Let me introduce you to the phenomenal Ruby Veridiano: she is a Filipina-American writer and fashion journalist based in Paris, France. She has worked with NBC News, NYLON Magazine, Mic.com, and more. We recently got a chance to chat with her about her most recent book release, Coronation. The book is a collection of poems and short writings that focus heavily on self-worth, confidence, self-love and the importance of finding these things within one’s self, as well as the necessity of representation and the crowning beauty of sisterhood. During our conversation, it was clear that she is passionate about words and the profound impact they have not only on the reader, but the writer as well.
In one sentence, tell us what this book is about?
The book is an autobiographical narrative written in verse about my personal journey navigating the world and coming of age as an immigrant woman of color, and all the lessons I learned along the way about self-love, inner strength, social consciousness, and resilience.
What inspired the title of the book?
“Coronation” is a re-edition. It was first published in 2008 as “Miss Universe”, but I renamed it “Coronation” as a symbol of rebirth, a reclaiming of my own inner sovereignty and power. I moved to France in 2014, and learning a new language was like having my superpowers stripped from me- losing the potency of words and voice is probably one of the worst things that can happen to a writer. The experience forced me to rebuild myself, to reconstruct my expression, and to re-establish my confidence. But it also expanded me as a citizen of the world, blessing me with the ability to have a global perspective on national conversations. I had been working as a fashion journalist in Paris for the last few years, writing from a more factual, cerebral place. Going back to creative writing was a way for me to find my way back to myself. Finishing the book felt like putting my crown back on, and remembering who I really am.
PS. I’m happy to report that after a lot of hard work, my French has drastically improved, and I can now express myself in this new language!
How has speaking another language impacted your writing/creativity so far?
I have to be honest, I am not yet at the level where I can write eloquently in French, so I can’t say it has impacted my writing, but it has impacted a new appreciation for words, and the discovery of them. Learning new ways to express myself has stretched my capacity to use my voice. It has given me a profound understanding of what it means to be a newcomer or a foreigner and gives a new depth to my ability to voice my own immigrant experience (having been an immigrant twice now), as well as understand the experiences of others. Starting from scratch in a new language has given me access to a deep sense of vulnerability, and this vantage point now informs the empathy I can express not only in my creative work but in my everyday interactions.
Let’s talk about the journey of Coronation, when and where did this book begin?
The book began in the early 2000’s – I started it in my early 20’s, as a way for me to vent my own challenges in finding my inner foundation. It was also a way for me to explore the consciousness that I was awakening to in regard to socio-political issues and my position as an Asian-American woman moving around the world. I traveled and moved a lot throughout my 20’s, and with that, came different perspectives that revealed new layers of growth and understanding. This book not only documents my observations of what I wish I could heal in the world but how those revelations have healed and empowered me.
How long did it take you to complete it?
For both editions, it took me about 2-3 years to complete.
If this book had a soundtrack what would be the top three songs on it?
- Live Your Life – Yuna
- Conqueror – Estelle
- I Was Here – Beyoncé
Do you have a favourite poem in this book and what headspace were you in when you wrote it?
One of my favorite poems in the book is “An American Girl and Her Frenchman”, which is about my relationship. I find it special to be a Filipina- American daughter of immigrants sharing love with a Lao Frenchman, the son of refugees. When people think about the American experience in Paris or romance with Frenchmen, they don’t often think about them having an Asian background. The nuances of navigating different cultures in one relationship is one of the most unique and transformative experiences I’ve had, and I am grateful for the ability to create something from it.
It is common that writers tend to feel either amazing highs or massive lows upon the completion of a project like this. Did this book energize or exhaust you?
I definitely felt both! This might be a good time to admit I actually hate writing- or rather, the process of writing. I’ve never actually met a writer who has told me that they loved writing- it is so excruciating to be in this solitary process of creation without knowing if you’ll produce something you can be proud of that day. Some days it feels like pulling teeth. But it’s like surfing- you can sit in the water for hours waiting for the perfect wave, but when you finally do and ride it, it is the most exhilarating, most effortless feeling in the world. It’s as if something bigger takes over, and I get to be a vessel to a force that guides me to deliver a message outside of this world. I think that is the core essence of creativity, and it is the greatest privilege of being an artist.
What can you say is your greatest desire for this book?
My greatest desire for this book is to have it be available to as many young people as possible. My wish is that this book can serve as a mirror to reflect a young woman’s greatness and potential back at her, and for it to be a reminder of her possibility and a source of healing. If it can do that, the book would have done its job.
Was being an author always part of your life plan or did the writing life choose you?
Was being an author a part of my life plan? Yes and no. I knew I would always write because writing has always been a part of my journey, but I thought perhaps it would be a supplement to a media career. I always thought of writers as quieter, more serious types who led more introverted lives, and I never identified with that. I am outgoing, social, and I love being in front of people. I pursued on-camera opportunities in media for the last decade, but somehow, writing kept forcing its way back into my life (for example, publishers seemed more excited about working with me rather than TV producers!). But I realize that writers occupy different spaces now. Today, writers are more vocal, and there are many different opportunities for writers to appear in different stages instead of just the page. I’ve finally embraced my life as a writer, knowing that my favorite part of writing is actually sharing the art, and having it interact with as many people as possible. When I am able to see/hear that the stories I’ve written have resonated with someone else in a meaningful way, it gives me a profound sense of purpose- this is my favorite part.
Each writer has their own special ritual or process for writing. What is yours like?
Before writing, it is necessary for me to devour writing that challenges me to be the best writer I can be. So I read before I write, and I look to writers like Jhumpa Lahiri, Warsan Shire, and Aja Monet for inspiration to create new worlds with words. My favorite writing technique is imagery, and I often try and challenge myself to make writing that people can see and feel while making it accessible and easy to understand.
Do you have plans for a second book already or are we going to have to wait a while for that?
I do have plans for a second book, but I can’t talk about it yet 😉
Finally, if you could tell the young writer out there anything, what would it be?
You are the author of your own story. No matter who you are and where you come from or where your journey started, you have the power to write your dreams into existence. Words have incredible power. The world will only believe the story you tell yourself (and see you the way you see yourself), so wield your words wisely and narrate your story with words that empower and affirm you.
Follow Ruby’s journey at: @rubyveridiano | www.rubyveridiano.com