As part of Local Lit Fest 2020, we chat with writer of comics and children's books, Russell Molina, about his stories and writing in the Philippines. Read our conversation below.
FULLY BOOKED: What made you write?
Russell Molina: It really started as a necessity. I was looking for a job after college and the first opening was a writing stint for a children’s show. I gave it a try and instantly fell in love with it. I never stopped writing since then.
Do you remember the first story you’ve ever written? Mind sharing it with us, if you do?
The first children’s story I wrote was Ang Lumang Kumot Ni Lola – a story about a grandmother who simply can’t part with her old and ugly blanket. It’s partly inspired by my two lolas, Lola Puti and Lola Bungi. Growing up at a time when there were only 5 channels on our TV, my lolas were a source of amazing entertainment with their stories about their own personal histories. Lumang Kumot was my way of honoring them and the stories that they’ve left behind.
Who is your biggest literary influence?
At this stage in my life, I am inspired by the young comic creators. You will meet them in the local Komikons, you will see them churning panels and panels of work in their own social media pages. These are the future of our industry – young, innovative storytellers with a passion for telling the truth. I look up to them with optimism and pride. I hope that they continue pushing the envelope.
Can you share with us your writing process?
It all happens in my head. From creating to organizing to building the story – I do everything in my head. The incubation process takes more time for me. When I have it all figured out, that’s the time when I commit my story to paper. Letting my wife and trusted friends critique my manuscript is also part of my process. Fresh eyes offer new perspectives.
How does a comic creator’s workspace look like?
Organized chaos. My work area is surrounded by things that can squeeze the creative juices out of me like books, pictures, toys, etc. Music is also an important ingredient. I’ve created different playlists depending on what kind of project I’ll be working on. Ambient music provides inspiration and motivation. It puts me in the zone.
What’s the best thing about being a Filipino writer?
We have a wellspring of source material. Our culture is so rich, our folktales are unique, and the local flavor is distinct. I think we’ve just scratched the surface in terms of story possibilities.
What’s the most challenging thing about being a Filipino writer?
I hope that one day, local writers can make writing (especially komiks writing) their primary source of income. Writing gigs are far and few between these days and the creative community badly needs steady support. The challenge is to find a sustainable market for our writers and their craft.
Which Filipino author/s do you think all Filipinos should read?
I’ve been reading a lot of history books lately and I think it’s a good place to start. We need to revisit, review, and renew our connection with our past. The more you dig into it, the more you’ll realize that a lot of what’s happening now mirrors past events. Also, in this age of fake news, historical facts are comforting.
What Filipino Komiks do you think should be read by every Filipino?
Start with the classics – Tony Velasquez’s Kenkoy (you’ll find a couple of strips on the net) then Francisco Coching’s El Indio, works by Larry Alcala, Roni Santiago, Nonoy Marcelo, Tonton Young, etc. I have a fondness for comic strips because they were a staple during my growing up years.
If not writing, what career would you have pursued?
Maybe pursue my first college course – agricultural business. Now, more and more, I am convinced that I want to embrace the farmer’s life – growing my own produce and turning it into a small business.
What’s next for you?
I’m into toys lately. Maybe create my own toy line based on characters that I’ll bring to life. The idea excites me at the moment.
Any advice to aspiring Filipino writers, especially for these unprecedented times?
The pandemic has a numbing effect on all of us. It’s really hard to work and even ideate. But when you are ready to write and create, do something for yourself first – one that’ll give you joy and a sense of accomplishment. Do it for yourself. Not for the money. Not for the fame. But for your spirit and sanity.
Lastly, what’s your favorite Filipino word and why?
INGAT. The word has a history behind it. And during this covid crisis, we’ve been hearing it a lot also. It provides comfort and shows love and concern. Very Pinoy.
Can you share a quick selfie for your readers here?
Check out all the other activities we have in store for Local Lit Fest 2020.