Delivered in response to the tribute to young women writers by the Ateneo Library of Women’s Writings, 28 November 2006
On behalf of the young women being honored here today, I would like to thank the ALIWW for the lavish expression of faith in our written work.
It is quite overwhelming to receive this kind of attention when we are still in the early stages of our writing lives. Honestly, the only way I can appreciate my place in this ceremony, what with the body of work I barely have, is to view it as the most generous gesture of belief in possibility. And what a privilege it is to have such interest and encouragement as the context in which we work and write.
Privilege, however, becomes obscene in the face of complacency, and while it would be unjust to say we women writers of this generation—that is, those of us being honored today—have it easy, it would be naïve to say we have it hard. We have history, especially the women writers of earlier generations, to thank for battles fought and won, and for battles begun. Survival, invisibility, submissiveness—these are terms we are able to articulate and engage with without necessarily paying the price of our lives. We are listened to, acknowledged, and valued for the poems and stories we write. The easiest thing to do with privilege is to take it for granted, to succumb to a sense of entitlement that breeds mediocrity, even sheer silliness. To live up to the faith invested in our work as writers is to fulfill the promise, throughout our lives, never to take it easy.
Writing, to me, has always been an exercise of the mind, a way of thinking, a vital sign of will. Ann Lauterbach writes, “When we are moved by an aesthetic object, a poem or a piece of music or a painting, we experience a dual gladness: that the artist has made these choices and, by extension and analogy, that we, too, are capable of making choices.” This gathering of fellow writers, friends, and family, though held in honor of thirteen young women writers, is, more importantly, an affirmation of the creative life as a rich expression of human agency. We are grateful to be the occasion for reiterating the value of this ideal.