A Scary Story

It’s been almost three years since that spine-tingling episode (horror genre in my mind) turned my placid existence upside down, but whenever I remember it, I cringe still, big time.

I was invited to speak in a forum on “Creativity” at the Litt world 2004 (a biennial gathering of book publishers, editors, and writers from all over the world). I had never attended any gathering that had to do with book writing in my life before.

“No, I can’t,” I said, rightfully spooked. I wasn’t ready for an occasion that big. I was a neophyte author and was feeling dismally inadequate.

“Oh, but your whole career centered on creative work," Yna, the publications director of my publishing house, insisted. True, as Creative Director for many years, the topic “creativity” always turns my mourning into dancing.

“That was different! That was advertising, not creative writing,” I insisted, dreading the onslaught of many seasoned authors in the five-day affair.

“Say, yes, nothing to it,” she insisted. “Just speak about your experiences in the workplace.”

“Who are the other people in the panel?” I asked.

“Oh, a Russian author and an American author,” she replied nonchalantly, dismissing my anxiety and reciting a litany of reasons why I should say, yes.”


There. That settled that.

Two weeks before the affair, Yna sent me the printed program. I blanched and stopped breathing, suddenly needing a tank of oxygen and blood transfusion.

The American author she was referring to was . . . Philip Yancey! The Philip Yancey, one of my favorite authors, who has written more than a dozen books (translated into more than a dozen languages), all of them bestsellers and award winners.

I had a sudden lapse of sanity and concentration. You know that feeling when the movie screen turns dark, with a tiny light coming from the moon, while the eerie music screeches on and some unknown character  lurking below is about to leap at you? Yna had withheld the information from me, guessing rightly that I would decline had I known. But all my excuses to wiggle out of it at this point fell under this category: lame. (In my mind, the screechy music looped, playing on and on.)

Came the day of the forum, I donned a winter attire (in tropical Philippines) because I was feeling unusually cold. Sitting across the formidable author on stage, I checked out my tongue. It was still there, so I put it to use. But what it said I don’t remember.

After the forum, people lined up to have the man of the hour sign his newest book, “Rumors of Another World,” on sale during his visit. I was in line cradling all of his books, my collection over the years. When my turn came, I put all the books on his table, and suddenly it was Easter in my soul—coming eyeball-to-eyeball with the man whom God has used to explain to me, in a book language I can understand, the doubts I have in my head.

“Are those all yours?!” he asked, raising his graying brows.

“All mine,” I replied, and all the colors around me brightened.

“Where did you get this one?” he wondered, opening and signing the oldest of the lot. “I don’t think I have a copy of it left.”

“Well, I am not giving it to you,” I said, stabbing at failed humor.

He laughed and asked further, “Which of my books is your favorite?”

“What’s So Amazing about Grace?” I replied. In it I discovered God’s abounding and overwhelming magnitude everywhere.

“Of course, I should have known that—your name is Grace,” he said, laughing harder.

“He knows my name!” I whispered to the man behind me.

“He should! You have your name tag on,” he deadpanned. “You were on the same stage, for Pete’s sake,” he reminded me.

(Three panelists, one moderator, and one translator)
During the photo-op with his fans, Philip Yancey, with his signature big hair and quiet presence, smiled to the camera. I couldn’t. I was indubitably author struck. (The horror flick in my mind had ended.)

Images of the panel discussion with him a few hours back were now tap-dancing in my head. And the photo captured it for all to see. (He had this same photo on his website for sometime!)

What’s so amazing about grace? It put me on stage, and at the same hour, with Philip Yancey, discussing the topic that drives me, and I lived to tell the scary story.


Mark N. Plaza said...

hi mitch... thanks for the credits... i enjoy your posts... so carefree and spontaneous.

Mark N. Plaza said...

I'm sorry, oooppss.. wrong comment box... Ms. Grace, i am also a fan of Philip Yancey, I enjoyed reading What's So Amazing About Grace? and The Jesus I Never Knew.

I assume that you also like John Piper and CS Lewis.

Grace D. Chong said...

Dear Bagz,

CS Lewis I adore! I believe his "Chronicles of Narnia" is the father of children's stories!

Thanks a lot for dropping by. See you around sometime.

Unknown said...

hi grace,

nakakatuwa naman kuwento mo. i didn't know you were that scared. no sign of nervousness or fright while you were up there speaking with candor and ease. in fact you were brilliant. i'm just wondering, why did it take you 3 years to tell your scary story? sana mabasa ni philip yancey ang kuwento mo. tatawa talaga iyon!

Grace D. Chong said...

Hi, Yna,

Hahaha! For three years, I've been telling the scary story to anyone who cared to listen, but I guess nobody listened well enough, or they thought I was plain silly.

Thanks to this thing called blog. Now I have a venue for such stories. And because it is in written form, people will finally "listen"?

Thanks for the visit and for your role in my show called "On Stage with Yancey."

Anonymous said...

I remember this story! Either I heard it straight from you, or from my mom. Reading this entry is just so familiar. It's just like how you told it 3 years ago. :D

Grace D. Chong said...

Hi, Chen!

I really appreciate your keeping in touch often. Your mom often talks of you and Bondi, misses you a lot, and you are always in our collective prayers. Take care...

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much. We really appreciate it, we are really in need of prayers, specially also in this pregnancy. I miss everybody! Thank you so much for including us in your prayers.

Brennan said...

wow. you were on the same stage with yancey! he is also one of my favorite authors. three of his books (in no particular order) gave me a better perspective of Christianity.

(1) What's so amazing about grace?
(2) The Jesus I never knew
(3) Prayer
(4) Soul Survivor

Hey wait. That's four. : )

Rock on Grace!

Grace D. Chong said...

Dear Brennan,

Thanks, fellow Yancey fan. Your next book, if I may, should be his "Finding God in Unexpected Places" and look forward to a whole new way of seeing people and events.


Brennan said...

I actually read almost all of his books except for
(1) The Bible Jesus Read
(2) the books he co-wrote with Dr. Brand
(3) or some books that are not sold in the Philippines.

The firs book I read was Reaching for the Invisible God. But I intend to read other authors this year because I want to miss Yancey's signature candid style.

Maybe a Ken Gire or a CS Lewis or an Annie Dillard will do. or how about a Grace Chong? :)

Grace D. Chong said...

Dear Brennan Mercado,

I linked this post to my current blog and was drawn to the comments. I don't remember reading your last comment; am reading it now after 4 1/2 years. Between then and now, have you found time to read a Ken Gire, a CS Lewis, an Anne Dillard, and a Grace Chong? If so, what's the verdict on the last name? :D