Communicating, the Zen Way

(Part 1 – Communicating with Ourselves)

I recently came on board with the notion that e-books can broaden our readership beyond borders. In an attempt to learn more about the e-book publishing world and its practicality in the Philippine setting, I GMG’d (‘google mo, ganda’, as my lawyer friend taught me) most anything I could find on the subject.

Then I thought the best way to really learn about it was to be an e-book buyer and reader myself. As I strode onto the internet highway of e-books, I came across Thic Nhat Hanh’s (TNH) e-book, The Art of Communicating. I’ve downloaded many free e-books in the past, but TNH’s The Art of Communicating, happens to be my first e-book purchase ever.

Thích Nhất Hạnh was a Vietnamese Thiền Buddhist monk, peace activist, prolific author, poet, teacher, and founder of the Plum Village Tradition. Recognized as the main inspiration for engaged Buddhism, he is also known as the “father of mindfulness”. (from Wikkipedia)

ctto ASSOCIATED PRESS @ https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Funeral-held-in-Vietnam-for-influential-monk-16815072.php
Coffin of Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh is carried to the street during his funeral in Hue, Vietnam Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022. A funeral was held Saturday for Thich Nhat Hanh, after the renowned Zen master died at the age of 95 in Hue in central Vietnam on January 22, 2022.

Let me share with you an e-summary of this wonderful e-book. It starts off with these basic premises: First, everything we consume using any or all of our senses — our eyes, our ears, our nose, our tongues and our bodies — can either heal us or poison us; and Second, conversations and messages we either send or receive are a kind of food for ourselves and others around us. We can choose to consume either healthy or toxic messages from what we hear, read or see.

Proceeding from these basic premises, Thic Nhat Hanh or TNH teaches us how to communicate the Zen way.

First he teaches us how to build our capacity for mindful awareness and COMMUNICATING WITH OURSELVES the Zen way by STOPPING everything we are doing with the external world and being present in the moment. 

What does being present in the moment mean? Basically it means taking deep inhalation and exhalation breathes, and getting in touch with our bodies — Do we feel well? … inhale… Are we experiencing pains or aches in some parts of our bodies that we might have previously disregarded?… exhale…  

When we inhale deeply, we also take this moment to get in touch with our emotions — do we feel sad, … inhale… irritated,… exhale… excited, … inhale… angry, … exhale… and all other emotions one can find in the emoticon dashboard. 

ctto Jared Rice @www.unsplash.com

Next, we repeat this pattern and take some more moments to perceive the world around us, preferably with our eyes closed — what do we hear from the world around us? inhale… Can you hear the wind blowing through the leaves in your backyard tree or outdoor plantita plants? exhale… Listen… listen… listen… inhale… to the birds singing, to the insects flying through the early summer warmth, … exhale… to the binatog seller’s pot-pot or the ice cream vendor’s kiling-kiling…inhale… Can you smell … your cat’s poo? … exhale…  The incense burner? …inhale… The coffee brewing?… exhale… Your neighbor’s adobo? …inhale…

ctto Dennis Oliveira @ http://www.unsplash.com

TNH is known as the father of mindful awareness. He emphasizes the value of these moments for mindful breathing as it promotes communication between the mind and the body. We mostly breathe unconsciously as a means to survive, but we must learn to breathe consciously to live well and connect with ourselves. We listen to each inhalation and each exhalation, and say to ourselves that “I am breathing, because I am alive and in this moment in this world.”

“Mindful breathing is a practice of nonthinking and nontalking. Without thinking or talking, there is no obstacle to get in the enjoyment of the present moment,” TNH writes. He affirms that mindful breathing allows us to listen to our  pain, our sorrow and our fear — and welcome them instead of running away from these feelings — to decide how and when changes in our lives need to happen. 

Yes, welcome even the feelings society teaches us to avoid, those feelings labelled as negative emotions — for how can there be happiness without sorrow? How can we feel brave when we don’t get in touch with and understand our fears? 

ctto Tom Pumford @ http://www.unsplash.com

TNH reminds us to be mindful of what we consume because many of us tend to consume unhealthy or even toxic shows, music and books as a way of escaping from the pain, sorrow or fear within us. “We consume not because we need to consume but because we’re afraid of confronting the suffering inside us,” he further writes.

When we invest the time and energy for mindful awareness, we become better at communicating with ourselves.

After we can truly connect and communicate with ourselves, then we start the journey towards communicating well with others. (to be continued by Pia Perez for SVPP) ###

SVPP joins The Indie Publishers Collab -PH (TIPCPH) at the Pasinaya 2022 of the Cultural Center of the Philippines

Sharing here an article on TIPCPH’s website as TIPCPH spearheads the Kalayaan Book Fair at the Pasinaya 2022:

https://theindiepublisherscollabph.com/2022/02/06/pasinaya2022/?fbclid=IwAR2v6XULjoAAIdERuHSiyCv4iPWD-t40ZtK0j-6jVlfbeEDl8ISAPb9a_TA

#AkoAngBida sa Aklat (I am the Story’s Hero/ine)

It is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations — something that will help them make sense of their own lives and encourage them to reach out to towards people whose lives are quite different from their own.

Katherine Patterson

Well said, Katherine. A Chinese-born American writer best known for children’s novels including Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine has won two Newbery Medals and two National Book Awards. 

Making her words true is one Filipino teacher of preschool and kindergarten learners, who did stretch her learners’ imaginations in this January 2022 winning entry to the literacy campaign spearheaded by Southern Voices Printing Press (SVPP).

The contest rules were simple enough. Anyone who posts on FB or IG a selfie role-playing a character in one of the books published by SVPP, tags at least 3 friends and the SVPP fb or IG accounts, and uses the following hashtags — #akoangbida, #cosplaysvpp, and #OdettePH — is a potential winner of a 2022 Ang Munting Prinsipe Planner, a book voucher, and a PhP500 donation to Odette Relief efforts in her/his name.

Teacher Lita went way beyond a selfie post. Her class topic for the day was on ‘parts of the body’, particularly the HANDS. She encouraged her young learners to imagine how their hands could be used to help others and do good. She ended the short class period with a story reading session of JAMIN, Ang Batang Manggagawa (JAMIN, The Child Laborer).

Later, when asked if Jamin was a happy child, one of Teacher Lita’s learners responded: “Hindi siya masaya kasi lagi na lang siya pinatatrabaho ng kanyang boss.” (She is not happy because her boss keeps forcing her to work). When asked “Do you think Jamin also finds time to play?”, the response was “Sabi ko nga sa iyo, may boss siya. Bad. Bawal maglaro.” (I told you so, she has a boss. Bad. Playing is not allowed).

A 2011 Survey on Children of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reveals that of the 2.1 million Filipino child labourers aged 5 to 17 years old, about 95 per cent of them are in hazardous work. Imagine how much more children were forced into hazardous forms of labor during this period of the pandemic, just to help their families survive.

Teacher Lita showed us how a simple game/contest can be stretched beyond our expectations and revealed just how much learning children can get when taught to read good books, and allowed these learners to reach out to people whose lives may be different to their own.

Let’s see how the February edition* of the #AkoAngBida ng Aklat and #cosplaySVPP stretches our imaginations!###

*check out our FB page (https://www.facebook.com/SouthernVoicesPrintingPress) for our February contest rules.

Check out our bookshop too! https://southernvoicesbooks.shop/shop/

Gungho for 2022!…???

Trending product searches suggested by the Shopee dropshipping site a few days ago were JOURNALS and PLANNERS. It seemed people were starting to be upbeat and gungho for 2022, just before the latest omicron surge peaked. 

ctto Estee Janssens from http://www.unsplash.com

This was not the case at the beginning of 2021. With so much uncertainty, people did not seem to have the energy to muster a life plan for the year.

Maybe early on last year, Hollywood actor Heath Ledger’s philosophy prevailed. He said:

“I’m not good at future planning. I don’t plan at all. I don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow. I don’t have a day planner and I don’t have a diary. I completely live in the now, not in the past, not in the future.”

Contextualized to the poorly managed Philippine setting under this pandemic, we could also say: “There is no good at future planning if we cannot be promised the light at the end of the tunnel. We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.” Maybe at times of crisis, completely living in the present, “not in the past, not in the future”, is a healthy way of coping. This is especially true when things seem to be running out of control.

On the other hand, Alan Lakein, author of ‘How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life’, at the polar opposite of Ledger’s worldview, said:

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

We ask ourselves, just how much planning do we need to do to succeed in our goals for 2022? 

John Naisbitt, author of ‘Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives’, asserts

“Strategic planning is worthless — unless there is first a strategic vision.” 

How, where (and why) do you see yourself at the end of 2022? When you sit back, think hard and try to answer this question, don’t forget to put in a lot of imagination.

ctto Patrick Perkins from http://www.unsplash.com

Don’t do the same things over again especially when they’ve been proven ineffective. Listen to Gloria Steinem, who imagination is the most potent ingredient of a good plan. She said —

“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”

So go ahead, dream, envision, think things over, and start writing down your strategic and short term goals for the year. You will feel relieved once you’ve done it, even in the face of the uncertainties of the pandemic. In fact, envisioning a future that attempts to break through the ‘locked-down’ thinking imposed on us during this years of the pandemic, might be best for many of us.

Once you’re done with planning, DO IT. Planning is the theory, DOING IS THE PRACTICE. Without the practice, you can never tell whether your plan was good enough.

ctto Glenn Carstens-Peters from http://www.unsplash.com

At the end of the day, no matter how much attention to detail your planning went, no matter how much energy you spent in DOING, Phil Cosby, management guru and author, reminds us

“If anything is certain, it is that change is certain. The world we are planning for today, will not exist in this form tomorrow.” 

Planning, it turns out, shouldn’t be one-directional but a spider-web of what ifs… if Plan A did not go well, there is always room for Plan B. 

Here’s to a more successful 2022 for all of us, as we collectively struggle to get out of this mismanaged pandemic!

Note: With much regret, many articles on Planning on the net are mostly western articles; we would appreciate referrals to Filipino-contextualized articles or books on planning – strategic or otherwise.

REFERENCES

https://evernote.com/blog/how-to-make-a-plan/

https://hbr.org/2021/02/how-to-plan-your-life-when-the-future-is-foggy-at-best

https://smallbusiness.chron.com/tips-effective-planning-organization-11224.html

https://www.lengstorf.com/effective-project-planning/

https://hbr.org/2017/07/a-way-to-plan-if-youre-bad-at-planning

The Face Behind Every Filipino Story You Read

You might not remember every detail in ‘Noli Me Tangere’, but surely Maria Clara and Ibarra are characters in the novel you know so well. 

Maria Clara as painted by Juan Luna

Characters in a story evoke strong emotions. Perhaps you hated Padre Damaso while reading Noli Me Tangere. Or maybe you pitied the poor school girl in Dr. Fanny Garcia’s ‘Isandaang Damit’ short story. Did your heart crunch with Bandong as he struggled in Amado V. Hernandez’s ‘Langaw sa Isang Basong Gatas’?

National Artist Amado V. Hernandez, author of ‘Langaw sa Isang Basong Gatas’

Unforgettable characters and good plots make up the best stories. But even the best of stories, whether mentioned in awards and top reading lists or not, will not be read by Filipino readers if readership of Filipino literary books remains dismally low.

Southern Voices Printing Press hopes to push the envelope for increased readership of its indie-published literary works  by launching on socials the #AkoAngBida campaign for the whole of 2022. It hopes other similar campaigns are initiated as well by other publishers or even the National Book Development Board.

The #AkoAngBida campaign encourages readers to invite non-readers to read SVPP-published books through a #cosplay-like format. 

Be Jamin, the child laborer from Sasa Port in Davao working nights for a handful of coins. She evokes the spirit of hope amid poverty when she said: “Umaga na. Uuwi na kami ni Oliver. Ang lamig ng hangin. Sisipunin pa yata ako. Nasa Bulsa ko ang perang kinita ko sa dalawang gabing puyatan. Hinihintay na ako sa amin. Kay sarap umuwi…”


Or Ka Bel, the heroic labor leader who, as a child, witnessed Japanese soldiers forcing their victims to dig graves — graves that the Filipino victims were forced to kneel in front of, graves where they would then be buried in after the Japanese samurais severed their heads.

Be Lola Bai, the Manobo woman leader, who gave strength to her fellow tribes-people in defense of their ancestral domain, and remember her words: “Ang paggamit ng pana at bangkaw laban sa mga mapanghimasok ay sagrado nating karapatang bilang mga Lumad.”

Be Lolo Cosme, a ‘barako’ and ‘macho’ grandfather, or better yet, be the storyteller’s Tatay, who is actually a Na-Tay, in ‘Barako Baraking,’ a tribute to the Tatays who are the primary caregivers of their children, and possess extraordinary powers such as cooking, doing laundry or even mending his kids’ clothes.

from ‘Barako, Baraking’ written by Cindy Diaz Gealogo, illustrations by Archie Geotina

The social media campaign, to be launched on January 7, hopes to encourage Facebook and Instagram netizens to post their in-character selfies and sharing them widely. ###

Ka Bel @ 89

Had Hon. Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran not died from a fall while repairing the roof of their simple house on that fateful day of May 20, 2008, he would be receiving warmest greetings from all over the world on Friday, January 7, 2022, on his 88th birthday.

But he did die that day, both a patriot and an internationalist. “At the time of his death, he was the honorary chairperson of the International Coordinating Committee of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS). He died an activist of the highest order, a revolutionary, a legendary labor leader, an exemplary congressional representative and steadfast servant of the people.” Thus wrote Ina Alleco R. Silvestre, author of KA BEL: The Life and Struggle of Crispin Beltran.

Many would do well to embrace the golden lessons of Ka Bel’s legacy. It is thus fortunate that his legacy is wrapped in the clear and memory-filled words of Silverio’s book, published by Southern Voices Printing Press.

To relive Ka Bel’s life revealed in excerpts from the book is to gain a glimpse of a human being wise to the rights and wrongs of life. Early on, he knew which side he would always choose.

ON BEING A COURIER FOR THE HUKBALAHAP

“As a child living during the Japanese occupation, Pin’s life was irrevocably changed. School was suspended, and all children were forced to forego their formal education for three-and-a-half-years. Pin was then two months shy from finishing grade four….

By then, Pin’s own parents were guerrilla sympathizers, giving shelter and protection to the fighters, and serving as militia. Pin decided to do the same and volunteered his services.

It was the assessment of the guerrilla leadership that Pin was a sturdy and steady boy, and because of his smallness, he would be considered a harmless, ordinary  boy even as he went around town and the surrounding region as a courier.

He learned from the guerrillas and his teachers about what the Japanese aimed to achieve by invading the Philippines. His young mind did not understand why another nation had to invade and take over another, when on its own, the invading nation was already rich and developed.

In his heart, however, it was easy to determine right and wrong — it was wrong to take over, torture and massacre a defenseless people. The one time that Pin saw the Japanese behead a group of suspected guerrillas behind the Bacacay school house was more than enough to cement his anger against the occupying forces. The experience also planted the seed of patriotism in Pin; it was then that he first understood what love of country meant.”

ON BEING A STUDENT FROM THE BARRIO

“Like most of the neighborhood children, Pin attended Tanagan Baggio School, but Pin needed more learning than the school could provide. Upon the strong recommendation of his fourth grade teachers, Pin was able to transfer to a bigger school in Bacacay when he reached fifth grade….

…To get to Bacacay from Tanagan, Pin had to take a banca ride. Not having any extra money for the fare, he volunteered to be the boat’s ‘crew’. The old sailor, Tata Fulgencio Bertiz, a cousin some degrees removed, was kind to Pin and let him onboard for free, but Pin insisted on working for his ride.

He took his position at the other end of the boat and acted as a balancing weight. Sometimes the waves were particularly strong, hitting the boat’s sides with force and there was a threat of the boat falling on its side. Pin would rush to the side of the boat that was tilting, tighten the ropes securing the boat’s sails and pull, bearing down with all his weight to steady the boat’s center of gravity.”

To learn more of his growing up years and blossoming as a legendary labor leader, read Silverio’s book ‘KA BEL: The Life and Struggle of Crispin Beltran’.###

RELATED READS

http://www.nameless.org.ph/beltran

https://news.abs-cbn.com/views-and-analysis/05/27/08/crispin-beltran-politics-possible%E2%80%94fides-lim

Pushing the 2022 Envelope for Filipino Readership of Indie-published Books

As bookworms, authors, book gifters and book publishers, what exactly are we looking forward to in 2022? Inspired by the first IndiePubCon2021, we look to 2022 and check out upside potentials for the indie publishing industry.

The last NDBD readership survey was released in 2017, thus not really reflective of the impact of the pandemic lockdowns since March 2020. Even then, the survey revealed that readership of non-school books among adults progressively decreased from 90% in 2003 to 80% in 2012. Extrapolating from this data, as most economic indicators were slashed by half in the period of the pandemic, we can assume readership in 2020-2021 reduced by half to around 40%. 

photo by Radu Markusu @unsplash.com

Comparing this to 2021 data on French readership, we find that the average reader in France read 19 books, whereas casual readers claim to have read  1 to 4 books in 2021. Average readers represent 36% of all readers, while casual readers represent only 25% of all readers. The bookworms, dubbed great readers in the survey, read at least 20 books for the year!! They represent 22% of France’s readership! Only 13% of those surveyed admit to not have read a single book at all in 2021.

Why compare our readership data with France? Among all non-English speaking countries in the world, France’s cultural investment is among the largest, and many of the country’s publications are in the French language, making books and other printed media accessible to French readers of all ages.

In a number of the conference sessions at the 2021 IndiePubCon, which SVPP proudly participated in, local indie publishers bewailed the book publishing industry’s inclination to publish and market English-language as opposed to Filipino and other regional-language books. They also lamented the Manila-centric-ness of the book industry which makes most books accessible largely only via big bookstores located in malls that are inaccessible to many.

photo by Sincerely Media @unsplash.com

Indie publishers do not dominate the book industry, that’s for sure. They represent perhaps less than 1% of the total books sold in 2021. Books are also among the least priorities of a buyer’s list to spend on, not being considered essential items — unless you’re a bookworm, that is. 

What is appreciated most about indie publishers though, is the passion to give birth to books that represent new voices — in Filipino, Hiligaynon, Ilokano, Bikolano, Bisaya, Waray — and all the languages of our regions. Indie publishers take on the challenge of giving words to the ‘Danas’ of the extraordinary, even if they are not proven to ‘sell’. Publishing books in the local languages and reflecting the Danas of the extraordinary is akin to letting “a thousand flowers bloom.” All these, even at the expense of “marketability”, returns on investment, and the bottomline.

As early as today, we are given a glimpse of another round of impending lockdowns by the government, this time on account of the Omicron strain of the Covid virus. As our experience in the past two years has shown, lockdowns greatly affect the economic performance of businesses. 

But indie publishers are generally optimists and do not let these negative turn of events pull them down. In 2020 and 2021, to help get through the harsh economic realities of the pandemic, indie publishers such as those that comprise The Indie Publishers Collab-PH (TIPC-PH) came together, collaborated, coordinated and consulted, and helped each other survive one of the toughest periods of our lives. 

photo by Asal Lofti @unsplash.com

And out of this collaboration, TIPC publishers were noticed and gained the respect and support of the National Book Development Board. Out of this coordination, consultation and congregation was birthed the 2021 IndiePubCon. 

One bright story in book publishing at the time of the pandemic is the courage authors gained in self-publishing. Many believe that the lockdowns opened up a new market of readers. Online articles and blogs egged them on such as: https://self-publishingschool.com/how-to-publish-a-book/.

Perhaps a bright promise to the revival of the book publishing industry is the unwavering passion and commitment indie publishers carry to push the envelope as far as publishing is concerned, and the continued support of the NBDB to buttress Filipino authors as well as indie publishers. ###

Southern Voices Press supports #INDIEPUBCON2021*

Book lovers, authors and indiepublishers, today starts the platform for your voices to be heard. The theme “Claiming Indie Spaces in Challenging Times” speaks of the opportunities seized on by indiepublishers at the time of the pandemic — Filipino book lovers locked down in the own homes reaching out to more and more books as they have so much spare time not locked down in traffic which were the norm prior to the pandemic.

Borne out of the pandemic, the consolidation, collaboration and cooperation of indiepublishers will hopefully continue and grow in strength even post-pandemic. The rationale of coming together of indiepublishers in the Philippines is akin to that of the children’s story written by Tom Agulto and Rene Villanueva, “Sina Linggit Laban Kay Barakuda,” where small fry have to band together to address the threats from Barakuda.

Threats and challenges faced by indiepublishers come in varied forms — marketing, financing, distribution and book quality resulting from limitations in funds. The threats may be myriad, but the unity among the indiepublishers who comprise The Indie Publishers Collab PH is strengthened in the face of adversity. And this unity forges the resolve of indiepublishers to be sensitive to the readers, especially those from marginalized communities not acknowledged by mainstream publishers.

The various events and discussions organized around the five-day convention from November 19 to 23, hope to bring forth the voices of readers and indiepublishers to help pave the path of book writing, authorship and publishing in the times to come in the Philippines. The word “transgressive” comes up again and again. Precisely because as “indies”, there is the freedom to break out from the bounds of conventional markers — is the book profitable, is it written by a world-renowned writer, does its content conform to the status quo?

For its part, Southern Voices’ latest published book, “Mga Munting Babae,” a Filipino translation by Prof. Rowena Festin and Sophia Perez from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, debuts its official launch during the INDIEPUBCON2021 and Cultural Center of the Philippine’s PERFORMATURA on November 23, 2021 between 1:30 to 2:30 pm.

As #INDIEPUBCON2021 unfolds, we listen… and act on the myriad voices formerly unheard.###

*To participate and avail of freebie bookbundles, register here: https://tinyurl.com/indiepubcon

Indie Publishing in the time of COVID-19

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

The pandemic was… is… a game-changer for almost all aspects of our lives, including how we consume books. Being locked down, being on self-quarantine, and all the time living by the rules of social distancing, shifted most of our former activities to online platforms. There is much less foot traffic to previously-visited book stores or book cafes, and we could say that the current situation drastically pushed reading, hence publishing, to be mostly online. This huge shift from the print industry to an all-of-sudden digitalization of literature greatly affects all types of publishers, but most importantly, indie publishers.

 These are authors preferring to market their own books instead of having some outfit gobble up at least 40% of the price of each book, or even higher. They are authors who prefer to be in touch with at least 80% of their readers. They are indie publishers trying out their first publishing project, hoping that the first 200- to 300-copies print run is rapidly gobbled up, allowing them to do a second run for a bigger volume. 

We are authors or publishers who own a voice, a unique lens with which we view things, and want these shared with a wider audience outside of a few family members and friends. Southern Voices Printing Press is one such indie publisher. Though not extensive, it wishes to share its experiences and lessons with indie publishing and marketing to encourage more voices out there to be heard through publishing.

The first lesson on the list is this: Make sure you have a good original material that your readers will love, and write in a language your readers understand. You are bound for failure coming up with a material which you hope will be at par with a Dan Brown novel when you’re forte is comedy or sattire! On this we will not say much because you’re the one who will be writing in your favorite genre, in the voice you are comfortable with, and to an audience who know and love you well.

We next proceed to the biggest hurdle in indie publishing — funding. Unless you’re the son or daughter of a business tycoon, the odds are you will need a whole community of supporters who will help you through this difficult part of your  indie publishing project.

There are at least three ways to go about raising funds: crowdfunding, pre-orders or publishing grants. 

There are quite a number of crowdfunding platforms online – gofundme, spark project, gava, indiegogo, gogetfunding, airfunding, and lots more. Spend at least three days reading through their rules and methods so you can choose one that’s exactly right for you. A number of these platforms do not operate in the Philippines, but if you have good friends in countries where they do operate, you can have them sponsor your crowdfunding campaign. You only have to ensure that you still control the fund management aspect of it all.

Pre-orders work if you have a large digital network of friends, colleagues, relatives and supporters or fans who trust you, believe in your work, have read some of your works online, and are willing to spread the word. It’s a more direct form of crowdfunding as you don’t have another platform working for and with you. You own and control your content, your reach and your preferred social media platforms. Pre-orders are more successful if communicated through more than one social media platform.

Publishing grants in the Philippines are hard to come by but keep this in mind and keep searching for opportunities.

After you’ve hurdled your basic funding requirements, the next step would be working on your manuscript to make it print-ready. Find a good editor, preferably someone you trust and esteem professionally, and someone you can afford. Better yet, find an editor who’s also a friend, willing to support you by editing your book for free! 

Then, find a graphic artist who can design a powerful cover concept for you. It’s not true that people do not judge a book by its cover. Whether on a bookshelf or an online carousel of books, you would want your title and cover to stand out and catch your intended readers’ eye.

Next, find yourself a printer who is willing to do short runs, normally at a minimum of 200 or 300 copies, and who understands your needs as an indie author. In Southern Voices Printing Press, we encourage connection, collaboration and communication. At this point, make sure you get an ISBN for your book ( http://web.nlp.gov.ph/nlp/?q=node/645).

Lastly, the most challenging aspect of your journey — market and sell your book online. So many media and blog articles have shared the sales experiences of booksellers during the 2020 pandemic. Their sales diminished from 50% to 80% of their 2019 averages. Many were forced to close. The ones who survived are those who were quick to pivot their sales and marketing strategies to online platforms. All recommend putting up a blog linked to various social media handles. These are not just Philippine experiences. Book sellers and lovers from India, Europe, US and Asia all share the same stories. 

The successful ones give out similar tips — be patient and consistent in building your online audience from a few to a thousand or more, know what your audience need and want, be creative in reaching out to a wider audience and thank each one in supporting you and your book. Most importantly, welcome feedback from your readers. 

We do not own the definitive guide to successful online marketing and selling. There are so many tips and guides online*. Read them!

And finally, believe in yourself. May the tribe of indie publishers increase! Good luck! ###

*Additional references to learn from:

https://fitsmallbusiness.com/author/adizonfitsmallbusiness-com/page/8/

https://blog.reedsy.com/indie-publishing/

https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/arts-and-culture/2020/06/29/2024190/publishing-during-lockdown

https://www.rappler.com/life-and-style/self-publish-in-3-easy-steps

https://www.authormariantee.com/for-writers/filipino-writers-whod-like-to-self-publish

**Southern Voices Printing Press is a member of The Indie Publishers Collab o TIPC (https://www.facebook.com/TheIndiePubCollabPH).

Reading Books Can Help Keep Us Mentally Healthy

Photos like these could be go-to photos when news of the pandemic are turning for the worse. The recently imposed ECQ or strictest lockdown protocols which started August 6, 2021 for Metro Manila, for example, the spiking cases, the inadequate public health services for affected Filipinos, and the increasing cases for the fear-invoked Delta or even Lambda variant, are just some of these.

In varying degrees, lockdowns and social distancing are contrary to the very nature of people as social beings. Perhaps Filipinos even more so, where our concept of self often includes the extensive family circles. We know that in practical terms, lockdowns and social distancing thins out our normal support systems, whether from families or friends. We have to develop alternative means to keep these connections alive — through kamustahan phone calls, chats, emails, or other similar means.

The fear, worry and stresses that are normal under past situations now become spiked too in this pandemic where a lot of things, especially government support, are so uncertain.

It is important that we look after our mental, not just our physical health. Ensuring our mental health is more important now, especially if other members of the family are also dependent on us to care for them (young kids, older relatives).

One of the easiest ways to take charge of your wellness can be done by picking up a book. Not only is reading a great way to stay entertained while you are socially distancing, but it has been shown to improve overall mental health. Some benefits of reading are mentioned here:

  • Stress reduction. An article in The Telegraph reports a study (2009) that reveal stress was reduced among participants who read by almost 70%, and it is said to be more effective than listening to music. Even as little as 6 minutes can help, but reading for 30 minutes (half of your lunch break!) has a similar stress reduction effect as yoga exercises for the same duration.
  • Night time winding down. Routinely reading a real, physical book for even a few minutes each night also helps our sleeping pattern. Take note a good night’s rest is best for our mental state. Make sure your book genre is not of the horror or mystery-adventure series type as stories like these keep our mind racing and stimulated instead of helping us relax.
  • Books build Knowledge. It can never be said enough that what you don’t learn from school, you can discover via a book. Reading also improves our vocabulary and helps us travel the world and cross time boundaries.
  • Empathy Books. There are special books, especially fiction books, where characters speak to each other and express their opinions, desires and beliefs. These books may help enhance our empathy or our ability to understand or share the feeling/s of another person.
  • Mental self-help books, and fiction as therapy. Reading ‘self-help’ books and fiction can help you feel more connected and can help people who may be dealing with depression or anxiety. It allows your imagination to become more engaged and you connect emotionally to characters and reflect your own feelings, problems and desires as you read. 

While not comprehensive, here are some new and good books to read, published by Filipinos:

  1. Covid 19 Journals: Women Writing Women. Published by Women Writing Women and Gantala Press, Inc. ©2021, Labiste, Serafica, Mendoza and Vallido, eds. An anthology of articles about surviving and living the pandemic from the perspective of various women, it has a chapter on Self-Care and Compassion with four good articles in it.
  2. Snow White (Les Chubby Princessesie Series) written and published by Vanessa ©2019. We can never have enough of good laughs. Mandie Lee, author of My Genie Lover, describes the book as “an incredibly fun, engaging, and witty retelling of the story of Snow White… it is a story of hope, self-love and empowerment.”
  3. Ugh (Vol. 1) written and illustrated by Julienne Dadivas, published by Haliya Publishing ©2021. A light reading sattire comic book, each page speaks to a whole new GenZ generation.
  4. My Paths to Happy by Charlotte Reed, published by Andrews McMeel Publishing ©2021. Very limited copies available at Fully Booked stores. In the book, Charlotte Reed shares her own experience of depression as well as the practices that ultimately helped her through the darkest time of her life.

Other links to reading and mental health, or simply articles on mental health you might be interested in:

http://www.penguinteen.com/10-books-to-read-during-mental-health-awareness-month/

https://www.sane.org/information-stories/the-sane-blog/wellbeing/nine-great-books-about-living-with-mental-illness

https://www.rappler.com/moveph/list-groups-providing-free-online-counseling-during-the-pandemic

https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2021/6/30/Filipino-workforce-mental-health-pandemic.html

https://www.yadukaru.com/2018/08/breaking-mental-health-stigma-in.html

References:

  1. GMS. The Mental Health Benefits of Reading (https://www.gms.ca/living-well/the-mental-health-benefits-of-reading). Sept 7, 2020
  2. Martinez, Katie. Reading Books Can Benefit Your Mental Health (https://www.stepupformentalhealth.org/reading-books-can-benefit-hour-mental-health/). November 2, 2020