Promoting Creativity – Keana Marie Águila Labra

party in honor of blaine cornelius

Today I have the great pleasure of sharing with you all my interview with Keana Marie Aguila Labra, a fellow contributor over at Rose Quartz Magazine. Hope you all enjoy and check out her work elsewhere!

Keana Labra Headshot.jpg

1) Tell us a little bit about what you do.

My name is Keana Marie Águila Labra, and I do a little bit of everything. Outside of my day job, I’m the Editor-in-Chief of the emerging online literary magazine, Marías at Sampaguitas. I also co-founded Chopsticks Alley Pinoy as the co-editor, which is an online platform to highlight and elevate Filipino American culture within the San Francisco Bay Area. We scout artists, writers, and poets for interviews and we attend events to report and address on the site. Lastly, I am a regular contributor for Royal Rose Magazine and Rose Quartz Magazine and also a Poetry Reader for Homology Lit. 

My poetry may be found in the Aoi Kuma Journal, Anti-Heroin Chic, Peeking Cat Poetry, La Scrittrice, and Peculiars Magazine. I have forthcoming work with The Adroit Journal, Reclaim Anthology, and RIC Journal.

Ultimately, with everything I do, I hope to provide a space for marginalized voices to make their experiences and presence known. I understand the importance of representation, and I hope my work is evidence that Filipino Americans are present in the literary world.

2) When and why did you start writing?

I’ve been writing ever since I was in elementary school. I have three siblings, and I’m the eldest. Growing up, I chaperoned the little ones. With this responsibility, there was a stoicism expected of me. And growing up within a traditional immigrant family, it was not accepted to talk about our “feelings.” I used to be ashamed of being tender and sensitive; any time I tried to express myself, I was chastised and called, “OA”, which is a slang term in Tagalog meaning ‘overacting.’ Writing was a healthy way of releasing negative emotions and celebrating the positive ones. With my affinity toward writing, I fell in love with the works of other poets and novelists, such as Kurt Vonnegut and Pablo Neruda.

3) Tell us about a project that you are currently working on that has you really excited.

A project I’m currently working on is the revamping of Marías at Sampaguitas, and our small team is working diligently on launching the website. We aim to elevate and highlight the creative voices of marginalized individuals, people of color, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, non-binary identifying folx, and everyone in between. Representation is power, and we want to showcase the power in these writers’ voices. The title of the magazine is in a dialect of the Philippines called ‘Tagalog,’ which translates “Marias and Sampaguitas,” to ‘maria’ being the default christened name for a Filipina, a Filipino woman, and ‘sampaguita’ being the national flower of the Philippines. We look for writing to match our slogan, ‘pagsulat sa mga bulaklak, which means, ‘when writing on flowers.’ Even though the title and slogan are in Tagalog, we accept submissions from everyone from all backgrounds. We hope to be a feminist, inclusive publication. I was inspired by other magazines, such as Wanda Deglane’s ‘Honey and Lime’, Imani Campbell’s ‘Royal Rose Mag,’ and Vanessa Maki’s ‘Rose Quartz Mag.’ Just like these EICs, I also wanted to provide a safe space for writers who may not find themselves in the mainstream.

Marías at Sampaguitas has a small team of 10 right now, and we’re considering launching a PDF issue in the future. I’ve also recently started doing spoken word as well, with my first performance being back in October 2018. I may have a future performance, but I have to keep details of the event secret for now. So, for those of you in the San Francisco Bay Area, keep your eyes peeled! Also, I will also be reporting on a local play later this month written by Filipino American Brian Adrias, a spoken word poet and screen play writer, and Alan Uy. The play is called ‘Schooled’ and it will be featured at the BAD Repertory Theatre. Tickets may be purchased now, and it’s $15 a ticket. If you’re local, I’ll see you there!

4) What are some of your goals for the future?

I hope to encourage readership of smaller lit mags and chapbooks; we focus so much on submitting our own work, sometimes we forget to support one another. Marías at Sampaguitas has open submissions year-round; but, we would most like your support with readers purchasing issues and chapbooks by the poets you read on Twitter.

5) How can we support you?

Only we can uplift each other! There is plenty of room on top for all of us. I’d like to close this interview with my favorite quote from Paddington 2, “if we are kind and polite, then the world will be right.”

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