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Gloria Rodriguez, Publisher
home of Giraffe Books
photo taken from the home of Giraffe Books

A BIG SMOOOOOOOCH FOR MOMMY GLO

Through Gloria Rodriguez’s Giraffe Books, I was blessed in being able to release three books:

Ecstatic Mutations: Experiments in the Poetry Laboratory (2000), poetry, fiction and poetics prose
My Romance (2002), art essays and the poems they inspired, with poetics prose
Behind The Blue Canvas (2004), politicized erotica

In addition to these three books, I’ve written eight books released through other publishers in the Philippines, the United States and Finland. Yet Giraffe Books, through Mommy Glo’s direction, has published perhaps three of my most difficult-to-publish works in part because they are difficult to categorize. My three Giraffe Books straddle genres as well as delve into what I call politicized erotica (surely a problematic category in a religious country like the Philippines?). These three books would not exist today were it not for the suppleness of Mommy Glo’s mind that allows her to accept my fumbling attempts at what is turbulently and ultimately impossible to articulate: Poetry.

My work as a poet, as well as poetry of others I admire, have difficulty with the kind of reductive categories often employed by the publishing world. I admire how Mommy Glo remains always open to radical experimentation, notwithstanding her numerous years of experience in big-time publishing (Giraffe Books, her literary love during her “retirement” days, is basically a one-person outfit). She has been recognized quite aptly with a “Publisher of the Year” Award from the Manila Critics Circle, Inc. for Gloria Rodriguez has not just been formed by history, but she makes history.

Indeed, I’ve been surprised each time that Mommy Glo accepted my manuscripts with absolutely no reservations. Many writers, when they meet a publisher like Giraffe Books—a publisher who does not tamper with their art (beyond copyediting) —recognize it for the blessing that it is. I also have met writers who have seen books published, but have never found such a gift as I benefited from in Giraffe Books as a publisher. So thank you, Mommy Glo.

I think it also fair to say that Gloria Rodriguez’s career as a publisher, and specifically how she manages Giraffe Books after retiring from the mainstream publishing context, is one of my inspirations to fumbling out how I may guide Meritage Press into its future. I began Meritage Press (http://www.meritagepress.com) in 2001. I had a very idealistic vision for it—that Meritage Press would allow me to publish artists who otherwise may not receive attention from the publishing world. While I have attained various goals—most notably the groundbreaking anthology PINOY POETICS edited by Nick Carbo—I have also experienced many stumbling blocks and disappointments. During those moments of feeling overwhelmed, Mommy Glo is one of my mental touchstones that allow me to pause, breathe deeply, and renew the fight with ever more fortitude for publishing “difficult” material. So, again, thank you, Mommy Glo.

The gods, of course, have a mischievous sense of humor. With Mommy Glo comes that Giraffe Books look—a very raw book design and production relative to glossier results as a result of 21st century technology. But the joke is ultimately on these mischief-making gods. I treasure Giraffe Books for its palpable human-madeness. The physical presence of a Giraffe book with its occasional warp in the book cover, the occasionally too-thin paper, and the innocent (for lack of a better way to put it) designs all hearken to the flawed humans authoring the works—whether it’s the author’s psyche, the publisher’s aging eyesight and what I suspect is our shared technological incompetence. No gloss, but plenty of heart.

One can say something similar about Mommy Glo: she privileges heart over style and my words could not have found a better bosom from which to peek out, occasionally flicker out a tongue, hiss, occasionally roar ... and finally sing lovingly at an increasingly style-ized world.

© Eileen R. Tabios

A “FOREVER” FRIEND

Gloria Rodriguez is a gem in Philippine Literature. I first knew her when she was at New Day, which published The Three-Cornered Sun in 1979. Under her directorship, three more novels were published, The Hazards of Distance (1981) and Fortress in the Plaza (1985), and Small Party in a Garden (1988). She also handled two reprints, for use in the Philippines, with permission from Readers International of London and New York: Awaiting Trespass (1989), and Wings of Stone (1990). She was meticulous in her editing, asked questions that much improved the books though she also respected an author's opinions. Once, an associate editor thought the language was too difficult for high school students and Gloria accepted my explanation, that when the students matured they could appreciate the books at another level.

Announcing that she was launching Giraffe Books—literally a one-woman publishing venture—she asked if I had something I wanted published and accepted my offer of a collection of the first chapters of already published novels, Kulasyon: Uninterrupted Vigils (1995). That is my first book with the Giraffe imprint. My second book with Giraffe is The Stranded Whale (2002). Gloria read the mss and herself encoded the final 285 pages, finding errors that had slipped by me. (We looked together at so many pictures of whales, then she decided on the gray and maroon cover.) For her, it is a real labor of love. Specially since she had to rush publication so the book would make it to The Ateneo Library of Women's Writings' Parangal. I was happy she shared the stage when she presented the first copy.

I always look forward to the Rodriguezes' visits to their daughters in the States. They generously include Len and me in their hectic schedule. And when I go home, I do the same.  Gloria is more than an editor for me; she's also a "forever" friend.

© Linda Ty-Casper

A Tribute to Ate Glo

Giraffe Books published my book, Coming Full Circle: The Process of Decolonization Among Post-1965 Filipino Americans,in 2001 and is now in its fourth printing. When I approached Ate Glo about the possibility of submitting my manuscript to her for consideration, she remembered the Introduction I wrote for Eileen Tabios' Ecstatic Mutations: Experiments in the Poetry Laboratorywhich she published in 2000. She told me that based on what I had written for Eileen's book, she would consider a submission from me. Thus began my relationship with Ate Glo (and Kuya Ralph).

I am a novice when it comes to book publishing and marketing. As I began to rewrite my doctoral dissertation into a book manuscript, I began corresponding with Ate Glo. She educated me on the politics of publishing in the Philippines, e.g., why one publisher wouldn't consider my manuscript based on the perceived local (Philippine) marketability of a book written by a Filipino American. Then she told me that as an independent one-woman operation, she purposely takes on authors whom she personally believes have something important to say and need to be read; such a book will find its own audience, she assured me. A look at the list of Giraffe authors proves this.

One of the joys of an author is receiving royalties…in a timely manner. Even though we have had to talk about whether royalty payments should be in pesos or dollars, I admire Ate Glo’s efficiency (remember she’s a one-woman operation!) in accounting for book sales and royalties due to each author. Since the publication of my book I have been involved in other book projects; I get a report of royalty statement but the payment doesn’t usually follow until a year or so later. Ate Glo, on the other hand, sends out the royalty check on the date that she says she would!

Email has been advantageous in doing business with Ate Glo. When she is unable to personally respond to my emails, she asks Kuya Ralph to write back to me. In this way, I have also gotten to know Kuya Ralph. Over the years I also discovered that Ate Glo and one of my sisters used to work together years back; that Kuya Ralph is also Protestant and members of our families attend the same church. So my professional relationship with both of them has evolved into a warm personal friendship for which I am delighted and grateful.

When I think of Ate Glo’s life work of publishing, I am inspired by her ability to hold a vision that would sustain her work beyond the official retirement years. In these difficult and sometimes indifferent times, I sense that being a visionary of this kind requires courage and tenacious hope that the Filipino is worth writing for.

Now if I can only ask her one thing: What does the giraffe stand for?

© Leny Strobel



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