Today we’d like to introduce you to Jeehan Quijano.
Jeehan, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Perhaps I have always been a writer before I myself was aware of it or acknowledged it. I remember when I was about thirteen, growing up in Cebu, an island in the Philippines, that I had a notebook full of scribblings. Back then I already had a solitary temperament. I was content being alone in my room, writing random thoughts, feelings, poetry. It was my means of expression, and I must have derived some joy from it because the writing never stopped. I was a reader first before I was a writer. I was ten years old when I began to enjoy reading (started with Nancy Drew Mystery Series books) and I believe that reading had an influence on me being a writer. As a child, I did not have enough life experience to broaden my worldview, and reading exposed me to different voices, ideas, cultures, questions, emotions. Reading and writing are the two things that I have been solidly doing from then until now.
My first serious attempt at writing fiction happened in my late twenties. I wrote a short story. I submitted it to a literary magazine hoping for a feedback from the editor. I was (still am) a novice writer with zero professional writing background, and I had no idea that editors rarely provide feedback. I got a rejection, of course, but to my surprise, the editor wrote back with a frank assessment of where it failed coupled with a few compliments. The honest feedback encouraged me to do better, to learn, to not give up. It inspired me to dream. Meanwhile, life went on. Meanwhile, there was this story in my head that would not go away. It was there begging for a voice, pleading to be heard. One day, I sat down and listened to this voice and let it take me to where it wanted to take me. And this story is called The Unfolding, my first novel published by New Meridian Arts.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
An internal monologue of self-doubt, feelings of inadequacy, lack of self-confidence. I do not have an MFA in Creative Writing (I have a bachelor’s in Business Administration), no writing workshop experience, no mentors. And I often think that those who do, possess some secret knowledge that I do not possess, therefore they have an edge over me, and I will never be good enough. I still grapple with this but at least now, I do not let it consume me. I pat myself on the back for having a published novel. Authors have to take an active role in marketing and promotion. I am quite poor in these areas. I am trying to overcome these shortcomings. Also, writing requires a lot of discipline. You have to show up every day and write, or at least try. It can be a challenge when we live in a society full of distractions.
Then there is the matter of getting rejected. I have an intimate relationship with rejection. Ha! Well, that is the road one often encounters especially as a novice writer. I lost count of how many rejections I had received. In fact, when I received an email that my publisher was interested in publishing my book, I thought I was a victim of a hoax or scam. Also, the publishing industry is dominated by white people (authors, editors, agents, management, staff). To speak plainly, let us suppose I wrote a brilliant book, my rejection rate would be far, far higher compared to a white counterpart. I was aware that my chances of getting published were very slim to nil. This particular issue is not something that writers of color can resolve on our own because we are out there, so the change must come from the gatekeepers as well. Readers can help by diversifying their reading list. Read authors who come from another culture or background. It might enhance your world view and broaden your understanding of humanity. Publishers look at it as a business also, so if there is no market for our stories, if no one is reading them, then writers like myself have little chance of getting published and read.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I write fiction. The Unfolding is my first novel. I love writing letters. I have a blog on my website where I write about things that move me. I am working on two books at the moment. One is my second novel; the other is a photography book in collaboration with a photographer. I am also a pianist and composer.
Can you talk to us a bit about happiness and what makes you happy?
Books. Beautiful sentences. The crescendo and diminuendo of music as if telling a story. Petrichor. A loved one’s laughter. People living decent lives free from persecution and violence. Love of all sorts. Stories of redemption. Human resilience. Dark chocolate. Liverpool FC winning matches. The sea. Memories of childhood summers spent in the countryside.
The way the natural world astonishes me: a seedling emerges in winter, a hummingbird makes a surprise appearance, bare trees retain their magnificence, the sky turns from blue to amber, rain becomes music that lulls me to sleep.
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: www.jeehanquijano.com
- Instagram: @jeehan_quijano