Emerging fiction writer and seasoned journalist, Carlo Javier, is one of the featured authors in Immersion Anthology. His short story Janitors is an introspective noir drama that asks what if the clean up crew of professional assassins are made up of Filipino workers part of a larger agency. Without them, the business of the underworld would completely deteriorate. The story follows Steve, an up-and-coming cleaner in the business who dabbles in the secret world only to discover what happens to the big shots who dream too big.
I sat with him at Shark Club on Wings Wednesday during a Toronto Raptors game (against Orlando) where we discussed his narrative style, writing goals, his thoughts as a Filipino-Canadian author, and of course, basketball.
Being a Filipino-Canadian Author
Carlo felt that he didn’t feel out of place moving to Vancouver in middle school and high school. He didn’t think much about race, social issues, and ‘othering’ until he went to university and wrote for the Capilano Courier.
“In retrospect, I didn’t really know [at the time],” Carlo said in between plates of hot wings. “These are great, anything you would recommend?”
“I can’t get enough of the Biryani flavor,” I said. “Tell me about your time in Capilano Courier.”
During his time in post-secondary, Carlo credited his instructors for opening his eyes to politics and race. When he wrote for Capilano Courier, an eye-opening moment was during his first pitch meeting. The only people of color were himself and another black writer. There were not many women in the publication as well, and he recalled that he liked writing for the opinions editor.
“Her section was easier for me to digest,” he recalled. “She would talk about politics and race. Other editors would be writing about hipster content. I could not relate to the other editors, I feel like I’m just a regular guy. So writing opinions about culture and society was something that interested me during that time.”
Carlo eventually became the editor-in-chief for the Courier and went on to write for Philippine Canadian News. A few years later, he submitted Janitors to Ricepaper Magazine for the Immersion anthology and was one of the selected writers.
Publishing his First Piece
Carlo described his experience in being published as “pretty awesome” though he did say that reading his own piece “feels a little weird”. I prodded further to ask what he meant by ‘weird’.
“Participating in readings is all right,” he said as he washed down his wings with some cola. “But in terms of reading my own work it’s a little embarrassing. It’s been a year since I last submitted [Janitors] and I felt I grew as a writer over that year.”
Ambitious and forward-looking, Carlo discussed what his plans were in the next year.
“I submitted to CBC’s [Short Story Prize] and hope to be long listed. I plan to submit to other local publications for both fiction and non-fiction pieces. I also intend to look into American publications.”
I asked about his future submission, entitled Name Five Things You Can See. It is an introspective story written in the second person about a young Filipino-Canadian man seeing a therapist. The way he described the narrative, it felt more like a vignette rather than a traditional short story.
“It’s an experiment on writing a more literary piece. I wanted to write something in second person. I really like the ones I’ve read and I wanted to see if I can do something similar. Although, I want to write something more light hearted in the future, my pieces tend to deep dive into a discussion about race and heartbreak.”
When asked about the protagonists in his short stories, I found that a common theme was that of ambivalence. It was from his experience as a 1.5 generation third culture kid.
“I write to make sense of the present, to look for catharsis and I’m lucky that there are avenues for me to publish. For the most part, I try to keep my main characters Filipino.”
He talked about writing about Pixar’s short film Float, not only as a review but more as a critique.
“I want to use this opportunity to talk about representation. While the characters are implied that they’re Filipino, they aren’t explicit. Viewers who don’t know about the Filipino experience may just dismiss them as just another person of color.”
Basketball, Immigration, and Vince Carter
As we watched the game of the Raptors versus Orlando Magic, Carlo confessed that Orlando is his favorite team. It was because of Vince Carter.
“Vince Carter for me was bridge for me immigrating here,” he said finishing off his hot wings. “My mother, a caregiver, would send me Raps merch when I still lived in the Philippines, including a hat I wear to this day. My family are big basketball fans and I would then follow Vince Carter’s career. When he moved to Orlando, I played enough ball to know more about the game. Also Orlando became a regular playoff team and I wanted to support them.”
He expressed his interest in writing for a sports publication regarding his personal experience with basketball. As a Lakers fan myself, inherited from my father, he scoffed at the idea, calling me a bandwagoner.
As we finished our meal and settled up, I thought about what he said. He was right, I rooted for the winning teams all the time.
Catch more of Carlo at the Immersion Launch on December 7th, 1:00 pm at the Sun Wah Centre and catch more of his work in the future.
Vincent Ternida’s pieces have appeared on Ricepaper Magazine, The Ormsby Review, and Rabble. His short story Elevator Lady was long listed for the CBC Short Fiction Prize. The Seven Muses of Harry Salcedo is Ternida’s first novella. He has a collection of short stories in development. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.