A.A. Patawaran: The Write Style

The write style
An interview with Filipino writer, AA Patawaran

13 August 2015

“Words give me reason to feel worthy of my place, proud of what I do, and inspired to keep going when circumstances tell me - and they often do - to just quit writing and do something else. You can take my word for it.”

- AA Patawaran


A man of fashionable words, AA Patawaran, or Mr A, as he likes to be called, is used to being on the other side of the interview table. He has been in advertising, in broadcasting, and for the longest time, a journalist. Currently, he is the Lifestyle Editor for The Manila Bulletin, and is also the author of Write Here, Write Now, a consummate guide to writing with style.

His book is a compendium of quick-fire anecdotal stories, clever quips and is at heart an encouraging repository of useful advice for both aspiring and established writers.

But, before he even wrote a sentence, Mr A was first a voracious reader, devouring books and even the Encyclopedia Britannica, making it a habit to learn twenty new words a day. He experimented with creative writing in high school, but really only started writing for a living when he landed his first job as a copywriter for Image Dimensions, Inc.

When he was 18, a shrink he was seeing told him, “You like to write, and you would spend three days without sleep just to finish a story. So, you’re not lazy. You just don’t want to do what you don’t want to do.”

And he has taken his time in writing what he really wants to do, stealing moments on loose sheets of paper or his iPod to create Write Here, Write Now. The theme song for this book was Everything’s Changing by Keane, and after he published, he felt that he really had been changed, that the moment of publishing was a pivot, moving him beyond simply writing books for other people. Even before the launch, he had already pre-sold over 2,000 books, and at the launch, there were 300 people waiting in line to get an autograph. 


Mr A’s book is a reminder that in this age of shortcut texts, truncated emails and obfuscated language speak; a writer who can be counted on for clarity, concision and character is a gem to be treasured.

He reminds me of the truth that all writing is about story; and that the task of the writer is to be a channel for that story, or as he eloquently puts it, we are telling the “story of our lives, our ever-changing perceptions of what‘s true and beautiful and meaningful to us.”

But writers, Mr A feels, aren’t always given the respect they deserve, especially with the advent of social media and the need for newspapers to be defined more by advertising than by the news they carry. Entering the editor’s office used to be akin to entering the throne room of a king. Now, even editors have to pay homage to account executives. 


A man of immaculate appearance, Mr A describes his dress sense as classic; preferring a more muted colour palette with tried and tested pairings. If he had a choice, he would be a disco, but it would be out of keeping with his character. Yet, there is still a subtle flamboyance about him, and it sneaks through in his writing. Take, for example, his extravagant chapter on long sentences, written as a tribute to Proust and penned, naturally, in one swirling sentence.

Here is an excerpt:

“… but should the long sentence still feel to you like the road to Calvary, on which you have to bear like a cross the weight of so many words, so many stylistic fragments, so many ideas and sub-ideas, so many thoughts within thoughts, it should, like any ordeal that ends well, like the light at the end of a tunnel, like a ray of hope after an interminably long and dark night, like a first glimpse of your destination after an arduous journey, also give you a sense of triumph upon reaching the very end,…” 


Scattered throughout Write Here, Write Now are gorgeous similes comparing writing to the most creative things, and here are just a few of them:

1. Grammar to a writer is to a mountaineer a good pair of hiking boots, or, more precisely, to a deep-sea diver an oxygen tank.

2. Make reading and writing a daily habit. That‘s the best way - maybe the only way - to put grammar on your side like a gun in your holster.

3. Adverbs, whose many functions include modifying verbs, hinder the pace of the action. They sometimes help your verbs the way a tow truck can help your car, otherwise they are only like obstructions in a race. 

Perhaps it is fitting that Mr A includes a kind of self-reflexive interview in his book, asking a series of rambling, rhetorical questions and concluding with this paean to writing:

What‘s the point of all these questions? Is it in your nature to ask, to be curious, to be inquisitive, to be bullish about finding answers? And what if you do find the answers? Is there a process to be explained, a mystery to be unveiled, a secret to be disclosed? Is there a story to be told? If the answer is no, why don‘t you keep asking? If the answer is yes, why don‘t you start writing?

Write Here, Write Now is published by National Book Store Publishing (Php399 at National Book Store, Powerbooks, and Bestsellers).

For more on Mr A:

Text & Photos: Marc