Too many courses spoil the writers.

“Dear Leigh,

This is a slightly unusual
invitation. You have been specially selected to join a private, roundtable
dinner on the 29th of November, 7:30 PM, at PEPATOS, Greenbelt 3,
Makati City. We will be celebrating the launch of Story Philippines (you might
have heard of it, a beautiful magazine that presents purely local short fiction.
I have agreed to be their “Guest Editor” for the 2nd issue (due out in January
2006), and here is what we’ve

We want to come up
with one story in the most unusual and exciting way: Tag Writing. Writing as a
team. You, me and a few other well-fed and slightly inebriated storytellers
will seek to build on a few paragraphs (?story stubs? from one of
the best fiction writers in the country) and make an interesting story out of

The letter came from Emily
Abrera, mavenus maximus of the Philippine ad industry.

The Story Philippines team (Jade and
Vanni), had gathered a motley, mad crew. Gilda Cordero-Fernando arrived bearing air
kisses and a pair of white sneakers painted with branches and blooms. Krip Yuson sat beside Patricia Evangelista and Tweetums
wore pearls and a crocheted shawl. Tim
was as blonde as his press pictures, and funnier in person than on
print. Sarge insisted he was just the minutes-taker, but happily for the story,
he lied.

The first story stub had a
wounded woman and a gun. The second story stub had a smoking woman, a
similarly-dressed posse of executives and a narrator who seemed very interested
in both. The third story stub, everyone at the table decided, was the evening’s
menu. It featured capiz scallops and savory pannacotta, lemon-basil sgrappino
and a spinach raviolo, among many other melodiously-named dishes, and I assume
that’s why they didn’t put in “black balls,” the ante-antepasto, because it
would have scuttled the menu’s literary

Getting award-winning
writers with very different voices to sit down and craft a story together seems
like a recipe for disaster. And at first, it seemed to be headed that way. No
one agreed on which stub to work on. A couple wanted to trash the stubs and just
go with the black balls.

Eventually, the
free Bailey’s and the Filipino instinct for harmonious meals prevailed. A stub
was chosen. We laid down a process – each one of us had to build on whatever the
person beside us included in the story. This made us begin by listening. We also
decreed a deadline: the story had to be done by the time coffee and tea

I think we did the menu justice.
The rest is up to Sarge, who has to wrestle with interjections, side comments
and snippets of story. Buy the January issue of Story Philippines and try to
figure out which crumbs of the story are mine.