FICTION WRITER, columnist, and radio and TV host Jessica Zafra routinely writes 1,000 words a day — a working method inspired by one of her favorite authors, Graham Greene, who wrote in his novel The End of the Affair (1951): “Over 20 years I have probably averaged 500 words a day for five days a week.”
Some of Zafra’s 1,000 words ended up becoming short stories, some of which can be found in her new book, The Collected Stories of Jessica Zafra under the Bughaw imprint of the Ateneo de Manila University Press.
The book cover, by artist Jason Moss, shows the author’s favorite cat, Saffy, peering over an exhibit of works by Leo Abaya as Zafra, dressed in her trademark Doc Martens and a backpack, studies the art.
The book gathers 27 stories, some of which were published in her previous collections Manananggal Terrorizes Manila (1992) and The Stories So Far (2014), some unpublished stories, and an excerpt from an upcoming novel.
“I just put everything in it, except for a couple [of stories] I took out because I do not like them anymore.” she told BusinessWorld during one of a series of book launches on Nov. 2 at the Nexus Center in Makati City.
Ms. Zafra said that the short stories were based on her friends’ experiences, her cats, and conversations with readers she meets at book launches.
“They don’t have to be exact. The plot came from them but all other elements change. I just get the premise from the story and I run with it,” she said.
Zafra, in a talk given during the launch, explained why she gave up writing newspaper columns — she had, at various times, written columns for Today, The Philippine STAR, and BusinessWorld — in favor of concentrating on her fiction writing. When writing a column, “The deadline is the inspiration,” she said deadpan. “The difficulty in writing fiction [and a column] is that when your momentum is going, then you remember that it’s your deadline [for the column piece] five minutes ago, you have to stop and write your column,” Ms. Zafra said. She decided to drop column writing three years ago when she realized that she had not yet written a novel. “Now I think of myself more as a fictionist not a columnist.”
Asked if she had a favorite among her stories, she said: “Not really. I feel that my best work is ahead of me. I haven’t written it yet.”
Ms. Zafra will be giving a book talk and sign books on Nov. 30, 3 to 6 p.m., at Fully Booked in BGC, Taguig City. The Collected Stories of Jessica Zafra is available at Fully Booked, Solidaridad Book Shop, Popular Bookstore, the AdMU Press bookshop, Loyola Bookshop, and on Shopee at P345. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman