Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Interview with Nancy Cudis

Nancy Cudis has a passion for writing, reading, and promoting great books and stories (especially little-known gems) on her blog, Simple Clockwork. Anyone who loves to read and write about short stories should participate in The Short Story Initiative on her blog, which has attracted a community of enthusiastic readers. I'm fortunate to count Nancy as an online friend and fellow blogger, and am happy to introduce her here.

Nancy is an award-winning blogger, writer, part-time student, full-time community development worker, and a former news reporter. She blogs about short stories, Philippine literature, poetry, books, and personal experiences at her blog, Simple Clockwork. She lives in Cebu, Philippines where she can trek the mountains or drive to the beach or party at a club at any time she wants because of their proximity. She pursues her Masters in Media Studies at a local university. She is active at Cebu Bloggers Society Inc. and recently formed with Geezelle Tapangan of the Cebu Book Club.

On to the interview...

HK: Why did you decide to take up blogging? What has been most rewarding about it (and what's been the biggest challenge)?
NC: Restlessness. It started with being restless more than a year ago. I had left a three-year news reporting stint that required me to submit at least two news stories a day six days a week; then I suddenly found myself in a new five-days-a-week office job that expected me to do more editing and coordination than writing. At the same time, I have more free time to do what I want, which I used for reading and traveling. But writing is something I have always loved doing. One morning, I woke up, feeling frustrated and knowing that I just have to write again. So I started with a personal blog in January 2011. Ten months later, after stumbling upon a supportive community of book bloggers, Simple Clockwork transformed into a book blog, although I did not completely veer away from personal non-book related accounts worth sharing.

At first, I was reading and blogging without direction. I was stretching myself thinly by being everywhere, in any genre that captures my fancy, for any author who took an interest in my efforts. It took me some time to discover what I really wanted to do for my blog. Eventually, blogging for a purpose has become more important to me. Sometimes I feel like a literary activist or an advocate, believing highly in the books, stories, and authors I feature and hoping just as highly that readers and visitors alike will pick them up and include them in their reading menu and be inspired to live better. And you know what’s rewarding about all these? Those special moments when I wake up, open my email, and receive out-of-the-blue comments on old posts telling me how much my blog has inspired them or helped them a lot. Naturally, these incidents would fire up my drive to blog more.

HK: How do you choose which books you'll read? Do you have a reading plan, or are your choices more spontaneous?
NC: Because of my spontaneous experience with starting a blog, it is no surprise I spontaneously choose the books or short stories I read. But when I really like a book or a short story, I really rally for it, but still open to the fact that not all will fall for it. That is one beauty of the book blogging community; there is a lot of positive energy going on and at the same time, there are constructive criticisms, too. If I had experienced otherwise, I would have left the book blogging scene a long time ago.

Rather than a reading plan, I have an editorial calendar, which determines what I read and blog for the month. It is something I did as a news reporter and which is an old habit I could not shake off. Fortunately, it is working for me pretty well in blogging. I have a good mix of short stories, Philippine literature, mythology, comics, children’s books, classics, and romance--genres that particularly hold a special place in my heart.

HK: When you think of books or short stories that you've loved, what qualities make them memorable to you?
NC: Whether it’s a book or a short story, what makes it memorable for me is the ability of the writer to gracefully capture my attention and bring me to a screeching climax and a heart-wrenching resolution. For me, the plot of a story is only as good as how the writer delivers it.

HK: What themes/topics/ideas are you most interested in exploring when you write your own fiction?
NC: I have long been writing short stories, several in high school and college and some just recently. I’m now attempting to write a novel. My eyebrows are always knotted together getting the story going. But all these stories have a common denominator--the dynamics of human relationships.

I’m perennially amazed at how people interact with each other, online or offline, and how we change a lot over time without us consciously aware of it. I think we are interconnected by an invisible thread and how we interact with each other will determine how long or how short that thread will become. I’m equally interested in how people think and how their thinking impels their actions. I’m a reflective person, perhaps a little introverted. So human relationships and human thinking are some things I would like to explore in my future fiction.

HK: If you could choose any three authors, dead or alive, to meet with you to discuss literature and give you feedback on your writing, who would they be and why?
NC: American writer O. Henry, English crime writer Ruth Rendell, and Filipino writer Amador Daguio.

As I have often written in my blog posts, reading O. Henry’s works is like having a glass of wine with him on the balcony and watching the world unfold before our eyes. His works reflect his laidback and relaxed personality yet he delivered many powerful and witty short stories. I would like to be with him on that balcony, not just observing the people on the streets but also talking about my writing.

On the other hand, Ruth Rendell is fantastic. She wrote some of the most mind-boggling works I have come across with. Reading her stories is like riding a train wherein I have to grip something because any time the train’s speed will escalate faster and faster...then stop. Oh, I would not want to ride with her on that train to discuss literature; perhaps after I get off the train, so I could ask her properly how she does it--write admirably gripping stories (and she makes them look so easy to write!).

Amador Daguio would make a great person to walk or trek the mountains with. Reading his works, I could imagine him pointing out huts of native tribes and we would be exchanging clever stories about them, or having a picnic with him and trading over-the-top stories to answer our incredulous “what if” questions. I would like to ask him how to vibrantly capture Filipino stories on paper in a series of short stories. I think that would be really neat.

HK: What are your current writing projects, and what do you hope to work on in the future?
NC: My blog in itself is a writing project. I hope for each blog post to be relevant. I have a lot of plans for my blog, including partnerships with groups that advocate reading and literacy. My hope is that more parents will appreciate the value of encouraging reading to their children at an early stage. While I iron out the details, I will continue The Short Story Initiative, which encourages bloggers and readers to share the short stories they have read. I also work with Mel U of The Reading Life for our joint venture wherein we share our thoughts on Filipino short stories. Every now and then, I try to pick up my pen (yes, I sometimes still use pens) to write a short story. I hope to make a collection of them in the future.

As this is the last question, let me take this opportunity to thank you, Hila! You sure ask really good and thought-provoking, if not tough, questions, and I thoroughly enjoyed answering them!

Thanks, Nancy, for participating!