Angela Lanuza

Ateneo Heights Writers Workshop 26 Fellow
"Stories that take risks took me to places I've never been before." — Dr. Butch Dalisay

Ghost Houses


Ghost Houses

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Personal Essay

Personal Essay:

Inner Worlds

I was born into a big family where I was the fifth of six children. There is a constant clash between personalities and reactions to dramatic and everyday events. The tension in this personal aspect of my life led me to develop a preoccupation with exploring my innermost thoughts and memories, along with the relationships that defined me. I’ve been making stories since I was three years old. It was a way to entertain myself against feelings of isolation and loneliness. I was around eight or nine years old when I wrote down my first story. I believe it centered on magic and friendship. Writing became an escape and space where I could allow my imagination and my emotions to run free. I could not do that in my own home. I became a writer as a response. As a child, my mother would read to us. She was not an expressive person but in those moments, as her words lulled me to sleep, the distance between us evaporated. I grew up around domineering and aggressive men so I tend to focus on narratives that center on women. I feel that they need further exploration since they can be silenced by the patriarchal norms that surround them.

Most of my works showcase not only my childhood but also my experiences as a woman. I tend to write essays and stories that navigate these power imbalances in relationships and how they influence identity and experience. Becoming a fellow in AHWW26 has taught me that good writing is found in the little details, it is there where characterization is born. In the revision of My Grandmother’s House (now called Ghost Houses), I had to remember painful memories that would further contextualize the presented family dynamics and showcase the decay of the house, the grandmother, and the narrator’s childhood innocence. These memories were then written in a non-linear fashion,, the present to the past. This creative decision was done because I wanted to challenge myself, structurally I wanted the experience to make the reader feel as if they were peeling back layers and layers of skin off of a really tough fruit, explaining narrative through different vantage points, through different points in time. All throughout the workshop, we were told that as writers, it is our duty to place ourselves in uncomfortably intimate and vulnerable places, whether through a fictional character or a version of yourself in a non-fictional piece, because that’s when something interesting happens. I learned that

I’m afraid to try new things when it comes to writing, I’m afraid of taking risks, perhaps it is because I like writing about the different concepts of home and so I make myself comfortable in that space. The themes of my works focus on the domestic, the personal, the turmoil within, however, this doesn’t mean that I should limit myself in terms of writing techniques or topics. The domestic may be personal but the personal is also political, what happens within the home echoes throughout the larger society, even when I am talking about my family, I could learn how to showcase issues on abuse and trauma. This workshop has emboldened me to write more about the difficult things. Parts of history that we’re scared or ashamed to talk about. Parts of the present that we ignore. Parts of ourselves we’ve yet to confront. Through writing, we are given the safe space to explore the horrific, the painful, the realness of the unreal.

I continue to write because my writing is a bridge between my past and my current self. It analyzes the fissures in my relationship with myself and with others, it tries to make sense of these wounds and empty spaces. By writing, I am actively placing myself and my story in this world, as if saying that despite everything, I am here, I have a voice, I want to tell stories, I want to support other people to tell their stories too. It is through stories that our humanity is revitalized. One of the most important lessons, I’ve learned in this workshop is that writing is not a solitary activity. We become better because others inspire us, teach us how we can be better. Who I am now is not permanent but this experience has encouraged me to actively be a better writer, it is this journey where I will know what I’m truly capable of and what my stories can do, the possibilities of what they can become.