Compass North, An Int'l Interview Series: Tammy Danan

J: What interview can't start without an introduction?

T: Geez… how do I introduce myself in a non-awkward way? Well, I’m Tammy, a queer 20-something who decided to ditch college and work because life is one hell of a roller coaster. I’ve been working as a freelancer for about 7 years now and it was 2015 (I think) when I started to do more serious writing a.k.a. journalism. It’s funny now that I think about it, but I’m not sure when and how I got into poetry. I guess it’s safe to say I fell in love with it in my 20’s. So yeah, today, I’m a writer/journalist and a poet, I guess.

J: So what makes Tammy, well, Tammy? I see you enjoy the sounds of tattoo machines. Do you have any interesting tattoos to talk about?

T: I have no words to express the great feeling of hearing tattoo machines. And of course, the feeling of getting inked too. Personally, I’m not a sentimental person when it comes to tattoos. I get inked because I have this design I want to put on my skin. No special meaning or anything. My first tattoo was a small one and it’s not interesting at all, but it has a funny story behind it. Basically, it’s INFP in rune letters. I got so fascinated with Myers-Briggs, but I keep forgetting my personality type. So I had it tattooed so I won’t forget it. Hah! (Sorry, didn’t work. I still forget it.)

J: Nice! I am an INTJ myself. How has journalism improved and/or reduced your writing skills or outlooks on life? I recall a period you were dealt a slew of rejections back-to-back. How did that resolve?

T: Journalism has taught me so much. And don’t think highly of me… I have only 2-3 pieces published in a big website so there’s really very little experience. But the more I connect with editors — pitching, asking advice, asking why I was rejected — the more I understood the importance of (1) GOOD English and (2) constructive criticism. Journalism is not about just about pitching and getting published. It’s more about connecting with the editor to the extent that (s)he gets excited when seeing your pitch in his email.

And yes, rejections seem to claim my inbox as their home. I have a folder where I save all my rejection emails because it feels great. The more rejection emails I receive, the more I get used to the feeling of, well, being rejected. It hurts at first. You think the editors hate you and you come up with thousands of reasons why they hate you. But later on, I just learned it’s all work. Rejected? Share it and move on and email another editor.

J: I can whole-heatedly agree. My own literary plights have accrued many 'declines' but I still push onward. As artists, it's the best we can do. Anyways, we've known each other for quite some time now. I recall initially we engaged in dialogue on the plights of the Lumad people. Care to give the readers a further insight?

T: Yes. I volunteer at a refugee camp here in our city. I bring donations whenever I can and I visit as often as time permits. It’s a safe haven for our indigenous people whose homes have turned into a war zone. The thing about the Lumad issue is that it has a couple of angles. (1) They’re being tagged as rebels. (2) Their ancestral lands are being invaded by mining companies, which results to death of many Lumads because they strongly defend their lands. It’s a messy issue in the sense that one problem stems to another and another. But the bottom line is these Lumads, these indigenous people are being robbed of human rights and indigenous people’s rights. They’re being tortured and killed, labeled as 'collateral damage', and those who are helping them (individual people and organizations) are being labeled as the bad guys. Solving this cultural problem will take more years, despite the fact that it started in the 90’s.

J: Wow, that is very tragic. Last year, and still to this day, Native Americans have been protesting the DAPL (The Dakota Access Pipeline), yet the extent of these peaceful protest have not resulted in such violent ends. I remember performing editorial work on a first draft about the aforementioned. What was your decision on placing it on an indefinite hiatus?

T: I initially thought of creating a chapbook to help spread the word about the plight of the Lumads and encourage people to take action. I see this not as an issue of a culture in the Philippines, but as a global problem, since some mining companies operating in their lands are international companies. But the more I spend time at the camp, the more I realize that I know very little, still, about these people. Who am I to write a chapbook on a topic I have very little knowledge about? I’m not saying I will walk 3 days to climb up their mountains. I just feel like I need to get to know these people more, beyond the issue that brought them here.

J: A very noble answer, which I respect. Moving on, I've been following your practice in painting. Is there any particular theory you follow or is it completely 'off-the-cuff'?

T: I’m bad at following anything, haha! To be honest, Rose Lupin (@roseclu) inspired me to play with paint. And then there’s Flora Bowley (@florabowley) and Elle Luna (@elleluna). I grew up with perfectionists so I never really thought of painting. Ever. Today, I don’t think of anything at all when I paint. It’s hard. To force yourself to keep going and keep painting when your mind is screaming ‘wrong color!’ or ‘what the hell is that line for?!’ But you just got to push those thoughts on the side and don’t expect anything from your paintbrush and canvas. So when you feel like it’s done, you don’t get hurt that you didn’t achieve whatever you expected to achieve. Painting, in general is a good way to de-stress. And to procrastinate.

J: Coincidentally, Rose Lupin will be interviewed for next week! I'm sure she will appreciate the acknowledgement. I'm sure you have many international friends and fans. Where would you like to travel for a month, given the opportunity?

T: Josh, you know that I am bad at communicating and conversing and connecting… so I’m not sure about the international friends and fans, haha. But where to travel? I’d say Amsterdam. And I don’t know why. Since last year, I think, when I started exploring journalism, I would find myself daydreaming about working for VICE and then having long vacations in Amsterdam. I honestly have no idea what’s with that city but I just love it.

J: I've heard nothing but good things and fun times from there. Last one. Where do you see yourself in 2017? 3 years from now? 5 years?

T: In 2017, juggling my work as a freelance writer and building Karonn (my ‘baby’ where I aim to sell stuff and donate to nonprofits and connect with other creative's). In 3 years, I see myself completing my list of things I should be able to give to my family. The usual home and savings for education of my siblings and stuff. And also operating Karonn full-time while doing more in-depth journalism work and sometimes reading my full-length poetry book. And 5 years from now, I see myself at the veranda of an old, rustic apartment by a river, phone, laptop and DLSR resting on the side, staring at Amsterdam dusk. Unsure of so many things but certain that Karonn, my passion for journalism, poetry and arts, and my family are doing just fine. And so am I.

J: Thank you very much for the interview, Tammy. Best wishes for you in the new year! For any artist who resides overseas or is foreign to the U.S., feel free to email or submit a cover letter via this link