Writing is Her Life

SOMETIMES there’s no explanation why people choose the profession they are in.

It just happens as though it’s a blessing from God: a baseball pitcher with a 100-mile-per-hour fastball, or a concert pianist with a pair of dexterous fingers and a deft ear.

If it’s in your heart, you just know it’s meant to be.

That’s how it is for author Marivi Soliven Blanco, when it comes to writing — it is her life.

According to Soliven Blanco, writing is an innate passion that consumes her. Everyday, she would write a couple of hours in the morning, before the rest of her family wakes up.

It’s a habit she’s done for most of her life, so her answer did not come as a surprise, when asked when she knew that she wanted to become a writer: “When did I NOT want to become a writer is the more correct question,” Soliven Blanco said in an email to the Asian Journal. “This was not a conscious decision early on.  I just wrote all the time – diaries when I was younger, long letters to friends later on; copywriting for an ad agency, on and on.”

“Writing just happened to be a skill I knew I had and needed to cultivate because I enjoyed it, and because people seemed to enjoy reading my stories,” Soliven Blanco wrote in the email.

Rising to prominence

Soliven Blanco is fast-becoming one of the most prominent writers from the Philippines.

According to WikiPilipinas.org, she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications from the University of the Philippines and graduated magna cum laude. She also earned a master’s degree in teaching from Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts.

She’s written several short stories, essays, children’s fiction and novels.

Soliven Blanco has also received several awards for her work, including silver medals for children’s fiction in the 1992 and 1993 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, according to her bio.

Her 1998, short story “Beaux Café” won the Philippines Free Press Grand Prize for fiction. Suddenly Stateside (“a collection of essays about the Filipino diaspora and the immigrant experience,” according to her bio) became an instant bestseller upon its first release in 2002 in Manila. The book has gone through several printings and is now available in digital editions as well.

Several of her stories also appeared in anthologies and textbooks on creative writing.

In 2011, a film adaptation of Soliven Blanco’s short story, “Talunang Manok” was made.

‘The Mango Bride’

Also in 2011, the unpublished version of The Mango Bride (originally titled, In the Service of Secrets) won the 2011 Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature.

“In January 2013, Ediciones Planeta Madrid bought the rights to release the Spanish edition of The Mango Bride. The English edition of Mango Bride [was] issued by Penguin Books on April 30, 2013,” Soliven Blanco’s bio further stated.

According to Soliven Blanco’s Blogspot synopsis of the novel, “The Mango Bride traces the divergent lives of Amparo Guerrero and Beverly Obejas who come to America for different reasons.  Banished to the United States by her wealthy Manila clan, Amparo lives a much diminished life in Oakland. In contrast, Beverly is an impoverished Filipina waitress, who hopes to improve her lot when  she heads to California as a mail order bride.  As the two women work toward their dream lives, they become entangled in each other’s chaotic realities. Their unexpected collision forces them to make terrible choices and reveals a life-changing secret.”

Currently, Soliven Blanco is traveling across the country to promote the novel, which was released on April 30.

The book has received rave reviews. Amazon customers have given it 5 stars. Goodreads, a website for book lovers, has rated Mango Bride with 4 stars.

“Marivi is an acute observer of Philippine life, and you’ll be mesmerized by the book’s sweeping telenovela quality — from the upstairs/downstairs struggle (complete with a secret and forbidden love affair), to the surreal, tragic and sometimes comic realities that befall the main characters in Manila and California,” wrote Cebu Smile, the in-flight magazine of Cebu Pacific Airways.

A good story is all you need

According to Soliven Blanco’s Blogspot page, she has conducted writing workshops in UC San Diego and at the University of the Philippines.

“In 2012, Soliven won a spot in the  highly coveted Hedgebrook’s Writers in Residence program, one of 41 fellows chosen from a field of 1,000 applicants.  The grant provided her with a two week writing retreat  at the Hedgebrook estate on Whidbey Island in 2012,  in the company of  other writers, most notably Gloria Steinem,” says Soliven Blanco’s Blogspot bio.

Soliven Blanco says her goal is “to write a good story.”

While some authors try to subliminally pitch a hidden message or agenda in their book, Soliven Blanco does neither.

“I don’t like to preach, so I don’t send out ‘messages.  I just write stories,” she wrote in an email. “People who read those stories can decide what ‘message’ they want to take away from it.”

(LA Weekend June 29 – July 2, 2013 Sec A pg.10)

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