Dear 18

Dear 18,

This is not a letter about all the shitty things you’ll learn when you grow up. This has nothing to do with boys, jobs, careers, and all the things you will go through twenty years from now.

Oh, all right, I’ll say it: You will grow up to be a romance writer.

Yes, you heard me. By 2017 you will have two published novels under your belt, with one scheduled for publication and two more finished manuscripts waiting on the dock. And you will enjoy it, and you will write it, because they’re the stories that your heart wants to tell.

It won’t be a secret that this wasn’t what you thought you wanted, though. Your friends in journalism would either burn out or be jobless. Your masters degree in education would lead to six years’ worth of PhD coursework, but teaching won’t be your vocation and academic life would stifle you. Even after you take a romance-writing class, you’ll still want to write something else because nobody respects your genre.

Well, guess what? Not only will you become a romance writer, but you will end up cross-examining everything that you’ve learned in college.

Because, you see, everything that you’ve learned in those English classes are centered on a canon that’s basically dominated by white/cis/het male authors. Even your heroes, the fearless females who shaped your perspective on writing, will show their bias towards “the canon,” and will be dismissive of your choice to become a genre writer.

Yes, everything you will learn about writing—or at least what’s considered as “quality” writing—will turn out to be wrong. You won’t know this at 18, or 23, or 30. But you will learn about it, because you will come down from the ivory tower, and you will pick up your laptop to write.

You won’t be surprised that all your stories have kissing and happy endings. You will, however, be shocked to learn that nobody wants that, because kilig means hugot and hugot means there’s no such thing as true love.

By the time you publish your first novel, though, you will get messages from people who will tell you that your book has made them smile, that you’ve helped them get over disappointments and breakups and all sorts of depressing things. And it will change your life, because you will want to write more books.

And guess what? Your books, with the kissing and happy endings and cut-to-the-heart scenes, will make you a better feminist. Yes, Stella, you will become a feminist! You will learn how to defend your work as more than just marshmallow fluff, and you will learn so much about your own desires and experiences that your “personal” will become political, without being overt.

(Yeah, yeah, some will tell you to become more overt, but let’s face it: Angry confrontation was never your strongest suit.)

Let’s end this here with a bit of encouragement. Your voice matters. Your experience matters. Your heart matters. Go out and own it all.

Embrace your destiny. It will set you free.

With lots of love,

Way Past 18

ps. The ’90s will make a comeback in 2017. Your haircut will come back, and so will your lipstick. Own it.

Due to scheduling conflicts with several ongoing projects, The Great Big Jump will go on hiatus until March 11. I may also be scarce on social media, but I will respond to messages on Twitter. Until next time! 

Love, Stella

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Stella Torres

is the author of the adult contemporary romances Save the Cake, Crushingly Close, and Nine Years Away, as well as the short story “Be Creative” in the anthology Kids These Days: Stories from Luna East Vol. 1.

In her previous life, she has worked in public relations, taught English as a second language, and even attended graduate school (twice!). She has lived in Indonesia, Honolulu, and Quezon City before moving back to her hometown of Los Banos, a few hours’ drive (with traffic) from the heart of Manila.

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