A Short Interview with Elizabeth Ruth Deyro, Founder of The Brown Orient

discussions

The Brown Orient

Enjoy a short interview with our beloved affiliate The Brown Orient‘s founder Elizabeth Ruth Deyro and spread the word about this fabulous publication. 

terseeditor: When did you become interested in writing publicly?

Elizabeth Ruth Deyro: My professor in Creative Writing class, which I took in 2014, was the first to introduce me to publishing with independent literary journals. As he himself was fond of submitting poetry and known for having an admirable number of publications under his belt, he also encouraged our class to do the same. Often, he’d require us to submit to calls for submissions, and give incentives to those whose work get accepted for publication. It was in this semester that I got my very first publication – a poem written in Filipino that was published by {m}aganda Magazine as part of their 28th issue. Since then, I grew more interested in submitting more to other journals, and I did a couple of times, but the succeeding semesters as a writing major were pretty tough and I almost gave up on creative writing. I did not submit to literary journals again until late last year, when I finally got over the anxiety that those terrible semesters brought about. Now, I have a respectable number of publications, but there is always room for improvement, in terms of both quality and quantity.

terseeditor: Who are your major influences for writing?

Elizabeth Ruth Deyro: Contemporary writers such as Rainbow Rowell, Jennifer E. Smith, Madeleine Roux, and Tahereh Mafi helped me greatly in finding my voice in writing. Chuck Palahniuk’s style has always intrigued me, and I aspire to adapt his tone in my writing as well. Neil Gaiman is also someone that I really look up to.

terseeditor: At what point did you come up with the idea for The Brown Orient? Was there a certain event that was the catalyst?

Elizabeth Ruth Deyro: Yes. I have long noticed how people seldom acknowledge the fact that “Brown Asians” are underrepresented in the global narrative – especially in Western mainstream media, which has massive influence over so many cultures and individuals from all over the globe. All they seem to know and mind about Asia is East Asian culture, and that says a lot about the deficit in proper representation for other regions of Asia. But what triggered me the most was this one conversation I had with my sister, when she just could not believe that we Filipinos are actually Asian. The side of the Internet that she has grown to become fond of apparently only ever acknowledge East Asians as the “legitimate Asians”, which is ridiculous considering that there is a lot more to Asia than that one region. This is why I created The Brown Orient, which is a project made to show the world that the “Orient” that they have always associated with just one region is in fact multi-sided – and these other sides have always been Brown.

terseeditor: You do a lot! Can you tell readers all the cool projects you’re working on at the moment?

Elizabeth Ruth Deyro: Oh, I am so blessed and grateful that I get to be part of a handful of projects. Firstly, I am the Fiction Editor of Rag Queen Periodical and we will be releasing our first issue soon, which I’m truly excited about. I also got selected recently as the new editor of /tap/ lit mag, and we’re currently reading submissions for our forthcoming issue. Aside from these two, I also have other engagements with other journals, both for editing and writing, which I think is really amazing.

I am also currently directing a theatre production called “Miss Dulce Extranjera” as final requisite for my undergraduate degree.

Elizabeth Ruth Deyro: In between these commitments, I sometimes do advocacy work, with particular focus on mental health by participating in projects spearheaded by local youth organizations. I act as Sponsorship and Partnership Head of Silakbo PH, a collective that primarily promotes art as means of coping with mental illnesses. I am also a member of the Youth for Mental Health Coalition, Inc.

terseeditor: What are some of your ideas for the future?

Elizabeth Ruth Deyro: This mid-year, I will start to work on my first chapbook, which will be a flash fiction chap about different narratives that reveal the parallels of one’s struggle with mental illness and the societal issues presently dealt with by Filipinos. This is definitely the first priority.

After graduation, I hope to get a day job as editorial assistant for a local publishing house or magazine, which is my goal ever since I started to pursue writing and editing. I also plan to study again for a Master’s degree in Journalism.

Of course, I have so much plans for The Brown Orient: a huge collaborative project with our sister publications including TERSE., possibly (hopefully!) going print, and finally being able to provide monetary compensation for our contributors and staff members.

 

 

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Footnotes: On St. Ives, Education, and Death by Andrew Woods

Polymathically Perverse

St. Ives?

Too many books are printed in St. Ives. I came to this conclusion as I harvested publication details for the bibliography of my latest paper. Students and scholars alike dread the tedious duty of transcribing this information—from the name of publishers to the year of publication—into the footnotes and reference lists of their essays. And, according to academic procedures, one must mention where the book was printed. That’s how I noticed that my paperback editions of Nietzsche, Weil, Foucault, Burke, and others all seem to originate from St. Ives. I wonder why publishers seem so keen to print their books in this small Cornish resort. I remember that the band Another Sunny Day recorded a B-side called “A Boy from St. Ives,” but that’s all I know about this seaside town.

Once I completed my bibliography, I took to Google to learn how St. Ives had become a printing hub. The results embarrassed me. St. Ives was not the geographical location of the printers, but, rather, the name of the printing company. For several years, I have written “Printed in St. Ives” in countless bibliographies for college assignments. As misunderstandings go, it is minor. In the aftermath of this discovery, I wonder why including the location of the printers is necessary. Surely, the name of the publisher and the year of publication suffices. I doubt any professor feels the need to call up printing companies—whether they operate in St. Ives or not—to check that they printed a certain book in a certain year.

There are a few theories about why books declare where they were printed. An expert on book dealing suggests that mentioning the location of the printers was intended to prove the authenticity of a book to customs officials. Geographical discrepancies between the publishers’ headquarters and the printers’ offices would raise an eyebrow of suspicion and justify seizure of the contraband. Yet, the image of a customs officer inspecting one’s books seems to belong to a quaint and bygone era. I say, spare oneself the stress and download the PDF. Additionally, the joys and woes of global trade mean that a publisher and a printer can strike a deal despite national barriers. For instance, my copy of Eva Illouz’s illuminating and invigorating Cold Intimacies: The Making of Emotional Capitalism was published by Polity Press—based in Cambridge, United Kingdom, and Malden, Massachusetts—typeset in Hong Kong, and printed and bound in Malaysia.

Despite these changes, the spirit of the inquisitive customs officer still pervades the task of writing a bibliography:

“What are you reading? Who wrote it? Where’s it from? What year was it written?”

Listing citations is like answering a swift stream of questions in an interrogation room.

St. Ives?

The tedious and persnickety ordeal of writing footnotes is one of the humbler tasks of critical thought, because it pushes you to reconsider whether you trust your chosen sources. Not only should you judge the veracity and trustworthiness of your own references, you should take the effort to examine the references of your references. Carefully reading the footnotes of other authors tests your trust in the written word. Not everything printed on a page is an authentic expression of a writer’s thoughts. They might cite a study and contort the interpretations of the findings to suit their argument. Theory can precede data, rather than the other (and right) way around. We live in a time when everyone is urged to check the facts of everything they see and read. Yet, if we are honest with ourselves and others, we might admit that we are not always as attentive and skeptical as we should be. Sometimes, we can be eagerly credulous when someone says something that suits our sensibility and convictions. Writing footnotes forces one to check the basic facts—who wrote this, who published it, when was it published, etc.—and start to build a case for why a source should be trusted or doubted.

Taking the credibility or dishonesty of a source seriously is the sign of a sincere scholar. Questioning the smallest fact—Why are all these books printed in St. Ives?—and seeking an answer—St. Ives is just the name of the company—are two of those intellectual chores that help to cultivate a tidy and meticulous mind. Scrutinizing the words of others teaches you to look at your own work in a more critical light. As soon as one completes a paragraph, one should re-read it and ask oneself, “is this what I honestly think and believe?” I know that struggling to meet one’s deadlines at the end of the semester means that most students do not have the time for this type of intellectual sincerity. Conclusions are often reached for the sake of expedience. Maybe we should train ourselves to think about the task of writing as a more significant endeavor than merely finishing a paper by a certain date. Truly, reading and writing admits you into a long conversation that started before you even learnt to pick up a pen.

In an interview with The Atlantic, the linguist N. J. Enfield attempts to explain why we make small oral sounds—from “ummm” to “mmhmm”—to fill gaps in conversations. Most of these noises are social cues that we are paying attention to the speaker and agreeing with what they are saying. They are the unspoken substance of most human conversation. Enfield talks to the interviewer about transcribing interviews from the recording to the page, and ponders why all these seemingly inconsequential noises are edited out as the conversation is converted into an article. Enfield observes that “conversation is all draft;” books and articles are finished products.

 

St. Ives?

I disagree with that judgement. Final drafts and completed works rarely represent an ending. At the same time, a first draft is nothing like the real beginning of a work. No moment of education or stage of composition embodies a start or end. Properly speaking, I think that lessons and essays “come to fruition.” Nothing illustrates the joyful and intense undertakings of learning and writing more than the word “fruition.” Nowadays, the word refers to the realization of a plan or project, or the period when a tree or vine bears fruit. Etymologically, fruition comes from the Late Latin fruitionem, which means “enjoyment.” The fruition of a letter or poem or treatise represents a cadence—perfect or imperfect—in the long, lustful tune of life. Writing is the act of taking pleasure in something beyond your comprehension, in a language that precedes and outlasts us all.

My former professor Anne-Marie Oliver once observed that chalk is the perfect metaphor for the enterprise of education and the transmission of knowledge. She remarks that “true chalk is something marked by an extreme fragility, friability, dustability, temporality . . . These attributes signified that it was once alive and that it possessed still the power of thingness, that is, something susceptible to damage, destruction, death, and accordingly, something human or humanlike. And this stuff was used to form words, dead things that live on and are constantly reanimated in the brains of other beings.” Chalk is formed of prehistoric and fossilized matter that leaves dust all over your fingers and makes marks—equations, illustrations, and quotations—on the blackboard. Coincidentally, the contents of books are printed onto the pulped remains of dead trees. Every page serves as a reminder of death.

St. Ives?

Education and death are more intimately linked than most people think. I thumb through my copy of Vilem Flusser’s Writings (published by University of Minnesota Press in 2002, printed in the United States of America—somewhere—on acid-free paper) in search of his moving definition of human communication. According to this idiosyncratic philosopher and polygot, “human communication is an artistic technique whose intention it is to make us forget the brutal meaninglessness of a life condemned to death.” Writing is the art of making meaning out of meaninglessness. Death—that final moment of becoming nothingness—fuels our desperate need to leave something behind. Oddly enough, there is a striking resemblance between the format of footnotes and inscriptions on gravestones: the name of the author, the title of the work, the year of publication, etc.

Another former professor of mine encouraged me to always conclude with the “thinking answer,” rather than the absolute one. To be honest and ironic, it seems that the only truly absolute answer is death. You cannot argue or disagree with that inevitability. So, what are answers? There are exact answers (printed in Great Britain by the St. Ives Group), elusive answers (“well, it depends on what you mean by ‘advance’…”), and honest answers (“I don’t know yet”). What exactly is the “thinking answer”? Answering a question thoughtfully means that one’s work comes to fruition, rather than to an end. Thinking answers should show the enjoyment of thought, just as writing should convey the enjoyment of words. Although typing up references is the least enjoyable part of the writing process, it is a mark of gratitude. Taking the time to write footnotes represents humility and honesty. Footnotes reveal that you are indebted to those who came before you, and express the hope that you might be able to serve future scholars in a similar way. The old and witty philosopher Alfred North Whitehead once quipped that Western Philosophy is just a bunch of footnotes to Plato. I disagree and claim that philosophy—and thought in general—is just a long line of footnotes to footnotes to footnotes to footnotes. The history of thought is more like the Talmud than the Bible, more like a first draft than a final copy. The footnote protects us from forgetting the origin of originality, and reminds us that no one ever comes up with the absolute answer. More importantly, the footnote is invitation to think with others—from our predecessors to our descendants—and enjoy every thought as it unfolds.