Vancouver, B.C.

Emerging writers

LiterASIAN Festival: Celebrating Asian Canadian Writing

Teodoro Alcuitas

Vancouver, BC – Three Filipino authors are among seven Asian Canadian writers participating in the 2020 LiterASIAN: A Festival of Pacific Rim Asian Canadian Writing which opened today until August 30, 2020.  The annual festival, the only one of its kind in Canada, celebrates Asian Canadian writing, is sponsored by  the Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop (ACWW) and Ricepaper Zine Magazine.

Shining a  spotlight on Asian Canadian literature, history, and culture, this year’s theme, Postcards From The In-Between, reflects the need to be ‘Quiet No More ‘, at a time when the easiest thing to do would be to remain silent as a bystander in the face of increasing anti-Asian racism.

“ACWW has helped writers get published, and this festival is a stage for both established and new literary voices to highlight the hybridity of Canadian literary culture,” says Allan Cho, festival director.  “This is not just a literary event, but a celebration that brings together writers from a range of genres to share their ideas and stories that challenge our perception and realities of writing and publishing.”

Allan Cho, Festival Director.

LiterASIAN: A Festival of Pacific Rim Asian Canadian Writing will take place virtually. The festival will feature six different events, including panels, workshops, book talks, and a musical performance.

Featured authors at the festival will be award-winning Anosh Irani, Fiona Tinwei Lam, Kawika Guillermo, Carlo Javier, Kevin Kapenda, Rachel D’Sa, and Nathalie De Los Santos.  Workshops, book club discussions, panels, and musical performances feature Shon Wong, Winnie Cheung, David Wong, Marlene Enns, JF Garrard, Dr. Danielle Wong, and the Literary Circle of Asian Books.

LiterASIAN’s opening event will also announce the details of this year’s Jim Wong-Chu Emerging Writers Award.  The Award originated in 1999 to help authors of Pacific Rim Asian heritage be published with an established publishing house. Ontario author Catherine Hernandez  was a previous winner for her book ‘Scarbourough’, a soon-to-be movie.

Ricepaper author interview excerpts:

Kawika Guillermo

Kawika Guillermo believes that writing is highly collaborative. He believes in it so much that he sees his identity of “Kawika Guillermo” as the all-encompassing brand naming this process. The moniker is better known as the fiction writer pseudonym of Christopher Patterson, Assistant Professor in the Social Justice Institute at the University of British Columbia. As a means of situating the author within his Filipino and Hawaii-based migrant family history, “Kawika Guillermo” is also a roof representing the many souls who take part in the creation of his fiction.

Guillermo follows up his first novel, Stamped: an anti-travel novel, with an ethereal speculative fiction saga that encompasses a version of human history through the eyes of a forlorn lost soul searching for their soulmate throughout humanity’s tumultuous and violent existence. Entitled All Flowers Bloom.

Carlo Javier

You often write about issues surrounding the Filipino diaspora; how has your lived experience as a Filipino-Canadian shaped your writing? 

I think my Filipino-Canadian identity is foundational to my creative writing. I find that my process often begins with an issue or theme I want to convey and often these subjects revolve around my lived-experiences as a Filipino-Canadian male. This is not to say that my creative writing will always be centered on racial identity and racial issues, but aspects of Filipino-ness will certainly manifest in my stories in some form.

Your fictional short story, Janitors, was partly inspired by your piece in the Capilano Courier, “How janitorial work became so excruciatingly inseparable from the Filipino-Canadian identity.” Why did you think it important to incorporate realism and your past research? 

I feel there’s always a bit of reality in our fiction work. For me, writing about my past research was more of a means to expand on an issue that I felt was still very much underrepresented. At the same time, writing Janitors felt a bit like a means to continue on a thesis research that I felt was incomplete. I also think that the use of realism is a byproduct of my background in non-fiction writing, which I also find to be a big influence in my fiction work.

Nathalie de los Santos

You are a multi-talented creative with a background in writing, videography, photography and design. How does film, photography, and design inform your writing?

Being a designer, I have to think broadly about the people who will interact with my design and try to simplify something complicated so people can understand immediately. How I design a highway sign where someone has two seconds to read versus a magazine layout always has me thinking of how people will interact with my work and about who the audience of the work is exactly. I believe audience is always the first consideration I make in all mediums.

Hasta Mañana explores the world of gaming. Given your background in tech and indie gaming, do you see yourself in Mariposa as an adolescent?

I hardly see stories about queer BIPOC girls growing up with video games, so I chose to write a character where I could finally feel seen in Mariposa. The bit of Mariposa figuring out her sexuality in a non-traumatic or physical way through video games is also how I figured out that I was non-binary. Through video games, I found that I wanted this ability to gender switch that wasn’t permanent. In these digital worlds, the male gaze made me realize I was queer as well, so I wanted Mariposa’s sexuality to talk about desire between the male/female gaze.

My real nerdy childhood is less exciting than Mariposa’s – I was shy, quiet and weird. I got my period once and stained my pants. A girl ran up to me and blurted, “You are a girl!” The boys on the other hand were always asking me about the latest Pokémon episodes. The teachers would always push me to play with the girls instead of the boys, but I couldn’t explain the bitter disappointment I felt never connecting because I was attracted to girls. I understand what many young boys go through, choosing the company of a two-dimensional digital woman who won’t gossip about you when you screwed up trying to talk to her. Those fantasy digital princesses cheered me on, while the real ones cleared out the change room as soon as I walked in.

It seems strange now to recount these memories, it is as if a huge pendulum has swung in my life. I spent my childhood years being teased by girls and welcomed by boys, but I spent my later life working in tech, fighting for inclusivity in a workplace riddled with toxic masculinity. I’m no stranger to the problems in gaming. My game designer friend was doxxed by the hate movement Gamergate and he had to pull a game we all worked on together off the internet in order to protect the rest of us. I used to write about video game diversity and went offline for a while because if I was doxxed, most of my addresses at the time were linked to my parents. Hasta Mañana was the first tech/gamer story I wrote after years of being too afraid to write in the face of Gamergate and the alt-right.

This year’s tickets to LiterASIAN are free of charge.  Attendees can claim a ticket to the six virtual events on our website.

Program schedule and tickets are available online at http://literasian.com

For interviews and photos, please contact [email protected]

With much gratitude, we acknowledge that our festival will take place on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-­‐Waututh peoples