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Get to Know the First Look Club: Meet Reina

Get to Know the First Look Club: Meet Reina

What do you do outside of the First Look Club?

My main modifier is freelance writer - I write for health blogs as well as lifestyle and pop culture sites like 8List, The Manila Times, and Play Without Apology. Currently, I work from home full-time as a content manager for a digital marketing agency.

I’m also a professional tarot reader - I do full-length readings for people and free one-card readings every Monday on Instagram. And to make things more confusing, I graduated with a nursing degree!

How did you get into reading and writing?

My mom was very big into reading. She must have bought me literally hundreds of books as a child, and I was always encouraged to read anything I wanted. There was no censorship, no for-boys-only or for-girls-only books, no “that’s too old for you”. I started reading Nancy Drew hardcovers when I was five!

Writing is a different story. All my life it’s been the thing I was known for - I was in all the school papers and I wrote for Candy magazine when I was thirteen - but it was always assumed that I would go into healthcare. Writing was always just supposed to be a hobby or a useful skill.

Some destinies you can’t cheat, I guess! When I said that I didn’t want to be a nurse anymore and I was going to write for a living, that was an unpleasant shock for my family, but it came as no surprise to literally everyone else.

What is your review-writing process?

I think people read reviews because they want to make up their mind on whether to pick up a book, or because they want a deeper understanding of a book they just read. With that in mind, I endeavour to write my reviews in a way that’s not just an explosion of my feelings, but an actual parsing of what makes the book a book.

I don’t just say “It was so good, I couldn’t put it down” because, for instance, A Game of Thrones was unputdownable but in much a different way than To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was.  Instead, I love to unpack - I have a checklist of things to examine like plot, character dynamics, prose and dialogue, themes and political stances. It’s a struggle trying not to write spoilers, though!

How did your First Look Club application go?

A lot of people don’t know this but I actually failed my first application to the First Look Club!

The first call for reviewers came out when I was just starting to write for a living. And my mindset was so full of doubt that anyone would want to read my opinions, and that came out in my writing and I didn’t get picked.

The second call came a year later, and by then I had way more experience - I had written hundreds of pieces for clients, I had ghostwritten someone’s book, I had even sat in on a writer screening process so I knew more or less what the pool of aspirants was going to look like and how I would stack up.

By then there was also a year’s worth of reviews for me to stalk so I had a better idea of what the FLC was looking for!

I chose Heartless by Marissa Meyer, an origin story of Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts. I knew I had to choose a book that I loved but also had mass appeal, because I needed to be genuinely enthused by the material but also make sure the audience would also find it enticing.  

I was accepted to the First Look Club on Independence Day, after about two weeks of waiting. It was the one day in those two weeks that I said I would not obsessively refresh the Fully Booked Twitter page, because they were unlikely to announce anything on a holiday.

By those calculations, that means I’ve been a part of the FLC for nearly two years now. It’s still my favourite gig that I’ve ever done.

What advice can you give other bookish creators?

I think at some point we all get caught up in going after trendy covers or popular bestsellers or ambitious classics, but if a book doesn’t make you happy or enrich your life in some way, then it won’t hold any meaning for you.

I would say go after the material that makes you happy, because that’s how we make content that’s authentic and find words that are honest. And the audience and the opportunities will always follow when you’re honest.

Read Reina's reviews here.

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