Award-winning author and poet, Victoria G. Smith, was born in the Philippines, the eldest among ten children in a family of modest means. Through full academic merit scholarships and the application of talent and industry, she transcended the poverty that sadly still holds back many of her native countrymen. After graduating among the top students of her pre-law and law degree programs at the University of the Philippines, she further distinguished herself not only by practicing law as an associate attorney in one of the largest, most prestigious law firms in Manila and later serving as sole female counsel to one of the biggest, best-performing global companies based in Southeast Asia, but by her significant pro bono work for indigent clients and other social justice and human rights advocacy. She moved to the United States (U.S.) upon her marriage to an American.
After immigrating to the U.S., she attended the University of Michigan Law School where she attained her Master of Laws degree, with a view to teaching law. However, the frequent international travel required of her husband, in addition to the challenges of a mixed-culture marriage and the responsibility of raising her children—absent the usual support of her network of Philippine family and friends—compelled her to choose to be the at-home parent. Her desire to apply herself to creative endeavor that did not require her to work outside the home away from her children led her to rediscover and pursue a childhood passion: creative writing. To this end, her Philippine heritage and law practice years, her history of social justice and human rights advocacy that predates her legal career, her immigrant experience, and her family’s travels abroad and frequent moves across the U.S. in connection with her husband’s career combine to lend her a powerful and unique perspective that informs and inspires her writing.
She is a nominee for the 2016 Pamana ng Pilipino Philippine Presidential Award for Overseas Filipinos for outstanding literary achievements. The Chicago Filipino Asian American Hall of Fame is honoring her with the 2016 Woman of the Year Award. The same group also recognized her with the 2013 Outstanding Writer and Community Volunteer Award. Her recent other literary distinctions include the 2015 Driftless Unsolicited Novella Award for her novella, Faith Healer, and semi-finalist for the 2015 Elixir Press Fiction Award for her story collection, Faith Healer and Other Stories. Brain Mill Press published and released Faith Healer in March 2016. Ms. Smith’s fiction first gained national U.S. recognition in 2004 when her short story, Portrait of the Other Lady, won first place in the Fifth Annual Ventura County Writers Club-Ventura Country Star nationwide short story writing contest—the first time she’d entered a writing contest. The short story and an interview of her were published in a Los Angeles-area newspaper (Portrait of an Award-Winning Short-Story Contest Winner, Ventura County Star Sunday Arts & Living Edition, November 28, 2004). She was selected as a participant in the 2005 UCLA Asian American-N.V.M. Gonzales Writers Program and was interviewed and featured in several media articles (Finding Their Voice, Philippine News [Los Angeles Area Newspaper Edition], July 6-12, 2006; Light in the Shadows, Philippinenews.com [San Francisco-based On-line Edition], May 18, 2005).
Ms. Smith’s essay, Gatekeepers and Gatecrashers in Contemporary American Poetry: Reflections of a Filipino Immigrant Poet in the United States, appears in the 2015 Black Lawrence Press anthology, OTHERS WILL ENTER THE GATES: Immigrant Poets on Poetry, Influences, and Writing in America.
Her first book of poems, Warrior Heart, Pilgrim Soul: An Immigrant’s Journey, was published in November 2013 under the author name, Maria Victoria A. Grageda-Smith, followed by a series of successful author events sponsored by major city libraries, writers’ clubs, and other educational and civic organizations in the U.S. and Philippines. Kirkus Reviews spearheaded critical acclaim for the collection, describing it as:
A cohesive poetry collection that… addresses fundamental issues of identity…. boldly address(es) the beauty and ugliness of life …. in grand sweeping language…. (R)eaders will delight in…. original perspectives on well-worn tropes…. A forceful poetic expression of art and the self.
Ms. Smith’s poetry and other literary work likewise appear in, among others, Fifth Estate, Reed Magazine, Voices Journal, Ruminate Magazine, Abyss & Apex, The Milo Review, The Earthen Lamp Journal, The Westward Quarterly, Lyrical Iowa, and Dicta. She also writes a monthly poetry column, Warrior Heart, Pilgrim Soul, for VIA Times, a Chicago-based news and feature magazine focused on Filipino and Asian American immigrant communities. A featured poet at the 2002 Austin International Poetry Festival, she continues to read and perform her poetry in a variety of poetry readings and festivals.
Ms. Smith is a member of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, served as officer of various other writers’ clubs, conducted writers’ workshops, and managed her own writers’ critique partnerships. She founded and ran a poetry program for The Iowa Homeless Youth Shelters in 2007-2009.
She is currently writing her first novel, Gabriela’s Eyes, a story collection, Daughters of the Bamboo, a second poetry collection, Mother of Exiles, and a poetry chapbook, Incursions of Light. Updates on her literary works and author events may be found here; on her Facebook page, Author Victoria G. Smith; and on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith.
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