Women of Wednesday: Janice Lobo Sapigao on Writing Toward the Future

WOMEN OF WEDNESDAY is a micro-interview series featuring women of color in various industries and walks of life, focused on highlighting their pursuits and making it easy for readers to support their endeavors. If you would like to be featured, please submit your answers to the below five questions here.

Janice Lobo Sapigao, Writer & Poet, San José

1. Tell us about the work you’re doing and why it’s important.

I’m a Filipina American (Pinay) writer, poet, and teacher from the San Francisco Bay Area, San José to be exact. I wrote a book, microchips for millions, about immigrant women like my mom in the Silicon Valley who work in the toxic industry of electronics manufacturing. I have a second book about grieving, family lineage, and fatherlessness coming out this fall. I’m working on hella things at once, mostly writing-based: 1) I’ve been sending out a manuscript, which is a collection of essays called Let Me See You See Me Back, named after an essay of the same title. I’m in between two poetry manuscripts, and I’m working on a (young adult) novel called Where Did You Get All Those English From? about a young girl growing up in a house with 12 people and dealing with the grief that lives there, too.

I do all of these things for these reasons: 1) I got something to say, 2) it makes me happy, 3) I am actively working towards creating a future that includes me and people from communities of struggle who need it, and 4) when hella headlines, policies, presidents, and laws tell women of color, in the sneakiest sneak diss of ways to shut up, I work harder.

Writing and creating bring me a joy that, I’ve learned, I can create for myself. I spend a lot of days — too many, in fact — protecting myself and raging at the world’s injustices, but writing calms me down.

2. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in pursuing the work that’s important to you?

The challenge of not getting respect. Trying not to get in my way. Not letting folks’ lack and hindrances get the best of me. I’m a writer, but sometimes the business of writing has mishandled a lot of my work. When people have mistreated me or my work, I can’t help but wonder if it’s because I’m a woman, or a person of color, or someone who’s young/young-looking, or as someone who is not afraid to keep receipts and confront people eventually or in the moment.

3. What do you need in order to continue your work in the way you envision?

I’d love more time to write, money to work on some amazing projects and collaborations, and local/West Coast residencies so that I can make the first two things happen.

Also, a lot of my dreams and support likely involve helping, teaching, and working with futures and futures of students.

4. Where and how can we support you to make #3 happen?

Oh gosh, I’d love it if folks bought my books, attended events/readings of writers & poets coming up, and shared/read/circulated our work when it comes out.

Here are some links to some of my work:

microchips for millions (my first book)

like a solid to a shadow (my forthcoming book)

2 poems in Underblong Journal

Hella L.I.T. Book Reviews (my column of book reviews)

Essay: “Hip Hop Shows Mastery of English”

5. What is your favorite quote?

“Writing is a struggle against silence” — Carlos Fuentes (I have this tattooed on my left arm.)

These days, I am also feeling this quote in Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower: “Let me know something about you that hides.”