro. We engage in a quick chat with two of them—Soyen and Joena—and ask them about their beginnings as writers, what their favorite book is, and which ones they wish they’d written.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Soyen: I like to drink coffee and write about things. 

Joena: I started writing blogs through a WordPress domain way back to 2015. Then, I finally bought my own website domain in April 2017 and also created my own Facebook page, Joena says, in the same year.  Since then, I started owning my personal space on the web and wholeheartedly welcomed others to visit the little space I was graciously given. It was a series of humble beginnings that grew into a lovely community of people who found their home online through our published blogs and daily social media posts. My first book, Letters of Solana, was published in July 2018 and the rest is history.

How did you get into writing?

Soyen: I don’t really remember when it started, I just remember I’ve always loved stories and poems. My mom would get me a lot of books and I’d devour them. I’d borrow my sister’s reading books from school just so I could read the stories in them. And some were good stories, some stories I didn’t want to end, and some ended so horribly that I thought to myself, I could probably write a better story than this. 

Joena: My earliest memory of writing was when I joined an essay writing competition back when I was in high school. I won third place, but despite the award that came along with it, I still managed to plant seeds of doubts instead of hope into my growing interest in writing. I wasn't really planning to get into this path until I found joy and purpose in doing it. When I realized that writing can be a platform where I can share the love of God with people, then it was the only time that I fully embraced the calling I was given.

How does it feel to get to share this story with other people?

Soyen: Feels absolutely liberating. Feels like, hey world, here is my heart on display. Yes, I’m showing you my most vulnerable and I’m not afraid. 

Joena: It was a true honor and privilege to be given a chance to write a book and share your thoughts with people, hoping that it would bring them to a better state than where they used to be.

What’s your favorite book?

Soyen: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, and anything by Murakami and Atwood.

Joena: My favorite book is definitely If You Find This by Hannah Brencher. I found authenticity and vulnerability in this book that other books wouldn’t offer you. 

Who’s your favorite author?

Soyen: Haruki Murakami and Margaret Atwood

Joena: Lysa Terkeurst, Allysa Bethke, and Hannah Brencher.

Favorite genre?

Soyen: All of them! Can’t really limit myself to just one.

Joena: My heart is for Christian literature and poetry. 

What’s your dream book to write?

Soyen: A fantasy genre like The Lord of the RingsGame of Thrones, or Harry Potter, a book where I’ll build my own world and everyone would feel like they have a home in the world that I’ve created. I don’t know I’m super positive like that and I like to dream big! 

Joena: I honestly don’t have a dream book to write but I always challenge myself to dig further and seek God deeper for any story that He wants me to put on paper. Although, I have always dreamt of writing a novel. There is no specific storyline yet, but everything starts when you fervently pray for it.

What’s next for you? 

Soyen: I have a few ideas for a second book already but I’m still waiting for the inspiration to slap me in the face and get me to start writing again. I only write when I’m inspired now, I don’t try to force the words out anymore. I wait til they just flow freely and it’s amazing. 

Joena: I have recently moved back to Manila after a few years of living in Bangkok. I am currently focused on growing my own publishing company while continuing my passion for writing. There are so many things to look forward to but allowing God to work first makes everything else worth doing. 

The Philippine Readers and Writers Festival will be held at Raffles, Makati from August 2 to 4. Admission is free. For more information, visit National Book Store's Instagram or Facebook page. 

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